Unlike most everyone else I know, we are deliberating avoiding teaching Ellie about letters, or numbers, or words, or writing, or anything else related to academics. It’s not that we’re cavalier or careless about her education. It’s just that all the research we’ve read shows that kids just don’t need focused academic practice when they’re young.* We’re not worried that she won’t learn how to read or write if she’s not taught them now. Rather, we are confident that she will easily learn how to read or write on her own, when her brain is ready to do so.**
We haven’t taught her the ABC’s. She can’t recognize any letters. We don’t talk about counting or recognizing numbers. She doesn’t really know what her name looks like in print. She is, in short, relatively far behind other kids her age.
And yet, she’s starting to pick up literacy concepts on her own. We have a print-rich environment in our household – i.e. we have words everywhere. We have lots of books and we read them to her. She sees me writing all the time.
Recently, she’s started to do some of her own writing. Here’s her first piece of writing, which she told me said, “Mama.” It’s very different from the drawing that she usually likes to do, which tells me that she was trying to write.
Today, she drew a series of lines outside with sidewalk chalk and told me that was her name. She said, “It says Ellie – HBLRT” – or some sort of collection of letters like that. So clearly, she’s starting to absorb hearing us spell words, she knows that letters exist, and she’s figuring things out on her own. If she asks me to write her name, I do and spell it out as I do it. But we haven’t made any special emphasis on it.
I must admit, it’s really cool to see her developing a sense of literacy and meaning on her own. Her brain is starting to attach meaning to what she’s been immersed in since she was born. At some point, we’ll start a bit more formal education in letters and numbers but I don’t see that starting for at least a year or two more (until she’s closer to 5-6) unless she requests it. In the meantime, we’re doing lots of other fun stuff and she’s begun her own journey of learning.
*This doesn’t apply to kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who are going to need help catching up. Ellie isn’t in that category.
**Sometimes the topic of learning disabilities comes up when I talk about delaying the start of Ellie’s formal education. We aren’t concerned about this because if she is going to have a learning disability, she will have it regardless of when we start her education. It’s pretty difficult to tell if a child has a learning disability until they are a bit older. Sometimes kids are just slower at learning how to read. So no, this is not an issue that we’re worried about. We’ll deal with it when the time comes but that time is not at the age of three.