New Generation Reader…

I shared a couple of weeks ago that my only concern with our unschooling approach to home educating PanKwake is reading. Specifically, that at nine years old she still cannot read and does not even know all the letters of the alphabet. This from the child, who can hear a word once in context and forever after use it properly. This from the child, who can remember something she heard about science or history. But her neural pathways will not allow her recognize letters? To the point that she avoids even looking at the words when I read to her. Add to that mix the fact that Mommy is a writer…and you can see why I am so insecure.

I keep reminding myself that I did not read until I was ten. That my two older children did not read until they were ten. That we are all bibliophiles now. Added to that I remind myself that the Asperger’s Experts, two young men who understand high-functioning autism from the inside, say that somewhere in the teens or early twenties things just click in the brain of the aspie and that they surpass the NT (neurotypical). I console myself that even if she does not ‘get it’ until then that she will learn reading when her brain is ready the same way she learns everything else…absorption. That is after all why we unschool….because it works for her.

BUT still I feel like a bad mother. A bad home educator.

Then I had coffee with my older daughter, who has spent five years working as a teaching assistant, working in schools with other children like PanKwake. She is now going to university to become a teacher. And there has been such a marked difference in how she sees my home educating her sister. When she was working in the schools, all I heard was what I was doing wrong…how her sister needed to be in school. I will never forget the morning about a month after she started uni when I got a text that said… “I am sorry, Mom. What you are doing with PanKwake is just right.” Because when she learned the theory behind learning and child development…not National Curriculum…she saw things very differently.

I thought things could not get any better than that…until we shared that coffee. I brought up my insecurities…and what she said floored me. She reminded me that I always say PanKwake and others on the high-functioning end of the spectrum are the next jump in human evolution, the true X-Men…homo autistica. She said to me, “So why don’t you see that she is the next generation reader too?” She went on to explain that reading is about taking in information, analyzing and processing it. She asked me a brilliant question…who is the ‘real’ reader the child who take an hour to read one page but understands everything that was said…or the one who reads two chapters and cannot tell you anything that is happening? We stood up and hugged it out…right there in the coffee shop.

PanKwake's bookshelf has long ago overflowed.
PanKwake’s bookshelf has long ago overflowed.

It was just what I needed to hear. When I read to her PanKwake can understand the whole story…she will even remember if you get something wrong. With the exception of hypothetical questions like…what do you think happened next…or how do you think he is feeling…she can answer anything you ask her. But those questions are kickers for anyone on the autistic spectrum.

And one day…some day…in her time…the rest will come too. Thank you to our beloved Mere-Mere. You are the next generation teacher…and maybe if I could guarantee PanKwake would have nothing but teachers like you…I would not need to home educate. I love you and am proud of you.

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