Monday, December 7, 2009

How Homeschooling can help a child with learning disabilities

As I have mentioned before, as part of my job, I get the luxury of hearing great educators speak about topics facing public education. This is certainly unique given that my family doesn't actually use the public school system, but I always enjoy it because it keeps me up to date on research in the field. Interestingly though this week, one of the speakers made a comment that one of the states uses the fourth grade reading scores to extrapolate the number of jail cells that they will need in the future. The speaker gleaned from this statistic that bad readers in the fourth grade meant future convicts and felt that if we were to make children better readers by fourth grade by focusing more on early intervention then these children would never become criminals. I believe (mind you this is completely my opinion and I have done no research on this independently although I think it would be a fascinating area to research) that he is possibly looking at this statistic from the wrong perspective. I think quite possibly, based on reading that I have done particularly on boys, that many children are not ready to read at the same time that our educational setting is pushing it and that basically by fourth grade these students have learned two things: they are stupid and they hate school. These two messages push them to rebel and act out which then quickly becomes a slippery slope. I believe that instead of pushing harder on their weakest skill set, perhaps we should do the reverse and relax a little bit. While there should still be reading and reading instruction with a focus on phonics, we should separate reading and intelligence. We should find other ways for these children to learn their subjects and excel. Our education system is far too heavily weighted on reading and writing which literally handicaps those that develop these areas later or have processing difficulties.

My belief in this comes from the personal experiences of many homeschoolers. There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence of homeschoolers who have taken their children out of school because of reading / behavior problems and with a little space, some extra time, and success in other areas, these children not only learn to read; they recognize their own intelligence; they are not behavior issues; and they may even go on to love reading instead of hating it. Reading is not knowledge. It is one way to obtain it.

In our case, my son has many issues with reading and writing and the only thing that he learned in Kindergarten and first grade in public school was that he was dumb and that he hated school. Taking him out didn't solve everything, but we were able to reverse his feeling of self loathing and his dislike for education. His learning disabilities will never leave him, but he is learning tools to compensate. Most recently, I was impressed with this:

He was tasked to put together a cooking demonstration for Boy Scouts. He is a wonderful Dutch Oven cook as I have mentioned previously (and interestingly will happily pour through cookbook after cookbook to look for the perfect recipes). This diagram is his plan for tool, space, and equipment needed for the evening. This could have been written in a list, but for him the visualization was easier for him. Frankly, he accomplished what was needed. So is there anything wrong with this approach? I can't even imagine what the response would have been if he turned something like this in school, but this homeschool mom for one is very proud and I can guarantee you that everyone that eats the food that he cooks on Thursday won't know that he has done it any differently. Plus, look how effective this diagram will be when he explains what he is expected from his 3 or 4 helpers. They will know what he expects and where he expects. It would probably take your or I several pages of words to get this same point across.

How can homeschooling help a child with learning disabilities? It can give them the time and space to develop their skill set without outside pressures that begin to beat them down to such an extent that they give up and end up hating learning, possibly get angry, and become the statistic that the speaker recited the other night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent, albeit scary, post. My daughter read later and hasn't actually enjoyed reading until recently in part, I think, because she was learning that she was not stupid. :-) I hope educators like the one you heard speak rethink their theories... soon.