Lessons in Phonics: Giving Yourself Grace

Teaching Sophie to read has been an unexpectedly joyful experience.  We’ve only been at it for three weeks but her enthusiasm has continued unabated.  She is our twelfth and last child, so this task is somewhat bittersweet and definitely an accomplishment, the last in a long line of phonics lessons and listening to “cat sat on a mat.”

As the 51-year-old mother of a five-year-old, you could say that I’m in tune with the fleeting nature of childhood.  When we were all younger, I was often impatient and despairing during endless reading lessons.  Now I’ve learned to enjoy the last moments of teaching one of my children to read, especially one who gets so excited over every sound.

Listening to a new reader stumble over lists of words has always been a struggle for me.  The hardest part is staying awake.  Someone suggested that I record it and sell it as a sleep aid.  Hmmm.

When I say that Sophie gets excited about new sounds it’s not an exaggeration.  I realize this emotional reaction will soon give way to everyday “do I have to,” but for now I’m struck by the self-congratulation on every letter sounded correctly, every word figured out.  She claps her hands or makes a little squeak of excitement every time.  It takes longer, but it’s a funny way to spend the time.

Today while Sophie partied through her lesson, I wondered what would happen if we celebrated all of the things we do right.  What if, instead of continually striving for the things we haven’t done yet, we stopped to pat ourselves on the back for the things we did get done?