Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When Something Is Not Working

We all have bad days every once in a while. Heck, sometimes we have bad weeks, or tough months. But usually that is just us complaining; the entire day, week or month wasn't that bad. There were just difficult parts that became magnified, and perhaps put us in a position to behave in a way we aren't proud of.

Homeschooling can be like this. There can be other pressures in our lives that cause distraction or a break-up of our usual routines. There can be something new and frustrating to learn or teach that causes a bump in the road. There can be a misunderstanding or disorganization that becomes a problem.

But how can you know if what you are doing is really not working? You loved this curriculum so much! The artwork is so _________, the stories so _________, and the messages perfectly _________! It is all put together so professionally, in a logical manner, with practice and reviewing!

It can be a very hard thing to face when learning is not going well. Sometimes, because you are the parent, you just know it's not going well. You feel it in your bones and you won't hesitate to change what you are doing. But sometimes, it's hard to face those changes because it could mean one of several things: You spent money on something you aren't going to be using, you need to go looking around again for something else to use in its place (and spend MORE money), or there is something going on inside your child that needs addressing.

For my family, it was the latter of these in the end. We were very committed to a curriculum that I loved. As it turned out, I loved all of it except for the phonics portion because it was the bane of our exsistense for my first grader and I. I stuck with it for 18 miserable weeks. (I was new to homeschooling then. Please learn from my mistakes.) During that time, it occurred to me that he might have a learning difference but I was unwilling to address it. I'm still not sure why.

We finished first grade with my own cobbled together ideas for phonics/reading, which I feel was a good thing looking back. There was far less pressure and the structure was very flexible. We began second grade with another phonics program, and once again, by the time we were six weeks in, dyslexia kept finding it's way into the search box of my browser and there were far too many bad feelings in my house during lessons. Through those internet searches I changed phonics curriculum again. We followed the new curriculum until March, when the official diagnosis came through (yep. dyslexia & mild dysgraphia). Since then we have been working with a specialized tutoring program.

The lesson I take from this? Follow your instincts. None of the reasons listed above are more important than your child learning - and especially loving to learn! One of the reasons many parents are committed to homeschooling is the opportunity for tailoring their child's education around their needs and interests. Homeschooling parents have so many ways to keep learning fun and exciting.

You are learning together, and things are going to change and develop. Things you find attractive may not fit the learning style of one of your children. The math program may have, in theory, been just what everyone wanted - but in practice it's torture. If you've given it a good go (in my opinion that means going through a few weeks of lessons) then put it away. Incorporate fun activities that apply to that subject in its place. If in a week or two it makes everyone moan to consider going back to it again, put it in a box labeled "sell" and find your family something else.

If you are concerned that your child may have a special need or learning difference, I would encourage you to look into their symptoms and what would be required for a thorough screening. If you feel a diagnosis would be helpful, find a qualified professional who specializes in children dealing with whatever you suspect is the trouble for your child.

And there is an incredible wealth of material out there. Talk to other homeschool families. Peruse used curriculum sales. Read reviews and research materials online. There will be something that is a good fit for your children, and learning will be fun again - for all of you!

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