Q: Our son was already registered for junior kindergarten before we became aware that you believe in phonic-based reading instruction. He will be 5 soon. The private school we are sending him to teaches reading using what they call an “integrated approach” with that involves both phonics and other methods. I’m thinking of buying a phonics-based program that’s used by lots of home-schooling parents and working with him on it before school starts. Is he too young for this?
Five years old is not too young to begin learning to read as long as the approach is phonetic. The human brain is wired for reading, but the research has found that the “whole language” approach used by most public schools (or an approach that integrates phonics and whole word recognition) is less than an ideal fit. Some studies have found phonetic instruction can correct reading disabilities, including dyslexia, in some children.
I am very much an advocate of making sure that a child gets the right start in reading, and in that regard, phonics has no equal. If the school you’re sending your son to uses anything but a phonics-based approach, then I encourage you to buy one of the phonics programs on the market and using it to supplement his classroom instruction.
By the way, I routinely tell parents, “These days, no matter what sort of school you send your child to, you should be prepared to do a certain amount of home-schooling.” It’s just the way it is.
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Facts of life
Q: I’m pregnant with our second child, which has raised all sorts of questions for our daughter, who just turned 5. Her questions include, “How did the baby get in your tummy?” and “How does it get out?” and so on. I think too much information is not good for kids this age, but what’s appropriate? Is it OK to tell her things that are consistent with our very conservative values (e.g., you have to be a grown-up and married)?
It is absolutely right and proper for you to make your family’s values clear to your daughter. These days, when people talk about bonding, they’re referring to an emotional bond between parent and a young child. But the importance of bonding doesn’t end there. That primary attachment is prerequisite to a child looking “up” to and bonding with his or her parents’ value system, their definitions of right versus wrong.
Very few parenting professionals talk about this “second level” bond, but it’s vital to the child child’s developing a sense of family loyalty as well as the child’s successful socialization (assuming the parents’ values are in fact pro-social).
As for specific answers to her questions, I agree that too much information is not only unnecessary, but can also be confusing, even anxiety-arousing for a child this age.
Keep your answers simple and basic. It’s not at all necessary that you be completely accurate, much less graphic. For example, in answer to her question about the baby’s presence in your tummy, you can simply say, “A man and a woman get married and they love each other and their love makes a baby.” That’s about as deep as you need to get with a 5-year-old.