Saturday 9 July 2011

Is teaching phonics a bad thing?

I've been seeing a lot of talk about whether schools are right to be teaching phonics or not.  Well, more about how wrong it is to force feed all children the 'phonics method' of teaching children to read.  Here's how I see it from my experiences in life.

I think that the flaw remains with the way a school is run with such large numbers, although can this be helped?  Is it simply impossible for our government  to support every child who is sent to school?  Nothing, not even a 'private school' education can compare to the quality of the one on one education that a child recieves from being home educated.  I do not think that this is simply the flaw of the teacher simply the system and the fact that there is simply too many children. 

I do, however, agree that phonics is not for everyone.  Every child has a unique way of learning.  It is simply impossible to teach a class of 30 children with one single method and for them all to get it.  I only have 4 children and so far the first 3 have all choosen different ways to learn to read.

My eldest taught herself to read really.  All I did was to read to her everyday, 10 or more books a day.  The only thing I did to help her in anyway was to follow the words with my finger.  By 3 she could read Dr Suess unassisted.  I was completely taken back,  I realised at this point there was no way she would get on in school, learning all her phonics and singing the alphabet would simply be boring for her now.  So school was never an option really.
My 2nd eldest, N, was a different story.  She wasn't really into reading books until she was 2 - 3 and then just before her 4th birthday, out of the blue she asked if I could teach her to read.  It was strange, in a way, because she was the first of my children that I had to teach how to read.  At first I tried the Oxford Reading Tree (ORT).  I had to buy in the stage ones as C skipped straight to stage 4.  I had only really stuck with the oxford reading tree because C loved dogs and Floppy really appealed to her.  It was different for N though.  With N I found that I had to try all different kinds of books, ORT being one, but also used the read at home ladybird books and, her favourites, the 'Frog and Toad' series by Arnold Lobel and the 'Little Bear' series by Else Holmelund Minarik.  They are beautiful books and because she loved them so much she began learning so much more quickly.  I think that is the real key, to find something they really love and then learning becomes easy.  N also found writing a lot helped along with  separating the phonemes using different colours.  None of this I'd tried before.  One thing I remember N did hate was Jolly Phonics, the government's favourite from what I've heard from my friends who send their children to school.

HB has started reading now.  Weirdly it's phonics nearly all the way and weirdly it's 'Jolly Phonics', at least all those cooks I bought have come to some use now, although I find she doesn't use phonetics for each letter, especially the vowels.  Now how could a school possible run a system that would suit so many different ways of learning?  I'm sure Baby H will bring a whole new way of learning to read to my attention.  Each child a new adventure!

So back to how schools can fix their problems?  The only thing I can think of is to have smaller classes and do regular one on one.  Focusing on the 3 r's instead of taking them for trips to the supermarket or whatever they do.  But then you've always got those teachers who've decided how well, or  not well, a child will do as soon as they've walked through that school door from day one. 

I just don't believe 'school' would work for everyone, which is why we don't 'school' our children but 'educate' them at home.  One thing I do find sad is that everyone of us learn things at different times.  Some of us walk at 9 months others at 2.  It is no different to one child learning to read age 3 and another at age 11.  I don't think when a child learns has any bearing on how well a child will do.  What I do think is important and really makes a difference to a child life and their future is being able to grow and learn to think for oneself without judgement and in a safe and secure environment.

This is the way I see it anyway!

1 comment:

  1. Well said! Personally, I'm into look-say, as that's how Mum taught me using Glenn Doman's "Teach Your Baby to Read Kit", and I feel that it's made me a more fluent reader than phonics would have. However, my 3-year-old daughter has always been fascinated by letters, and wants to know what each letter is, so I'm forced to use phonics against my better judgement!