My Two Year Old Got Hooked On Phonics

When my son was in nursery school he raised his hand to get his teacher’s attention.

“Yes, Daniel?”

Daniel pointed to the word “Connecticut” written on the blackboard and said, “You spelled Connecticut  daddy finger song lyrics wrong.” She looked at the board and realized he was right.

“Daniel, how did you know it was wrong?” asked the perplexed teacher.

“It’s because I have a young and powerful brain!” Daniel triumphantly replied.

His teacher contacted me by phone shortly thereafter, told me what Daniel had said, and asked me how he could possibly know about the misspelled word.”

I told her that when he was almost two years old, I started to teach him how to read.

She was full of more questions. “Why did you bother to teach him to read? Surely he would have learned how to read in school at the developmentally appropriate age.”

I had no idea what she meant by a developmentally appropriate age. All I knew is that Daniel turned into a superb reader so he must have been ready to read. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” I replied. As I see things, reading is too crucial for his success in school and in life to leave to chance. That’s why I did the job myself. His education, I hope you understand, is ultimately my responsibility. Don’t you agree?” All I heard in reply to my question was a muffled grunt.

She continued with a noticeable edge to her voice. “Who taught you how to do it? You must be a teacher.”

“Nah…I am a CPA and no one taught me …all I did was teach him the alphabet, the sounds the letters make, and oh yes, I made sure he had tons and tons of practice. It was all really very simple. Honest, his brain did most of the work.”

By the shrillness of her response, I was sure she was about to deliver a cow. “YOU REALLY TAUGHT HIM PHONICS WHEN HE WAS TWO YEARS OLD?!” She said the word phonics like it was three day old road kill. This was my first indication that there was a problem somewhere with our schools and phonics. It would not be until many years later that I’d learn about the bizarre things going on in reading instruction at our schools.

* * *

I remember the evening I made that fateful decision as though it were yesterday. “I’m going to teach Daniel how to read to me!” I hollered to my wife who was watching television in the next room. Daniel was standing on his bed, and probably wondered what his silly Daddy was yelling about. He didn’t know then, nor did I, how much those few words would eventually change our lives. Suddenly Daniel’s bed became a classroom and I became his first teacher. From that day on, things in our family would never be quite the same.

My lack of teaching experience never bothered me a whit. I never created lesson plans and took every lesson one day at a time. I simply relied on old-fashioned common sense and trial and error to chart my course. This was nighttime learning fun between my son and me. As it turned out, my total ignorance of current early teaching methodology was of crucial importance to my later success. For example, my ignorance kept me away from developmentalism. This idiotic philosophy says that it’s wrong to teach preschoolers how to read because in some way, it would damage them. Had I known about this, I never would have taught my son how to read and I would have missed what was the most joyful experience of my life.

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