Today I pulled out our Bananagrams set and asked D if he wanted to make silly words again. We stumbled upon this game a few weeks ago. He doesn't like making "real" words, but if we take turns making "nonsense words" he will sound them out and we giggle and laugh over how funny they sound. Sometimes I will "accidentally" sneak a real word in, and he'll laugh over that when he realizes that it really is a word.
It's a nice reassurance to me that he does still remember his letter sounds, that the information and skills are tucked in there, he's just not quite ready to use them freely on his own yet, for whatever reasons.
D can read, at least phonetic words and he knows some sight words. His montessori teacher worked on reading a lot with him last year, it seemed a big point of concern for her to "get him up to speed." (it's an interesting thing to notice with montessori, that while the philosophy is supposed to be very child-led, in practice there is often a strong focus on academics) He has spontaneously read to me before, but most of the time he's just not interested. I get the feel that he may be following his dad's path to reading-- Zach didn't show much interest in it till he was about 8 or 9, I think. Then suddenly a switch was flipped on, and within a couple months he had read through the LOTR trilogy.
One of my reasons for homeschooling is that I don't want D to be pressured into reading before he's ready for it. I half wonder if part of his hesitance at reading or math is because his teacher had pushed so hard on it, especially during his kindergarten year. The last thing I want is for reading to feel forced, and become a struggle and pain rather than something to be enjoyed and savored. I think back to other times when we've felt frustrated as parents that he wasn't doing something by the timeline we had expected-- with potty training, with sleep, with sucking his thumb, etc. Each time we came to find that it didn't really matter how much we tried and pushed and begged, he had to hit that milestone on his own, and he did, and then it was fine. I learned to trust his own timeline for doing things. Which I suppose is also part of why we're unschooling, as well-- trusting that he will learn what he needs to, on his own timeline. I think I've always leaned towards the unschooly type of thinking. I remember when D was little and I'd see friends doing all these special activities to teach their toddlers their colors and shapes, and feeling some guilt that I wasn't doing the same stuff but also feeling like I didn't need to anyway... my kids learned their colors and shapes just fine without flash cards (there's a nice justification for my own laziness, lol).
Which doesn't mean I don't still feel those twinges of jealousy and insecurity when I hear of one friend's 3 yr old who just started reading, or another friend's 5yo who is tearing through chapter books, etc. It's hard not to compare, not to wish your kid was doing that stuff. But it helps to see these glimpses, today playing our improvised bananagram game, that he's on his way. That the pieces of the puzzle are there, waiting for his little brain to put them together when he is good and ready to do so. And in the meantime we'll continue to have lots of books around and snuggle while I read aloud to him and just enjoy books and stories together.
EDIT: I was doing a bunch of reading about unschooling and learning and stumbled upon an essay by Peter Gray on how children teach themselves to read, and it seemed very apt.