Monday, November 06, 2006

A beautiful A-ha moment...

This morning I had one of those completely amazing, joyous a-ha moments. The kind of morning that makes all the frustartions, all the hard work, all the worry of homeschooling - it's all worth it!!

I've been really struggling with our handwriting instruction, especially for A2. I'll admit I've had a feeling of panic this year as I contemplate my 7 year old son who can't read or write - or so I thought!

So this morning, I was thinking about the handwriting issue. A few weeks ago I ditched the handwriting program we started out using this year as too advanced for my fine-motor-control-challenged boys. But, I haven't been able to find my teacher's manual for Handwriting Without Tears, and I desperately need a review, so, what with our birthday extravaganza and my lack of preparation, I haven't really done *anything* for a few weeks. But I've been thinking a lot about Montessori methods, especially after reading Kim's blog (check out her sidebar links!!). I've been checking out some of the Montesorri websites (like Montessori Materials and this one) and got it in my head to make sandpaper letters. Only I would use glue and glitter, since we have no sandpaper on hand. I printed out all the templates, only to discover I could not find the glitter I *know* I still have packed away somewhere!

Incidently, while I was searching for the glitter, I managed to unpack our Cuisanaire Rods, our pattern blocks, and our bear counters. S3 and N4 spent most of the morning playing with the bear counters, sorting, counting, and making patterns. I took a picture of them playing with the bear counters with incredibly cheesey grins!

So I stood in the middle of my kitchen, wondering what to do. I was just determined to do something different today, and I remembered reading (somewhere!) that tracing letters in a tray of cornmeal or rice can help kinestectic learners. Well, the last time I went to the store I got some fairly expensive organic cornmeal, so I decided to use the grits instead. I poured about a cup of grits onto an old cookie sheet, and put it on the dining room table. S3 and N4 were busy playing with the bear counters, and I called A2 to the table. I showed him how to make an "E", and he was intrigued. We used the Handwriting Without Tears mini-chalkboard and did our "E" there, too. Finally, we did an E in the HWT kindegarten book. A2 did *really* well. But I could tell he was distracted. He was so excited about the tray of grits! He begged to do more letters. Every letter, in fact. And every number. And most of the little letters. And a few words (his name, and oh, a few monster names like "zilla" and "gamerra" - my Godzilla loving child!). And it was just so completely and utterly awesome to see his excitement. I managed to catch it on film, I think!

The look on his face - isn't it beautiful? I wish you all could have been there - just to see all this excitement bubbling out of him as he was finally freed to write the way he obviously has been wanting to. It was just so awesome, I'm in tears just thinking about it!

Incidently, it was fascinating to watch my other children with the cornmeal/grits tray. A2 just soaked it up like a sponge, it obviously freed something inside him and was a HUGE help to his learning. Then, N4 insisted on going next. Those of you who know N4 know he is just a wee bit, well, obsessive-compulsive. He HATES his hands being sticky. He can't stand tags on clothing. He is distraught if he gets a cut or a bruise. So, he drew his first letter in the grits tray. About halfway through, he picked up his hand, stared at his fingertip covered with little bitty grits, shook them off, looked disgusted, and went back to his letter. Repeat this process for every single letter of the alphabet. Then, he was done, and went off to wash his hands. It was obvious from watching him that the grits tray did *nothing* for his comprehension of writing and instead completely distracted him. Isn't that just so interesting, to see how different two brothers can be??

And about that reading issue with A2. A little while after our success with the grits tray, I called him in to do some math. Now, A2 loves math. He talks about how math is his favorite all the time. Well, today there happened to be word problems. I decided to let A2 read the problems - just to see what he would do. I was just completely stunned when he read about 90% of the problems to me with no hesitations, virtually no stumbles at all. Things like, "I have 6 bottles of milk. I give away 4 bottles of milk. How many do I have left?" He just read it, the only prompting he needed from me was with the word "away". Of course, later I took out our Explode the Code phonics sheets, and he struggled mightily (yeah, right!) with telling me which picture began with an "a" sound. And his easy reader book "Pig Sits" - he could only read about half of it. I was talking to dh about it during our date night tonight, and he pointed out that when you're reading a math story problem, you actually use a different part of your brain then when you're just reading. So that could explain why A2 breezed through reading his story problems but struggled with the easy reader.

No matter what, I'm taking it as a very positive day, one that showed me my child will really read and write someday - someday soon! :-)

1 comment:

Angel said...

Your A2 sounds a lot like my oldest -- except my oldest doesn't like math. And he has all the sensory dislikes of your other son :-). My son is a sight reader. He taught himself really long words ftom his DK cross-section books, but he really struggled with those phonics readers! Incidentally, reading didn't really click with him until age 8.5... and then he caught fire! Now reading's a lot like breathing for him. (He's 10). And his handwriting has gotten a lot better, too.