Thursday, May 10, 2007

More school stuff

Ok, yesterday I wrote about J1 and his current scholarly progress, today I'll write about A2.

A2 is becoming, in my humble opinion, a case study in the value of waiting for formal schoolwork until a child is ready.

I've written before here and here about some of the difficulties I've had teaching A2 up to this point. He is an intensely unique child, and does just about everything his own way, in his own time. I am certain that in a traditional school setting, he would be "labelled" in some way, with a learning or behavioral disability, and his spirit would be crushed. Of all my kids, he is the one that will benefit the most from homeschooling, in my opinion.

As a baby, he was intensely physical. He crawled at 5 months of age, walked at 11 months, and just ran, jumped, kicked and stomped with abandon through toddlerhood. But he didn't talk hardly at all until he was well over 3 years of age. He didn't really talk well until he was almost 5. Now, at 7.5 years of age, he can out-talk all of us (which is saying a lot in our family!) He has absolutely no problems with diction or construction (well, except for all the boys having problems with feminine pronouns - they just have no experience using them, lol!), etc. He has some interesting ways of looking at things (his infamous "He's a lady baby, mom!" is just the tip of the ice berg), and I do think he *processes* language differently than most - but I don't think he has any true problems.

I always thought - and my dh and mom agreed with me - that his approach to schoolwork would be much the same way as his approach to talking. He would wait till he was ready, refuse to do anything until that point, and then he would take off. And that is exactly what I've seen, and now, at 7.5 years of age, he is starting to really fly.

So, here is what we're doing. Alex is 7.5 years old - age-wise, he is technically at the end of 2nd grade, but because of his very late July birthday, and his way of approaching things I talked about above, he is doing first grade work. I believe that I would have "held him back" if he went to a traditional school, anyway, and I believe that he will start to "catch up" over the next few years, now that he's ready.

Religion: I am alternating the first grade Faith and Life book and The Catholic Children's Bible. I read about two chapters a week in Faith and Life, then ask questions and talk about it with him. I also try to read about 2 chapters in the bible story book each week, hoping to finish up the entire book by next fall. After I read, we discuss the story. This is going well, A2 is interested and engaged and I believe it is helping his listening skills, too.

: We're in the middle of MCP Math book A - I don't know that we'll finish the whole book by the end of the year, but I think we'll cover enough of it that he will be ready to begin the MCP Math book B next year. I'm not overly fond of the MCP math program, but it is working for A2, so we'll stick with it for now. As I did with J1, I do a lot of his writing for him. We do 2-4 pages a day, and he tells me the answers and I write them down. I periodically make sure he can write these numbers, but for now, writing is too laborous for him and I don't want it to interfere with his learning the math that he is ready for. His older brother was exactly the same way at this age, and he's absolutely fine now, so this doesn't worry me. I think he'll be ready to do his own math writing next fall.

Handwriting: This is the most amazing thing of all to me! A2 has never been interested in writing. All my other boys were interested in writing and learning letter forms by about age 4-5. Not A2. He doesn't like to draw, he doesn't doodle, he doesn't try to write. In the past, as recently as just after Christmas, whenever I tried to teach him handwriting, he balked, cried, and just didn't seem to "get" how to form the letters using the lines on the paper. I was really starting to get worried. As we started back to school after our brief Easter break, I decided to try using the used Seton 1 handwriting book I'd picked up at our church's Christmas bazarre. I've been so impressed with Seton's handwriting with J1, I thought, why not try it. The first day he complained a bit, but he was doing it! The second day, he complained a bit less. By the third day, he was actually enjoying it, and doing great. Now, suddenly, he is just absolutely amazing. Holding his pencil correctly, tracing the letters with ease and making good-looking letters on his own. Using the lines completely appropriately, everything proportional (something his older brother still struggles with), just - beautiful. Ok, he still has beginner's handwriting - but I am just truly amazed. I think in another year he is going to have really, truly good handwriting, and you could knock me over with a feather over that realization! The other thing is, Seton handwriting books contain beautiful artwork, and we spend some time discussing each picture, which A2 really enjoys. He has a much greater appreciation for art than his brothers seem to - he is truly interested in composition, etc, which I find very interesting. Perhaps another sign of his visual-spatial learner tendencies?

Phonics: We tried to continue with Explode the Code, and I just didn't really feel that he was learning anything. He needed too much prompting from me, and nothing seemed to be sinking in. So, I switched to a used copy of MCP phonics (1st grade book) just last week, and it is going *much* better. MCP phonics is much more visually appealing than Expode the Code, which seems to be important to him (again with the visual-spatial learner thing?) He is a little bit bored with some of it - I think he would be comfortable more in the middle of the book, but he needs to cover a bit more of the basics before we can get there. I'm skipping a few things, just trying to feel my way through what he needs to know. He is also having great fun coloring the pictures when that's part of the lesson. He is very interested in chosing the proper color for things - again, very different from his brothers. Intriguing!

Reading: We are really, truly making progress, which is making both of us really happy. We're on Lesson 30 in 100 Easy Lessons. It is somewhat slow going - like I said, it just doesn't seem to come naturally to him. Reading hasn't "clicked" with him yet - but he's getting close, I can tell. In teaching 2 children how to read, I see some "readiness" signs, and I think there is a "click", a mental shift that occurs when it finally all makes sense. A2 is showing all the "readiness" signs that come just before that "click". He is playing with language - word games, rhyming games, laughing at funny words, alliterative words, etc. He has never played with language the way his oldest brother did almost from birth - not until recently. So, I now believe that A2 really will read. A few people have asked me if I think he might be dyslexic and no, I really don't. He doesn't seem to have problems with reversals, or writing/sounding out the letters out of order, just nothing that would indicate dyslexia. Like I said, I do think he processes language differently than most in some way - but I don't see it as a big problem, I really don't. I expect that in about 2-4 months, he will be reading real books and enjoying it. That will make us both very, very happy!

Because I am focused on his reading, (w)riting, religion and 'ritmetic (the "big 4" in my opinion), we don't have any formal study in history or science. I am planning to change that in the fall, though, as the whole family will start ancient history again, and I might have everyone do science together, too, I'm still pondering that one.

I'm excited. I really feel like I *will* be able to teach A2, and he *will* be able to - *is* - learning.

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