Monday, February 16, 2009

Working hard

Homeschooling has been incredibly difficult this year. Not so much because of the number of kids but because of the difficulties that Max and Misha have had with various things. One is to be expected: I have had to sit with them through every paper in order to tell them what to do at each new section. They simply couldn't read well enough to move through the worksheets on their own. Even if they could, two part instructions or even simple prepositional phrases proved to be tricky English for my boys.

This gives me a good way to measure their progress, though. I have noticed more and more that Max especially will try and read his own directions and usually get the simple ones right! This is a big help to me.

Another major problem has been that new concepts, and occasionally well-known concepts, cause the boys to just plain shut down. They don't know how to do something so they visibly quit. They will sit and stare at me or at the paper not hearing or caring to learn anything. It is like talking to a wall. I can not tell you how frustrating this is when I have to sit with them and I KNOW that this behavior means my sitting there forever!

The good news is that we seem to finally be conquering this problem. I have done two things. One, this usually occurs in math so that when it happens (So-and-so doesn't know what 5+3 equals today and refuses to put any effort into figuring it out), I just calmly hand them their copy book. This is a book where they have written all the number facts and equivalents that we need to know at this point. 1+1=2, 1+2=3, etc... I send them off to read it aloud. This makes them very upset but it accomplishes some important things: It does not allow their behavior to control my time to excess, It helps to solidify the simple number facts in their minds, and it gives them incentive to avoid having to do this!

I think that I may be dealing with some prenatal alcohol exposure issues in some cases, but even there, the book reading helps because of the repetition. Also, it is an immediate but not overly stimulating consequence/result.

Another thing that I do is to state my intentions and to try and train their attitudes to be more positive. For instance, it makes more sense to them if I say, "Reading your book is not a punishment, it is to help you to learn these things that give you so much trouble! It is a good thing!" They buy that pretty well :-)

Also, I sometimes say what I think is obvious but that I notice does not occur to them. One instance of this is that I might say, "When you don't know how to do something, you can be glad because Mommy can help you to know it! Now you will know a new thing!!" I, at one point noticed that the shut-down that they do is a form of giving up and being defeated. It doesn't seem to occur to them to try.

Anyway, all that to say that I am seeing progress at last! Schoolwork has been quickly and happily done lately. That is HUGE!

Also, Walker, Texas Ranger is on tonight and they want to be sure and get to watch it!


Mike and Christie said...

It is great you can see progress! We get that blank stare shut down thing with one of ours too, and I am pretty sure it is alcohol/drug exposure...not because of the learning problem specifically, but because of the not understanding what to do next problem...cause-effect. (If you don't understand, don't sit and stare into space...ask or try to learn it)
2 of our boys were dyslexic, and one had brain damage from a hemmorage after birth, but all of them seemed to understand that hard work would help them overcome, so we didn't have the "shut down" thing. :)

I have found our daughter to be a very good oral learner. Her recollection of discussions is great, compared to comprehension from reading.

Ya'll are doing a great job. And there is nothing like sticking your tongue out to help you learn! :)
too cute. :)

Lynn Falk said...

Misha fits right into the family with his tongue hanging out during concentration!

Thanks for reminding me to show my boys, Walker, Texas Ranger! I am sure they will love it.

Michelle said...

Mary is a quick learner so far but when she does "fail" she is the same way, falls on the floor and won't try again. Even with the simplest task that she could do 5 minutes prior (like open a door). It's like, if she can't - then she can't, and that's all there is. This baffles me who is very much a "try try again" person but I'm beginning to see it's not as much refusal as lack of understanding, and we're trying to push through gently.

You do inspire me, I find acclimating one to be awful tiring. :)

Leslie said...

Yeah, Churck Norris can motivate kids to do just about anything. I love the tounge out as he's concentrating on his work. My brother used to do that. So cute! I admire you so much for working the boys through all of these things. It's a tough job, but you're doing a great job!

kari said...

Gotta love the tongue sticking out when concentrating! Very cute!

Nataliya said...

It sounds very familiar! I remember how my first goal was to make sure Rachel can read the directions herself! Well, after 13 months home she can finally do the 1-2 grade level worksheets on her own!!! Even though she's currently repeating 4th grade at school, I'm still working with her at home on lower level worksheets because I believe it's very important to learn basics first, and then move forward.

We also deal with an alcohol exposure, I'm pretty sure she has FAS on some level as she obviously has learning disabilities and a memory deficit. She has a tendency to forget well-known concepts, or not being able to learn a new concept. And just like you, we do a lot of repetitions and loud readings, and it seems to work!

Grandma Falk said...

Yes, I was taken with the picture of Misha's tongue too! He must be part Anderson!