Monday, November 26, 2012

School - when school is not necessarily the issue

I'm still homeschooling five kids.  Eclectically. Whatever the hell that means.

When you parent kids with learning difficulties, attachment issues and mental health struggles, you are constantly on your toes.  I have spent the last decade trying different approaches for each child, depending on what their current issues are.  After all these years I find myself with yet another child needing things taught in a completely new way.

When a child can't master the basics of math or reading, they find themselves even more frustrated with life.  Their siblings sit for hours and read.  They look at them, unable to figure out why anyone would spend that much time on a activity that is equivalent to poking your eye out with a stick.  When their friends sell things at the park or breeze through basic multiplication while dividing up food, they feel completely alone.  This can trigger behavioral issues and then ... well, one math problem can be the beginnings of a very rough day for everyone.

One kid has struggled with reading more than everyone else.  Some days it's learning difficulties.  Some days it's behavioral (triggered by whatever is already going on).  Every day it is a pain in the tookus of epic proportions.  My kid doesn't just want to read.  They want to want to read.  And it has been my job to figure out how to back off, while still recognizing how their inability to read on grade level creates even more issues.  Quite a balance.  A miserable balance. 

*sigh*

I forget to talk about how we educate because we've done it so long that it doesn't seem like much of a "thing."  It's more just a part of who we are.  But a I have few nuggets I wanted to stop and share ... as I sit here elated with my newest discovery.


This year I have all five kids doing Teaching Textbooks.  Each year, the TT people have been adding in a new grade below what they offered the year before.  Their DVD program is now available for 3rd grade through high school. 

What I love about Teaching Textbooks:

I am out of the picture.  On days my kids are struggling to work with me on ... anything at all, they do not feel threatened by the sweet instructor's voice on the DVD.  He is always consistent.  In the same vein, he is always, always, always, ALWAYS enthusiastic.  Always.  Always.  Yay for DVD guy.

The lessons are extremely visual, which is helpful for all kids when they are needing to hit across all their senses. 

They can rewatch a lesson as many times as they choose.  There are practice problems before actual lesson problems.

You can delete a lesson so they can do it over if they are needing the reinforcement.

They can choose dancing/playing/singing emoticons that help encourage them when they struggle and celebrate when they nail something.  Even my older kids find it fun.

I have needed to utilize their customer service a few times over the years.  They have been fantastic.  Also, I can reuse each grade level with other children year after year. 

My friend, Lindsay, told me about ClickN KIDS just over a month ago.  We are using their spelling and phonics programs.  They have many of the same benefits we find with Teaching Textbooks. 

I am out of the picture.  When a lesson is completed, it automatically moves to the next.  It grades itself (which takes mucho pressure off the parent/child relationship when the frustration level is high on certain days). 

It is fun and bright.

The little talking dog is ever so consistent in his affect, even when my kid is all but spitting on him.  He cannot be ticked off.  He's even encouraging and upbeat when you make a mistake! Power struggles aren't very effective with animated dogs that lack the ability to be angered.  It gives my kid multiple opportunities to work on self-regulation in a very safe space.

The lessons are short and sweet.  They build on each other with plenty of repetition without being boring. 

They almost feel like you're playing a video game of some sort.  My kid really likes that.  There has never been a huff or moan at the thought of doing their phonics or spelling.  It's fun.

We have backed way up on grade level and are just chilling, taking it easy along the way, and helping my darlin' to feel very, very positive about the reading they are doing.  It's helping build up some long-depleted confidence. 

And, finally, I have to tell you why I'm dancing around my living room and singing the praises of my friend, Leslie.  Just last week she recommended a mnemonic-based system for learning upper multiplication and division facts.  I did exactly two hours of intense research on the whole approach and decided I had to try it.  Teaching Textbooks deals with multiplication enough for some kids, but definitely not for all.  I have a 4th grader who is still floundering.  They are so frustrated, and many of their neurological issues fight directly against programs that are simply glorified flash cards.

Enter:  Times Tales.  It's genius.  It's sheer genius.  It's the way I would memorize things in high school and college.  They associate each number with a character.  Then they create a very simple 2-3 sentence "story" that teaches you one of the upper multiplication problems.  You don't think about it.  You just learn the stories.

We just finished the watching the whole thing, and my child has a story set to memory about all of the upper times tables. 

One hour of viewing = 18 problems that have been nothing but a reason to scream and cry, up until now. 

So, there you go.  My current secret treasure trove of things that are helping my kid enjoy their life a bit more and feel good about stuff.  Throw in some Timez Attack for good measure (the free homeschool version - thankyouverymuch) and we're feeling like super heroes over here.





9 comments:

Hannah_Rae said...

Yay for online and digital resources! J was so successful with these methods for the exact reasons you mentioned...particularly "You can't get into a power struggle with an animated dog..." It was amazing to watch him go from a 1st grade to 4th grade level in math in just 9 months. Why? Because he WANTED TO!

Keep Rockin' it, Mama! I am loving starting the hands-on stuff with Busy Boy right now. So fun! But I am so glad to have the connections and resources I need for when my precious babes need a few more formal skills. Eek. :)

Blessings!

Hannah

Nobody said...

Teaching Textbooks is hands down the BEST math I have ever seen. I wish I had done it in high school. This year two of mine are doing cyber school, so sadly no TT. But they actually use them for reference when they get stumped with their conventional curriculum. Worth every penny.

Laurie said...

IXL Math is very good as well, my kids love it.

Jr K - Grade 10 curriculm, you choose your province or state to get the correct curriculum for your area. Cheap too! :)

Blessed said...

God handed me TT on a silver platter two years ago, after we had just reached a big point of struggle. It is seriously a gift from the hand of the Giver of All Good Things for us.

We love the free Timez Attacks too! And thanks for the tip on the other programs--I can't wait to look into them!

oneinchofgrace said...

You ARE a superhero!!

Jen said...

Christine,

STILL eclectically homeschooling 10 here - ages 5-15 and only the oldest 2 are at all independent in the basics. Thanks for this post. I'm totally there too - it isn't school that is the issue, yet it sometimes is the issue! and, I want to bang my head in the wall every time my 11 year old tells me 13-6 is 4 or something else crazy! lol! You are the second person to tell me about TT this week - must check that out - at least the teacher won't communicate frustratedness like I do!

my problem - computers availability when I have 8 who could use them for hours each day if I did TT, the other phonics and math you recommend, and the VP history online (have you seen those, my kiddos love them). . . need a solution to the computer time management - OR need more computers!

Jen

Jen said...

Christine,

STILL eclectically homeschooling 10 here - ages 5-15 and only the oldest 2 are at all independent in the basics. Thanks for this post. I'm totally there too - it isn't school that is the issue, yet it sometimes is the issue! and, I want to bang my head in the wall every time my 11 year old tells me 13-6 is 4 or something else crazy! lol! You are the second person to tell me about TT this week - must check that out - at least the teacher won't communicate frustratedness like I do!

my problem - computers availability when I have 8 who could use them for hours each day if I did TT, the other phonics and math you recommend, and the VP history online (have you seen those, my kiddos love them). . . need a solution to the computer time management - OR need more computers!

Jen

Annie said...

This may be timely. Anastasia is about to be ejected from her state-sponsored school-district-run WONDERFUL on-line program, simply because birth and death kind-of got in the way of her tucking into this at the prescribed rate....and because it IS state-sponsored and school-district-run, they really don't have the FLEXIBILITY gene that is oh-so-necessary for us.

My daughter could be (was)one of those hyper-drive straight A students when she was in school.....what a gift, right? Yes! Despite a slow start with having to learn a second language and all, she flew as a student. Except that puberty hit, and now school, by definition, seems to be a social situation, and when just about any social situation is a major trigger - it really doesn't matter anymore how good a student she is.

Sarah said...

"Power struggles aren't very effective with animated dogs that lack the ability to be angered."

YES!!!

Thank you! I love this!!! I am so very, very new to homeschooling, even though I was homeschooled myself for highschool. And so far the only thing I know for certain is that I need to stay out of it as much as possible. We both lose the power struggle every single time.