Monday, April 1, 2013

Sometimes Wonder

I don't know if it is just my personality, or perhaps it is just a hazard of homeschooling - but it seems like I question myself a LOT about what we are doing.   And sometimes I feel sorry for Delta, otherwise known as "Guinea Pig"....  because he of course is the main person to try out everything....

I love Charlotte Mason homeschooling.  I admit that I like the ideal, and our homeschool doesn't often look like the idea.   But I'm starting to wonder a little on a couple of things.....

Delta is struggling with a few things.  I strongly suspect he has dyslexia, but am finding roadblocks everywhere to getting him tested, and even bigger roadblocks for finding things to help.  So, of course, I am doing what research I can on my own.  And of course, there is conflicting information out there, which doesn't help.

So I question my methods - because that is what I do....   I taught him to read with phonics - moving then into readers - the Dick and Jane readers, the Treadwell readers - then into just doing various readings....  last with us buddy reading Harry Potter together.... and this last year I have just done some letting-alone while he did his work with audiobooks.   And really, it seemed like he got to so-far, and then just stalled.  He isn't reading well enough to do his school work if there isn't an audiobook.  So here is what I wonder.  Would he be reading better if we had done true CM style reading lessons (very basic phonics, word families, and then learning whole words that MEAN something...?)  Or would that have made things worse.  Or maybe that is close to what happened anyway.  (He certainly has forgotten the phonics he learned....)    OR, maybe I should have done a more complete phonics program... which is what tends to be recommended for dyslexics....

Which brings me to the other things.  CM doesn't have spelling until about Year 4 - when the child is about 9 or 10.  Well, I guess you are supposed to be kind of doing spelling through the word-building - and also through the child doing copywork by learning to write the copywork 1 word at a time instead of 1 letter at a time.  I tried to get Delta doing copywork 1 word at a time - but that seemed beyond me.  Was that because we did the reading a non-CM way?  or do the CM methods just not work for a child with dyslexic tendancies?   I had to adjust - we have added in All About Spelling Level 1 to our work, and I think it is helping Delta.  Echo is also doing AAS.  But I wonder - should we have been doing this all along?  I also wonder if it will help his spelling when he is actually trying to write.... some programs seem to get good results while the child is doing the program, but then they constantly misspell words they should be able to spell while writing.

About a year ago - Delta asked me to teach him to write.  I showed him that copywork is supposed to be helping with that, and that he would learn to write his narrations down when he was older - but I don't think that was what he wanted, exactly.  I have dispared at knowing how to help....  and on the CM forums the information I am told is to keep working at Oral narrations, and then eventually move to doing 1 narration a week.  But I have felt that, for Delta at least, he would need something more.... something to teach him HOW.   I have recently found "Writing with Ease" which I hope to be the key for us....  It will teach him how to move from Oral narrations to Written in a more step-by-step process.  Yes, the narrations used in Writing with Ease are more like oral answers to questions (and I won't call them narrations) - but I think it will help.  But kids doing the "Well Trained Mind" classical style of education start this around grade 1 or 2....

And - CM doesn't do grammar until about Year 4 or so either.... again when the child is about 9 or 10.  My kids know nothing about grammar because I haven't taught them any.  And I worry - is this going to end up being a problem too?  It has seemed like everything that CM says to wait until they are older, has ended up being a major problem with us having to start from scratch instead of it being more natural.   Is this because of Delta's blend of strengths and weaknesses, or is it a flaw in the method?

I know that often looking back like this isn't helpful.... except I have 3 more children that I have to concern myself with....  If this is a flaw in the method - then I don't want to repeat it and have the same problems.   It leaves me to wonder if I am doing the right things or not....

Yet, I have to say that I still love the CM method.  Delta can discuss things like Richard the Lion Heart, the Crusades, and various English kings.  He knows a lot about a lot of things.  He is enjoying books he can't read on his own - like Pilgrim's Progress, Tales from Shakespeare, and Robin Hood.  He enjoys learning about great Art and Music.

And I am faced with trying to figure out how to help him out (with apparently no help for me), with our limited budget.   I am looking at "Dancing Bears" for reading..... It is a phonics program that is simple for a parent, takes 10 minutes a day, and uses a "cursor" to help promote proper eye tracking and to stop guessing.  And, more important, I have heard good things about it from someone on one of my forums that has been using it.  They also have a "fast track" version for the older child.   I just wish I knew if it would help.


  1. It's hard, isn't it? Being the one in charge of the learning. Honestly, I think because each child is an individual we have to adapt ANY learning method to them in some way. Do I think it's inherently going to cause problems that a child does not encounter grammar or spelling formally until year 4? No. I think when we compare them to children using different methods we become insecure because their focus may have been on spelling and grammar for years while they have had little to no experience with history, art, music, or maybe literature. We can't compare apples and pickles without seeing differences, just like we can't compare learning methods without obvious differences that are accentuated by the individual child's person.

    Does that make it easy to hang in there with a method? Nope. And not every aspect of a method will be the best for every child. But it doesn't mean it's going to hurt them either. We are so short-sighted, we want to see obvious results and changes NOW, or at least in a week or a month. That's one reason I blog, so I can go back a year or two and see the changes better. Sure, it seems like it is taking one of my children forever to move fully into the fluent reading stage and he's 8.5, but when I can see an unbiased picture of his reading ability a year or two or three ago by reading past blog posts I see that he really has made progress. If I look back a month the progress may be so subtle I can't see it yet.


    1. Thanks Tristan, I am feeling better already today. I just get moments of frustration trying to help, and doubts about if I'm doing the best choices creep in.