February 17, 2011

Guest Post on Struggling Learners


10 DAYS OF STRUGGLING LEARNERS

Welcome to Stephanie Charlot as she talks about reading struggles with her son, Alexander.


When he was seven, he and I made a joint decision to try a reading curriculum.  He wanted to learn to read on his own.   I was more concerned with his flagging confidence, which was starting to have a spill-over effect into other areas of his life. I hoped that making some good progress would give him a psychological boost.  Based on positive reviews from other homeschoolers, I tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Alexander mastered the exercises well as we went through the book, but he  often had trouble with the reading selections at the end of each chapter.  Unfortunately, this gave us little clue as to where his problem lay.  Nevertheless, 100 Easy Lessons did result in a small but significant uptick in his reading ability.  It was one step along the way, but didn't do much for his confidence.  He began to saying he was stupid, which broke my heart.
We continued to read together daily for practice.  That "ah-ha" moment always seemed just around the corner, but it never came.  Alexander went two steps forward, one and a half steps back for a long time.  There was progress, but it was S-L-O-W.  By the time he was approaching his 8th birthday, he was thoroughly discouraged.   To make matters worse, he was finding himself increasingly in circumstances where people assumed he could read.  Most of his friends could now read, many of them quite well.  His self-esteem continued it's downward slide.  The “I’m stupid” comments came with increasing frequency.  It was clear that my belief in him and encouragement was not going to be enough -- he needed to have some success with reading, and fast.
I did a serious search for a program that might help accelerate his progress.  The stakes felt high;  I felt that another failed effort could be more damaging than not makeing the effort at all.  I scoured the Rainbow Resource catalog.  I Googled into the wee hours.  I consulted my mother, a 5th grade teacher.  What I landed on was Reading Reflex by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness.  The purpose of this post is not to review or recommend a curriculum (reviewing Reading Reflex would be a whole post in itself), but for Alexander, it was a success.  I think he felt the stakes were high as well, because the program required a lot of effort from him, which he gave without much complaint.  It also required a very structred approach on my part.  Now, I'm not big on curriculum that insists you do things *exactly* as they say.  (If I were that compliant, I probably wouldn't be homeschooling!)   But after all our struggles, I decided not to mess around.   Our diligence paid off and he made great strides. 

Stephanie Charlot has been homeschooling since 2005. She lives with her husband and three children in Michigan.

Join Stephanie tomorrow as she completes her story about her son's reading struggles.

In the meantime check out these other awesome ladies' 10 Day posts:

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