Saturday, March 24, 2007


I'm thoroughly committed to unschooling, but my own upbringing (academic household, interaction with children very focussed on teaching and testing - though I doubt they'd put it in precisely that way) and rampant perfectionism (working on that) occasionally undermine my practice. Over the past few weeks I've been finding it hard to ignore the Oyster's latest phase in pronunciation, whereby he speaks much less clearly than he was doing a couple of months ago. He swallows syllables, drops consonants and homogenises vowels. We still understand him (most of the time), and so I don't consider it defensible to try to persuade him to speak more distinctly.

Defensible or not, however, I've cracked a few times. For instance, "tell a story about..." is currently pronounced (approximately) dalladawbow, and I've once or twice found myself trying to pretend I don't understand, or stalling over starting the story until he says it "properly".

Doesn't work. It doesn't achieve its (ostensible) primary aim, which is to make him realise that he's speaking indistinctly and correct himself; it also doesn't achieve its (ostensible) secondary aim, which is to make me feel better. Instead, he gets frustrated, and I concede that I know what he's saying. Oh well.

(I'm reminded of an incident from my mother's childhood, when at the age of six or so she suddenly developed a lisp. My grandmother - not the world's most laid-back parent - was terribly worried by this, and had my mother Seen At Once by the finest speech specialist in the land. Whereupon it turned out that a girl in her class had a lisp, and she thought it was really cool.)

Anyway. At dinner this evening, we had a genuine misunderstanding. We'd been talking about a book, and the Oyster, at a pause in the conversation, said, "Mama help O. with vweeding."

"Yes, I'll help you with reading when you're going to bed," I said.

A few minutes later, he repeated, "Mama help O. with vweeding."

This time, I wasn't so sure that I knew what he meant. I asked him if he meant "reading", and he said, "No, vweeding."

Then I got it. "Oh, feeding! Sorry, love, I thought you meant reading."

"Feeding," he said - perfectly enunciated. It was the first time I'd heard him do a successful initial "f".

So I fed him a few forkfuls of not very cohesive quiche.

Then at bedtime, we were settling down to read The Snail and the Whale, and the Oyster remarked, "O. says ’nail."

"Yes, that's right," I said. "You find it easier to say ’nail than snail."

"Snail," he said. "Snail." He grinned, clearly very pleased. We congratulated him.

I'll be interested to see how this one unfolds.


Ailbhe said...

He knows when you're faking it. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA OYSTER WINS!

Radegund said...

He SO wins!

There's something about how children are trained to disbelieve the evidence in front of them in favour of the version the adults are promulgating, had I but the brainpower to articulate it.

Linz said...

What I've noticed with Jack is that when he's internalising a new skill in one area, previously acquired skills in that area deteriorate. He's currently learning to jump with both feet off the ground. He is tripping over a lot because he's not thinking about normal walking. It's really noticeable with language, though.

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