My nearly 5 year old daughter has begun her Bob Book lessons and thoroughly enjoys them. She catches on quickly and remembers well, as long as we review properly. I however am a little overwhelmed by her ‘taking over’ of the Bob Binder. She is thrilled that we are making cards and has filled the pockets with her own (very convincing) cards full of neat little letters, words and lists. During the lessons she fills in the story how she feels it ought to be, adding words to make the sentences more complicated and descriptions to make the story match the pictures better. Does all of this mean that she is too young? That I need to move through the books more quickly? That her habit of attention requires some work? I am nervous to teach reading, and I don’t want to squash her into the neat little lessons I envision.
I can’t tell you how delightful I found this! It reminded me of a little girl I used to teach — she was five and probably very gifted; I homeschooled her for her parents. She had a fantastic imagination. One day, we went out to do nature study and she did her first nature drawing. She did a wonderful job until the end when, with a flourish, she drew purple crowns on all of the plants. Ha! The imagination can carry us away, especially when we are five. 🙂
I think this sort of situation is a good one for us to stretch our homeschool trouble-shooting muscles in general, so I’ll tell you what I would do, but I will also try and share a bit of a framework for thinking through these things.
Begin with the end in mind.
This is the starting place for tackling a problem in education, I think. What are we really trying to do? What is the destination we want to arrive at? What is required in order to get there?
In situations like these, I find there are competing tensions. On the one hand, an educated child is most certainly a literate child (and a child who is making her own pretend phonics cards sounds more than ready to me). At the same time, especially at these earlier ages, we want to be so respectful of the child as a person, we don’t want to kill any love for learning or lessons, and we want that creativity and imagination to continue to flourish.
Build a solution that balances the tensions and competing goals.
This is the fun part because this is where we homeschool mamas gets to be creative in our attempts to solve the problem. We need a solution that:
- Maintains the authority of the mother over the lessons (and the child!)
- Keeps the lessons short and interesting
- Doesn’t kill the child’s excitement
- Allows the child to keep up her creativity and imagination
I’m sure there is more than one solution, but my approach would be — and has been in similar situations — to divide these two goals into two separate activities. So, I would build a second binder. This is her play binder. She can make cards and play at lessons as much as she likes in her spare time. Perhaps a teddy bear to which she can “teach” reading would help? Any of the books she finishes can be put into a little box for her to use in her play.
During real lessons, mom is in charge. Mom will make the cards (or print them out, if she’s purchased the printable curriculum), and mom will guide the review pacing and the lessons. If the child has a really hard time with this, I’d use a timer. Start with only 5 minutes and then work up to the full lesson (10-15 minutes) slowly.
Maybe the child can help put the cards in the pockets? I would leave this as a reward. If she can listen and obey Mommy’s guidance during the lessons, if she can follow Mommy’s directions (I’m mainly thinking here about putting the cards in the proper section — where they go on the page isn’t important to the lesson, but which section they are in matters), then she gets to do it.
Present the solution to the child.
I find that it really helps to talk to a child at a less expected time. For example, when I have a run-in with my teenager, he would expect me to come talk to him directly following what happened. But I don’t do that. I’ve learned that there is still too much emotion there. But if I wait until hours or even days later, then we can have a good talk about what happened.
The same goes with small children, especially when lessons gotten tense. At our house, I make “announcements” during breakfast. This functions like a meeting and it works really well in managing a child’s expectations.
So, in the case, I would think of a good time to “meet” with the child. Since she is five, this needs to be really short and to the point. I’m thinking:
- This is what lessons have been like lately.
- This is what they are going to be like from here on out.
- Here is your new binder so that you can still do what you have been doing.
Only you know if this particular solution will work for your child, which is why I shared the process. This will allow you to think of an implement a different, more fitting, solution if you need to.
A final thought.
With different children, I’ve had to have different rules in regard to the binder. One of them was very careful, and she wanted to play with it on her own time. That worked fine because she was never moving cards. But I had another child who couldn’t keep his hands off of things and was very careless, so lots of times the way I knew he had been messing with his binder was because it was upside on the floor and half the cards had fallen out. As you can imagine, the first child was allowed to “play binder” and the latter wasn’t — because after a trial period, he proved that he would not (or could not) be careful. A year later, he asked for another chance, and so we tried again. That time, he was successful.
I have a couple thoughts about this. The first is that children can be given the chance to prove they are responsible enough to have a freedom they desire. The second is that they understand when they didn’t meet the criteria you set out; don’t change it.
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The Teaching Reading with Bob Books method uses a special binder system in order to simply and easily tailor the frequency of review to the needs of each individual child. This free guide explains exactly what you need and how to build the TRwBB Binder so that you can get started teaching right away.