Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Wheels of Learning

It's the last day of school!

How has a year gone by? OK so I lost a whole chunk of the year due to living in a baby bubble but, still, how are we here already?

I woke up this morning (actually I was woken up this morning. Early. Very early.) and it dawned on me (yes I have outdone myself with this pun) that we have somehow created a new normal. After all the upheaval that a baby and a new routine brings we are starting to settle. We now have a babbling, rolling, eating, grabbing, smiling 9 month old and an all reading all writing soon to be 6 year old. I almost feel like a grown up.

Matt has taken to school like a duck to water. This is not the best analogy given that ducks and open bodies of water are on Matt's List of Fears but you get my point. He has done brilliantly: made friends (skirting over the time when he used the friendship stop as an upgrade system); learnt stuff (obviously when I get him back at the end of the day he can't remember a single thing until bedtime when he has total recall); and picked up lots of skills (Mummy, you don't do a W like that).

Obvs, the greatest skill the boy has gained is that of reading. As you should know by now I never rushed Matt into reading as 1. I'm not a teacher and 2. he wanted to wait until school. Good plan, my man. This way meant he was ready, willing and able. More so than the parent. Fancy a cliched analogy? Well, allow me. Learning to read is like learning to ride a bike. Both are going to provide you with essential skills and give you years of joy but the initial stages are gruelling and frustrating. The learner may struggle too. For as hard as it is to acquire a new skill it is also tough for the parent to watch the slow and tentative process. I could feel my grey hairs popping up when Matt met a silent letter and magic e would do well to disappear. But although it feels like forever and you just want to do it for them it has actually been a quick phase. Little by little they get there. And here we are. It is a tad ironic that super sporty Matt has picked up reading much quicker than riding. It is possibly because we could do the former whilst feeding or rocking a baby. Or it is just that reading keeps him up to speed at school but at home he's not quite ready for me to let go of the saddle. That is fine by me. Even if my back hurts from holding the bike or my head may pop from gently correcting the pronunciation it is still a privilege to be part of this journey. The end result is very important but it is nice to stop and find yourself amidst this huge developmental process. Soon he will soar by book and bike but today we are happy to just trundle along and take in the scenery.
So yes it is an amazing journey but we really need to talk about Biff, Chip, and Kipper. These are the initial books on the scheme used in Matt's school. The first ones they bring home are wordless and they rendered me speechless! I had been so excited about revisiting Roger Red Hat but alas we meet a family with insane facial expressions, dull stories, and names verging on the ridiculous. Matt gets really insensed when I don't know which is which.  Anyhoo the wordless stage is brief and I trusted in the process. Once they know their sounds it is easy street: the books get better and the reader whizzes through. The experience becomes more like a knife through butter than nails down a blackboard. The books also become more varied too. Matt enjoyed one on big cats and one about fast cars with a mention of James Bond. I am not sure 5 year olds appreciated the reference to 007 but the Dad did. I just appreciate the random variety.

One book that Matt and his classmates were really taken with is T-Veg. The whole class had been reading it and the author, Smriti Prasadam- Halls visited during their pop up literary festival. Matt tells me Smriti lived in Liverpool for a while. This was very important to him from a footballing point of view. The book is based on a T-Rex who is different from the others because he prefers fruit and vegetables to meat. The class used the book, and presented an awesome school assembly, to consider the notion of uniqueness and theme of friendship. Matt requested this book from me and I ordered it immediately because I am weak, people. He proceeded to read it to me as soon as the parcel arrived and later to his dad at bedtime. He read it word prefect (that was a typo but it amused me so it can stay) but it was his enthusiasm that won the day. It is the crowning glory of reading at school that Matt can now discover books for himself and share them with us. That he can read is great but that he wants to read is T-riffic.

The boy, the book, the dinosaur disguise.
We had this conversation tother day:
Moi: Matt, what has been your favourite thing that you have done in your first year at school? Christmas, Sports Day, World Book Day?
Matt: Reading.
Job done, everyone.

Then I asked a more searching question.
Moi: What is the best thing about being able to read?Is it feeling like you have the keys to the kingdom? That the world is your lobster? That there are too many books and too little time?
Him: that I can read small writing.
Alrighty then. Go back to being 5.

Thankfully reading is not just something you do at school. Matt is reading anything and everything. He is keen to get started on the local library reading scheme and likes to peruse any literature left around the home.

In my day it were The Beano
He is branching out and discovering new books but he has also found that our old picture books can get a second life as he can read them himself now. However this young reader is even more discerning over what is read: as in which books and how to divvy up the narration. This ended badly when reading Meg and Mog as no one told me that the grown up reads the sentences and the child reads the speech bubbles. The sound effects are a minefield under his system. There are a lot of rules when reading to the boy and it seems I break a lot of them. Things got a bit awks when he realised I wasn't reading all of the words in the Richard Scarry What do people do all day? Jeez there is a lot of words in that book. It won't be long until he discovers that it is infact Hansel and Gretel's father who leads them to the woods rather than a shady uncle character I introduced to protect the traditional family unit. (Quickly need to tell you that I do an Amah-zing witch voice which has Matt coil up in horror. I use it to get him to finish his dinner. I understand this is terrible, Muriel, but it is oh so effective.)I am hoping that it will be a while longer before Matt can read certain books. I am in no hurry for him to find out that Black Beauty has a very different life than the one I have been preading (protective reading to shield a child from finding out the real story!) I had initially feared that Matt wouldn't need me when he could independently read but thankfully reading isn't just about decoding the words. It is still about the process of spending time together. He still needs me for that. Thankfully. I just need to learn not to read the speech bubbles. And never, ever, read whilst yawning.

The wheels of learning are certainly turning for Matt. The stabilisers are well and truly off and there he goes into the big, wide world. Oh the places you'll go, Matt! Just don't forget your helmet, inhaler, and most importantly, your library card.