Disjointed Observations (some of which resemble bragging): Delphine Edition

Delphine is just under two months away from being five, and in the last month or so she went through one of those quantum changes — your kid goes to bed one day and she's four and a half, and wakes up the next day and she's nearly five. Her hair is longer, her face is more girlish and less babyish, she has all these freckles that came out of nowhere, she uses long words and elaborate grammatical constructions, she can almost read. It's a bit dizzying, frankly, but I couldn't be happier. The more she moves away from babyhood the more I like hanging out with her.

So yeah, she can almost read. I would say she's a few weeks from really being able to read; she can sound out short (phonically logical) words, and she is learning a few tricks (like looking at the first letter and the associated picture and guessing!) to work out the other 95% of the English language. She's also sight-learned a few words, which suits me because that's largely how I (and I assume most literate adults) read.

I will say now that I hate phonics. I hated it when I was a kid and I still hate it now. I hated it when I was a kid because it didn't work (and because I thought it was a lame crutch for kids who couldn't "really" read — I was a huge snob when I was a kid). I hate it now because it still doesn't work; I feel like such a fraud when I tell Delphine to "sound it out" when I know that that's a technique which will hardly ever help her figure out a word. I am perplexed by the emphasis phonics receives, unless it's because no-one has come up with a better way of "teaching" kids to read, and they want to feel like they're doing something. The English language is too full of exceptions for phonics to be worth anything — if you want to read anything more interesting than the most pedestrian Easy Reader (another thing I hated as a kid) you are going to come across the word "one" or the word "weigh" or the word "said" and phonics is going to let you down. I don't have any answers, though. All I know is I figured out how to read by being read to (no-one taught me) and I expect my children will do that same, whether or not they learn "k-k-k-kite" at school.

Back to Delphine, who can also write. She can form letters like a demon, so she writes quickly if you spell things out for her, but she's also really bold about writing on her own and guessing how things are spelled. She loves to write cards for her friends. "Athena I love you." They are always love letters.

Okay, this is my last brag about Delphine, I promise. We were talking about aunties the other day; since she's been old enough to talk we've been working with the convenient fiction that she has two aunties, Auntie Morgan and Auntie J'Anne. On Sunday I decided she's old enough to understand that Auntie J'Anne is actually Daddy's auntie and her Great-Aunt (although J'Anne is hardly the quivering old dear that the title implies). To illustrate the idea I decided to do a family tree. I walked Delphine through drawing up a crude diagram with circles for each person and lines joining us all up. When it came to labelling, Delphine decided that she was going to write each person's name around their circle, with the letters projecting out perpendicular to the surface of the circle. (I'll take a picture so you can see what I mean.) And she did so, forming each letter correctly with respect to the slope of the circle, without turning the paper around. That means she can rotate two-dimensional objects in her head!

Obviously I think that's pretty cool, whether or not almost-five is exactly when you would expect someone to be able to rotate two-dimensional objects in their head (I have no idea). It's math! Do you know what this means? It means she'll be able to read maps, and walk around strange cities without getting hopelessly lost, and figure out where this bit goes on that bicycle without trying it! It means she'll be able to do those useless spatial manipulation questions in IQ tests! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that she has math brain — she comes from two families of math heads — but I'm still pleased. Now we just need to get her doing cryptics.

Part of the being-almost-five (and not really four anymore) is that Delphine is generally nicer to be around (don't let anyone tell you about Terrible Twos, Four is much worse. Twos get a bad rap.) However I can't get her to stop yelling at Cordelia. Poor Cordelia seems to get screamed at all day, when she won't give up a toy, when she can't learn the rules of a game, when she hides wrong in Hide and Seek. I know Delphine learned all about yelling from me, but the scale is entirely different! I have yelled at her fewer than ten times in her whole life, whereas she seems to yell at DeeDee ten times a day. Well, maybe five. I guess they mean it when they say your bad behaviour will be reflected in your kids' behaviour, but I didn't realize it would be magnified to this extent. I have a book out about managing Anger and Aggression (for parents and children) so hopefully that will help. Because I don't have Clue One what to do at this point. At least March Break is over so they can get out of each other's hair for a while every day.


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