Real life homeschool huh? Is this where we all break down and cry for the hard days, or where we all do the happy dance because one of our children FINALLY learned to read or do long division, or (insert your own struggle here)???
I think what real life homeschool means is being real. Sharing the highs and the lows. Blogging can sometimes seem to be all rainbows and happy thoughts - thinking of the character from the Lego Movie yet?
Today I would like to share a story from our past. One of those struggles that God has turned into a victory. It is the story of a struggling reader.
In our own family, we had a struggling reader. Her name is Arlene. While I thought Arlene was doing just fine in her travel along the road to reading, she though otherwise. One day while we were at the library, I overheard Arlene talking to one of her favorite librarians, “Miss Toni.” Toni was talking about some new books they had just received that she thought Arlene would enjoy and Arlene replied “but I can’t read.” Now, that was not exactly true, but in her mind, Arlene thought that because reading didn’t come easily, she wasn’t any good at it. Thus the word “can’t.” Like all librarians worth their salt, Toni proceeded to encourage Arlene that she could read. Toni remembered some of the books Arlene had checked out in the previous weeks, read, and then told Toni about on our last visit, and she reminded Arlene about them. Arlene was about 9 at the time.
A little warning light went off in my head. “Why does Arlene think she can’t read? What have I done wrong?” I decided that the best option was to put a pause on our reading for school, pray, and ask God to intervene. I am quite happy to report that He did- in a big way!
We had used Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for phonics. While it had worked extremely well with Arlene’s older sister, it had obviously not worked as well for Arlene. There is nothing wrong with the book, and given the chance I would use it with her again, but with more thought, and probably with some phonics games thrown in as well. Arlene has always been what I term a “gross-motor-skills-junkie.” Let me explain. Arlene learned how to walk the week she turned one. Then about a week later she was running. With each gross motor skill she had tackled, she learned it and learned quickly. She gets all of this coordination from her Daddy, not from me! The second time I ever took the girls roller skating, Arlene (only a 5-year-old at the time) let go of the wall and started skating little circles in the middle of the rink. (You know, the middle where no one ever goes until it’s time for the limbo? That was her territory.)
So, when it came to moving, she had it down pat, but fine-motor skills were not her thing. That was the area where her older sister excelled. I believe this difference in their giftings stood out in Arlene’s mind in a way that was not beneficial. So even though I had not seen any warning signs for dyslexia or processing disorders, I started to doubt how well Arlene was reading simply because she didn’t think it was going well.
Arlene was feeling rather down, and frustrated. I wasn’t doing much better myself.
In steps God.
In steps God.
Because the girls had been bugging me to take them back to the library, I loaded them into the mini-van and away we went. I told them we weren’t getting any books for school, but that they could pick out a few books just for fun. They discovered the area in the adult section where all the Garfield books are kept. (741.5 D in case you’re interested!)
Now to the fun part. The girls knew that Garfield is funny because of the punch line. Maybe they didn’t understand the term, but they knew it was the last box in the comic strip that made you laugh. So my little girls, ages 11 and 9, spent as much time as possible in their bedroom reading Garfield books. There are over 100 titles now, but I think they started with three books. After a while, Arlene’s older sister Emily got tired of reading them all out loud, or maybe she just got tired of sharing . . . either way, Arlene was left on her own with the Garfield books, and a desire to know why each strip was funny.
In steps self-motivation. (You know that input from God that assures us we can do it? That is what self-motivation really is.) Arlene put that same determination she used when learning how to roller-skate years earlier into learning how to read the punch line. She wanted to be able to laugh (they are called funnies)! As Arlene did her own struggling with Garfield, an amazing thing happened, she gained confidence and fluency in her reading. Facing the struggle and working through it turned it from a mountain into a molehill. Then she couldn’t wait to read the comic strips to me. What a change, from struggle, drudgery, and sometimes heartache, to joy!
See you tomorrow for another peek at Real Life Homeschool @ Home Sweet Life!
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