Controversial Opinion: We Don’t Need To ‘Teach’ Children To Read

Hear Me Out On This One…

I want to point out right at the beginning that this opinion is based on my own experience and also that of some other home educators and as with any aspect of home education it really isn’t a one size fits all.

So now we have got the boring bit out of the way, let’s get into it!

There’s a saying that goes something like this

“We can take 6 months to teach children about colours or we can wait until they’re ready and they will learn them in 6 days”

I remember when I first saw this and it was right at the start of our home education journey and to be honest, I thought it was ridiculous….I mean how could a child learn anything if we didn’t teach them, right?


After my own experience with my daughter and her reading, I not only completely get it, but totally advocate it too!

My little girl ‘L’ was just 4 and a half when  she reached CSA and we began home education, for avid followers, you will already know that our journey was sponsored by every learning resource website going, you name it and I had the books, subscription and T Shirt to go with it!

There I was, time table in hand, and we would start our reading program and it was going to be such a joyous journey particularly after the hours researching it and the money spent on it. The only problem was that ‘L’ just wasn’t into it!

We tried phonics, Biff and the dog with the fishy name, Ladybird books, Oxford reading books….you name it, we did it.

The only things that she didn’t mind were the reading eggs program because it was more like a game to start with and the old school Peter and Jane books, but even then she really wasn’t feeling the love.

For some reason, even though she had quite enjoyed learning her alphabet, it was like she had a mental block as soon as anything that remotely resembled a reading resource came out.

You know like when you go to the cash point and although you’ve used your pin a million times, if you actually put thought into what it is you end up stood there like a unsavoury character staking the joint out!

After 18 months of what can only be described as an uphill struggle, she turned to me one day and said “Mum, I HATE reading”…..qué epic failure as a Mum feeling.

I was devastated, I love reading and to think that I was encouraging her in every way that I could and it had nothing but the opposite effect really bothered me.

So as not to make the situation worse (like it could be anyway) it was the summertime and we eased off any kind of sit down learning anyway so we totally backed off and I took to Google to search for what would be my next move come the Autumn.

She would have been coming up to 6 years old around that time and she had started to take an interest in Netflix and kids You Tube, but with a younger brother in tow, I couldn’t always be there to type in the things she wanted to watch when she wanted to watch them (if only motherhood came with another pair of hands eh?)

I don’t even know how it happened but one day, a few weeks later, we got out one of her little English workbooks and she started reading some of the questions……I was gob smacked!

I asked how she knew those words and she said, I don’t know my brain just knows them now and the words come up on you tube sometimes and it helps me type things in that I want to watch them I remember them.

Since then we have never done another formal reading ‘lesson’ and she has come on in leaps and bounds. At nearly 9 years old she is reading way above what I imagine she would if she were in school and we honestly couldn’t be more proud of her.

Once she had the basics of letter recognition, the rest just came when she NEEDED it to…..not when I WANTED it to.

Experiencing this has made me completely change the way that we home educate and we joke that her little brother ‘C’ has it much easier than ‘L’ did in the beginning because there’s not a timetable in sight!

Obviously this isn’t just down to the reading but I think that you naturally evolve once you get more intune with what methods your children respond to when it comes to different things.

It really is the old saying of you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink….. until it’s thirsty that is!

Children are born to learn, as babies they don’t understand if you explain how to crawl or how to walk yet when they see the benefits, they work it out.

I wanted to share this because I see so many parents, not just home educating ones but across the board, posting on social groups absolutely mortified that their 5 year old is unable to read a list of high frequency words that are quite frankly, as boring as paint drying to me so heaven knows how boring they are to children!

Not only do I honestly believe that children will learn when they are ready, I would also urge those worrying about it to ask themselves that other than because the curriculum dictates it, when is it necessary for your 4,5,6,7,8 year old to NEED to read anything and I believe that’s true if lots of things that children are forced to learn before they are ready.

I am always really interested to hear other people’s experiences of learning and what methods you have found works best, so please feel free to drop a comment and let’s help each other out ?

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