Niko pretty much only watches 3 shows: “Word World,” “Sid The Science Kid,” and “Adventure Time.” Yes, yes, I know. One of these things is not like the other. He also watches “Dinosaur Train” when I need to take a shower or something, because it’s on Netflix. (“Adventure Time” is On Demand but some episodes require him to sit in my lap and ask if the Snow Golem is going to fall into the water and where is that Fire Wolf’s mama and tata?) He’s picked up a lot from the shows he watches, including the phrase “Sweet Babies!” when he’s excited or angry about something. As cusses go, that is a GREAT ONE and I approve and it’s way better than him picking up on my hissed “JESUS FUCK”s and “DAMMIT”s when he headbutts me in the eye, blacking it and bending my glasses, or when he tumbles off me and lands square on the edge of my foot, grinding the bones into the ground while also clawing his toenails along my soft foot skin. I… I may need to take out a restraining order on this guy.
Anyway, “Word World” is an educational show that works on letter recognition, phonics, and simple spelling. We watch it together and I help prompt him to make letter sounds/say what letters make sounds and after an episode we’ll go over letter shapes and sounds and maybe practice spelling some words. Personally, I’m terrible with phonics. I’m slightly deaf in one ear, which may be part of it, but a friend of mine who is a teacher casually mentioned once that it sounds like I have an auditory processing disorder as well, which frankly, I find easy to believe. I have a really difficult time discerning, say, the difference between “ch,” “sh,” and “dg/j” which is a pretty big problem with my attempts to learn my husband’s language which has TWO “ch”s, “sh”s, and “dg/j”s. I SAY the sounds right, but when I hear a word I’ve never seen spelled, I have a hard time figuring out if it’s got a ch, sh, or dg/j in it. I have a really hard time sounding words out to spell them.
But! I try to rise above that, and since phonics works for teaching most kids (and adults!) to read and write, I’m using it as best I can with Niko. We look at letters and make their sounds and talk about digraphs and stuff and we sound out words when we’re reading. Niko’s gotten to the OH MY GAWD ADORABLE phase where he “spells out” words totally the wrong way, just with random letters. It just about makes my heart explode with cute. Like, if I were an anime character, my eyes would be huge and shiny and have little hearts and stars floating in them.
This morning, he asked me to spell the word “Jet.” I sat down with a crayon and piece of paper and we said the word slowly together and then broke it down into pieces. Juh! Eh! Tuh! JET! He was able to break it down to sounds, and then figure out what letters made the sounds. I wrote the letters down and TADA! Jet! He spelled it himself, with encouragement/support from me.
I’ve grappled my entire life with poor spelling. Spellcheck is basically my best friend and we’ve had several torrid affairs. I learned to read when I was 3, but remember struggling incredibly hard with spelling in first grade. I failed test after test after test.I think the highest grade for spelling I’ve ever gotten has been a C+, and that was with much studying and writing the words out many times, etc. It’s so frustrating to work that hard and still fail! So I’m really surprised and delighted that phonics seems to be working for Niko, that he understands it, it clicks, and he can link letters with sounds and smash them all together to make words. Nobody mentioned the term “learning disability” to me until I was in high school, and even then it wasn’t an official diagnosis. I really nope Niko doesn’t have to deal with the same fucked up brain crap I’ve had to cope with my entire life, but if he does? I’m totally looking out for it– and for him. And today? He spelled “jet” and that’s just awesome.