Friday, April 30, 2010

Correspondence with Peter Gray re: reading and psychology today blog

On Mar 3, 2010, at 11:17 PM, Laurie Wolfrum wrote:

Hi - I'd love to contribute to your blog, but I am not sure what topics you still are working on. I saw your reading article and am assuming that you would be more interested in information on a different topic.

If you have time, could you tell me what you'd be interested in receiving personal stories about most? Thank you, Laurie Wolfrum (unschooling mom to Katie 12, Keli'i 8, Makana 4, and Kanoa 1)

PS : While my sleeping baby is in my arms and all the other kids are busy, I'll send you some stories about how my kids have learned to read in their own time and their own ways. I know your article is done, but I love sharing our reading stories and wished I could have sent it to you earlier.

My daughter Katie (now 12 and still a book lover) read at 3 1/2 years old. W read often to her and since my husband and I both enjoy reading when we have time, she witnessed us doing so. Plus we had the time to read as she was our only child at the time. For a short time (when she was 2 maybe), I hung up huge white signs with black writing in our house like "window," "exit," "bedroom," and made a few signs just based upon whatever she wanted to learn how to read (I asked her if there were any words she wanted to learn how to read). I was planning to do flashcard type things with her with those words - and did so, but this only lasted for a short a couple of months and then we stopped (either we grew bored of it, didn't remember to do it, or she wasn't interested...can't recall exactly). She learned how to read anyway. Probably just because she wanted to! I have on tape her at 18 months old reading word for word almost the story of "Danny and The Dinosaur." I couldn't believe she was saying so much of it correctly (or nearly exactly), but it was memorization I suppose. It was amazing to me. It was one of her favorite stories. (It still is with our other kids too!) I do remember being at a diner with her and my husband when she suddenly screamed "No!" She was pointing to the No Smoking sign - this was the first thing she read. I used to read "No Diving" signs to her at the pool too, so maybe she made the connection there?

My son Li (now 8) began understanding little by little over the past two years how to read. He is passionate about Magic The Gathering (a strategy type of card game) and reading helps him know what the cards can do and how much attack and defense they have. He also learned I think by using the computer for online games, looking up Magic Card information (to see how much each is worth so that he can then trade them in for a fair price for more Magic Cards), by playing board games that use the computer (like Pokeman), by wanting to cook, put in his data for certain things (like the Wii to make his Wii as well as for other things like to create his own email), etc.

My younger daughter is 4 and "reads" by saying aloud what is happenning based on the pictures and based upon what she remembers from reading the book before (she knows the story already). She knows how to spell certain words (like cat) and gets excited at spelling them. Also enjoys (like my other kids did when they were her age) making up crazy misc spellings with magnetic letters on the fridge and asking us what they spell. That must be a phase or something as she is the third one to do that. Like Katie and Daddy, she brings books to the potty with her! Sometimes she asks us to read them to her while she goes, other times she reads aloud (in her own way).

My youngest son is 14 months and loves looking at pictures in books, especially books about dogs (we don't own a dog, but my family loves the Iditarod and Yukon Quest and anything about dog mushing). We look at pictures in the house (with dogs) and online too (family photos of people and places, etc). My husband brings down the big book (like a coffee table book) about dog mushing whenever our little guy motions for it (he knows just where it is up high on the bookshelf).

We also still have the same foam letters that Katie had when she was a baby for the kids to play with. Katie had those and other plastic letters too though - we'd spell various words, our names etc with them and put them in ABC order just fooling around with them.

That is a brief story of our family's adventure in learning to read so far.

------On Thu, 3/4/10, Peter Gray wrote:

From: Peter Gray
Subject: Re: Your Freedom in Learning Blog
To: "Laurie Wolfrum"
Date: Thursday, March 4, 2010, 11:36 AM

Dear Laurie, Thank you for this great addition to my collection of stories on reading. Even though it is too late for my blog post on that topic, it is not too late for further work I intend to do on children's teaching themselves to read.

I plan to do soon (within about two weeks) a post on math learning. My preliminary plan is to break it down to three components:

1. Survival math. (The kind of math we all learn in the course of actual life, and the only math that most of us ever use in actual life.)

2. SAT math. The math kids learn so they can get into a competitive college, whether or not they are interested in math or will ever use it in their careers.

3. Fun math (or Real math). The math people do because it's fun; the kind of math that real mathematicians do!

If you have stories to contribute on math I would love to get them. Also, I'm still interested in the whole list of topics that I listed in my Jan. 6 post "I want your stories of self-directed learning."

Best wishes,

Peter Gray


----On 3/4/2010, I wrote - Thank you! I will see what I can do when my kids are busy and the house in generally quiet! I hope to put something together. I love this kind of thing (I ended up getting a teaching certificate in NJ, ME, and HI and a BA in psych - I am an analyzer, yet have learned to trust each individual to do their own learning and to offer things I think they are interested in instead of try to "teach" in the conventional sense) Laurie :)

Here's the link to Peter's blog article regarding learning to read -

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