Thursday, March 3, 2011

Evening Family Lessons
 My oldest daughter is in grade two.  According to the note that has been sent home, she's struggling with both reading and math.  No big surprise there.  We've known from day one that she's behind.  Everyone keeps reassuring me that each kid learns different and one day a switch in her head will flick and she'll suddenly get it.  Well, we're still waiting. 

At the last parent teacher conference we attended we asked what could we do to help her with her reading (back in November).  We were made to understand that they don't really recommend a lot of homework, other than practice reading, because they work so hard in class.  So we backed off a little.  I have to admit it was with some relief that we did so because often her frustration levels and my frustration levels would clash and that's not a healthy learning environment by any means. 

So I figured finally we've got a great set of teachers helping her, she gets extra help with her reading and pronunciation a few days a week so it must be all good.  So like I said we backed off.  We let her do her assigned home reading online with assistance from us when she needed it.  I thought it was all good until we got that notice. 

Even though we're not supposed to do comparisons, it's pretty hard not to see where she falls short.  From my 7 year old niece whose job it was to read all her brother's 3rd birthday cards from beginning to end to all of us to the 7 year old foreign student who not only wears a wrist watch but can perfectly tell time. 


So I've come up with a new plan.  Because she gets frustrated so easily it makes it difficult for us (and I'm sure her teachers) to work with her I've instituted a rewards plan.  I bought a bunch of stuff at the dollar store  and put it in a box. Each day she works with us without getting frustrated she gets a sticker.  When she gets five stickers she gets to pick from the box. 

What we are trying to achieve here is to provide some sort of motivation for her not to give up.  I know she can do more than what she thinks or says she can.  I've seen her do it.  Just like I'm amazed when she will one day print the most neatest letters I've ever seen and yet the next day I open her planner, I can barely read what she's written.  It's almost like she gets stuck and starts to do a whole weepy thing simply to get out of doing her work.  Like she knows if she frustrates us, she will get off the hook from doing her homework.  I'm not just grasping here, I've been trying to analyze her behaviour for weeks now.

Anyways, she seems excited by the whole thing and already has earned two stickers.

Only to make it fair, because I have three kids, I have to provide opportunities for the other two (5 and 3) to earn stickers as well. 

So we've pretty much started our own family night school.  E works with her dad on spelling and math while I get J set up with learning her basic reading sounds on Starfall (BTW if you haven't checked out it's an excellent learning to read resource for preschool and up).  And O and I retire to the living room while I show him flashcards of the Alphabet.  O (almost 4 now)  also goes on and it was with some amazement as I listened to him sound out the letters  S - U - N and turn to me and say "Mommy, that says SUN!". 

Then kicks in the mom guilt as I foresee both J and O excelling in reading right from the get go because we took the time to work with them.  Ah great, a whole new reason for the mom guilt.

It's not that I didn't try to teach E her ABCs and basics it's just that she didn't like to learn. She couldn't even learn the words to Twinkle Twinkle.  It's just her way.   Once baby #2 and then baby#3 came along, I pretty much decided she'd learn at her own pace and it was doing either of us any good to force the issue.  That's why she was going to preschool.  Only half way into her preschool year her teacher decided to embrace the Learning Through Play philosophy and so out when the window any pre-kindergarten basics.  Now she loved her teacher and so did we, so we stuck with it and said to ourselves, people expect too much from children nowadays.  Let kids be kids. What we got out of it was a child who loves science and nature. And that's not a bad thing. 

Only when you're in the school system and preschools are churning out kids who already know to write their name by 5, well it's a hard system to suddenly try to fit into. 

I really believe she'll get it eventually, it's just a hard journey for her (and us) right now. 


  1. We had parent teacher night tonight, too. And our youngest wasn't doing as well as we thought, either. Love starfall!!

    And I think you're right. They will get there eventually!

    Visiting from SITS on your SITS day! :)

  2. Ok, I read this quote today:
    "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
    — Albert Einstein
    and it made me think of my kids! Some kids get some things and other kids have no interest in those same things (ie learning ABCs). But they are all genius in their own way, right? (Dancing, moving, loving, numbers, etc) Just food for thought.
    Happy SITS day ;)

  3. I am a mom of a child with autism. I don't have any trouble with his reading. He has always been ahead of his peers with that. His trouble is in behaviors learning other things like socialization and speech. The reason I tell you this is because I think it is amazing that you set up this rewards system. It is the same proven rewards system used by my child's behavioral therapists! And it works. He has learned so many skills because he is motivated to work for the reward (we call it reinforcement). Also, we provide him with exaggerated verbal praise and cheerleading so he really gets that it's a good thing and follow immediately with the reward.

    Great honest post! Happy SITS day!

  4. Happy SITS day! I read this post and if you had posted this in the home school community you would have gotten 20 email responses telling you to stay the course. Every child is different. Some excel in 1 thing and some in another. She will read and probably does but just doesn't like the format in which she is forced to read. Have you tried reading aloud to her? It clicked with my almost 7 YO out of nowhere(her sister was reading on her own at 4). You are doing a great job and exercising patience. Thank you for posting your struggle.

  5. Ahh mommy guilt - it's unavoidable. But the fact that you are worrying about being fair and helping your kids excel only shows that you are an awesome mommy!

  6. You might want to look into the possibility of a learning disability. We are testing my daughter for Expressive Writing Disorder and maybe Expressive Language Disorder. You ought to check those out and see if it fits your daughter. My daughter is easily frustrated and 'shuts down' as some may call it. It may be a processing issue where they know it, but just can't get it out orally or in writing. It is extremely frustrating for them.
    My posts over at may interest you as we go through this process of testing for the LD.

  7. Sounds like you got a great system going. Good job mom! and Happy SITS day!

  8. You are right on! It's so hard not to compare kids, so I feel your pain there ... but it sounds like you are focusing on the positive and making it a family affair to learn. Hang in there! :)

    Enjoy your SITS day!

  9. God, we feel so guilty for what we do or don't do for our children. I hear that everyone catches up in 3rd grade. Sean has yet to master his ABCs, and I keep thinking about how Evan knew them a long time before this age. Good luck.

  10. Oh my heart goes out to you because I know it's so frustrating. What about a family reading time? Since you've got all three, after she does her assignments you can all read to each other. That's way she's hearing grade and above grade level stuff from you and able to work through the comprehension talking to you and can then maybe read to her siblings on a lower level that makes her feel successful.

  11. I agree with you, they learn at their own pace. There is no magic ruler to compare them…you are doing your best and you are doing a great job.

    ~Penelope (I love to write about beauty tips!)


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