Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Works for YCJ

If you've been reading this blog for any time at all now you know who YCJ is. If not, then she is one of our middle children and the one out of the three we homeschool who is directly in the middle. YCJ stands for Younger Cracker Jack, the nicknames for the three youngest children of Peanut and Cracker Jacks predates our "official" homeschooling years. This week's post for Sharing What Works (hosted by Our Busy Homeschool ) is all about what works for YCJ. Last week I shared what works for Peanut (check that out here ) and next week I'll be moving on to ECJ (Elder Cracker Jack) then finally rounding out the month with what works for all of us.
YCJ has dyslexia which makes anything to do with the written word just painful for her. Until this school year she struggled with every second that she was asked to read, spell, or write. She'd fight you over it, she'd get frustrated, eventually tears would be shed (her's and mine). We'd tried online programs that read things to her, we read to her often, we worked on reading all the time! This year has been different, this year has been better, this year she "discovered" that she can read!

Over the summer I'd read several articles about dyslexia and come across some interesting tid bits I was sure I'd need to try. One of these items was transparent colored "films" that can be placed over what the child was reading, another was a "guide" that blocked everything else on the page other than either the word you were reading or the sentence you were reading, and there were many more. My husband had told me to just make her follow the words with her finger and my mother suggested simply underlining the sentence with a sheet of paper or a book mark. I brain stormed. I didn't want her lessons to be so very hard for her this year.

We'd tried the follow along with your finger idea for years but her eyes would jump around to the other words. I'd underlined (and so had others) the sentences she was reading with white paper or busy book marks and she would do fine with the top sentence but when you moved it down to the next she'd jumble up again. I started trying construction paper strips in different colors, not wanting to buy the transparent colored "films" because I was sure we could do it without them. Those strips worked better, but reading still didn't click.

One day in the mail I received a piece of junk mail that normally I would have tossed in the trash, only this envelope was a light sea greenish color. I thought to myself, "Why the heck not." I put the clean side with no writing facing up smack dab under the line ECJ was trying to read that afternoon and it was like magic. I'm not saying she began reading fluidly, but she did begin reading. You can see it in use right there in that picture above. She was excited and so were we, but we tried not to force the issue too much. I'd slowed down her Language Arts lessons to where it looked like this:

Mon. - Thurs. = Spelling lessons but no test on Friday
Mon., Tues., Thurs. = 1 English page/lesson to finish
Wed. = 1 English page from her ABeka 3 book, 3 lessons from her other workbook where I did 99% of the reading
Fri. = 3 lessons from her other workbook where I did 99% of the reading

I spent a little over a month looking for that same shade of green only in a smaller sized paper. Finally I found it in a note paper packet from Dollar Tree. Of course I bought it. These sheets only underline about 5 words at a time instead of the whole sentence but it means less she needs to look at at a time. These have been working wonderfully! It does mean that I have a ton of smallish green papers floating around from time to time, they stick out of every single one of her books at every place she stops each day, and there's a few randomly in her desk and mine. 

She now reads some books completely through without the use of those green pieces of paper. Some days she goes the entire day without using one of them to underline what she's trying to read. They're always there if she needs them though. We haven't let her know yet that she's been doing it without them for about a month now. There's no need to say anything until she realizes it for herself as it might cause her to freak out and stop reading again. She even takes her turn at least twice a week reading two books at night to Peanut before bed (she's never asked for one of her green papers while she's doing this). 

We've changed the Language Arts lessons slowly over the last couple of weeks to where she's now doing two pages/lessons a day in her ABeka book and she's also taking a spelling test but only of 5-6 of her spelling words each Friday. So far she's doing wonderfully at this pace and she's beginning to catch back up to where she "should" be in her book at this point of the year. Really, I wasn't worried about it and neither was Daddy ... but, she was.

Another thing we've done throughout the year is put her Language Arts lessons right after morning binders. A lot of folks say that Math needs to come first in the morning while the brain is most awake, in YCJ's case if we put her Math first we'd be done in moments and spend the entire rest of the day with a frustrated young lady who refused to do the "hardest subject in the world ever!" (Direct quote from her there.)

Also, it helps her that during Math we allow her to listen to her music. She hums and sings all day long and by the time she gets to her Math lessons it's close to lunch time, Peanut is finished with all of her lessons except those that she does on the computer, and ECJ is getting easily distracted and thus distracting YCJ. She pops on those headphones, turns on the radio, blocks us all out and does her Math in record time. The Math problems she may talk out loud about may go to the rhythm of whatever song she's listening to, but as long as it's working for her I don't mind at all.

These are the main things that work for YCJ during lesson time. If you add in all the music she listens to and works at playing on her recorder, all the crafting projects that she likes to work on, and all the random note writing and off the cuff multiplication she comes up with I figure this girl is doing just fine. 

For those of you out there worrying that you're student will "never" learn to read, that they're "just not getting it", or "I must not be teaching it right". Cut them, and yourself, some slack. They'll "get it" in their own time, at their own pace, and when they are ready. You could be the best teacher in the whole wide world and if your child isn't ready then they're not going to learn it. If they're struggling it's OK to slow the pace down, it's OK to ease up on them, it's OK to read the questions to them instead of trying to make them read it themselves.

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  1. Again, I am glad you're highlighting what works for each child this month! One of my nephews and one niece are dyslexic and they are working to find things that work for them. We are in the do math early camp usually but the kids choose what order they do things so it's what works for them. I have one who usually chooses something else to do first.

    1. YCJ's dyslexia was one of our biggest "struggles" with our homeschooling, and in her entire "school" career, until just recently. We knew that she could read and yet she had to "discover" it for herself. We know that unless there are a lot of words on the page at the moment she doesn't need those green slips any longer, but she needs to discover that fact for herself. I had to learn, as someone who taught themselves to read at a very early age, that I had to back off and take it at her pace in this. Sometimes that's hard for us parents to do, Sometimes we simply don't "get" the problem ourselves and get frustrated because they're not "getting" something that seems so simple to us. I'm really glad I chose to highlight each of the children individually this month as well It's given me such insight into how far they've each come this school year and, in thinking back, how far they've come since we begun homeschooling. It's a perk that I get to see just how far I've come on this journey, and how much more I understand my children, now as well.

  2. How interesting...the colored pieces of paper. So it was just that particular color that worked, huh? Because you had already tried it with white paper. I wonder if it would work with any other calming color, like light blue. I remember someone telling me once that schools like to paint their walls light green because it's a calming color. I can understand the busy bookmarks not working, maybe being distracting. Whatever works, right?
    I have a daughter with learning challenges. She learned to read at age 9 and now loves to read! The time4learning program that we use for her curriculum has been so beneficial for her. For years I tried so many different things, but this is what finally worked for us. She's actually enjoying learning, especially Language Arts. I love to hear her giggling as she does her lessons online.
    I'm always interested on what works for other families with their kids and trying things with my daughter. Thank you for this post!

    1. Yeah it was that particular color. I've heard of blue and violet working for other kids. We tried time4learning last year but she didn't like it. Now we're working with reading eggs and she's actually asking to do it even on the weekends and picking up books on her own to read. I agree with you whatever works! I am always interested in what others are doing as well.

      Thanks for commenting :-) I love feedback