If you’re a regular visitor to Newbie Writers, you’d know that my son started Prep in January this year. (For the non-Queenslanders/Australians amongst you, this is the year before Grade 1 – I think New South Wales might call it Pre School??). Lockie is absolutely in awe of his teacher. He told me last week, “Miss Wilkins knows everything in the whole, wide world! Not like you, Mum.” It was a bittersweet moment because, until that day, I was the centre of his universe and he used to say that I knew everything in the whole wide world.
Anyway, the fabulous Miss Wilkins gets the children to spend about half an hour practising their writing before the bell rings in the morning. The kids actually line up at the door, impatiently waiting for their teacher to let them in the classroom. Lockie tells me, “I want to do my learning!” (A far cry from what I’m sure is only a few short years away… “But I don’t wanna go to school!!!” Oh well, I’ll enjoy it while I can.)
I have hit an obstacle though. And it’s on the one topic I thought would be a cinch. I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t love reading – I was always that kid with her nose stuck in a book when everyone else was running around and getting up to mischief. So I was delighted when Lockie showed a love of books as well. I’ve always read to him but not really made a proper attempt at teaching him how to do it; we simply enjoyed that special time together… until he started Prep.
Now that he’s learning to read at school, I need to actually teach him instead of just reading to him all the time. Sometimes he ‘reads’ to me, but we all know that he’s simply memorised the entire book.
Here is where I struck a problem. You see, in my day, (and I’m not that old … really!!) one of the first things we learned was reading simple sentences such as, “The cat sat on the mat” and then later on we would learn that the sound of the letter “a” in mat changes when a silent e is added to become “mate”.
I did some serious (haha) Google research on the issue, and it appears that in Australia synthetic phonics replaced analytical phonics as the preferred method of teaching in the mid-2000s (not without controversy). I have to admit I’m pretty confused because Lockie’s been handed flash cards where the letter “i” is shown with a picture of a mouse. The explanation given is that a mouse goes “eeee, eeee, eeee” which I suppose could be argued to sound like an i. The letter “n” is shown on a card with an aeroplane because a plane’s engines make an “nnnnnnnnn” sound.
Argh! There goes the last few years of telling him, “A is for aeroplane… I is for ice-cream… M is for mouse”. Maybe I’m just too old and set in my ways. I might have to sneak in and sit at the back of his class a few times to so I can learn this new system too. The only problem is I’m too big for those teeny, tiny (and oh-so-cute) Prep chairs!
Emma is a freelance editor and writer who got her start at Newbie Writers two years ago. In her previous career she was an accountant, but escaped the numbers game to envelop herself in the literary world.