Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Learning Does Not Come Easily

This is the final Blog Cruise topic of the school year, and that really makes me sad.  I can't believe this year is winding to a close.  But today's question is an important one:  How do you help your child if he is struggling to learn?

There are so many directions I could go with this question.  I've composed a few blog entries in my mind, but none seemed quite right.  I'm not an expert.  I may play one in my family drama, but I am not really an expert even with my own kids.

Many of you know that my second son, William, is dyslexic.  Very definitely dyslexic.  And while this could be a post on how to teach a dyslexic child, I don't think that is where I'm going.

In no particular order, here are some late night observations from one non-expert homeschooling mom to another:

  1. Pray.  Pray for your child.
  2. Don't be afraid of labels.  You don't necessarily need expensive tests -- sometimes you can do your own research.  Having a "dyslexia" label on William really was the turning point.  I was able to read what others have experienced, and get a glimpse of how he sees the world.  And figure out some ways to get through to him.  He has made SO much progress in the last year and a half.  I wish I had been more open to investigating what was really going on far earlier than I was.
  3. Don't be limited by labels.  'Dyslexia' does not define my son.  'Struggling reader' does not define him either.  He is so much more than that, and it is so very easy to lose sight of that.
  4. Get creative.  Don't limit what your child can learn based on what he can't do.  In my case, it is the reading (and writing) that is difficult.  So I get a lot of audio books.  I do a lot of reading aloud.  I try to find math programs that don't require him to do a lot of reading.  He may be starting VideoText Algebra in the fall (6th grade).  I refuse to hold him back in math, science, history or whatever based on his difficulties in reading a story problem or a text.  
  5. Along those lines, don't get so focused on shoring up your child's weaknesses that you forget to let him bloom in his strengths.  That goes for struggling learners and non-struggling ones too.  Let them soar where they can, but work on their weaknesses too.
  6. Teach coping strategies.  My oldest struggles with spelling.  So, yes, I am teaching spelling, and probably will all through high school.  But I'm also teaching him about using a spell-check program.  Reality is that much of what he will write in the future will involve computers.  So, let's learn the ins and outs of spell-check.  What types of errors won't it catch?
  7. Pray.  Pray for your child's teacher.  
  8. Find someone you can express your concerns to and not worry that she will think less of you or your kids.  And express your fears, struggles, challenges and joys.  Being able to verbalize what is going on may help you to see it more clearly.  
  9. Get your child out of situations that cause emotional turmoil.  One reason I homeschool is so my children don't have to deal with the constant pressure of bullies, and of kids who pick on anyone they see as "slow" in whatever way.  Life is too short to put up with people who make a sport out of belittling anyone.
  10. Don't try to keep up with the Jones's.  Measure that struggling learner against himself -- not against siblings, local school kids, or members of the nearest co-op.  Is he progressing?  
That's all folks... I'm falling asleep while typing.  But those... those are my thoughts.

I'll link up to the Blog Cruise tomorrow.  I can't do more tonight.

The TOS Crew Blog is sponsoring a question of the week every Tuesday. Watch for what my Crew Mates have to say about struggling readers tomor today!


Annie Kate said...

Yes, prayer is so important as we educate our children in whatever way they struggle.

Great post!

Annie Kate

Laura O in AK said...

Even though the boys have passed being struggles with reading, we still do a LOT of audiobooks. I honestly think I have one that needs to have learning coming from several different 'angles', so the audio helps reinforce the visual.

Same son struggles with handwriting and spelling which then leads to problems with writing. A good friend back in Ohio told me that a spell checker can be his best friend once we start typing up assignments. She's struggled with spelling for years and sees no shame in getting some help through technology.

Love the ideas in your post. As always, I had some in the back of my mind yet didn't articulate them well in my own writing.

Joesette said...

Great post! Especially the not being afraid of labels!

Wendy Hilton said...

Debra, I enjoyed your post. I have read several Crew mates' posts on this topic, and they have all been wonderful and had so many good ideas. I didn't post on this one because I just didn't have the energy this time!! My kids are ready for the end of the school year and a break right now. Thanks for taking the time to post on this one before falling asleep! :)