Today was a good day. The sun was shining as a warm breeze blew. Sweet G and I sat at the kitchen table doing school with the back door open letting the glory of springtime fill the house.
I am amazed at the progress Sweet G is making since we bought the iPad for him. He sits and “plays” on it for hours. Today he worked on two new apps we bought over the weekend. One of the apps helps with phonics. The iPad calls out a word, gives three boxes for the child to put the correct spelling in, and calls the individual sounds of each letter. This has always been a very difficult thing for G but today he amazed me with the ease he displayed while using the app. He also played with an app using sight words. It has 1000 most commonly used words in the English language. G worked through the first list today and loved it.
G also worked on a math mastery app. He was practicing adding one to the numbers one through ten. This has been a difficult area for G also. I noticed that as we were playing it together that G kept looking up. I knew what he was doing immediately. He was using the hundred number chart to get his answers. Some may think that is cheating but I don’t. He is learning to use tools to assist him. I didn’t tell him to do it, he just made the connection and saw what adding one means.
Teachers in the past have said he is incapable of doing any of this work. Psychologists have given us some very bleak predictions as well. Independence was one of the main goals of the school system for G but they were never able to help him achieve it. A $1,000.00 piece of technology has opened up the world of learning to G. Independence is no longer an issue. I tell him which activities he is assigned and he completes them. He always goes above and beyond what I have planned for the day.
G never fails to watch a Brain Pop video. Most of them are far more advanced than he needs but he watches them and he learns. Yesterday he watched one on autism without me. He told me afterwards that they talked a lot about brains. Today the video was about Maya Angelou. He learned that she read one of her poems at President Clinton’s inauguration, that she had a hard childhood, and about the effect segregation had on her life. G made the connection of Maya Angelou and segregation to the movie, Driving Miss Daisy, that we watched on Saturday. “That’s why the man couldn’t use the bathroom at the service station isn’t it Momma?”
He is one smart little boy. There is so much potential just waiting for a way to come out but trapped somehow. $1,000.00 is nothing compared to the cost of most of G’s technology needs but just look how much it has already accomplished. I am excited about the things that little boy is going to do! Lord, use him to confound those who look at him and only see limitations. Glorify yourself through the achievements of our Sweet G.
Tonight I started reading Charlotte’s Web to Sweet G. It is one of the classics I feel needs to be included in every child’s education. I wasn’t sure how attentive G would be since it is the longest book I have ever read to him added to the fact he really had his heart set on watching tv instead of reading anything.
As I started reading he was sulking. I read using lots of expression and try to capture the spirit of the characters by creating a voice I use for each individual in the book. I came to the line where Fern is pleading for the newborn pig’s life and staying true to my typical style I raised my voice as I read. G was caught completely by surprise because he was so intent on not enjoying the book. He jumped and looked like he was about to cry as he said, “Why did you scream, Momma?”
“I raised my voice because that is what Fern did. She is upset that her Father is going to kill the piglet and I read it like I think she would have said it.”
I now have his full attention. He begins to ask questions about the characters and is concerned and slightly amused that Fern’s 10 year old brother has a gun (air rifle). We continue the story and I get to the part when Mrs. Arable is fixing a bottle for the baby piglet. The story says she put a rubber nipple on the bottle filled with milk. As I read that part I hear little giggles erupting from beside me. G is very amused and snorts, “Huh, rubber nipples? Who ever heard of rubber nipples?”
I begin to explain about baby bottles and the reason they call the tops nipples. G is shocked by knowing where babies get there milk. I explain that some animals as well as human mommys feed there babies from their breasts. He is relieved to find out he and Trey were not breast fed as babies. When I tell him the milk he drinks comes from a cow he is a little disgusted.
We watched a video showing a cow being milked on YouTube so he could see for himself where milk comes from. Now I am unsure if he will eat his typical breakfast of cereal and milk. I personally don’t blame him if he doesn’t because frankly the whole cow thing seems kind of gross to me too! Who knows what tomorrow morning will bring and just FYI if you see Sweet G and he starts talking about nipples you know what he’s talking about and where it came from; complements of E.B. White.
I recently had an opportunity to talk to a fellow homeschool mom about her fears of teaching her daughter to write. She has looked at all the Georgia Performance Standard with all their educational lingo and has had a sudden onset of fear. I can totally relate to this newbie homeschooler. I remember being so afraid that I couldn’t teach T to read. I would often say, “If I can teach him to read I think I can teach him everything else.” After T quickly mastered reading my fears soon changed to the fear of teaching him how to write effectively. I didn’t know anything about GPS or QCC or whatever standards were being used at the time and had no way of knowing what level of performance was acceptable for children at certain ages. So, that became my source of fear. Am I pushing him enough or expecting too much for a child of his age?
Long story short–the son that I so worried I would not be able to teach the art of writing is strongly considering a journalism or creative writing major. He is taking a creative writing course this semester and came home two weeks ago and spent every waking moment he wasn’t working on writing a 12 page short story. Last weekend he came home with the short stories of many of his classmates with the assignment of critiquing them. As he read the essays of his peers he began to doubt the strength and beauty of his own writing. “My story is ordinary. My characters are boring. I should have chosen another storyline.” I had read his story and thought it was beautifully written and assured him that this first draft had a lot of potential. This weekend he returned to tell me that his instructor loved his story, thought it was one of the best first drafts she had ever read, and assured him that he would have no trouble getting it published when he was finished revising it.
Although I cannot take full credit for his ability to write well, I was the one who laid the foundation. I can’t help but beam with pride every time he brings in a new book, goes to hear and author speak, or I see him curled up with a good book just for the fun of it. I did that. I taught him to read, helped him create a love and passion for reading that surpasses my own, and started him on the writing path that ended with him seeking to be a published author someday. While attending traditional school he was blessed to have a few really good teachers that recognized his potential and helped him to reach the point he is today. I am so proud of my talented son and am grateful to God that He allowed me to be the one to teach him to read and write among many other things. He won’t admit it often but the homeschool life created a spark for learning that still burns in him today. Who else but a homeschooler follows the Iditarod, chooses a rookie and a veteran musher and follows them daily to check their progress? Oh, how I love my T.
Whew!! Time has been flying by at a blistering pace since taking G out of public school. It is hard to believe that it is almost time to send in our first attendance report. Yikes, time stands still for no man! We have been very busy getting our school organized for the past four weeks. Almost every piece of furniture in this house has been moved at least once in an attempt to find the right place for everything. On top of that the boys decided to switch rooms. G has slept in T’s room every night since T left for college partly in an attempt to annoy his big brother and partly because it makes him feel close to T while he is gone. For the first few weeks T ran G out when he came home every weekend but two weeks ago T said, “Let him sleep in there. I am getting used to sleeping on a twin bed.” So, since then the big bed has been G’s and the twin bed has been T’s but the contents of the rooms remained as they have always been. Last weekend, however, T said he really likes G’s room better (don’t know if he is being totally truthful or not but he said it is quieter in there which is a possibility). Anyway Sunday was spent switching everything except beds and dressers from one room to the other (this was J’s project).
My major project has been the school room. I have pulled most of my books out and arranged them (somewhat) on a bookcase we moved into the den-now schoolroom/cafeteria. I didn’t realize that I had so many books. I sold most of our homeschool books after moving to this house 3 years after putting T in traditional school thinking that we would never need them again. Of course soon after selling all the books which T almost had a stroke over I decided to go back to school to complete my degree. My love of books took over and I began to build a library for a future classroom. I didn’t realize how many books I had accumulated from book sales in the last three years. I even bought one of my own books back at a consignment sale without realizing it until I got home and T recognized my anal retentive organizational coding on the spine. I had sold it on ebay 4 years prior to finding it at the consignment sale!!
We are happily plodding along without formal curriculum for the time being. I would have cringed to have been curriculum free this far into the school year with T but G and I are doing a unit study on apples, working on reading and phonics, fine tuning computer skills, and plunging into math at a blistering pace. T was even impressed last week when he came home to hear G skip-counting. His favorite things right now are playing sight words games online, going through a sight word powerpoint I made him and playing a virtual math manipulative game with base ten blocks. I just love the sound of his voice when he says, “I have ten, time to bundle em up.” He is such a sweet and smart boy. Tonight he was asking how many years until he will be 16 and his dad said, “about 9.” Without missing a beat G said, “and it is about to be 8.” He is exactly right. He knew how to apply subtraction in a real life situation!!!
J and I recently made the decision to take G out of public school and bring him home. We were homeschoolers once upon a time and thought that season of our lives was over. After spending a day in the life of G (I observed him at school) and seeing how different he was there, how disengaged he was during the lessons, the numerous times he missed all or part of lessons, and the time he spent traveling to and from classes and bathroom breaks our decision was easy. G needs to be at home.
We have been told things by educators that we don’t agree with. How anyone who has spent any amount of time with Sweet G could put those limits on him is beyond my understanding. I am sure they would say, “Well, they are just in denial.” The truth is that it is hard to accept the limitations and obstacles that your child has to face. Each of us have weaknesses and strengths and G is no exception. He has huge obstacles to overcome but he also has great strengths to carry him through difficult times. I see him blossoming into a determined, strong, yet sweet little boy. He sat at our “cafeteria table” (that is what he calls our school table since we put it in the kitchen) the first day we homeschooled and did the very things public educators have said he is not capable of doing. He does have problems with attention and is very easily distracted, but when asked to do things when there are no distractions he can complete them.
We are not angry with the school system and are not disappointed with his school. They did the best that they could for our child. I know that he is loved by everyone there. They were simply not equipped to meet his very specific needs. It is just the nature of how school is set up. Public education is a wonderful thing. That is, it is a wonderful thing if your child is an average functioning child. I don’t think it is the best option for children with special needs. I did for a long time because that is what I was told. But after spending the last three years doing my practicum and student teaching in public education I see that teachers are stretched beyond their limits, funds are nonexistent, the smallest need takes an act of congress to get done, the paperwork is endless, the meetings are heart wrenching, and somewhere amoung all those things a little boy was falling through the cracks.
Something is going on that limits G’s progress but nobody knows what it is. They keep trying to fix it without knowing what “it” is they are trying to fix. So, even though it may not be the most popular decision we are prepared to face the criticism that is sure to come. We have been there and done that all before. Criticism is just a part of life. No matter what you do someone is not going to like it and they are going to tell you about it.
Amidst all the whirlwind changes that have taken place in my life in the past two weeks, I feel a sense of calm. I feel as if I have come home after being gone for way too long. We are settling into our “new normal” and we are thriving. My house is clean, we have had several homecooked meals, my baby is loved and becoming more curious daily. We even made homemade applesauce this week. There really is nothing like living the life of a homeschool mom!