Small Steps Are a Big Deal

Image courtesy of stockimages /
Image courtesy of stockimages /

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Since starting this path of unschooling, there have been more than a few times that I’ve worried about whether or not my kids were actually learning, and they always inevitably show me in a big way that, yes, they certainly are. My older kids have usually been my biggest concern because they’re the ones I need to report to the school district. Now that I’ve found the right evaluator and gotten a better handle on things, I’ve been much more at peace and can clearly see progress being made.

With my anxiety over my older children abating, however, my attention has turned more to Bailey(6) and Luke(5). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not freaking out over them like I was with the others, but I have been wondering where my more hands-off attitude was going to lead them. As usual, they’ve inadvertently proved to me today that we’re headed in the right direction.

You may remember from my earlier post about teaching reading that I’ve been letting my younger children take the lead with reading. After phonics became too tiresome for Bailey and Luke both, I tossed them aside and have just been waiting for cues from them.

After becoming more relaxed about it, Bailey almost immediately taught himself to read with a more whole language approach. He still uses the letters as clues, but he usually recognizes words on sight. I’ve been very pleased with his progress but have lately wondered when he would move past 3- and 4- letter words. I needn’t have worried. Today, while reading Life of Fred–Apples to him, he asked if he could read. I said yes but was thinking that he was really going to have a tough time with it, as these words are much harder than in his usual books. Amazingly, he read the entire page to me and only needed help three times- an entire page! The word that surprised me the most was “studio.” This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve only seen him read words like “tree” and “green”- one-syllable words. Apparently, his skills are far beyond what I was giving him credit for, and the problem was the level of books I was giving to him. Progress? Check.

My disquiet about Luke ran a little deeper than with Bailey. Unlike Bailey, Luke couldn’t even remember the smallest sight words and honestly showed no interest in trying. It was the same with phonics- no interest in letter sounds whatsoever. Luke is only 5, so, again, I wasn’t overly concerned but simply curious as to how this would pan out. Luke spends an awful lot of time on his LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Kids’ Learning Tablet, Green, so I knew he was going to get some practice with this because there are so many phonics apps on this device. (It truly is an invaluable resource in our home.) While reading books to him, sometimes I put my finger under each word as I say it, but he’s always been more interested in the pictures.

Imagine my surprise today when Luke called to me from the living room and said, “Hey, Mom, look! I spelled it!” When I heard him, I walked into the room expecting to see some random letters written on a piece of paper. Instead I saw this…


My heart leapt when I saw it, and I squealed with delight and congratulated him. Later on, while he was playing a game on my laptop, he asked if he could play a different one. I went over to assist him, even though he probably knows more about this stuff than I do. I was trying to figure out how to get this game started for him and finally said, “I can’t figure out what to do,” to which he rolled his eyes and promptly pointed at the word “game” and said, “Right there where it says game, Mom.” I knew then that everything is going to turn out okay.

These little signs of headway may not seem like much to you, but, to me, they are huge. Just as with a baby’s first tiny steps, these little wins are going to pave the way for so much to come. It’s so easy to look for these gigantic leaps of learning and, somehow, overlook the shuffles that got them there in the first place. Today I’ve learned that even the smallest steps can be a big deal.

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

6 thoughts on “Small Steps Are a Big Deal”

  1. Small steps matter.

    “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

    You know, we want to see results NOW. It’s our humanness. We are impatient. At least I know I am. But I believe that is part of why we have children. We rarely see results NOW. We have to go day by day, step by step..walking in hope, faith, and love.

    Great post! xo


    1. That’s a great quote. You’re right. I think we’ve become so used to immediate gratification that it carries over into every area of our lives. Not a good thing. Thanks, Virginia!


  2. Baby steps are the best! I’ve found that the slow and steady approach gives us the best long-term results in our homeschool. Trying to rush just burns the children and me out. I’m so happy to hear that your relaxed approach is working well for your family. 🙂


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