Thursday, February 20, 2014

What's Working for ECJ

It was a bit harder than I expected to sit down and actually write this one. ECJ can get me very frustrated and sometimes it's hard to see what's actually working for him and what's not. A lot of what works for him actually drives me a little batty. And that's not his fault, I constantly have to remind myself that he is NOT a quiet child. Not meaning that he's always making noise (although it sometimes seems that way) but that he's not quiet in his movements. I can be teaching the girls or him and he's constantly moving, and for a person like me who can sit still for hours upon hours it can be a bit distracting to say the least.

ECJ was diagnosed with ADHD over seven years ago. Originally we, like many others, went down the medication path. Eventually we stopped and instead of giving him chemicals prescribed by a doctor we began giving him coping skills (read more on what I mean by this here ). And most days, even if his movement does drive me batty, these coping skills work for him.

I must remind everyone before I go further into what is actually working for him that ECJ is a preteen. He's a 12 year old boy who'd much rather be doing his own thing all the time than doing his chores and lessons. While the things I'm going to list work for him, they don't work 100% of the time and primarily due to his age (I won't be sexist and put gender though I do think that's part of it). 

Being outside works for ECJ because he has a lot of excess energy to burn all of the time. He likes taking walks and observing nature, drawing out his findings, sledding, "snow surfing" on his sled, running, swimming ... if it can be done outside he enjoys it. He can do flips, cartwheels, and all sorts of other wild contortions with his body. He's a major klutz, just like Mommy, but that never stops him from doing these things.
*He was not hurt in this video. And indeed did the new "surfing" thing about 20 more times after this.*
Working at the dining table
Reading on the couch
Working at his desk
He spends a lot of time moving around even when he's doing his lessons. Sitting, standing, kneeling, rolling, etc. That child is constantly moving, more so now than even when he was a toddler. Sometimes he does his lessons in his room, sometimes he does them at the dining table. Right now the dining table is working out better for him only because I can keep an eye on his progress throughout the day with him right where I can see him. He's had a tendency recently to skip assignments if he's off on his own while thinking I won't ever notice. Yes, in all of these photos he's sitting but those feet are moving, or he's humming, or he's bouncing his knees. I have many pictures where he's standing up on one foot working on his math lessons.

He also takes just about as many breaks every day as Peanut does. He gets up and exercises, dances, shakes his whole body, walks around, you name it and he does it. At first this was the main thing that drove me to bouncing off the walls myself. The average sixth grader does not get up as often as ECJ does during his lessons. But his grades are good and when he takes these couple minute breaks he's able to focus better. Right now those breaks are happening a little less during Language Arts and math only because he's exercising for about 30 - 45 minutes for his health work each day right now.

"Expanding pills" in different
Oozing pumpkins
Science experiments are a big thing with him right now (well, with all the campers really). So, even if the experiment isn't on any curriculum list, when we think of one we do it. Sometimes they're involved but most of the time they take only a few minutes and he's learning the process while he's doing them. For each one we do he writes a title, a supply list, his hypothesis, steps during the experiment, timing, and results. He then recopies everything neatly with drawings into his science folder that he's only allowed me to peak into twice. One of the things (yes, there are several) that he wants to be when he grows up is a scientist and he keeps telling me that until his work is finished he doesn't feel like sharing it all. That's fine with me, I see some of it while he's working on it and I know how much effort he puts into this.

He also does a lot of hands on work around the house... all of which is supervised by either Daddy or myself. He's learning to use tools both to take things apart and put things together. Skills we believe that all people need as they grow up so that when they're adults they don't need to call "a guy" to do everything for them.

He helps his sisters with some of their lessons if I'm helping the other one or otherwise engaged in something. These few minutes of helping his younger siblings often refocuses his brain for his own lessons as well. It reminds him also that even though he finds their school work easy at one point it wasn't easy for him either.

We use books, computers, and hands on activities to keep him busy and learning. Without all of these activities plus a ton of outside time he just doesn't work on his lessons well. We recently discovered that he's more advanced than we'd thought when it comes to Language Arts and Arithmetic and so we've put him on an accelerated pace in both subjects (OK so Language Arts encompasses more than just writing or reading). We're not skipping him any grades in either of these right now, simply moving through them at a more rapid pace. When he again finds them challenging we'll slow down a bit.

Keeping up with ECJ is a full time job. There is no being still and slow with him. It's always go go go. And that's OK. It just means that he's different from me, that he learns differently than his sisters (or even his parents) do, that he's an individual with individual learning needs. All of this is OK with me. Sometimes it's a challenge to keep him challenged and sometimes it's a pleasure. Sometimes he takes the lead and drags me along for the ride and sometimes I'm leading him down a new learning path. Whatever the case may be he has six more official years of schooling to do before college and I'll bet anything they won't be boring.

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