Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 2 of Home Education Week!

Profiling home educators:

Describe yourself, your family or one of your children. What is it like to be home educated in your family? What is “normal” for you?

Hmmm. I will describe my boy, my firstborn, as he is my greater homeschooling challenge and thus my greater homeschooling joy. (For now. I have my suspicions that my girl will become the greater challenge around age 12. Just a guess.) He is one of those all-boy boys.

When did we figure out that his brain worked a little differently from what we expected? Was it the morning the first words out of his mouth were "Dad, how long is the USS Nimitz?" Or was it when we realized that we could give him harder and harder jigsaw puzzles to work on, but he would still finish them in a flash, picking up pieces and placing them so easily.

This is the boy whose first comfort object was a book, not a blankie. Usually a book about trucks or heavy construction equipment, when he was a little guy. He always had books in his bed and we read for hours every day. At almost 11, he still likes being read to the best, and assures me he will want me to read to him forever. I believe him.

So when he struggled with reading on his own I was surprised, and dismayed. How can it be so hard to teach this book-loving boy to read? Math facts were hard too, even though he could have intelligent conversations with Daddy about math concepts I can't even describe here. He couldn't remember 5 + 7 but he could recite long answers from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In 16th Century English! Somewhere we ran into a book, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, and saw some lights coming on. We changed our homeschooling methods, including doing the unthinkable: I gave up on phonics and let him sight-read. By the age of 8 he was reading pretty well; now he is a strong reader, leaning toward nonfiction, specifically military history and weaponry.

But because he didn't learn phonics, he can't spell at all. He hates writing: a few sentences tax his patience. But a few months ago he stunned me by saying, "Mom, can we re-do phonics? Because I never got that and I need to know how to spell." So we found some middle-grade phonics workbooks and he works on them, not quite joyfully, but eagerly because, of course, he has decided he needs to learn this thing. And that's really what I always wanted: a child who would be motivated to learn the things he needs to know.

So, what is normal? Reading aloud, a lot. Answering lots of questions. Biting my tongue, sometimes, when I get frustrated over my boy's trouble with those basic skills that ought to be simple. Listening to him rattle off facts about an airplane, a battle, a submarine, and knowing it's right because he's always right on this stuff. Calming myself down when I want to get nervous about skills. Feeling euphoric when he makes connections and I see his learning.

See more posts on this topic at Principled Discovery.


Anonymous said...

My daughter once carried the diagnosis non-verbal learning disorder. Her weakness lies in her right brain, essentially opposite of your son.

I was taught whole word reading. I couldn't spell. I never really learned phonics, but I memorized how words were spelled and know if a word "looks right."

momedu3 said...

Your son sounds like a very special boy. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Stacy said...

Sounds like you have a really smart boy there.

It is great to see how you seek out what is best for his learning style.


Heather said...

He sounds a lot like my oldest. Isn't it awesome when you finally get what works for him and can let him really learn instead of trying to drill everything?

Sassy Mama Bear said...

Sounds like a boy who would have a blast with my boys. They ask those tough questions regularly.
Thank you for sharing :)

Ganeida said...

Wow! That's some boy you have there! Nice to *meet* you. :)

Mrs. Darling said...

Oooo I see you're doing this too. Good. You know I had to give up phoics with Tink too. It just doesnt work with some kids!

Your son is amazing!

Crimson Wife said...

I can *SOOOOOO* relate to the obsession with books about machines! My 2 yr old DS is going through that phase now. He will sit there and listen to me read for as long as I can stomach trucks/trains/planes/boats/rocketships/etc.

Karly said...

I love reading about homeschooled children. Everyone is so unique. I love that homeschooling affords time and patience to following a child's bent.

Great post!

Ellen said...

First born children are so interesting. They seem to find their interest and excel at it. Your son would probably get along well with mine.

lahbluebonnet said...

When they make the connections, isn't it time for a happy dance? ;)

Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

you said on my blog that the our boys sounded similar
My son has dyspraxia dyslexia and mild adhd

Christine Vieira said...

I'm so glad I ran across this.

This is our first year homeschooling. My kindergartner who was excelling at everything prior to Christmas break would become nearly catatonic if I uttered the phrase "sound it out" when she came to a new word. I decided to abandon phonics and just do sight words. She's blossomed with it memorizing 80 words in the one month since Christmas break ended, but I've had my doubt's. I may revisit phonics next year, though maybe not. Ironically even though she couldn't / wouldn't sound out a word while reading, she's pretty good at phonetically spelling (of course with all the screwiness of the English language it's not always spelled right, but you can easily see what she was trying to write)