I sat down on the couch and my seven-year-old, Sarah, plopped down next to me. She was writing a story about a girl and her mother and wanted me to check her spelling and (more importantly) admire her story.
It was lacking in punctuation and capitalization but the spelling was surprisingly good and showed me that Sarah's perspective of her relationship with me is one of always doing fun stuff together.
She also sat wedged tightly against my side, even though she is my most independent, touch-me-not child. I was careful not to crowd her more than she had volunteered. I started to read her story but she pulled it away, wanting to read it aloud instead.
There was a little girl. that little girl lived in a little house. she was very nice. She had a mom. Her and her mom would Go outside and Pick flowers. They would Make bouquets and they would have fun with the flowers They would Make crowns and they would Make bracelets and then They would go inside and they would Make eggs.
I was shocked to discover that the above text was only two pages out of twenty-six! The little girl who could not read at all one year earlier was now a prolific writer. When had that happened?
The story was full of the things we do. I recognized the words she had asked me to spell aloud for her over the last three days. She had used them repeatedly, obviously exercising her memory. She showed me that the back of her notebook had the alphabet written in both uppercase and lowercase letters and that she had used it to know how to write every letter correctly.
I felt a twinge of jealousy that I hadn't been the one to teach her how to write. She had taught herself. Then I shook off my moment of insanity and marveled at my self-taught daughter again. I realized that she had discovered she could find the information she needed and learn it with her own eyes and ears.
“Sarah. You are amazing. I can't believe you did all this by yourself in three days. I thought you were just working on a little story with a lot of pictures. I had no idea you were writing a book… this is just amazing!”
Sarah smiled and hugged me. Her ears were open to hear anything and everything I had to say about punctuation and capitalization.