Little Boys Who Don't Love School

My oldest son has been attending a state kindergarten (equivalent to your preschool I think?) this year, but we pulled him out at the end of third term. I have been doing some Math and Phonics with him, but the phonics are a real struggle – not for him to understand, but to get him to do! He just doesn’t like it!

He loves for me to read him books, and he always has a book nearby for himself to look at. He knows all of his letters and many of the sounds they make, but isn’t interested in learning to put them together into words. He can read a couple of words, but they have been learnt by sight (his name and the names of his siblings for example). He likes to draw and write labels on his work – asking us how to spell something or write it down for him to copy. He also enjoys the tracer pages I print off in cursive for him, but hates the writing in his phonics book (ball and stick). He doesn’t like cursive copy work though saying “it’s too hard”.

Should I bother with the official phonics for the rest of this year? Is it okay to stick with tracer pages for writing at this stage rather than copy work? I don’t want to take the enjoyment out of learning to read, but rather cultivate a love of it. I don’t even know if this makes sense, but if it does to you in any way, I’d love to hear your input! Thanks!



There are so many differing opinions swirling around out there, but just based on my experience and the wisdom of others, I would say to relax and go slowly.  Most boys have "pencil allergies" which keep them from wanting to sit and "do school".  In the long run, delaying seat work won't make your son a bad reader or poor speller, but it might just keep him from getting bored with schoolwork and turned off by academics.

I'd go about phonics in the most relaxed way possible. In my experience, teaching a child to read is one of those things that can either go very slowly and painfully if the child isn't ready, or it can go quickly and easily if the child is ready.  You need to decide if it's worth it to you to drag that little boy along through phonics for weeks (months? years?) on end, or to wait until the proverbial light bulb turns on and he's ready to take it all in and become a reader.

That's not to say you shouldn't require anything of him. There are just more delightful and interesting ways to go about learning phonics and handwriting skills.  We play a lot of verbal rhyming games ("cat, sat, bat, mat, fat, etc."), point out the sounds of letters, run our fingers under words so a young (two-year-old) child can see that we are following the letters from left to right when we read, and spell simple words from every day life (STOP on the stop sign).

We also like the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVDs, but they only teach one sound per letter, which I don't love.  I still let my little guys watch them and learn the sounds, but I've found that when I do get down to the business of teaching them the phonograms, I have to explain that some of the letters actually make more than one sound each.  You can hear the phonograms here.

Your little guy is awfully young for copywork, unless it's just a word or two or the things he's asked you to write for him to copy.  I'd relax about that, too.  I wouldn't ignore his handwriting altogether as I've found it's difficult for them to break bad habits, but I wouldn't make it a hill to die on.  As long as our children's handwriting is legible, we're satisfied.  We've found that two of them have truly beautiful handwriting because they're rather artistic kids, but the others- not so much.

Hope that's helpful-