When I began homeschooling my oldest daughter I was thrilled with the way she picked up on every little thing and seemed to crave knowledge. She loved doing her assignments and would often make up more work for herself even after she had already completed her tasks for that day. She practically taught herself to read and memorized information with minimal effort. She wasn’t perfect. She was sloppy sometimes and we would fight about that. But overall she was an exceptional student and she spoiled me. When her brother began Kindergarten last fall I was shocked at how different the two were. Levi is very smart little boy. He has no learning disabilities. But their methods of learning new things could NOT have been more different. Levi is all “hands on”. He is not hyper but he is physical and he likes to move around and figure things out. He is easily distracted and if he doesn’t see a “reason” for doing something then it seems pointless to him to have to do it. I began teaching him the alphabet and he was completely uninterested. I explained to him that this was how you learn to read but he really didn’t care. He tried it for a week or so and when he was not reading by that time he seemed to just give up. He could sit and do first grade math all day long but if I gave him a page with letters on it he would just sit there…bored. I tried puzzles, alphabet trains, videos, songs, magnets, etc. but he was just NOT interested in putting the letters in order and repeating them back to me.
After a lot of frustration I decided to throw my conventional methods out the window and try something new. I downloaded an ap on my iPad that focused on teaching the kids basic phonics. The ap did not teach the alphabet but instead started with word families, sight words and sentence building. Instead of trying to teach him “how” the alphabet works and “why” we use it the way we do, I just started teaching him “how” to read. I was very skeptical because normally I would use the alphabet and letter sounds as the foundation for learning to read. But, I stuck with it and he seemed to enjoy the different method. We stopped all handwriting. We stopped practicing letters and their sounds. We stopped singing the alphabet song. We stopped trying to recognize upper and lowercase letters. We learned the “oa” makes the “O” sound and when he sees two eyes “oo” it makes the “OoohOoooh” sound like a ghost, and so on. Today, after 67 lessons I decided to throw him a curve. I presented him with a story reader and told him to read it to me. He looked surprised at the challenge and sat up straight in his chair as though he was about to get down to business. The look on his face was priceless as he read one page, then another, and another. I just smiled at him and said “You see how all those boring lessons paid off? You were learning to read and you didn’t even know it!” He was SO proud! He read the entire reader and then begged to read another. When he finished the second he started a third. He is a reading machine! He still has a lot to learn but then I suppose we both do. I was as impressed with the teaching method as he was with all he had learned. It just goes to show that you should not be afraid to try new things. Just because something has always been done a particular way, does not mean that there is no other way to do it. If you have a child who is struggling with a particular subject don’t just assume that they are delayed or have a disability of some sort. Don’t medicate them and set out to make the work easier for them. Just modify YOUR way of thinking. If you believe the kid can do it, so will he! Try new methods and don’t be such a stickler for “the way you were taught”.