Reading is often a big concern for families who are choosing a path outside of tradition schooling. I have had the pleasure of being surrounded with the kinds of folks who have had an unwavering trust that their children will come to reading on their own terms and at their own pace. This had buoyed by own confidence in watching and waiting alongside my boys.

This week my youngest son showed me that the traditional thinking of the steps to pre-reading and eventually reading never would have worked for him. He is nearing seven. He can not tell you all the letters of the alphabet by name. He certainly can not tell you the sound each of those letters makes. But he can read and write. He is at the very beginning of the life long process of  reading and writing. But the fact of the matter is the boy is reading,writing and typing without what most teachers would tell you are the building blocks to literacy.

From a very young age the task of identifying letters, sounds and even the alphabet song frustrated him to no end. I wondered if this was a sign of some sort of learning struggle. And had to do my own work to drop the urge to label or support. I just left him alone (okay not like in a dark corner sink or swim way but in a here’s a literacy rich learning world around you I trust you way).  When we were at the park the other evening he noticed some writing on my bicycle seat.

“What’s that word?”


“Oh, I get it. There an o and then the letter that starts my name and then the one at the end of give and the one you need two of to spell dad.”

I was in utter amazement at him, the depth of this knowledge of words, spelling and just how fabulously he had devised this very personalized way of decoding the written word around him.

He was in fact so proud of his new word that he typed in out several times in Minecraft the following day (and taught all his buddies who were playing how one spells demo).

The brilliance for me comes in being affirmed in the fact that there is no ONE way to learn how to read. There are in fact countless was to get there and if given the freedom each child will joyfully find the path that best suits them.