#4, schooling when they are ready
"SOUND THE ALARM , GOOD FOLKS OF HOMESCHOOLVILLE! Little Johnny is in the 4th grade and reading at a 1st grade level (insert: gasps all around). How could such a travesty occur? (everyone looks around sheepishly). The parents are FAILING little Johhny! The mother obviously can not teach him! The Father needs to send that child to public school. Poor Little Johnny, he will need all sorts of help and therapy now!"
We have all heard the newsreel before. Maybe not out loud but definitely in our heads. We start with good intentions, things don't go the way they want and then we fold under pressure.
Everyone in the homeschool world says that one of the best things about homeschooling is that we can go slow and teach as the kids are ready. The truth is though, that so many of us do not practice what we preach. We stress out, stress our kids out and PANIC because "little Johnny can't read yet and he is 8" or "little Janey cries every time we get up to 2 digit numbers and she is in the 2nd grade already!" You know I'm right guys!
No one stresses out when kids are "ahead". When children learn faster than atypical, everyone applauds the parents and their awesome abilities and the brilliance of the child. When a child is behind though... well, people whisper in the corners (just loud enough for you to hear of course) about how the child is being "neglected, maybe un-schooled to the point of abuse, sinning against their child " the parents are failing because... gulp...their child is behind!
First of all- don't you, or anyone else, compare "normal learning" to the public schools! (That is another post!) There is a "norm" but, even in the PS system they have kids who are "ahead" and kids who are "behind". The public school system is NOT something you should compare your child too. What you should do is access what they ARE learning!
In all my years homeschooling, I have had children who are atypical learners, some more ahead and some more behind. None has taught me more about not freaking out about being "behind" than my 7th child, A9b or... ManBoyA.
I could go on for days about ManBoyA. Good, bad and ugly, this kid has it all! What he taught me though was a valuable lesson about filling a childs life with learning and letting the rest work itself out.
Learning is not about applicable abilities. Meaning: the ability to read/write/and do math is not needed to LEARN. Learning is about filling ones life with knowledge so that when you are ready you can pull from it.
There are some things that helped keep education pouring in. First being that we homeschool with one room school house style teaching. Science and history are done as a group and ManBoyA could DICTATE what he has learned and I could write it down. He can color a picture, do a project and other things that still do not involve applicable abilities.
Math was pretty easy and can be fun to tweak. In his early years we played a lot of games and did fun math worksheets, though I still freaked out since it didn't seem like we were really doing anything and I still wanted him to "complete" a math curric. I learned though. I learned to back off when he started taking too long to do something because we really accomplished nothing but frustration "fighting" it out. As he got older I could require more from him in this area. Not only did he "catch up", but he is now a grade level ahead in math.
Reading was something he was pretty sure he could live without and something I knew he needed to do to be able to live! We spent many years going no where in this area. I ignored so many cues. He did not try writing, he did not try reading, He did not ask me how to spell things. He did not care. I cared... but he could careless. I tackled that by trying to make it fun and something he would more or less enjoy.
We stopped doing regular "phonics" type lessons and I put him on the computer with Reading Eggs. I was always perplexed on how he could move up in all the levels and still couldn't read a "BOB book". I worried, I prayed, I vented to Tammy and Vanessa. My husband and I were worried. We kept on though. Putting the TOOLS in front of him, letting it sink in and then giving him opportunity to use them.
FINALLY , one day in the summer, just before his fourth grade year, he started asking about spelling words, making comics on his own, trying to read different things as we were out! These were are clues that he WAS READY. All that time on reading eggs had put the words in his head, the ability to read in his mouth and now that he was curious and he just needed practice. He is not at a "fourth grade level" but he is READING and its more than BOB books!
ManBoyA's personality and outlook on school FORCED us to re look at schooling and learning and to re-access what "progress" really was. Comparing him to other children, regardless of how they were being schooled, was not the answer. Counting each success he accomplished, number 1 in character and number 2 scholastics, was better. What we began to see was a really smart kid, very active, who just needed time.
If I had learned this lesson earlier things would have been much different for ManBoyA. He taught us the lessons of schooling when they are ready. If I had already learned this lessons, then his schooling life would have gone MUCH differently. Thankfully I did learn and the three little boys that followed ManBoyA are reaping the benefits! Their outlook on schooling is the best I have had, They are eager, wanting and excited to learn. I push them to try new things but I do not "push them" to the point of frustration and tears. Homeschool Mom reading this- you know what I mean! I encourage the learning and fill the homeschool time with learning. I try and make it more fun and less "booky". If we are not "feeling it" that day I back off. Even if that person is me! I look for the cues and clues and go with it!
One of the most important lessons I learned from ManBoyA is that "behind" is really a non-word. The child who is "behind" today in reading can quickly be the child who is "ahead" tomorrow if you just wait until they are ready. The child who can not get past long division today can take a break and do multiplication games for a month and then try long division again and blow through it like its nothing and test out of 4 chapters in math and fly ahead. Its about progressing to the best of your ability- not the kid's next door.
I do want to note that struggling learners can also have underlying issues like sight problems, dyslexia,and dyscalculia. It is important to keep an eye out for other clues that show there is a problem and not just a reluctance to "do school".
In closing, relax homeschool Mom! If your child does not seem ready for math and reading, DON'T PUSH THEM. Read to them, play with them, still "do school". Look for ways to put in that math or do some reading without it looking likt math, or looking like reading. Fill their world with information and then watch as they process and replicate the things you teach!
That concludes this blog post. I hope you have enjoyed this overview on Schooling when they are ready! Other topics to come in this series, in no particular order, are: