Parents Should Teach Children to Read

Children must be taught. The child will crawl by itself, but must be guided to not lick the electric outlet. He or she will walk, but must learn to not dash into traffic. Nothing a child is taught is more important than reading. Reading exposes them to other people’s thoughts beyond their immediate contacts. Reading shepherds the child into an expanding world. As the child is exposed to other people’s ideas, he or she will distinguish one from another, true from false, fantastical from actual, and eventually develop a mature ability to think. Parents should teach children to read. No other parental responsibility is more important.

Contemporary public schools are not interested in teaching students to discover their innate freedom of thought, of speech, or of communication. Public schools teach reading but focus on developing normative students. They treat all exceptions as special needs projects. Socrates could not teach in any public school today for the same reason he was jailed in Athens. Athenian authorities wanted children to become good citizens first and good soldiers second. Socrates taught students to question the lessons and offered the students a method of inquiry. Nothing has changed in the oldest case study in education. Socrates’ heresy is still heresy. No Socrates would be hired at an American public school. He would still be a corrupter of youth.

The education of the young can serve the prevailing ideology or it can serve the individual. Athens had one opinion and Socrates another. Today the state prefers one and many families the other. This remains an unequal contest because the state, specifically the education establishment, has legal authority over children, and therefore does not care much what families think about individual learning.

American public education uses a mutable progressive ideology. Mutable because it changes gradually over time and with the goals of educators, but without losing focus. Ideology because the ideas of the curriculum interlock to create a self-referential reality. The result is designed to limit freedom of thought. A population emerges that is limited in its ability to discriminate good ideas from bad, or truth from partial truth.

Public educators understand that learning to read does not create a free mind. The process of teaching reading can itself be a vehicle used to bind the thoughts of children, like ancient Chinese women had their feet bound.1 The resulting chattels walked gracefully for the teacher, but could not wander off. Functional literacy may be the right skills for a good student or a good citizen, but not for a person destined to wander away from the institution.

Compulsory education law demands that parents hand over children to state authority and indoctrination. Even homeschools do not escape this authority. Homeschools must submit to state regulations and local supervision. Home schooled students must be tested in the core educational ideas of the local public school. Local school boards, social services, and the police are on hand to enforce this authority.

Much damage has been done. America is no longer the most literate country on Earth. The normal American operates the government and most business. The labor force is just functional. This is by design. Liberty always irritated the leadership. Industrialists did not approve of free thinking workers any more than planters wanted literate slaves. Business still does not want literate employees in call centers and box stores. Normative behavior and politically correct thought are the ideal for workers and citizens. The two ideas grew together in the United States and both work toward a common goal: a compliant functionally literate worker. Grandpa Johnny Couldn’t Read and his kids came of age listening to creole pidgin hip-hop. Millennial children coming of age live in a world of images and surfaces a few inches from their faces. The most reasoned statement they see is a meme. Normal people in all three generations have become disinterested and docile. The 2020 emergency demonstrated how docile.

Ironically, the dual track education system, one for the leaders (private) and one for the workers (public), that solved the initial problem of too many literate workers was damaged by the health emergency. Many people came awake and are now questioning whether the compulsory public education that set the standards for good workers and good citizens is still helpful in their lives. Something can be done immediately to push back against this indoctrination. Parents should teach children to read.

Parents must see the harm in letting public school teach the child to read and choosing the texts. Public education aims for minimum proficiency. It aims for functional literacy. It aims to instill specific ideas about the world. Control of the narrative must not be allowed from the first reading lesson.

Parents should derail the process by teaching children to read before and during their public education to counter-balance the indoctrination. The child has no chance of meeting a teacher in school who is interested in their reading skill and their freedom of thought. Parents should get quality material in front of the child as soon as possible. Middle school or high school is not too late to read a little Thomas Paine or Murray Rothbard. The more children who think independently, the fewer Prussian adults the state can march off into the permanent military underclass staffing Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Ukraine.

Parents should teach children to read as early as possible. In or out of public school, the parents should expose the child to non-ideological, traditional texts. Every step closer to emancipation is a win. The family that takes this path will have a fight to the last school day with authorities who want supremacy over the child, but there is a fighting chance if the free thinking child is in the family’s corner.

1J. S. Mill, On Liberty

Teaching Basic Skills Without a Safety Net

Children must learn the basic skills of reading, writing and numbers. Augustine said, “Legere et scribere et numerare discitur.” These skills temper thought and create the platform for curiosity. Learning to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic is critical especially before exposure to public school institutionalization.

Public education discourages the formation of reasoned and discriminating thought in students. Public education discourages unapproved curiosity. Parents must teach the basics because no one knows what strangers will teach at public school, or what strange curriculum they follow. Teaching the basics before encounters with public school “stranger danger” helps parents maintain standards for  learning.

This is not weird. Students learned the basics at home before compulsory education. In America that meant the people, rich or poor, arrived at school having mastered the basics of reading, rudimentary writing, and basic arithmetic. The wealthy provided a nanny or governess for instruction, but most families used parents. Most rural American people learned to read from the Bible or maybe Mother Goose. Literate families commonly read aloud from the Bible or the newspaper in the evening before television or social media. Children learned to do letters by imitation, and to count, usually with mom during the day, or perhaps in the evening with dad. Teaching children was a family engagement with priority over competing activities.

Reading

One needs a book to legere (read). Any book, Kindle, or tablet, that can be read will work. Children need books after learning to speak, so the brain can associate sounds to the marks on the page.

Not all reading methods are equal. Some popular methods in the past worked poorly. For example, the generation tortured by “See Dick run. See Jane. See Jane run,” ran away in 1965. Many were only functionally literate and spent a lifetime being misled and confused. A generation of educators and politicians were inspired by answering the question why Johnny can’t read.

It continues with new ways for teaching reading. New methods arrive with every masters thesis at every teacher’s college. When educators invent something usually it is to sell to the state or online. The Internet is packed with better ways to teach reading and much of it comes from this education mill. Many of these techniques try to solve the problem of teaching many students with one teacher. Nothing is better than one-on-one attention and repetition. Parents who sit with the child and read should ignore this noise.

Some proven methods work well. Phonics helped many Baby Boomers learn to read better than Dick, Jane or sight-sound. Phonics still works. It adds another hook for associating the words in baby’s mouth to the marks on the page. The Charlotte Mason Method served hundreds of thousands of homeschool families for most of a century. It works. The key is in regular reading to the child, eventually transitioning into the child reading to you. Patience, persistence, and attention always works.

Writing

Teaching scribere (writing) is not difficult. Learning to write should run parallel with learning to read.

Young children can draw things that they read with the parent. A narration of things that they draw can follow. Students can be nudged into good habits of clear thinking and of rational action in the process.

Copying what was read, and eventually copying what was thought, connects thinking, saying, writing, and reading, back to thinking again. Learning to write is not complicated or mysterious. Learning to read is practice. Learning to write is training.

Writing well is difficult. Writing clearly, writing with some grace to improve the thought is difficult. Most adult writers spend a lifetime running that loop from thought to the page. They all began with “Hello world,” a teacher who primed the pump. Learning to write is not difficult.

Mathematics

We get to numerare (numbers) at last. Math is hard. It is okay to find it hard. It is not okay to neglect it. Most parents today have problems with math. Parents should begin by teaching numbers and then teaching the math in daily use. Shopping, budgets, and cooking all provide opportunities for teaching math.

Young children can learn numbers along with reading and writing. Numbers, counting, putting together, taking away, that sort of thing. Later, the elements of household economy can be included. Children who can buy, sell, calculate, and keep a bank account are better prepared for modern life.

Mathematics are languages, many languages, not just one. The key to all language is drill. Drill is hard and often dull, but not impossible. As general studies progress, the other languages can be added, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Discrete Math, and maybe on to the harder things. The parent does not have to be a master. Math is slow to change and old math books still work. Beyond the overflow of textbooks at Goodwill, a number of free courses for various mathematics appear online. No skill better prepares the child for the future than math fluency.

Legere et scribere et numerare discitur.”

Grace Hooper, UNIVAC, programming
The Admiral Inventing the Future with Grace_Hopper_and_UNIVAC