|ALLI'S READING LEVEL IS IN THE GREEN!!!!!|
This post is long overdue and not gonna have pictures. This post is straight to business. The business of being advocates for educating our children how WE want, not how SOCIETY thinks we should. I feel that it is super important at the beginning of the school year to share with all you other parents out there with children who do not learn AT THE PACE THAT SCHOOL and SOCIETY HAS DECIDED THEY SHOULD! I wish 5 years ago I would have known what I know now. Keep reading if you want to learn from my past fears about my childrens' learning pace.
This is also a post for anyone who thinks that parents of children who struggle are doing something "wrong" and if the parents/teacher would only PUSH the child more then they wouldn't be behind....be it friends, grandparents, neighbors or the clerk in the grocery store who REFUSES to not quiz your kid on how much change they should get back. (I could go on and on regarding how often my homeschooled children are quizzed by strangers....it is nauseating! Does this happen to kids in public school?) Or those of you who think THIS method will finally work or THIS game will help them memorize their times tables or if we just do MORE and for LONGER that they will learn better, or if we get them a tutor (I could go on and on) I thought all of this too because I was too afraid to just let them BE and I felt that I must be doing something wrong since they struggled to learn at their "grade level"!
Shane and I are both credentialed school teachers. He has a degree in a Geology and a minor in Chemistry and taught 13 years at Oroville High. I have a BA in Mathematics and a MA in Mathematics Education and taught 6 years at Las Plumas High. Our children never attended "real" school. They have been homeschooled for their academics. The two children of highly educated and smart parents are BOTH been behind academically - and ALWAYS have been!! Yes, part of that is because we do not spend 6 hours studying the state capitals and flash cards and all the repetitive worksheets that kids do in a classroom, but part of that is also because both of them just were not ready to learn the things that are at their grade level.
Who decided that all kids in 3rd grade SHOULD be able to memorize their multiplication facts. Just because a kid is 8 does not mean that this is now a possibility. IT DEPENDS ON THE KID!!! I want to emphasize this. It depends on the KID, not on how persistent the parent is or how much the grandparent really thinks that the child should know something or how the school thinks intervention will get this pounded into the kid's head. It SHOULD depend on where the child is successful move from there, not on grade level that is arbitrarily based on an age.
I have 38 kids on my roster right now (at Inspire charter schools - LOVE THIS SCHOOL) and guess what. I have a 4th grader reading at a 7th grade level and ready for Algebra and a 5th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level and can barely subtract - and guess what, they are both EXACTLY where they need to be. Lucky for my 2nd grader, who will be celebrated for their growth over time....not continually made to felt inferior because they are not at "grade level"! But I digress...
The story about Alli and her academic struggles is long and drawn out, but you can read about it here if you want.
In a nutshell, at the age of 8 she only knew 2 words (out of 10) on a PRE-SCHOOL reading list and no matter how much I time we spent on reading..she did not learn any quicker. We found Vision Therapy (VT), spent 6 months "fixing" her eyes and when she graduated from VT, she jumped to knowing all the words on the 2nd grade reading list and half the 3rd grade!! That is an argument for the benefits of VT if needed.....but there is more to the story. When the kid is ready it will be easy. If you want a huge daily struggle on your hands then by all means continually push them to learn things they are not ready to learn! I did for a long time because of the fear put in my at the school we were at back then.
She also struggled in math. We would work on her basic facts but if we took the weekend off she would forget so much...so we worked non-stop, year round! It was exhausting for both of us.
When she was 11 I realized that I needed a change. I needed to put our relationship in front of her academics and so I backed WAY off. I left that awful school because I was tired of fighting with them to look at her GROWTH and not at her "lower than grade level" results. I also left because they took away her dance and art classes because she needed to spend all her funding on TUTORING. I went back to just reading to her, playing games for math and we did LOTS of arts and crafts again, like when they were little.
I then got my job with Inspire and that is when life got GREAT!! Not only was I loving my job, but Alli's testing showed that she improved....I was blown away. Both kids, by me backing off and allowing them some space to learn at their own pace had improved by more in the previous 6 months than they had in the previous year and a half!
And FAR more important....all of our relationships were stronger. It was amazing. All of these things that I had been FORCING Alli to learn (how to tell time, how to count money, reading for fun) she was now doing on her own. She wanted to know things things and so she learned on her own. It was SO FAST once she wanted to learn it.
Fast forward to this summer. Alli read FIVE books that were 500+ pages. Jill would get so mad at her because all she wanted to do was read and Jill wanted a playmate!! It was hard to pull Alli away from the books. In July, Alli asked to start school again. "Mom, can we please start doing school again, I feel like I am forgetting all the math I learned last year?" Ummmm...of course!!
And guess what happened after all that reading! Two things....First, when we did our beginning of the year testing at the beginning of this month, she tested in the green for the first time EVER in her LIFE!!!! After all those years of struggling when I never thought she would ever test at grade level, she finally had! It was a gift to my heart to see her glowing in her happiness.
Second, she is FLYING through her spelling book at a pace I have NEVER experience with her before. She just KNOWS these words now. It is such a beautiful thing to watch her FLOURISHING!!!
Third - is math...Yes, she is in 7th grade and testing at 4th grade level for math. She does not know long division, she does not have her times table memorized, she takes a while even with some of her basic math facts, but she GETS it all. She understands what she is doing. The program we use, Right Start Math, is FANTASTIC in that it teaches for UNDERSTANDING and long term mastery...not regurgitation and then move on. There are things that she can do in the blink of an eye (which is larger 7/8 or 9/10 - a problem that my high school kids back at Las Plumas could never do!!) because she UNDERSTANDS them, not because I am going to test her on it...but because she genuinely enjoys what we are doing!
What do I want to share by writing this post? Kids are going to learn what they are ready to learn. Whether they are ahead or behind, is simply because that is where they are CAPABLE of achieving at this moment in time. Life is a lot more pleasant when we teach them with topics WHERE THEY ARE instead of pushing them to learn things they SHOULD know (based on someone else's ideas). I wish I had known this when Alli was 10 years old. I would have saved myself from a lot of tears. Meet them where they are at and they will SHINE!!!!