A child’s first day of school comes with much fanfare – and much preparation. In fact, most parents spend the five years before kindergarten teaching their children the basics so they’re ready for the academic career that lies ahead.
But one mom caused a virtual ruckus by declaring to the internet that she had no intention of teaching her son how to read before he went to school. She had an explanation for her decision, of course – but that only served to further stoke the conversation.
Mom is just one of the many roles that Crystal Lowery plays. She’s a medical researcher, but she’s also a stand-up comedian who regularly plays the Dallas-Fort Worth area circuit. She even writes her own blog and contributes to HuffPost and Scary Mommy too.
So it’s no surprise that she regularly takes to the internet to share the challenges – and laughable moments – that come with parenting her son, John, and daughter, Jenna. She’s covered their family’s international move from the United Kingdom back to the States, her daughter’s meltdown before going to the zoo and even the way she’s motivated her kids to potty-train.
She also regularly shares updates from her son John’s time at school. “My son’s preschool teacher sends us notifications about what he’s up to,” Lowery wrote on July 14, 2016. “Today: ‘John has found a wig and is going round the room making the other children laugh.’”
“No idea where he gets it,” she then wrote, hinting at her own career in stand-up comedy. “Your kid may have reading, math, or science nailed, but this is a proud moment in my house. Let there be laughter!”
That post racked up just 30 likes and a handful of comments, so Lowery probably didn’t think much of her August 19, 2017, update, which also had to do with John’s education. In it, she divulged the fact that she would not be teaching John to read before he started kindergarten.
“I’m not teaching my pre-schooler how to read yet,” she wrote at the top of her post. “Don’t get me wrong, we read him books all the time. We’ve imagined ourselves in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and we’re 170 pages into Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. We’re teaching him to enjoy stories, to get lost in characters.”
Perhaps anticipating a negative reaction, Lowery immediately backed up her decision not to teach her son how to read. “He’s too busy learning other things,” she wrote. “He’s learning how to be a good sport – how to wait his turn in Candy Land and not gloat when he makes it to the King’s Ice Cream Castle before his sister does.”
“He’s learning how to build,” she went on. “From blocks, to sticks, to Legos, he feels the weight of the different materials in his little sausage fingers, and examines the physical integrity of the various structures he has made.”
Lowery then said her son was dabbling in exercise, as well as in taking care of his things all on his own. “He’s learning how to be creative,” she wrote. “How to draw his own picture books full of monsters, and how to construct an imaginary spaceship with Amazon boxes.”
By inspecting insects and flowers and watching thunderstorms, Lowery believed, her son had begun to understand ecosystems. He had figured out when to say “sorry” and how to empathize with others who are hurting too. His mother had even observed him accepting apologies from others.
“He’s learning that the key to happiness is to focus on his blessings rather than complaining about what he doesn’t have,” the stand-up comedian wrote. “He’s learning important lessons every day. But he’s not learning to read.”
However, Lowery did imagine that the school wouldn’t consider him to have progressed as much as he could in skills. But she wrote, “He will come to the classroom with so much more.”
She continued to say her son would dive in and try new things. He would try and make friends without fear. He would listen to his teachers. He would be able to solve problems on his own. And he would have the ability to focus on a task because he’d done that all on his own while learning at home.
“There is so much our children learn that cannot be measured with a standardized test,” Lowery wrote to close her post. “And though someday his hours will be filled with phonics, and penmanship, and fractions, we aren’t worried about all that today.”
And with that, Lowery finished a piece that would instantly strike a chord with readers across the internet. Her original post received 1,500 reactions, more than 300 shares and more than 500 comments. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the comments she received were from parents and teachers in her corner.
Commenter Rachel Phillips wrote, “I love this. The pressure that’s put on our tiny little humans is unreal. Can’t a 5-year-old be a 5-year old?! I’m not trying to rush through these sweet, tender years. I also think it’s more important to have a kind, well-behaved child.”
But not everyone was as kind to Lowery, especially when her words were re-published on ABC News, Yahoo and HuffPost, among others. Lowery reacted to the negativity on her personal blog. “It is incredibly satisfying to look at a headline that says, ‘Mom isn’t teaching son to read’ and jump to conclusions so that we can fancy ourselves better than ‘that unfit mom on the Internet.’”
“Wouldn’t it be great to extend empathy to that mom instead?” she went on. “To assume her heart is in the right place? That she has done her research? That she is educated and has the best interest of her child in mind?” It’s easy to see that Lowery does indeed have her heart and mind invested in every decision she makes about her son, who will start kindergarten next year.