My daughter taught herself to read by playing Minecraft!
I knew that homeschooling would benefit my children, because public schools in our area of New York lacked funds and freedom. However, I wasn’t sure how we would pull off homeschooling. I consider myself an educated adult, and I love to learn, but I am mostly self-taught on subjects that interest me. I went to college, but it took me until I was 36 to earn my Associate’s Degree. School was never a passion of mine, even though I enjoy learning. My issue was always that I wanted to learn about what I enjoyed, not subjects that I had no interest in, and that’s why I was challenged by college. I knew the direction I wanted to go in, but I was required to study a bunch of subjects that had nothing to do with my passion. I decided to move on with my life and graduated with an Associate’s Degree at age 36.
We pulled our children out of public school in November 2013 and began homeschooling by the book. I quickly realized that my kids were like me. They loved to learn, but hated to be told what to learn. That is natural; all children can learn at their own pace, because education is all around them in everyday life. About three months into homeschooling, I discovered unschooling and knew exactly what my kids needed, but it wasn’t easy for me to let go of everything I knew. Kids should be on a schedule, learn this subject and that subject, and read by the age of X, etc. Fear of the unknown is normal – letting go is hard! I did my best to let my kids explore their passions, and eventually my daughter fell in love with Minecraft at age seven. She was playing hours at a time, and I was naturally concerned as her parent. “Is she addicted?”, “She’ll never learn history if she won’t put that game down.”, “It’s 2am, she should be sleeping!” The fears were there, the questions, concerns, the struggle with myself was pushing me to stop allowing my kids to learn on their own at their own pace. I wanted to start with text books, workbooks, and worksheets. I was SCARED!
I decided to give it a bit longer, we weren’t quite at a year, and my kids were still in that “deschooling” phase anyway. You know – the time you allow a newly homeschooled child to decompress from public school. Deschooling is a fantastic reset, and kids should be allowed one month vacation for each year they were in school, which would give us 10 months according to my oldest child, so I pressed on.
My 7 year old went to public school for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade; yet she didn’t know how to read. She didn’t want to read, she “HATES TO READ!” her words. By letting go and letting her explore on her own, something amazing happened! Yes, she played Minecraft for hours on end, but something changed! To communicate with other players, she had to figure out how to use the chat system to send and receive messages, and find out where she needed to be on the map to do what she wanted to do. She taught herself how to read! The words came alive, they finally meant something to her, and it clicked.
I know that many of you are thinking, “Sure, she figured out how to decipher some video game words, but she can’t actually read, merely decode.” However, isn’t that what reading is? It is decoding random symbols strung together to form words, that then form sentences, and then paragraphs, chapters, and full books! That is exactly what happened! About 2 months after she started to decipher these random symbols on the computer screen, she picked up “Charlotte’s Web” out of our home library and read it from beginning to end, without being asked to stop playing and pick up a book. She decided to read this book on her own, and she did it! My daughter, the 7 year old, who could barely read her own name, picked up a book meant for public school grades 3-5 and read the whole thing, simply because she wanted to.
Letting go isn’t easy, but it has been truly a blessing. My daughter did – on her own – what public school teachers failed to do, found her passion, and followed herself down her own little rabbit hole. The first book she read was more than 2 “grade levels” above her own, all because she knew she could do it and nobody was forcing her.
Update to this post – 2021: Jennica is now 14 years old and takes courses at the local community college as a music major.
2022: She strives to write 10,000 words a day on her various stories. She is far more into writing than I am, and I run this blog!