Friday, September 5, 2008

The Post That Was Meant to be Short

I know I haven't updated in forever. What can I say. As a good friend told me once when I was struggling with a canoe in Canada, "Excuses are like feet, Anna, we all have them and they all stink." My femininity was not happy with that statement but eh, it is true.

We started school this last week and it has gone quite well. The kids seem to be getting so much more out of school and the whole process seems to be much easier. Maybe we are all just getting better at this.

I did have a moderately sad story to tell on my sweet boy. I have hesitated to discuss things like this on my blog because of my children's privacy but I do think that sometimes in NOT talking about things like this, others think that our lives are all perfect and they end up feeling alone in their struggles. So, I have decided to share a few things that I have not shared here before.

My Boy has had a slower time with reading. I honestly do not think he has true reading problems, I really do think that this area of his brain is just developing a little bit slower then other areas and for him, that is perfectly normal. The language area of his brain always developed slower. As we have been homeschooling I have felt all the standard pressures that moms feel, but in the homeschooling world, sometimes those pressures are on steroids (not that the pressures are intended, I want to make that clear). We feel that since we are doing everything one on one and we are able to customize our children's school work that they should be the most brilliant intelligent children on this earth. The fact of the matter is that not all kids are created the same. I did everything I was supposed to do with my son. I read to him from the time he came home from the hospital. I now have more children's books then anything else in this house and they are VERY well read. The problem arose when I decided that we should start Kindergarten. He was by age ready, but he was not really ready.

I bought curriculum. I watched homeschooling friends buy advanced curriculum and I quivered. I saw amazing papers by children who were homeschooling and were so advanced. I grew determined. I organized and plopped books in front of him and planned and then grew frustrated at his lack of interest. He didn't want to write his name. He didn't want to learn to write numbers. He didn't want to sound things out. He didn't want to do any of it but have me read to him. That is all he was truly comfortable with. Half way through Kindergarten I tossed half the curriculum out the window. I ditched the Math entirely. I continued to struggle through the Language Arts. I was determined that MY SON would not have problems with this. I had read to him since he was one week old. I had read TONS to him in these years of his life. He knew his letter sounds. I was sure that he would get reading. I was sure that it would all click.

The next year I bought the next level of curriculum. I now know that what I should have done was redo the previous year and not think a thing of it, but I persevered. I continued. I bought the next level of Language Arts, I bought a totally different Math. I continued reading and reading and reading. I decided that the particular Language Arts wasn't working for us and so I decided to buy Hooked on Phonics for grade one. I ordered it and opened it all up and stared in dismay. It had them already reading blends. He was no where near ready to read blends, he was not really able to read simple three letter words like hat and cat and mat. I put it back in the box and ordered the K level and wanted to cry. The K level came and the lists of letter sounds he had to do were redundant and boring for him. He was losing interest faster then I could finish a simple K level lesson. I packed that box up and put it on the shelf also. I stopped doing Language Arts. I stopped doing Phonics with him. He was burnt out. I was burnt out. His little sister was sitting down and doing all the K level language arts. It was time for a season of rest in this field.

We all took the rest. We continued with the History and Science that he loved. We continued with the Math that he worked through. We continued reading aloud to him.

A good friend of mine has a son that she still struggles with in reading and in many areas of school and she would encourage me and tell me that if you do nothing else continue to read to him. Just read, read, read. Well, thankfully the curriculum that we use is very read aloud heavy and that was working great. She tells me that even though her son still struggles with reading his vocabulary is absolutely wonderful and it is because of all the reading they did with him.

After a few weeks with no Language Arts and no Phonics at all, I started prepping the kids for this new thing I decided to call Box Work. I ordered the Language Arts from Sonlight, the company that we were doing everything else with (except Math). We had never tried their Language Arts and it was time for something new. I bought them plastic file boxes with the hinged lids. I bought them special clip boards and put their names on them. I had them decorate the file boxes and I had them decorate some little folders and told them that this is where their new work would be going. I set one up for each of them and when I ordered the curriculum I ordered two sets of the K level Language Arts consumables. I also ordered their K level readers. This worked much better. This level was easy for him and he found great success. It wasn't called phonics or language art or anything else. It was called box work and it was set up differently then anything he had done before. He did the activity sheets with little problem, but he didn't want to try to read the little books much at all. I would have him work through some of them but I didn't push it hard at all. He wasn't ready. Just like he wasn't ready to talk much at age two, he wasn't ready to read at age six. I did find some books that he loved and I have bought them all to slowly reward him with them. They are here. I will try to remember to talk about these at another time.

We finished the year weakly I felt. It was done. He wasn't reading. I was getting concerned about the fact that in classes at church and with other kids it was quickly going to become apparent that he wasn't reading. After VBS one day this last summer he let me know that he wasn't a good reader. My heart broke just a bit. I debated again whether I should have put him in the K level VBS for this reason. I hadn't done that, I had kept him in a class that I felt he would fit in well with and he did do alright, but apparently he also learned that he wasn't a good reader.

This summer, I spent my time slowly finding all of the books and Instructors Guides that I would need to do the work for the next level of school. In July I started wondering about my sanity. I started thinking seriously about redoing the whole last year of school. I do not call this holding him back and there are several reasons that I decided to do this. With the curriculum that we use and love, at the Core 3 level the readers that the kids read and the history starts to mesh. I wanted him to be able to take advantage of that and if we continued on the way we were there is no way he would be able to do that. Another reason that I started contemplating doing Core 1 again is that he loved it and he certainly would not mind one bit. I added in tons on my own as well. We would get extra videos from the library and we would get extra books from the library as well and so, I could easily continue this and we would be fine. Another reason that I started contemplating this is that The Girl was really ready to go straight to Core 1 and skip Core K. She was already reading more fluently then The Boy and if I put them both on Core 1 my life would be much simplier and they would have much more time to do other things and we would be able to share in so much more in our homeschooling.

So, after I had already bought nearly everything I would need for Core 2, I carefully packed it away and ordered the few things I would need to teach Core 1 to two children. I warned The Boy that The Girl would be doing much of school right along with us and I let him know that we were going to be redoing much of what we did before. He was perfectly fine with this. The history and Bible with this curriculum is really quite advanced and so I do not feel that I am holding back his education, actually I feel that this whole process is probably one of the most beneficial things I have done thus far in his education.

Now, the first day of school I sat with them at breakfast and I read them our Bible work and the verses and then I read them the History. Then we started with our word list for the week. These were all simple words. All the "at" words were present and both of the kids knew them all. The Girl did read them a bit easier then The Boy, but he didn't struggle with them. I left her to color in her new coloring book and I took The Boy into the living room to read a short story in his book. He refused. He sat on the sofa and refused to hold the book. He refused to point to the words with his finger. He refused to sound out one single letter on the page. He had reached the point where he honestly believed that he could not read. He felt that he was going to blow it again... once again and he refused to do that. His sweet little boy face crumpled up in a wrinkled mess as he struggled not to outright cry and I held him. I knew he could do it. The story had no new words on it then the word list. I talked him through it and tried to explain how he could do this. It was a process. Finally, I got him to agree to us taking turns reading lines. I read one line then he read one line and on we went through the short story. He did it. He faltered slightly, but he made it the entire way through and then we snuggled and cried together.

Then The Girl came into the room and The Boy left to color and she sat down and read the entire story without a glitch. I was so happy and proud of her, but it is honestly such a bittersweet moment because she is two years younger then her brother and though I am thrilled that she read that without a hitch, it does make life more interesting with my little faltering reading boy.

I never intended for this post to be so long and I have not posted on this at all ever because I really wanted to protect my little boy. I grew up with two sisters who struggled with reading. One who will always struggle with reading and I wanted to protect my little boy from everything I watched them endure. I do not think that I am opening him up to ridicule here and I do not think that I am protecting him less by sharing this, but I do think now that maybe someone can benefit from my story of growing.


Tricia said...

That was long...all I can think to say is you are amazing! They are blessed to have you as their teacher!

Matt & Elizabeth said...

Hi Anna,
I'm friends with Susan and Brian (we were in the same small group at church until my daughter Lucy was born), and I've really been enjoying your blog. I just wanted to say that what comes across most in this post is your deep love for your kids. You seem to be a wonderful mom to them and they are very lucky/blessed. Your patience and care with your boy's struggles is wonderful. It reminds me of the verse about "a bruised reed he will not break"- how Jesus is gentle with us in our weaknesses. I hope your son is able to fully receive that love as he grows and learns.

susan said...

Anna, I read your post days ago and have not stopped thinking about it.

Anastasia said...

Hey Anna, thanks for sharing your stories, here's a couple book ideas (early readers are my section at the library). I love the Piggy and Elephant books, so glad the boy did too. Some of our most popular early readers are the Moncure phonics books and the Rigby Color series books (these are very small paperback books)--although now that I think about it I'm not sure that they're interesting. Best of luck and patience!


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