How do you spell “nincom” and other paths to literacy


Cinder, 11 in two months, is my late-blooming reader. This seems to be the year when the pieces are really starting to come together for him. I’ve charted some of his literacy journey in the past on Nothing By The Book in Spell Is a Four Letter Word and Growing Readers, Writers and Learners At Their Own Pace. I’d like to revisit with you something from his “grade one” year. You know, the year he was *supposed to* learn how to read?

From Nov 20, 2008, Life’s Archives/Unschooling Canada

Last night, as Cinder is falling asleep, all of a sudden he turns to me and Sean–we’re all hanging out on the bed together, cause the kiddies had spent the day with Babi and we were in reconnect mode–and says,

“How do you spell nincom?”


“How do you spell nincom? I know that you spell poop P-O-O-P, and I need to know how to spell nincom.”

“You want to spell nincompoop?”

“No, I already know how to spell poop. Just nincom.”

Sean letters it out for him. I say, “That’s great. The first word Cinder could read, write and spell was No. The second is Poop. Can’t wait to see what the third will be.”

“Aren’t you paying attention, Mom? Nincom!”

This morning, I write nincom, and for good measure poop, on an index card and toss it to him. He takes it to the kitchen table–Sean and Flora are still eating breakfast there–takes some construction paper and scissors, and starts cutting up small pieces of paper. “Are you going to make a birthday card for Nana?” asks Sean. Cinder makes a
mischievious face. “That’s an idea,” he says.

He labours for about 20 minutes over his little pieces of paper, writing NINCOMPOOP on each one (inspiration for the word is, incidentally, Calvin & Hobbes. But wait. I didn’t have to tell you that. The next line gives it away…).

“OK,” he finally says, “Now how do you spell Booger Brain?”

Back to 2013. That was pretty much all the writing and spelling he did that year. But that was all he needed to do. That year. And the year after. And the year after that. And this year… well. That’s a whole different story. And I’m not allowed to talk about some of it yet. I’ll tell you when I can. 🙂

And just in case there’s a “well, there’s unschooling for you, tha’ boy can’t read at 10” crankpot out there: his sister read at three. His little brother is cracking the code at three and a half… but he might stall for a few years. No rush, no worry. Each one at their own pace, in their own time.

And hey, you should pop over to Nothing By The Book and read unLessons from the Posse. It’s quite, quite good.

3 responses to “How do you spell “nincom” and other paths to literacy

  1. Pingback: How wrestling, Lego and Star Wars role playing all help raise readers | Undogmatic Unschoolers·

  2. Pingback: Undogmatic Unschoolers: How wrestling, Lego and Star Wars role playing all help raise readers et al. | Marzena Czarnecka, Writer·

  3. Pingback: “I was really patient with my late reader, but now he’s eight!” or, why (and how) to be patient still | Undogmatic Unschoolers·

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