M spontaneously wrote the letters “W” and “N” yesterday. I suppose this should further convince me of the efficacy of unschooling. I don’t know why I’m so amazed. I guess part of me just didn’t believe that it would be possible for a child to learn to write and/or read without a lot of formal lessons on the subject. Now, we have done some work on letter awareness. Lots of signing of the alphabet song, letter puzzles, and discussions every so often on the sound that a particular letter makes. He’s also been writing his own name for about 6 months now. But I sort of thought that he really only knew a handful of the letters, and I didn’t think he could write any of them other than the ones in his name and a few others.
So yesterday, we were heading out to a birthday party and he insisted on writing the name of the birthday-boy on the gift-tag. As I told him each letter, I started to ask him if he wanted me to write it down so he could copy it. Before I even finished saying it, he was writing the letter “W”, a letter that I was sure he didn’t know yet. But he did know it, with no formal teaching from me! And in the next instant he surprised me again by knowing the letter “N” too. I’m sure this story is old hat to all the unschoolers out there. But for me it’s one of the first examples of something – that most people assume has be taught in school – being learned independently. Best of all, he wants to write letters without being told to do it, and without worksheets with smiley faces. This stuff is amazing to witness.