4 Moms: homeschooling the challenging child

4 Moms 35 Kids answer questions about big familiesWell, I did it again.

We’re at the beach having a fun and wonderful couple of days with lots of sun, surf, good food and family, and I left my brain at home.

I stayed up late Tuesday night working on my 4 Moms post so that I could be ahead of the game and have Wednesday free to play, and guess what I did: I did the wrong 4 Moms topic.  So now I’m really ahead of the game because next week’s post is ready, but I can’t go play with my friends until this week’s chores are done.

le sigh.

We’re going to tell you a little about homeschooling the “different” or challenging child.  We don’t have any diagnosed disabilities in our household, though I have to admit I wonder every now and then.  Is it really that hard to keep your bedroom clean?  Maybe they do have a problem.  Is there a name for a disorder that prevents one from seeing a mess and cleaning it up, like the opposite of OCD?  Cleaning Preventative Syndrome?   Oblivious Disorder?  I think we have that.

But while we don’t have any official learning disorders, I do suspect that at least one of our children is mildly dyslexic, and some have simply been ready later than others.  We have dealt with this mainly by relaxing.  There is no need for them to learn on a schedule, so long as their minds are active and growing.  If a child is struggling with a concept, we put it aside and work on something else for a time.  That “something else” may or may not be related to the struggle, but when we are ready to revisit the struggle, we often find that it goes much differently.

This has been the case with reading for several of our children.  None have read before the age of 6 1/2, and some have not read fluently until 9 or 10, but all so far are voracious readers.  It’s important in these cases to read aloud with and to the child so that learning can continue and his/her vocabulary can continue to grow – audio books are wonderful too –  but in our experience no damage has been done by waiting a bit until she’s ready to fly when it comes to reading.

Another thing I have learned over the years is to work with a child’s learning style rather than forcing her to conform to my own.  The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias was very helpful to me back in those early years, and now I am constantly analyzing my children in terms of learning style.

When a child learns very differently from her teacher, I think this can sometimes be perceived as a disability rather than just a difference.  My mom, who homeschooled 14 children, thinks this has a lot to do with why so many boys are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.  They are simply more active and have a different learning style than girls, which makes them harder for a female teacher to deal with.

As one small example, Mom found that a particularly high-energy brother of mine did much better on his school if she allowed him stand next to the table rather than making him sit.

With one of my more active girls, I found that her memory work came much more easily if I allowed her to fidget or even stand on one foot as she recited.  After initially trying to make her stand still like a proper young lady, I asked myself why I was making it harder for her.  She knew how to stand still when it was necessary; why not let her work the way that her brain preferred?  She no longer does this, but remembers those times as fun rather than frustrating.  I like that.

My most talkative children learn best if they are allowed and encouraged to use their superpower (talking), and I don’t fight that.  We try not to let them be disruptive to those around them, but we allow them to talk about what they are learning, realizing that they process new concepts better while they are chatting away.

Math is another area where learning style has a huge impact on how they learn.  Some children need to understand how and why a process works before they can effectively use it, while others just want to know what to do next.  Once they have the steps down, then they can begin to understand what is happening and why.  It took me years to admit that both approaches are valid and stop forcing my own learning style on my students.  Some of us are born speaking math, while others struggle long and hard to learn the language.  🙂

And now, I’m off to the beach.  Over and out.

The other moms are talking about it too:

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  1. Great 4 Mom’s Post as usual (even if you did forget your homework). I just wanted to thank you for answering my question some time ago (it was about sunscreen). We’ve been babymooning, so I haven’t been commenting and was feeling negligent about not saying thank-you. I look forward to future posts!

  2. Hi Kim,
    I have a been a long time “lurker” on your blog, and I really enjoy reading about your beautiful family. This post I can totally relate with! I grew up in a homeschooling family, and one of my sisters would really struggle with reading while the other one had to be jumping and up down while doing her homework because she simply had too much energy. Ah, the fun of doing your homework at home! 🙂 Thanks for all your posts, I do enjoy reading your blog. 🙂

  3. After teaching our oldest three kids to read by age 5 w/o any problem, I couldn’t figure out why our 4th child struggled with it. She tends to be wigglier, but loves to be read to. Occasionally she’d tell me (w/ 100 Easy Lessons, which we love) that the words would wobble right off the page. I chalked this up to her being silly – a pretty common thing with her

    Imagine my surprise when at homeschool co-op I was talking to a lady who had done some tutoring and she (w/o me mentioning our daughter’s problem) that reading had always been a struggle for her because the words wobbled off the page!!!!!

    I had our daughter tested by the same lady (I do recommend getting a private tutor/tester like this lady if possible and not through the public school) and she recommended an Irlen screen. An Irlen screen is a simple piece of see through plastic – it comes in a wide variety of colors – yellow worked best for our girl. She lays it directly on the page as she reads.

    It’s been amazing – the words don’t wobble any more – It was a perception issue not a vision issue.

    One thing that helped most was that I kept doing a ton of read-alouds with her like always because I didn’t want her to associate reading with difficulty and frustration – but pleasant times.

    Reading still takes more effort for her than it has for any of my others – but the screen made all the difference.

    So I would encourage moms to ask around, do your research, don’t feel you must resort to the public school option and most importantly – ask God for a great amount of wisdom (James 1!). No other person loves your child more than you, no one cares more about their education than you!!

    (Kim – I’m posting the same comment here that I did with Smockity because this really has been eye-opening for us, and I know it’s helped others)

  4. Great post! I am a huge believer in learning styles and studied my children to know theirs, and now study everyone else’s when giving counsel to younger moms. Your advice was so good, “why fight it”–they learn soooo much faster and easier when hearing it in their “language.”

    I’ll be storing and rereading this one, Kim.
    Have a great day at the beach.

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