Reason number 3,472 that I’m glad we engage in this insanity– Athena’s natural academic rhythms. Her what, you say? Well, I’ll explain. Her ebb and flow, so to speak. The small and large rhythms she exhibits in waxing and waning intensity when it comes to how much she wants to engage, at what depth and for how long.
I think I’ve mentioned before that Athena has a penchant for sunset mathematics. Seriously not my best hour for for it, but I have eventually become accustom to relentless demands for assistance between dinner and teeth-brushing. This is just one example of how her natural rhythms run counter to conventional learning schedules. Athena (and the other two tiny educational renegades) also move at different speeds between subjects of study. She moves rapidly through history and science materials, but more methodically through formal language arts study. The latest observation I’ve made is that Athena has an annual rhythm, as well. For the second year in a row, she’s eased off in April and May, but then returned with a fervor come June.
This year, she throttled back more than I’ve seen her do so since she burst onto the academic learning scene around three and a half or four. I took advantage of the down time, myself and read several books in a row off my own reading list. Plus, Artemis and Apollo were happy to pick up the slack, so to speak. Apollo has developed a passion for calculators, for one thing. But now it’s almost July and we’re back to the books. It’s currently all things radioactive and Feudal Europe.
I also returned with focus to planning for the 2010-2011 year. Patris Maximus and I spent months trying to decide whether to budget out the expense for a formal educational assessment for Athena. We researched and discussed what might be gained from the information it might provide and whether it was worth the money. We finally decided we had a list of solid reasons to do it, the ability to carve the cash out the household budget and were in the right window with Athena’s age and social maturity. Athena had a ball with the process. It was completely stress free for her, which is exactly what I had hoped we would help make it for her. The bottom line of the assessment is that she tested even more statistically intelligent than I had thought she’d test and that she’s also dealing with dyslexia.
The first piece of information is nice to have simply because the piece of paper it’s printed on can open doors for her that she might like to cross through at some point in her academic career and because it gives me a bit more confidence in presenting further advanced material in her specific fields of interest. But no matter what, she’s still Athena. The same spunky, wonderful, young, amazing, kind-hearted, justice-obsessed, tiny, beautiful Athena. And not the number printed on the paper. Which Patris Maximus and I have decided is none of anyone else’s business until we give it to Athena to share if she chooses, once she’s much older. Luckily, we’re blessed with a circle of loved ones, friends and family alike, who love and support us and who could care less about test scores when it comes to how they care for our children.
The second piece of information is downright crucial and what made me feel very satisfied with having done the assessment in the first place. Athena’s language arts progress plateaued several months ago. She was beginning to struggle and the frustration level was rising. When she throttled back in April, we dropped formal language arts instruction completely and I sat back to ponder what was going on.
I keep a finger on the pulse of a wide swath of homeschooling styles, philosophies, trends and what not. I have friends, acquaintances and mentors who implement a variety of styles and materials. I even keep an eye and an ear out for best practices in classroom education (which, I’ve noticed, sadly often struggle to be implemented in a system that is ferociously resistant to change of any kind.) For the most part, I find this helpful in creating customized educations for three dynamic little people. But sometimes, it becomes overwhelming as several different voices argue their case in my head. The unschool-leaning voices said to just let it all go. Let it ride and eventually the reading, writing and spelling will just click into place for her with little to now effort. The structured voices wondered aloud if there was a possibility that there was an issue here for her. The eclectic voices suggested maybe it was the material and/or the presentation. I was actually grateful for the two months of downtime to sort through it all, followed by the assessment and the results.
She struggles for a reason and remediation will help. Athena and I have had several discussions about dyslexia at this point- what it is, how it applies to her, ways we can work with it. The first discussion led to her being visibly relieved. She’s been frustrated because she feels like it ought to be easy. Given how easily her comprehension of history, science, logic and mathematics come to her, she wasn’t understanding why reading and expressing herself on paper was so challenging. After the first one, subsequent discussions focused on satiating her appetite for more technical and scientific information about dyslexia. Not that I had any concerns about homeschooling as the best way to go for our children, but the official report from our enthusiastic diagnostician included the remark that home education is a fantastic way for Athena to go, considering how difficult it would be for us to get the acceleration/differentiation she would need on one hand combined with the remediation she requires on the other.
Meanwhile, I’ve revamped a few plans for the coming autumn in our little corner of the homeschooling world. I was wavering on investing in All About Spelling, but no longer. At this point, I feel the multi-sensory Orton-Gillingham based program is actually one on the most affordable (and more importantly, effective) avenues for us to approach remediation. I’m also grudgingly abandoning my Mead, grocery store purchased, handwriting resources for a stab at the famed and highly lauded Handwriting Without Tears program. Based on feedback from our diagnostician, we’re fearlessly (okay, almost fearlessly) increasing the grade level content of her history and science study, with lots and lots of audio resources/read alouds, video resources, dictated written work and hands-on projects and experiments, as well as, real world based opportunities through area museums, historic sites and other relevant avenues. And I’ll be putting a larger emphasis on formal language arts. Not in a “just pile on more work” way, but in a “let’s take this step by step with the right resources” way. The first order for new materials has been placed and the second will go out in a few weeks. This will hopefully give me enough time to review it all before we start working it in to our daily round in a few months.
As far as Artemis and Apollo are concerned, I’m getting to reap the rewards of being a curriculum junkie at long last. I started them on Saxon Math K a few weeks ago, which I snatched up at a used curriculum sale about three years ago. They are gobbling that up and as much as I might no particularly care for the program at this point, they think it’s riotous good fun, so who am I to argue? They’re also totally enjoying dinking around with both Hooked on Phonics and a borrowed copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Beyond that, they occasionally eavesdrop on whatever Athena and I are discussing for history and science and that’s about their school program for now. They’re satisfied, entertained and learning a few things, by gosh. So that’s all going along swimmingly.
In addition to a fervent return to studious tendencies, summertime for us still includes barbecues, trips to the as-yet, un-oiled Texas coast, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, sleepovers and other fun. Come to think of it though, so does every other season for us weirdo homeschoolers.