So on January 4th or so, Aharon, age 4, asked me to teach him the sounds that the letters make. I told him a few sounds until he had enough, and then we've been haphazardly talking to him about the sounds. He spends a lot of time on Agario asking me how to spell things numerous times a day, and I hear other family members (Jack, in first grade, Chana in 9th grade) talking to him about sounds of letters.
By the end of January, we were reading Hop on Pop and I realized he probably either could read it or would want to be guided to read it. Sure enough, he was making his way through the words and absolutely thrilled to blend three letter short vowel sound words. First hurdle of reading, achievement unlocked. Now I know he'll be able to teach himself reading or ask for help whenever he wants to up his reading game.
So in summary:
Child #1: homeschooled classically, I taught her the ABCs with flash cards and she learned to read with the Lippencott reader series.
Child #2: somehow learned the ABCs from TV or computer. When I opened the reader, she asked me to never ever again use the reader. She read from pausing the TV for Tom & Jerry and Wile E. Coyote, pokemon game on the DS, and cereal boxes for 3 years. In 4th grade she received a book by Roald Dahl and she started reading it.
Child #3: Learned how to read mainly from minecraft. He wanted to identify the words he was looking for the most, like "obsidian" and "redstone." He began by learning the words he cared about the most, then slowly extrapolated. He wanted lots of help writing words, and we helped him sound things out. He was reading lots of large words but only began reading sentences when he wanted to learn coding, in 3rd grade. He still doesn't like to read books, but he is functionally literate, being able to read signs etc. He will probably learn to read instructions before he reads books, when he badly wants to do something and will need to read. All of his reading is for the purpose of doing something that he wants to do.
Child #4: Asked to learn how to read at age 5. Got to lesson #70 of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons. When his reading level hit a point where it was functional for what he wanted to do (read information around him and write what he wants to write for games), he asked to stop doing the reader. He reads constantly during the day. Although he can read simple books, he doesn't like to.
Child #5: Asked at age 4 for me to teach him the sounds that the letters make, and spent his own time figuring out blending. Can read basic words.
Although I don't sit any of them down for reading ever, they constantly bombard me. Chana asks me what a word means probably 5 times a day, or about word usage, or grammar. Jack (5) asks what more complicated words say. Today he asked about the word "hour." Elazar (8) probably asks the least amount of questions because he is currently capable of reading and writing everything he wants to read and write. Occasionally he'll ask a question like confirming that "good" has two o's. Aharon asks me what a word says or how to spell a word almost every few minutes it feels like. Luckily, Elazar and Jack can help him out a lot. The older boys also went through a very intensive time where they couldn't do anything on the computer and I had to help them write the same words over and over ("minecraft" and "candy crush") until they learned to recognize words and were able to remember how to write the words they wanted.
The fascinating thing about unschooling is that they work so hard at reading. They spend hours on it. They are very motivated. And I answer all their questions and help them out. But I never ask them. They always come to me.
I'm only half joking when I say that unschooling is like the lazy parent's dream. (Haha, as I write this I remembered to yell upstairs that I want Chana to pick a time to do work before it gets too late at night and my math brain shuts off. The stuff Chana wants me to teach her every day is so complicated it makes me dizzy.) The idea that I can just be there and be a resource and trust that my children love learning and love thinking and love finding things out and that in the course of pursuing their interests, whatever they may be, they will become literate? It's a dream come true.