Hello Lee:) I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a Mom with a girl who is going to be 15 in August and is still in the 5th grade doing 4th grade Math? She is in a private school right now, but the school only goes to 8th grade and she is getting to an age where I might have to start home schooling her. She seems to have a right brain left brain issue. I always thought that she was left handed, but her teacher realized that she is actually right handed,but uses her left hand quite a bit too. Her Dad is left handed, but uses his right hand for many things. I just thought she was like him. She has a hard time getting concepts and when you think she has it, it is gone again. I am considering homeschooling next school year, but I am not sure. She might be able to work with this teacher for one more year, but she would like to come home? I just want to be ready. We home schooled before and I felt like such a complete failure. I also had a very bad influence that put me down and my kids a lot, thankfully that is gone, but I am still dealing with things that were said by that person and am afraid of failing my daughter. Any curriculum or online programs you could suggest would be great. I am thinking about trying Alpha & Omega online with teacher assistance. Thanks for you help!
~ Angela on Facebook
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.
A hearty YES to Janet's entry above. Trying different curricula in hopes of finding one that "works" with a struggling learner is akin to putting the cart before the horse; the learning issue must be assessed and addressed in order to make lasting progress.
A wonderful resource for learning more about helping the struggling learner is Dianne Craft of Child Diagnostics. Her website is diannecraft.org. She is a former homeschool mom, a 25-year veteran in working with struggling learners and their parents, and a certified professional in using natural therapies for kids with learning issues. Her passion is helping kids and their parents with a minimum of expense and a maximum of return.
Another good site for learning about dyslexia is Ron Davis's site, Davis Dyslexia Association International, at dyslexia.com.
I have a daughter who tests beautifully, but who coudn't retain material learned from one week to the next. When we discovered that she has multiple learning gates blocked and is a "picture thinker", we were able to begin to make real progress in helping her.
Before spending a huge amount of money on curricula, you should really invest in getting a detailed diagnosis. Schools do not diagnose, they just assess. In other words, they can tell you that a child is at X level of achievement, but cannot say that this is because of a specific type of dsylexia for example.
"A right brain/left brain issue" is not a diagnosis that you can use to customize a learning program. Here in Washington, we have a nationally recognized clinic devoted to brain/learning issues: http://www.neurolearning.com/ They are expensive and not often covered by insurance, but they have published books you can buy, and there is a free blog at http://www.eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.com/ I also recommend Mel Levine's books, if you haven't seen those.
References for professionals to consult with as well as home-based approaches to special needs can also be found on the SpecialHSofWA yahoo group (Special needs homeschoolers of Washington).
You can ask your family doctor for referrals to assessment professionals if you are in another state.
Oh, and "dumbing down" is never a good idea. Let the child grasp the concepts in a way that speaks to the child.
For example, Alpha Omega said a clam is a "fish with a shell."
My child has pried open steamed clams and eaten them. My child has observed clams at the beach. My child has kept a fish as a pet, has seen fish caught, gutted and cooked. This child knows darn well what a clam is and what a fish is.
Don't underestimate your child, LOL!
Alpha Omega worked OK as a concept for my particular elementary-aged special needs child. The things that worked best about it were we could underline and mark all over the text, and my child absolutely loved the thrill of finishing each little unit. However... I was very quickly turned off by the poor editing, the "dumbing down" of concepts, an offensive and arrogant view of history, and the numerous mistakes (the most infamous of which was a picture of a Betta fish in a salt water environment - we had one as a pet at the time and knew darn well that Betta would die in salt water). If AO was like this at the elementary level, I wouldn't recommend it at the high school level.
Nowadays, I simply piecemeal this child's schoolwork.
One resource I recommend highly for Language Arts workbooks is EPS http://eps.schoolspecialty.com/
Math workbooks of any stripe can be adapted if you have lots of bookmarks and are not of the mindset that every single problem has to be done. One may always use one's own insight into the child to figure out how to teach the concept.
I ran across an interesting website very recently for any home school child - http://www.custom-homeschool-curriculum.com/
Mostly - be flexible. I remember thinking a long time ago that there's no way my special needs child could've learned "lake" and "sea" in a windowless classroom looking at cartoons of water and listening (supposedly listening, anyway) to someone a few yards away trying to explain what these things are. My child needs to taste the water, hear the waves or the quiet lapping of ripples, smell the air, and see the movement of the water.
Just the other day my child asked me, "Why are you always underestimating me?"
Ouch. Guilty as charged. Stop and think, though - if I, the mother who loves her and knows her better than most people, slip up frequently enough for this child to say this, how much worse would it be for this child in a classroom? So why try to duplicate the classroom in my home school?
The best lessons have been when I have allowed this child to experience life. I've minimized the "sit down" work as much as I can. This child still has a long, hard road, but this child has exceeded everyone's expectations.
Unfortunately, there are still many naysayers who simply look at how far "behind" the child is and don't take into account the progress that has been made. You will encounter them too. Ignore them. They assume that a public or private school will "fix" whatever's "wrong." That's just as ridiculous as saying home school will "fix" whatever's "wrong."
Ooo - what did I just say? Yes, you read that right. Keep your expectations realistic, but do, do, do please find something to be grateful for every single day, and celebrate every single bit of progress, every milestone, every step of the journey.
Sorry I didn't have much in the way of textbook recommendations and such, but tackling a special needs child isn't about the curriculum. It's about the heart, mind, and soul. With those three things, you can home school with a library card, some paper, some pencils, the things in your house, and gas enough to get you to the nearest park.