Austin completed Book 1 of the Key to Fractions series on Thursday. The last two pages were a "practice test" that I had him complete on his own. He missed 4 of the problems - all of the errors were due to language processing issues (not being able to understand what the problem was asking). I sat with him and asked him to re-read the problems slowly and out loud. It took him a little while, but he finally figured out what they were asking, and then he was able to answer the problems easily.
We began Book 2 yesterday, and I began our new approach to his lessons. I had read a book in called That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life. While Austin is not distracted, he is disorganized, and this book was recommended on the WTM Special Needs message board and our library had it so I thought it couldn't hurt. In the book they profile different types of disorganized boys (and girls, btw, as I found Riley in the profiles - since she is BOTH disorganized and distracted! LOL). Austin fit the profile of the true struggling learner... a child who wants to desperately to do well, who works hard and tries his best and still falls short. The recommendations were mostly applicable to a traditional school setting, but one in particular resonated with me. Unfortunately I didn't write it down in detail (or narrate it immediately after reading) so you'll have to bear with my recollections. This may be hit or miss and any errors in interpretation are mine alone! :)
The suggestion was to make sure your struggling learner learns how to work independently. I am guilty of sitting with Austin for the majority of his work, to help "interpret" the language for him. As we approach high school, and with his goal of college and work, I simply cannot allow myself to sit with him and interpret everything. I notice quite a bit that he will simply tell me that he doesn't know, without even really trying, so that I will give him the answer. I'm doing too much of the thinking for him. And while my intentions were honorable, I'm afraid that I'm teaching him that he can't think for himself... that it's all too hard for him. And that is simply not true. But he does have to try, and I need to teach him some techniques that will assist him. (I have to say that readings in the RightStart teacher's manual and in Vol. 6 of Charlotte Mason's homeschool series helped to trigger what I remembered reading in this book. It was one of those "AHA!" moments!)
I began this approach yesterday. Usually, I will read the instructions to Austin. Today I asked him to read the instructions and he balked, as I knew he would, because it's different and he thinks he can't. So I said I would read them first, and then he could read them out loud. (This was something I read about on the RightStart site when I was researching the Intermediate Mathematics level for Austin). We did this and I asked him to tell me what he learned and what the instructions were asking. It was 4 sentences long. He said he didn't know. I asked him what he thought he needed to do since he read the instructions once and didn't understand. He just looked and me and shrugged. I said, "I'd probably read them again." He gave me a thoroughly teen glare! LOL He read it again and said it didn't make any sense at all. Nope, we're not giving up son. I suggested he read the first sentence. And then I asked him to tell me what he learned. When there were instructions for the lesson, he looked down at the first example and completed the task.
We used this approach for each sentence. In one sentence was an underlined word and I explained the significance of that (which he did remember for our brief attempt at Apologia General Science). In this case, the actual work page wasn't nearly as important as the lessons he was hopefully learning: how to help himself learn, how to actively engage his mind while he is working on a lesson, and that he is capable to do these things for himself. I'm really ashamed that it's taken me until he's an 8th grader to realize that I've neglected these areas, and that I have allowed him to feel like he's not a capable learner, despite his challenges.
But I think if I can help him overcome these problems this year, that will make high school much, much easier! I don't think it's too late at all!