Tag Archive: reading


Perhaps you know some of this, perhaps not. If you want to know more history in the journey to educate Pynni, please see these posts (These may or may not be all of them, I got tired of looking. Apparently I’m not very consistent with my categories)(Sorry bout that):

Pynni has always been a happy child: easy going, curious, creative, and compassionate. She is delightfully silly and prides herself on being a little weird. She’s really not too weird, but don’t tell her that.

She has this ability to be friends with absolutely anyone at all times. She seems infinitely capable of seeing the good in everyone and is most happy with all her friends are all together. I envy her this. I, as a general rule, am not a people person. “Friend” is not a common term and the fact that Facebook uses it to describe everyone you have contact with really bugs me. I have lots of acquaintances and very few friends. I like it that way, thanks. But I love the fact that Pynni likes and loves so broadly and freely. Go her!

But all that light dims when it’s time to read or write. If you’ve read any of the above linked posts, you will have some inkling of what we go through with reading and writing. It was good, actually, to go back and see some of the positives that I highlighted about her education in reading and writing because it is so frustrating and so daunting and so confusing to figure out what is the right thing to do; what is the right direction to take; what is the right or wrong reaction to have or thing to say. It is so easy to get bogged down in the negatives that it can be hard to remember any positives.

And through it all I question whether I’m up to this. Whether I can help her at all. Whether I’m hurting her more than I’m helping her.

For so long, I blamed the public school. I blamed them, and not entirely incorrectly, for not placing a permanent sub in Pynni’s Kinder class after her teacher went on maternity leave. That is absolutely a failing of the school administration’s. But was it the cause of Pynni’s difficulties in learning to read and spell? I know it had a huge impact on her self esteem, but now?

Now I wonder about all the rest of it. I wonder if the inconsistent teacher situation was the problem at all. I wonder if it was actually a problem with Pynni all along. I’ve posited that some of her issue may be sensory and I still believe that. We’ve done nearly two years of language therapy with a Speech Language Pathologist who diagnosed Pynni with a “severe written language disorder” and the strides she made were huge, but we hit a wall, and it seemed as if Pynni wasn’t advancing anymore. I felt like we were wasting money and we stopped the therapy, with SLP’s consent. The idea being that we’d been given all the tools. We knew what to work on. We would keep doing that and come back in the fall for her yearly assessment and see where she stands. Improvement? We can keep on, keepin’ on. Digression? We start therapy again.

Then one of my Homeschool Friends, told me about the NCSU (North Carolina State University) Psychoeducational Clinic and the awesome work they do there to assess and help people who need it. They test for lots of things: Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. AND THEY ARE RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE. That’s key because we spent a friggin’ mint having Chi tested and we’d already spent so much having Pynni tested and treated. (I know I make this sound like it’s all about money, and really it isn’t, but we don’t have one of those Money Trees and so it is definitely a consideration and a limitation.) Hubs and I discussed it and decided that it was something we really needed to do.

And so we did.

After all was said and done: all the interviews given, all the questionnaires filled out, all the tests taken, and all of the assessments completed, we were left with a hefty file folder of information that was detailed to us in a final meeting with the team we worked with at NCSU. They made sure we understood everything they did, everything they learned, everything they determined, and everything they think we can do to help Pynni.

After two months from beginning to end, we had answers and we had some directions to take and we know what Pynni struggles with EXACTLY and how best to help her.

She was diagnosed with Specific Learning Disability (DSM v 315.00 and 315.2): with impairment in reading and in written expression.

Her biggest hurdles in reading are word accuracy and fluency which, in turn, affects her reading comprehension. Basically, at some point in learning to read, most people stop having to sound out familiar words and letter patterns every time they come across them because their brain has memorized, in essence, the shape of the word. This opens up working memory to contain the meaning of the words you’ve read and compile them into a broader comprehension. Pynni does not do this. She has to sound out a word many more times than should be necessary to imprint those, should be familiar, words on her brain and so her working memory is always full of letter sounds as she pieces words together. By the time she finishes a sentence, she can’t remember the meaning of the words she just read. This level of reading inaccuracy directly affects her fluency. So we have to work with a level of repetition that is bound to drive us both to frustration, but she won’t learn to read better or faster any other way.

With writing, her biggest hurdle is spelling. There is no explanation that I can see for it except that she needs the same level of repetition in her spelling as she does in her reading to make the common words familiar and to make the common letter patterns familiar. Unlike her older brother and I, she does not internalize all the rules for spelling in the English language and use them to great effect throughout her spelling career. She learns the rules and applies them appropriately, then immediately discards them after learning other rules. She doesn’t consult any of the rules she’s learned many days past learning them.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s what the doctor ordered. Literally.

I was given a great deal of information on how to help her and I’ve been working on putting the plan together for the rest of this school year, which starts back up in a week and a half.

The team at NCSU also suggested I take Pynni to a specialist for her eyes. This wasn’t an official diagnoses because it would be outside the realm of their expertise, but they experienced for themselves her difficulty with bright, fluorescent lights, white paper and the speed with which she fatigues. So we’ll be seeing a behavioral ophthalmologist. This is an eye specialist that focuses on uncommon eye issues, mainly for people with brain injuries, but I think they might be able to point us in the right direction with Pynni.

I’ll go further into what exactly I’ve got in the works to help Pyn with the reading and the spelling another time, after I’ve gotten a better handle on it.

I never thought, never for one second, that I would be dealing with a kid who struggles and hates to read. I never thought that my most difficult student would be my best behaved child.

I’m scared, to be honest. I’ve got to get this right. I can’t let that self doubt in too far or it will eat me alive. And I’ve got to do this work. I’ve got to help my sweet girl navigate this world of words that seems to be so daunting to her.

We’ll get it figured out. We will win.

 

Last time I was here, I wrote my school year 2014-2015 roundup. Some things have changed since then, and although it’s the end of the year (and we’ve officially started our next school year), I wanted to put my thoughts on some changes I’ve made, and changes to come, here for any who are interested.

Chi is in what would otherwise be his 7th grade year. He completed the writing curriculum Writing with Ease by Peace Hill Press (which I cannot praise enough for the changes it has wrought in my so-reluctant-to-write-Aspie-that-he-had-less-writing-in-his-504-plan) early in the year and, of course, we moved on to the next phase of that series: Writing with Skill. We worked and worked through it and his writing became more and more reluctant. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere no matter how much we did and Chi increasingly hated the lessons. So much so that he began having meltdowns.

Meltdowns are uncommon for him these days, and that made me realize this curriculum was no longer for us. And so began the months’ long search to find a writing curriculum that both of us liked.

The problem with most of the curricula I liked was that they were part of broader language arts programs and entirely too comprehensive, and thus more expensive, as a result. Also, integrated writing curricula tend to be extensions of other subjects: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension and therefore more difficult and often confusing to use outside the whole.

I very much like the curricula we use for those other language arts subjects and don’t need more overlapping in those areas. So the search continued until I stumbled upon Brave Writer by Julia Bogart.

Brave Writer is a more comprehensive writing curriculum than Writing with Skill but only because it includes a nice reading comprehension component that pairs nicely with what we already do in that area. It also expands the concepts I was introduced to through Writing with Ease: daily copywork and dictation exercises as a bridge between reading and writing.

Originally, I wanted to buy the language arts bundle but  Chi’s level wasn’t yet released. So, after waiting for a couple of months and continuing my search elsewhere, I decided to buy the available components: The Writer’s Jungle.

I really like it. It’s not a scripted curriculum like we’re used to using, but more of a class for me to learn why these concepts, why they work, and how to implement them in my homeschool. So far it’s been great, and I liked it so much that I started using it with Pieces and Pynni.

The first thing I brought to our day was free writing. For Chi, this means writing a short story or part of one, making brainstorming lists about anything and everything that interests him (Minecraft), elaborating on the lists, or writing a journal type entry. For The Littles, that means drawing a picture (elaborateness is a personal choice) and writing about the picture in some way. There is no minimum number of words or lines or pages. There is no grammar or spelling checks. It is just a means to get them writing in a completely stress-free, non-judgmental environment. It has been completely freeing for them and Pynni has really taken to the task and run with it.

The grammar and spelling and sentence structure is being covered elsewhere. This isn’t about that.

The next two things are stuff we already do in First Language Lessons (our grammar curriculum), Writing with Ease, and All About Spelling: copywork and dictation. Right now, I haven’t expanded copywork and dictation outside of those subjects. Eventually, I will have expanded both within those subjects and without, but that’s another post.

Everything is trucking along now. The other components of Brave Writer were released since I began putting this post together. I’ll acquire that and integrate it this summer.

Summer is the time of year when I do a big reassessment of our goals and how to meet them. This summer has me doing a lot of research and learning, and this fall should bring some pretty big changes in how we go about our school day. Chi is in his 8th grade year and is still behind in math, but not by too much, so we need to push that along a little faster. It’s also time to start having him write some formal research papers. It will be his first. I’m not looking forward to it, but hopefully my work this summer will help me feel more up to the challenge of getting this reluctant writer of mine to write something not about Minecraft (although I’m thinking a history of Minecraft might be a good jumping off point).  Pynni is in her 5th grade year and is way, way behind. In fact, she tests at barely a third grade level. I have more information on that, but it won’t be delved into here. Suffice it to say that most of my work this summer will be integrating a bunch of resources into our school day to help her cope and advance. Pieces is starting his 3rd grade year and he is beyond that already according to his end of year test. He blows me away with how quickly he assimilates knowledge.

Whoo. It’s a crazy ride. I don’t always feel equal to the challenge, but giving up isn’t an option. So onward!

 

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Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)

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This post requires backstory.
Backstory: A few days ago, Pynni and I were out running errands just the two of us. Somehow the conversation got around to Harry Potter, as all things do, and I mentioned that Hermione is my favorite character. Pynni said that Harry was her favorite, and I agreed that Harry is, indeed, a great character and worthy of some admiration. But, I said, “But, without Hermione, Voldemort might have won. Hermione did all the research, knew all the spells, gave Harry all the information he needed to solve the problem of the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort. Without Hermione, nothing gets done. Hermione is AWESOME!” To which Pynni replied, “Yeah, but Harry is my favorite.”

Today.

We went to the library. We don’t do this often enough, but I like books and I usually buy them so there are lots around the house for any and all reading/maturity levels. Anyway, today we went to the library and I told the kids before we went in that we had a time limit due to upcoming lunch and after lunch appointments, and that they were going to need to pick out one or two books to check out. We ended up checking out 11 books between the two littles and spent almost an hour doing it. (no worries, we made all our afternoon obligations, including lunch.)

As we were hauling our load of books out to the car, Pynni gasped. “I’m Hermione!” I looked at her in question. “I LOVE the library! I LOVE books! I’m JUST LIKE Hermione!”

I laughed and laughed. Not in amusement, but in joy. She loves books! She’s identifying with this great female character that maybe she didn’t feel too parallel with until now.

I’ll take it.

Wynni Penny Pie (or on this blog Pynni)

This post has been much harder to write than I thought it was going to be. For some reason, talking about Chi and any struggles we’ve had felt natural. I felt like talking about it helped me and may, in turn, help someone else. I’m struggling to view Pynni in this light.

For some reason, learning disorders feel so much more personal. It feels like it can change how people view you, how they treat you, how you view yourself.

Pynni made a comment to me the other day that hurt me to the core. She was skipping away from her school day and whirled around and smiled broadly at me and said, “I’m getting smarter and smarter!”

I said, “Babe, you’ve always been smart. You are learning more and more things.”

I said, “Reading has been hard for you, but that doesn’t make you not smart.”

She says, “Really?”

Oof. I thought I’d been pretty clear on how smart I thought she was, but SHE doesn’t view herself like that. I don’t want ANYONE to think she is any less smart than their over-achieving early readers because my sweet Wynni struggles in that area.

So there it is. Maybe, I’m the one with the issues. Reading was always very easy for me. I was one of those over-achieving early readers. I was like my oldest: big vocabulary, advanced reading level. Maybe, I’ve unknowingly judged people who didn’t read well and found them less smart than I. That’s changing right now.

Pynni was diagnosed with “Severe written language disorder” by the Speech Language Pathologist that Pieces sees for his speech therapy (I’ll call her SLP here). SWLD is characterized by difficulty sounding out phonemic words, letter reversals, omission and addition of phonemes, as well as, global errors, such as, reading words that are similar yet different (i.e. goes/gets, tale/tall, when/what).  SLP also noted that Pynni also demonstrated difficulty in the area of phonemic awareness in her attempts to sound out phonemic words. Such tasks often took greater than 10 seconds at which point the word was provided to her. She lacked confidence when decoding phonemic words and tended to guess a word if she did not recognize it, even after an attempt to decode it. Her fluency rate is negatively affecting her comprehension. She shows mild deficit in the area of phonemic awareness skills for encoding.

SLP noted that when Pynni was provided the word, she applied that knowledge to every recurrence of the word in the rest of the reading. Which is, apparently, not something many kids do when they are struggling with written language like she is.

There may be other components to this, and I’m prepared to find that there are other issues at play. Right now, though, this therapy is going to start addressing a large chunk of the issues Pynni has exhibited while reading.

We’ve only had two therapy sessions and a little bit of work to do at home, but I can see little bits of that natural self-confidence she has peaking out while she goes about her school work. There’s a lot of work do, yet, but little bits at a time seems to be what she needs.

 

All About Reading Success! AAR has help Pynni tremendously.

All About Reading Success! AAR has help Pynni tremendously.

I’ve documented the struggles I’ve had with Pynni in both math and mainly reading here on my blog, and those struggles have put her even further behind than she should be as she starts her 3rd grade year. On a much more positive note, she is flourishing and reading better and better and with more and more confidence. I can see, now that Pieces is reading, where the confidence deficit has really hurt her because she doesn’t try and read every word she comes across. Pieces tries to read every word he sees. He isn’t more advanced in his reading level, yet but, he is way more adventurous and less worried about getting a word wrong. Still, without Pieces as a gauge, she is doing much, much better. I’m so proud of her extra hard work and perseverance.

With that said, I still worry about her. When she writes, she still gets letters mixed up and backward. When she reads, it’s slow and painful. She often complains of her eyes hurting and headaches and being sick to her stomach. The complaining can seem, at times, to be a ploy to get to stop reading. It’s not a ploy and fall into, but I have been trying to teach her to take small breaks to give her eyes a rest. It doesn’t seem to help, but I think it makes her feel better that I’m listening to her problems and taking them seriously.

She is so smiley and happy and wonderful and then she has to read or write and she becomes something else. Not my Pie. She gets frustrated easily and will completely lose her shit during class. So I’ve been addressing that and trying my hardest not to get frustrated with her. I’m trying to teach her ways to help deal with debilitating frustration. I’ve given her leave to take mental health breaks. If she gets frustrated, or preferably, feels herself getting frustrated, then she can get up from the table and get a drink, take deep breaths, move on to something else for a bit, go upstairs to the quiet of her room and cry if she needs to. Of course, part of learning to deal with frustration is also to learn when the breaks need to be over and what sorts of things are acceptable during school to alleviate frustration. Hint: Getting online to play a game or chat with your friends are not acceptable.

But all of this seems to be dealing with symptoms only. It’s reactionary and I like to be proactive so I’ve done some reading; research, if you will. I’m going to have her assessed for dyslexia or some other reading/writing delay (dysgraphia?). I HOPE that an answer will be found here. I don’t WANT her to be dyslexic, but I do want strategies to deal with her difficulties. I DO want to help make her learning experience less frustrating. She may not ever LOVE reading, and as an avid reader I really struggle with that, but I would love to make school less odious for her.

Then this happened:

My kids read independently for a set period of time every day. Chi will read for pleasure outside of this set time period, but the two littles haven’t found that love for reading, yet. I decided to take them to the library. I’m not sure why it’s always the last thing I think of when talking and thinking about reading, but there you are. So, I took them to the library. Chi has a ton of books at home that he’s working through (have I mentioned I’m an avid reader?) and rarely wants to go to the library. Pieces and Pynni LOVE the library. I told them to get 7 books in their reading level. They ended up get 8 or 9 a piece and they were SOOPER excited to get home and start reading.

I would find both Pieces and Pynni reading outside the allotted time for the next week or so. It made me smile. Pynni told me she didn’t like reading unless it was a book she picked out. This was after asking the week before if she could just skip learning to read altogether. So progress, I think.

Anyway, I’m still having her tested. The issues she has are too consistent and too pervasive to ignore. I’ll keep you posted.

All About Reading Success!

All About Reading Success!

Sometimes, I feel that I jump around too much. Change my mind too much about what the right curriculum is for, well, Pynni mostly. Then, I started using Workboxes to organize our school day and help my kids be a little more independent in their learning and eventually take ownership of their learning. The workboxes work great because you can learn new things and review previous things all in one school day. They are also great because I don’t have to spend all day teaching each child individually, and instead, we can all have school simultaneously.

But filling those boxes takes some creativity, and I’ve been perfecting the right combination of topics all year. I’m feeling pretty confident with where we are at this current moment.

Firstly, I’ve decided to stick with All About Learning Press’s All About Reading. It has really helped Pynni work to build her confidence and overcome her block where reading is concerned. Pieces is really flying with it, also. I think those two things are worth the expense. AAR teaches the rules to reading so there is little memorization of sight words. Be still my heart.

So I’m using the Phonics stuff as a supplement until the kids finish it. I will continue to use Explode the Code because the curriculum is all workbook pages and the kids enjoy working on them. That along with AAR gives us plenty of  activities to fill in any empty spots in our workboxes. For Chi I use Critical Thinking Co’s, Reading Detective. It teaches how to read critically while teaching the various parts of stories both fiction and non-fiction. I also use Guiness Book of World Records Reading for reading comprehension with Chi. He reads a lot, but I like to keep an eye on it to make sure he is still progressing.

As for math, I switched Chi to and started Pieces on Math-U-See. We are all really liking it. I switched Pynni from Life of Fred to Singapore Math this year. It was okay. Pynni liked it a lot, but it was a lot of extra work for me and I do a lot of prep for school as it is. I felt that it wasn’t helping me teach her in a manner she was grasping. She would do the work, but I don’t think she was understanding why she was doing things the way the curriculum asked.

When we reached the end of the book it was a no brainer to switch. So I ordered her the correct level of Math-U-See instead of the next level of Singapore Math. I think it will be less stress for me and more straight forward for her. We start that this week.

I’ve been supplementing math with apps on the iPad. I use Splash Math by Study Pad for the various grade levels to great effect. It is a really great resource for practicing concepts in a non-traditional manner. I’ve also been using Study Pad’s Time app and Splash Money app to reinforce counting money and telling time with the two Littles. I’ve also incorporated Critical Thinking Co’s Mathematical Reasoning at the appropriate knowledge levels for each kid. It is another supplement that can be a stand alone curriculum. I’m all about the reinforcement.

I’m still using All About Learning Press’s All About Spelling for spelling. Pieces recently started that because I think it helps with being a better reader. I love this curriculum because it teaches spelling in a way that explains the rules and exceptions in a logical, progressive manner.

I use Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease for both Chi and Pynni. Pieces will start next school year. It teaches writing in a non-threatening way. I can not express enough how amazing this curriculum has been for Chi. I know there are many other factors at work here with the ease in his being and manner these days, but I can hold this particular curriculum up as a huge factor in that. Chi was almost completely against any form of writing. He hated it. He just flat wouldn’t do it, and Writing with Ease completely set all the stuff I knew about learning to write on its ear. Chi will write now, without any complaining. It’s still not his favorite, but he will do what is required when asked. It makes me so happy!

For grammar I use First Language Lessons. All three of the kids use the curriculum. I really like it. It’s very scripted, but it teaches in little bits that grow and repeat until the child gets it. All three of my kids are really thriving grammatically speaking.

For vocabulary, I use WordlyWise. I’ve tried doing other things for vocal, but this seems to be the best. It’s a little advanced for Pynni’s reading level so I haven’t started using it for her. Chi hates it, so we do it in small bites and I’ve added Spellingcity.com as a supplement to help reinforce the words he’s learning and to break up the amount of workbook work he has to do day after day.

I have all of the kids doing some logic type stuff; problem solving and the like. They all do Critical Thinking Co’s Building Thinking Skillsword ladders, and logic links.

For history, I use Susan Wise Bauer’s A Story of the World, and Joy Hakim’s A History of US  (world and US history respectively). Iuse Highlights Top Secret Adventures and Which Way USA for geography and social studies. I use SuperCharged Science for science along with Usborne Books about science.

For piano I use Piano Adventures by Nancy and Randall Faber both primer level and level 1. For foreign language I use Rosetta Stone: Spanish. For typing, I use Type to Learn 4. For handwriting, I use Handwriting Without Tears which teaches print and cursive. For computer science, I use Scratch by MIT and Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0.

That’s pretty much it.

note: I do not work for any of the above mentioned companies and no one from any of the above mentioned companies as given me anything for mentioning them. Everything is my own opinion based upon experience with curricula I have purchased with my own money after my own research.

Oh, LOOK! A BOOK!

I read. Most people who know me know this fundamental fact. My favorite kinds of books are pretty frivolous. I like high fantasy. I like romances. I like paranormal just about anything so long as it’s well written. I like novels of the just plain ‘ole variety. I really prefer books that are tomes of monstrousness with epic prose and lots of detail. I like books written with amazing collections of words. I like to read books that I consume and wish I could have written that.

I have a few most favoritest authors. Topping my top 5 is Joshilyn Jackson. She doesn’t write romances or fantasy. Her books are not long, but they are thick with amazing imagery and layered with meaning and general awesomeness. Well, a good friend of hers wrote a book and I’m all over this thing.

See, Joshilyn Jackson isn’t only good with words. She is good at reading them for her audio books and she had performed the reading of her friend, Lydia Netzer’s, Shine Shine Shine. I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate. Joshilyn Jackson could read the phone book and it would be the most amazing thing you’d ever put in your ears. That is no lie.

So. Shine Shine Shine. It’s about love and family, what it means to be human, and about murder and robots. You should read it. In an interview Ms. Netzer was asked who she imagines reading this book. Her response was:

“[…]I imagine a mom reading this book in a stolen hour while she’s waiting for the kids at karate class. Maybe she’s sitting in her car with the book in her lap, feeling like crap because she forgot to pack a healthy snack for dance camp and had to buy a Lunchable instead, or because the dog barfed on the baseball pants and possible she’s the only one that can see the outline of the barf stain but she knows it’s there.

At some point in reading SHINE SHINE SHINE I hope she closes the book for a minute and says to herself, You know what, forget this elusive “Perfect Mom” measuring stick, and forget this comparing myself to everyone else. I’m a kick-ass mom, I own this job, and my kids are awesome.

I imagine a man reading this book on some high-tech device, who could get some satisfaction and encouragement from the fact that other people see human relationships as engineering problems, and don’t cry when people die, and count simple declarative sentences as poetry, and memorize what to say to their children.
I’d like that man to know that a scripted response counts as heartfelt, and that you can be a great dad and husband and still never really know what to say, or how to say it. I don’t know if this book will ever find that guy, but maybe it’ll find someone who knows him.” (you can find the interview here.)

Pretty powerful, I say. If you’d like to know more about the author go to Lydia’s blog. She wrote an insanely good post about marriage that I think everyone should check out. Now. Don’t you wanna read her book?