Thursday, March 27, 2014

Struggling to read and struggling to pray

Jenna started Kindergarten this year, her learning style is so different from Bethany and Joseph's. Bethany is just a natural for learning, she picks up things easily, her mind loves words and reading clicked pretty quickly, without finding a perfect curriculum to fit her. Once she started reading there has been no stopping her ability to learn, she consumes any kind of knowledge she can read. She brings books to the supper table, can be found sitting halfway up the stairs reading and is often up late reading by the light in the bathroom!
This is her gift and with it come some challenges, like me not being able to monitor everything she is reading because I can't keep up with her book pace. I glance over books she reads and often veto books she picks out before we leave the library, but it's simply not enough. Everytime we check out books she has at least 6 chapter books and she will read them all.
Last week, she read the book Mandy, by Julie Andrew Edwards. She was excited to read a book written by the Mary Poppins actress! We sat down and I talked to her about evaluating what she is reading, asking questions about what is good or bad, what is right or wrong in what she is reading. I want her to really criticize what is being presented and measure it with the truth of God's Word. We talked about the fact that I can't proof everything for her and she is now getting old enough to really make choices and hard decisions. I asked her to strongly consider everything she reads and decide when it's time to leave a book unread or finish a book but then acknowledge what should or shouldn't be taken away from a story.
Throughout reading Mandy she was constantly telling me about the storyline, it was a very interesting, fun read for her. After she finished it, we talked about some of the things that she recognized as being wrong, a curse word, God's name taken in vain and a few instances of lying and a bad attitude. I was actually surprised that a book recommended for 2-7 grade had those first two negative qualities, not completely surprised, but I guess I expected better out of Julie. I plan to continue asking and working with her to think about what something is saying.

Joseph learns like I do, he is very visual. He is logical and gets math easily but phonics makes absolutely no sense to us! The phonetic rules are not rules, they change all the time. Since I understand how his mind works it's been much easier for me to teach him and fit the way I teach to his needs. When he was in Kindergarten I found this awesome curriculum that uses a blended sight and sound reading program, IEW Primary Arts of Language: Reading and Primary Arts of Language: Writing. This curriculum was perfect for him. This way of teaching reading totally appealed to his brain and the way he thinks. It was a complete Godsend because he struggled in writing, he still doesn't hold his pencil the correct way, but the principles taught in their writing program completely saved us both so much heart ache. I would have completely stressed us both out and been all of over him for his handwriting had it not been for the tips outlined in this curriculum. He is in second grade now and this year his penmanship has drastically improved!

Now we have Jenna and her mind has been difficult for me to pinpoint what works, I found so many things that don't work. We started out with IEW and at first it seemed like she was going to move right along but then it just became too fast moving, so we kinda stayed at the same place for a long time and it just didn't ever pick back up. The same thing happened in her math too and that was hard for me to grasp because I felt I couldn't say, "Well, she is logical and gets math easier." I scaled back before Christmas and we went back to alphabet flashcards and number cards, everything we did just seemed to disappear, it wasn't clicking. We made small gains and there have been days that I felt like she was starting to understand and retain more, but then days would come when she couldn't tell me the difference between a penny and a dime, couldn't recognize the number 16 or tell me what came after it, we struggled to sound out letters, not to mention put them together.
It's been challenging for me because I felt like if I could just figure out how she learns best we could solve the struggle. She isn't an auditory learner or an absolute visual learner, and we were doing lots of hands on activities but that wasn't working either. Throughout this entire time, Jenna has LOVED Kindergarten. That fact alone has made it easy for me to not stress out about her progress too much. Her enthusiasms for life and learning are contagious and I have been careful not to crush her spirit.
I relate to her struggles with learning, I had a very difficult time learning to read. I would cry everyday, straining to get through simple reading books or phonics flash cards, I really don't know how my mother endured. It was awful! I was below grade level in reading and spelling for years and it was something I had to work hard to improve and eventually learned to love reading, thanks to good books. Miraculously, I scored highest in reading and reading comprehension on my ACT, not math which had always been my favorite and now I write a blog for fun!
Many days I tell myself if we just get through Kindergarten with her having knowledge of numbers and letters and those concepts that is enough, this is one reason we home school after all and I know that a public or private education would not handle her learning style better than I can.
I took her for an eye exam just to rule out anything there. We have been doing repetitive work, zeroing in on letters and their sounds, counting and adding. I've tried to help her think and not just jump to answer a question, to focus on finding the information in her brain and making it remember, all this has been working.

James 1:5
 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
I've been praying for wisdom to know how to teach her best, how to really unlock her way of learning so that we can lessen the struggle. I have prayed for God to give me wisdom on where her strengths are outside of academics and instill His purpose for her in those areas because I do feel that she has very unique gifts in areas like relationships with people and her heart for learning about God is big.
Can I just say that nothing is more powerful than prayer? I underestimate it over and over. I do not specifically pray for my kids often and I am convicted to do it more often.
This week, I have been completely amazed at the way God has answered my prayers for Jenna. On Monday, I heard a radio broadcast featuring Dr. Kathy Koch. If you have children or work with children, especially if you have a child that struggles with learning academically, you have to listen to this two part broadcast. It answered so many of my questions and I immediately recognized where Jenna's brain works the best! Jenna is specifically Picture Smart, People Smart and Body Smart. I am so thankful for this resource.
Dr. Koch is the author of the book, How Am I Smart?: A Parents Guide to Multiple Intelligences it is now on my books to buy list. This free download is going to the printer as well, check it out.
I also received a free trial, in my inbox, from a learning website, claiming to teach kids to read, Reading Eggs. I would have never sought out a learning website. After learning about Dr. Koch's insight I recognized that my strongest areas are Self Smart, Logic Smart and Picture Smart. Being Self Smart caused me to be a very independent worker when I was in school, I liked doing things myself, filling in blanks and having tangible proof of how I got from A to B, so I tend to want to teach my kids in the same way. I am not a huge fan of technology in relation to helping my kids learn because I would not learn best that way.
I heard Dr. Koch's theories and ideas on Monday morning and checked my inbox after, when I saw the offer it totally made sense to me in relation to Jenna! Did you understand that I said, I would never have put all this together on my own? Both of these resources coming to me are complete answers to prayer! I am so very thankful for God's work in my daily struggles and the wisdom only He offers!

We have only been using Reading Eggs and Math Seeds this week and I can already see that it is working and just what we needed!

I am not receiving anything to promote or link to any of the resources I have mentioned in this post, just sharing because I am excited about them and hope some of my readers will find them helpful!

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