Monthly Archives: May 2017

dyslexia

Helping the child with dyslexia learn to read

I was recently discussing homeschooling with a couple of my oldest children, when one commented that he doesn’t see our younger boys doing as much academic work as he remembers doing at that age.

I would have to agree that I’m more relaxed and less structured at this point then I was in the earlier years.  I have more trust in the developmental process as well as each child’s inherent desire to learn, and don’t feel I have to make learning happen.

But let me not get into a philosophical discourse!  While my older kids had to do 30 – 60 minutes of reading daily, the younger children don’t.  The reason for that is that those who are good readers do more than that without it being requested, and those that aren’t good readers can’t do that much without a lot of stress and anxiety.

For one child in particular, reading hasn’t come easily.  I’ve been pretty patient about waiting for readiness but at the same time, felt that more was needed than patience. While I didn’t have an official assessment done, I was pretty convinced that dyslexia was the issue.

Children with dyslexia tend to be very talented in a number of areas.  When I read the profile of a child with dyslexia, I was taken aback at how obviously it was describing one particular son.  A child who is good at so many things – the athlete, the engineer, the artist.  Ds is physically dexterous/athletic, bright, creative, great at math, building, spatial skills – good at just about everything.  Except reading.

Children with dyslexia have brains that work a bit differently.  Doing more and more reading drills (sometimes referred to as ‘drill and kill’) doesn’t help because it’s only looking at the symptoms.  He doesn’t need more of the same.  If it was working, it would work without endless repetitions.  What he needs is a different approach.

Strengthening the brain connections between the right and left brain is critical because the child with dyslexia tends to do most of his processing on the right side of the brain, but reading is a left brain activity.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to build a strong foundation for reading success:

  1. I bought several sets of activity books from Dyslexia Games and the boys do two pages each day.  I really liked the idea behind these and it made a lot of sense to me.  Basically, it turns reading into a right brain activity.
  2. Sequential processing activities – each of the younger boys does these for ten minutes daily.  This builds their auditory processing skills and increases their digit spans, which means that it increases the amount of information they can hold on to.  (To read English, you need to be processing at a digit span of 5 – 6.  It’s extremely difficult and time consuming to try to teach reading to a child who isn’t processing in this range. ) Right now I’m focused mostly on auditory processing but also do visual processing activities with them.
  3. Brain Gym exercises – I would love to say that I start every day with a five minute routine but that would be a lie.  :)  But I do try to include these regularly.  Whoever is in the house does them together.
  4. Swimming – I can’t help it, even when my kids do activities like these I’m thinking about the importance of the cross patterning motions and how it benefits the brain! The boys are all taking swimming lessons and I just bought an above ground pool to give them regular swimming practice – swimming is a very therapeutic activity that builds right/left brain connections.
  5. Audio books – my boys listen to a lot of read alouds and audio recordings of books, usually daily.  This strengthens their auditory processing and also is a pathway for them to input information through other channels than reading.  (Their comprehension as a result of this is excellent and they can understand more complex plots and storylines.  We’re currently reading Robinson Crusoe, which I thought was way too verbose and long winded for them to enjoy.  I was wrong.  They were hooked after one chapter and begged me to continue!)
  6. Crawling – crawling on hands and knees is another wonderful cross patterning activity.  I try to encourage the boys to do this by integrating it into a game but sometimes I’ll ask them to go around the garden perimeter a few times.  If two of them do it at a time they race and it’s more fun.  I bought the younger three boys sports knee pads to make this more comfortable and enjoyable for them.
  7. I recently purchased a five volume set of Hebrew readers from Torah4Children based on the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approach.  I haven’t yet used them so I can’t give feedback other than to say that they look good.
  8. I also recently purchased a couple of English readers based on the Orton-Gillingham method.  Blast Off To Reading is for beginning readers, and A Workbook For Dylexics is for teens and up.  We decided to put English reading aside for the time being since we want to put more focus on Hebrew reading.  Living in Israel, Hebrew is more critical for the boys to read well at this point; we’ll come back to English once the Hebrew reading is solid.
  9. Flashcards – my husband has his own ideas that he makes up and then implements that are very effective with our kids.  He did lots of flashing aleph bais letters until the recognition was automatic.  Then he followed these with single words on an index card.  His thought was that it gives more of a tangible feeling of success to have a pile of cards that you read correctly in your hand, and then can review the ones that were missed.
  10. Notes on the fridge – again, this is my husband’s idea!  He writes simple notes and leaves them on the fridge to encourage reading success.

So you might come to my home and see my kids starting their day with a swim, then do some art pages and run off to listen to read alouds and conclude that I don’t have any structure for my kids and I’m not actively facilitating their learning.  But hopefully now you can see a little bit behind why I do what I do.

I want to stress that I feel it’s really important for a child who is challenged in some way to have the opportunity to feel successful and develop a positive identity – not to see himself as the ‘kid who can’t read’.  Reading is just one skill and being a good reader doesn’t make you successful in life.  In the end, it’s the person who feels competent and good about himself who is best able to tackle the challenges that will come his way.

Right now we’re feeling very encouraged by the progress we’ve seen since we began implementing the above activities.  It’s quite exciting to see a child who has always struggled suddenly be able to read words around them (in English and Hebrew) that were a mystery before.  I’m not going to predict how long it will take to become a fluent reader and it’s okay if it takes time.  We’re on a good path and learning is happening!

Avivah

overcoming-inadequacy

Feeling inadequate as a parent? Get realigned with your true values!

Tonight there was an informational meeting for a school opening in our area for the coming year.  There were aspects of the school that sounded interesting, enough for me to write in the details of the meeting into my planner.

And then I asked myself, WHY am I thinking about this???

Is there something that isn’t working in our homeschooling life right now?  Are any of the kids unhappy or asking to go to school?  Do they not have friends?  Is it too hard for me to be around them, or for them to be around each other?

No, no, and no.

My kids have lots of time to explore and play.  They have plenty of time for friendships and ‘extracurricular interests’.  They get along (mostly!) with each other. They’re bright and interested in the world around them, calm and settled inside themselves.

So after sixteen years of successfully homeschooling and seeing the short and long term benefits to our children, why was I thinking for even a minute about school?

comparisons

This happens to me periodically. This time it was because reading this lovely description of the school had me mentally comparing what I do and feeling that I was coming up short.  I began to fixate on adult-led activities rather than the long term process of supporting the natural development of children and their inherent learning process.  I felt the weight of the responsiblity of educating our children and it felt like an easy solution to send them to someone else who would take responsibility for their education.

No matter if that’s true or not!  What matters is that it felt true in the moment.   I was temporarily losing the comparison war and that triggered those pesky thoughts that periodically circle around – do I give my kids enough, do I do enough?

That’s what happens when I minimize the value of the things that are a natural part of our lives.  In one fell swoop I manage to take all the positives about our lifestyle and our children’s development for granted and with a mental flick deflect it to the sidelines as if all those things are insignificant.

Have you noticed how easy it is to downplay your successes and overly value what you aren’t doing? We all do this!  And the next thing you know, you’re feeling inadequate and looking to someone or something outside of you for different answers.  Sometimes I think that feeling inadequate is a pervasive theme for mothers.

At times like these I’ve found it helpful to stand back and consciously validate yourself.  You have to remind yourself of the value of what you do, to remind yourself about what your goals and vision are.  I took some time to think about what my short and long term vision is for our family, which was  really helpful in regrounding myself.

In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t end up attending the informational meeting about the school!

Avivah

swimming lessons

Musings while waiting at the pool

Five of my boys started swimming lessons last week.  Yes, five.

Their lessons were staggered throughout the afternoon, and I sat next to the pool for several hours and watched each one have his first lesson.  One of the swimming teachers looked over at me at some point and said, “You’re spending your whole day here!”

Despite what might have looked like inconvenience to others, I really enjoyed being there. I felt nostalgic.

It’s been about 17 years since our oldest three children took swimming lessons.  That was followed by years of many other activities and lessons, with me sitting at the sidelines watching and usually supervising younger siblings at the same time.

There were years of going shopping and to the dentist and everywhere else with all of the kids in tow.  Many years.  I didn’t get out alone too often, but while there were times that I longed for more ‘me’ time, lots of togetherness was the reality of our lives.  It was necessary and appropriate and something I really enjoyed.

Time moves on.  The children referred to for so long on this blog as ‘the littles’ are now almost 8, 9.5 and 11.  They’re old enough and independent enough that they don’t need me to set up play dates .  Ds9 and ds11 both can get to their extracurricular activities without me accompanying them; ds7 can go to his friends’ homes without me walking him there hand in hand.

As I sat by the pool, I felt wistful for those days of going everywhere with the kids.  Yes, I very much appreciate that it’s now possible for me to take naps and go places on my own without too much wrangling of my schedule.  I appreciate that Israel has safe public transportation and that has created opportunities for independence that our children in the US didn’t have.  But I kind of miss those years of everyone piling into the car and just being there with them – those times created lots of warm memories.

Someone said to me at the second lesson, “You’re not going to watch your seven year old every time, are you?  He just needs you to be here the first time.”  Sure, I could send him in on his own now that I facilitated the first lesson.  It’s not that he needs me to be there, but that he wants me to be there.  I want to be there for him.

I’m so glad to have this opportunity to sit and watch my boys as they do something new, watching them overcoming their hesitations and then seeing the flashing smiles appear on their faces.

Our kids grow up so quickly – enjoy every moment!

Avivah