Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 1

We have pretty much finished our summer break, and are back at school mostly full time.  We like to take time off during the cooler months, when Dominick is also not quite as busy, so for now we are hitting the books in between camps.

I know many of these schooly sorts of posts are not interesting to most of our readers, but I like to chronicle what we are doing for 2 reasons, #1 This is the only place I record anything of our family experience.  I am not a private journal-type person, and I am a failed scrapbooker, so this is it.  It helps me to remember where we started, and how far we have come.  Reason #2 is that I often get emails from folks asking what is working for us, and what we are using.  There are many, many adoptive parents homeschooling their kiddos for the same reasons we are...their children don't fit in a classroom for a variety of reasons including maturity, overstimulation, being too far behind in certain areas, or they have learning disabilities that are hard to define and so they need extra one on one help.  I am always surprised at the number of internationally adopted kids I see at homeschooling conventions, more than I ever have run into in any other circle of my life.  So for both reasons #1 and #2 I try to post now and again about our schooling, knowing you'll be bored but knowing I might need the info later and that someone might be in need of suggestions right this moment.

We started Kenny today with the Wilson Reading System, the one recommended by the special education evaluator we worked with this past spring.  It is expensive, $479 for the entire package...whew!  Thankfully, our school program covered the cost for us after a little discussion about it.  Our program consultants are quite sympathetic to Kenny's situation and the seeming failure or willingness of the District to meet his needs. This reading program is designed specifically for older learners or adult learners, and I have to tell you that it is intense, seriously intense.  I watched a series of DVD's to train myself as best I could, and also spent hours with the manual, highlighting and making notes all over the place.  It really isn't incredibly difficult to work with, it just has multiple steps and it requires attention to detail on the part of both the learner and the educator.

What do I think of it after Day 1?  Well, I have high hopes, as it seems to be targeting exactly the areas Kenny is weak in.  We are starting at the very beginning, although I had a choice of starting a couple of sections in based upon Kenny's current basic skills.  I am glad we decided to start at the beginning, despite the fact that he will go through it quickly, as even today it was obvious to both of us that while he has most of the basic sounds down, he still hesitates and there are sounds he simply can not hear correctly nor is their automaticity to his responses 100% of the time, even with single syllable consonant-vowel-consonant three letter words.  Most of them he is fine with, but he gets hung up on things like hearing "f" as "th", and having his vowel sounds solidly in place without hesitation.  He immediately said  to me "Mom, I am really glad we are not skipping anything,  I didn't even realize that on these baby words I was still not quick at all of them!"

There are 10 steps to each lesson, which run an hour or more.  In so many ways, Kenny is very easy to work with.  Really, all the kids are, but Kenny could develop a real attitude about repeating phonics yet a third time.  He could complain that this is too babyish, that he is bored, that this is "stupid".  Instead, he is so eager to learn, and really wants to make progress so he has a terrific attitude and today told me he is very grateful for all the time it has taken me to find something else that might help him, and he knew how much time it has taken me to figure it out and appreciates it.  Now, how could a Mom not want to do every single thing possible when her son/student has that great of an attitude?

Will this work?  I have no idea, but I do think it might be our last best hope of getting him reading at a higher level.  Right now, his comprehension tests right at grade level for him, which is a huge plus, but he still can not read multi-syllable words worth a hill of beans.  Kenny is truly "stuck" right now, and I am hoping this will help "unstick" him.  It replaces both reading and spelling, and we will try and work with it as much as possible each week.  I heard from another mom locally whose son struggled mightily with reading before using this same program, and she told me he has had great success with it.  Maybe we will find the same thing is true for Kenny.  I sure hope so.  It will likely take us 2-3 years to complete it, but looking at the material toward the end of the program, if we actually get there, it will be certain he will be reading at a very high level.

I shared here that we were changing math curriculum for the all the kids, and we have been working with it now for a couple of weeks. Wow.  That's what I have been saying for the past several days.  Wow.  Not only has it made our lives ten times easier without math hanging over our heads to correct for hours each night, but the kids LOVE LOVE LOVE Teaching Textbooks, and...get this...every one of them has begged to do more math each day.  They never complained before, but I can't say they were different than any other kid and the certainly never begged to do more math! Haha!  Olesya, in particular, has said she really understands the explanations and animations as the program walks them through problems.  Matthew and Joshua cracked me up today.  There are little animated "buddies" on screen to encourage the learner...things like robots, gophers, cats, you name it.  Matthew was teasing as he got a pouty little look on his face and said "JJ gets cooler buddies to choose from than I do.  I want one like his!"  Angela laughed out loud when she got an answer right and her gopher buddy shot off fireworks.  Silly as it seems, it is keeping math "light" for them, and now I have a houseful of Math Junkies!  The program appears to use a lot more real world problems as well, and the creators of it have a terrific sense of humor.  I overheard Josh's today as one of his problems was about catching spies, and Matt had one about a candy factory.  However, even though this is "cool" and keeps the kids engaged, it is serious math and was written by two brothers who are graduates of Harvard.  All that to say that our switch was a wise one, and one I doubt we will regret.

We are well into our Election studies, and have had some great discussions about representative government, the Electoral College (So mom, we don't REALLY vote for the president after all???), and how a candidate markets themselves.  We will all watch the debates and convention speeches as well, and that should bring up some really interesting points to talk about.  Right now we are 50/50 with some of the kids wondering if Romney might help the economy pick up, while others are concerned that he is too "big business" and has no clue what life is like for the average American.  It is such fun to hear them weigh information as they learn more.  Kenny's brain is always surprising to us all when it comes to science and social studies, because sometimes he remembers things no one else today he accurately explained what a caucus was...even though he forgets words all over the place that are ones he uses every day.  Joshua is also surprising us all by really getting into politics and being able to articulate what he has learned surprisingly well for an almost fourth grader.

So for now it is school in the morning and afternoon, swimming in the late afternoon and into the evening, and  a few activities thrown in here and there for good measure.  We have a goal to finish all of our school work for this coming year by the beginning of April.  Not sure if we will make it or not, but we'll give it the old college try :-)

If anyone reading this wants to know more about our experiences with the Wilson Reading System, feel free to email me and I'll be happy to explain how it works and what I am noticing so far.  I won't write much specifically about it here on the blog, but will update generally from time to time as we move through it with Kenny.  I sure hope it helps, as I am out of ideas if it doesn't!


Difference2This1 said...

Thank you for sharing how you handle the various needs within your homeschool. We also decided some school is the heat of the summer is nice when it means no school during the nicest month to play outdoors here - May.

Our eldest, almost 14 home almost 4 yrs, was recently evaluated by the school. The results were concerning enough that she is now "labeled" and finally getting the extra help she needs...I'm not sure what reading plan they are putting her through, but I'm sure it's similar in thought process as Wilson. We tried homeschooling- and would have purchased the Lindawood Bell reading system upon discussion with a certified tutor had she been able to stay home; but her intense anger issues led us to place her back in school to give the other kids a bit of a break each day. We have another child home with reading struggles (but she is quite sweet and interested in overcoming this) so we may end up buying a reading program someday anyway. I'll be very interested to read how your son does with his program over time!! :)

You have such an amazing family :! Blessings, Jennifer

wilisons said...

I have taught a Wilson based program (Fundations) for 4+ years now. I LOVE this program. I have seen it work for ALL of my students. Strong students still benefit from learning phonics rules to decode multi-syllabic words as well as spell words.

Much success to you all,