FAQs / Some unschooled children still can’t read at age 10; isn’t that a concern?

This is a multi-layered issue that deserves much discussion. A good place to start is by asking why Johnny isn’t reading more/better than he is. The likeliest explanations include the following:

  • Normal variation in human development, as also evidenced in the development of speech, locomotion, toilet training, etc.
  • An immature or malfunctioning vision system that makes it highly uncomfortable, if not impossible, to sustain the near-point focusing and tracking that reading requires. (For further information, see Thinking Goes to School by Furth and Wachs, The Suddenly Successful Student by Ellis Edelman, www.vision-therapy-pa.com or www.visiontherapydc.com. Please note that the typical “eye exam” that involves eye-drops and pointing which way the E goes is not an effective diagnostic process in this situation.)
  • Improper instruction, or at least inappropriate for a particular student: Some do best with phonics, some with look-say, and some with a mixture. (See Frank Smith’s Reading Without Nonsense.) (Also see the question about whether instruction is compatible with self-directed learning.)
  • Lack of specific interest in reading by the youngster, who may be consumed with experiencing the outdoors, or building with Legos, or taking apart mechanical objects to see how they work, or any number of other pursuits that are more important to him at this point in time.

There are many 10-year-olds—more often than not these are boys—whose “late” mastery of reading is more than made up for in passion, expertise (faster, with far better comprehension) and enjoyment as a result of their coming to it on their own schedule. In short, this is yet another situation where something is a “problem” primarily because it is a problem for standardized schooling; it is the well-intentioned enforcers who thus make it a problem for the youth.

Posted in: General Questions About Self-Directed Learning: