With the new school term about to start on Monday, I find myself being a little nervous this time around. We’ve now had three terms of homeschooling success.
My method was to take him right back to basics. By that I mean I removed all frill and fancy from his education. We sat down each day for 30 minutes a session with a paper book and a lead pencil in an undecorated room. Maths went back to the very basics of counting from one to ten. English went back to the first phonic sound blends and the alphabet. Writing was simply writing out the letters over and over again using those guidelines in the handwriting book.
I did this despite the fact that he could already read. I did this despite the fact that he was able to work out addition sums and subtraction sums and harder mathematical concepts. Why did I do it? The main reason was because for some reason, his past experiences with school had made him terrified of sitting down at a desk and using a pencil. He freaked out at having to read something or write more than one little thing at a time. My second reason was that I really wanted to make sure he didn’t have any learning gaps.
In a classroom, it’s so easy for the gifted kids to slip through the cracks as underachievers because they move too fast through complicated things and totally miss all the basic infrastructure of knowledge that they need. They also have a tendency to just give up if something requires a bit more effort because they are used to things coming easily.
Despite many teachers and specialists telling me to introduce technology into his schooling, using iPads for maths and typing instead of writing, I decided to ignore it (to a certain extent) and make sure he could read, write and spell. I still don’t regret that decision.
Now don’t get the idea that he doesn’t get exposed to technology. His Daddy manages the whole IT and Development department at his office for heaven’s sake! We have iPads, we have at least three laptops around and about. He can turn on and log in to our PC. He can operate the media centre software when he wants to watch something and he knows how to ‘Google’ stuff when he wants to know something. He’s not getting left behind in that department. However, in my opinion, it is so important to be able to just do the ‘boring’ stuff. The pen and paper work. The work that you have to say to yourself, “man this is so boring, but I just need to get it done and done well or I can’t move on”. It’s perhaps even more important to make these tasks less difficult for kids with ADHD. Throwing a whole bunch of back-lit, fast moving, pictures, sound and entertaining gizmos at them really doesn’t do a great deal of good for an ADHD brain.
His reading is now awesome. Although he HATES handwriting with a passion, when he writes something, you can actually read it. Spelling needs a lot of work as he still insists on doing it phonetically rather than trying to remember the spelling rules he’s been learning, but that’s OK for now. He’s moved through three maths books in three terms to bring him up to about half way through the equivalent of year one in regular school. That’s still a year behind his age group, but like I said, he really needed to fill in some knowledge gaps. Yes he could work out his change when we played shops, but if you asked him what number comes after 16, he would have to count all the way from one!
I know that what he’s learnt so far is learnt well. I know that we are moving forward and improving. He can even sit down and work for up to an hour at a time some days despite not wanting to do it! To me that’s all really great progress. The big problem for me is that I still keep insisting on comparing him to where I think other kids are. It’s really not a useful thing to do I know, but It’s really really REALLY hard not to do it when I know I have a very clever kid and I just so desperately want him to…. I don’t know… beat the other kids? No that’s not really right… ummmmm… just be able to do it!! I keep thinking, ‘other seven-nearly-eight year olds can write whole sentences! They can write whole little stories by now! They are apparently doing their times tables! Now if you talked to my son for more than three minutes you would immediately know that he is clever. His verbal intelligence is far and above a lot of teenagers, but it’s so hard as a parent to know that he other stuff is coming along soooo sloooowly.
This term I decided that I would start kicking things up a notch in terms of starting to get him to do some extra stuff rather than just his book work. He is obsessed with rocks and minerals at the moment and I thought we might do a whole educational unit about the earth and how rocks are formed and all that cool stuff. ‘He could do a project on it’ I thought to myself. ‘It will awesome and he’ll have a ball researching and writing it all down…..’ Oh. Yeah. That’s right. He won’t write stuff down unless he can do it in less than four words. Oh. Yeah. That’s right. He loses interest in research after about five minutes. There goes that plan!
My nervousness comes from the gut feeling I have that I should be putting together more interesting lessons now about more diverse subjects rather than just the reading, writing and arithmetic. The problem is that he hasn’t really mastered all that stuff yet. Now despite my very simple three terms of basic skills lessons, he is not ignorant. He can already tell you a lot about how rocks are formed and about the earth in general because of documentaries and stuff he’s seen. He remembers it, he understands it and he uses that knowledge in pertinent and relevant ways. So I guess the question I need to ask myself, and in fact anyone reading this post who has an opinion…
Should I just be patient and keep going with what we’ve been doing until I feel that he really has got it? Or. Should I start introducing themed lessons with wider varieties of knowledge bases as suggested by many of the curriculum makers? It’s very difficult.
Oh and BTW, I bought him a Trivial Pursuit – for Kids game the other day. He played it, and knew a lot more stuff than I thought. However, it made me realise that he doesn’t really know much about Australian History, or governmental structure etc. Then again, does he need to know that stuff at seven? Maybe not. I don’t know! Arggghhhh. Bring on the new term and I’m sure I’ll have worked out what I’m going to do in the next couple of days!