My daughter is reading. Yes, we have been doing a Bob book here and there (she is on fifth book in the first set, I believe), and yes, I knew that she could sound out first letter of 8 yo's spelling words, and yes, I have been pointing out words that she asked me about. But I did not expect that she is much further along.
My future SIL gave her a set of sticker books for Chanukah. They are pretty simple, with sticker outline in the book and a sticker on a separate piece of paper. However, there are words under the outlines, telling which sticker goes there. I saw that she was reading/guessing some of those. Of course she did not know how to blend two consonants, or "e at the end makes the vowel say its name", but she was motivated enough to try to figure those out. Unfortunately, all of this was taking place in 20 minutes before I had to leave for taekwondo, so we parted in the middle of this activity. I should also mention a certain young man who was busily trying to peel off stickers and rip up the whole exercise. Before today, I spent a fair amount of time beating myself up for not reading those Bob books consistently.
Yesterday, I took three older kids bike riding. 4 yo inherited her brother's bike, which is sort of big. My husband attached training wheels. This was second or third time that she was riding it. She was so not sure of herself at the beginning, with boys zooming right ahead into the park and then returning to hustle us along. She was worried about going too fast. She was worried about not making it up the incline. She kept braking and stopping "to breathe". Considering the size of the park, I almost asked her whether she wanted to put the bike back in the car and simply walk. Yet she persevered. We made it to the playground, and there, after swinging and playing for a few minutes, she got back on her bike, to practice some more.
By the time we were done, she was quite a pro. She even started talking about taking off those training wheels. All of this blossoming of confidence and mastery took place over less than two hours.
1 yo is talking. He was quite a quiet baby, lots of expression, but almost no words for a long time. He got just about everything he wanted by pointing, saying "this", and making incoherent sounds. For a while, he would not imitate words being spoken to him. All my other kids started speaking pretty early or on time, so he was definitely behind. He was constantly being spoken to, and read to, so exposure was not the concern. Yet, over the course of a past month, his vocabulary exploded. I am not even keeping track of how many words he has, but all those words spoken to him are there. He has word combination, idioms, fragments of speech. His speech is purposeful and clear. I have no more reason to worry.
8 yo has been saying "al hanisim" the entire Chanukah. I know it was hard for him, as we read over it together a few times and he was not fluent. I was discussing with my husband how his chumash has not been happening over the course of a past week, but he pointed out that he is clearly working on all this davening. He has been going to shul, saying the entire shemone esre, and participating in shabbos mincha and maariv. The other day, he got to say birchot hashachar for the congregation. He glowed like a million bucks, although he said that it was no big deal. For a child who cannot sit still through long davening, all this hard work is taking place on his terms.
As parents, it is so easy to look at all those other kids, and worry. It is easy to worry about kids walking, and talking, and reading, and mastering Judaics, and developing middos. It is easy to give up, thinking that kids will never say "please" without prompting, or they will never grasp algebra, or get to gemara, or stop harassing their sibling. Yet, one of the beauties of doing homeschooling ( or just spending so many darn freaking hours) with a child is the slow realization that most of these things will happen in their proper time, on child's terms. My job as a parent is to be a guide, and a support. I do not need to constantly cheer them on, I do not need to bribe or harass them. I do not need to punish them. I do not need to reward them, either. I just need to be present, available for help or consultation as it is solicited.
I need not worry.