My home-schooled niece is essentially illiterate

My 11-year-old niece, Molly, just spent a week with my kids and me. My sister and brother-in-law home school her. Both of them hold master’s degrees, but I was floored by Molly’s poor academic skills.

Dear Annie: My 11-year-old niece, Molly, just spent a week with my kids and me. My sister and brother-in-law home school her. Both of them hold master’s degrees, but I was floored by Molly’s poor academic skills.

When the kids played hide-and-seek, she could not count to 100.

She couldn’t figure out how many hours it was until dinnertime (it was 1 p.m. and we eat at 5 p.m.).

She could not count money. She could not read simple phrases.

When the kids made postcards to send to relatives, Molly could spell “Mom and Dad,” but not her last name or Ohio, the state where she lives.

Of course, she was embarrassed by her lack of skills and avoided other situations where she would be asked to read, count or write, including baking cookies, since it requires measuring.

Molly is a bright girl. She has a great vocabulary and a wonderful memory. My sister told me they follow a child-centred curriculum where my niece’s interests drive what she learns. When she was interested in underwater life, they spent a week at the beach and learned about marine mammals.

Molly can tell us details about these things, but she couldn’t read a book about fish if her life depended on it. I’m guessing they never saw 100 dolphins or she’d be able to count that high.

Every year, state law requires my sister to submit a portfolio of Molly’s work to a certified teacher who evaluates it and determines whether she is making adequate progress. The teacher has never found any problems, but I later found out she is another mom in their home school group who follows the same curriculum.

My sister said I worry too much, and my brother-in-law told me to “butt out.” I am concerned that Molly is illiterate and may not develop the basic skills to function in daily life. What do I do? – Molly’s Aunt

Dear Aunt: We understand your concerns, but this is truly not your business.

There is nothing wrong with a child-centred curriculum, although it behooves parents to encourage basic reading and math skills at the same time. This can include bedtime stories and baking cakes, which would not be part of the daily curriculum, but rather normal parent-child interaction. Since Molly is a bright child, she will eventually want to read and, we hope, make the necessary effort to do so.

Please try to be a loving aunt and not a judge of her education.

Dear Annie: My friend Dora and I are no longer speaking. I said some bad things about her to my brother, and she found out.

I said those things because she got me into trouble with my family by telling them I said horrible things about them. But she twisted what I said and made it sound negative when it wasn’t.

Annie, I’ve been a good friend to her. I always treated her when we went out, loaned her money she never paid back and did favors for which she’s never said thank you. I don’t know why, but I miss her. I texted her, but she never responded, and I know if I call she won’t answer. Is it worth it to keep trying? — Lost Friendship

Dear Lost: Not to us, but then, we don’t see the appeal. We suspect if you ignore her, Dora will eventually contact you again, but the relationship sounds a little toxic, and we think you two would be better off without each other.

Dear Annie: I have another suggestion for “Victim of Family Paparazzi,” whose stepdaughters post unflattering pictures of her on their website.

She should get a camera and, on the next outing, smile and say it’s time to share some pictures of them with others. Then, even if they are picture-perfect cuties, we’re sure she can manage to catch a few shots to even the score. — The Villages, Fla.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net.

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