Friday, January 30, 2009
Struggles With Language Arts
A mom wrote to me about her 7 year old son, asking for suggestions for a language arts curriculum. Her son has been diagnosed with AD/HD, and like many others he is creative, distractible, and likes some subjects better than others. Since my son had extreme likes and dislikes at that age, I could have spent a fortune trying to find a curriculum that worked for every subject area. Personally, I liked the pre-packed, one-company-for-all-subjects curriculum. That would have worked for only one of my three students, and I figured out that the struggles my son had would be an issue no matter what materials we used. So I learned ways to adapt and supplement what I had already purchased. Here are the things I suggested for consideration to the mom who contacted me about language arts: I would suggest that you try and figure out what it is about your current language arts curriculum that your son dislikes or is struggling with as he does various assignments. For example, if there is a lot of writing involved and he is a reluctant writer, then it makes sense that he is resistant with a curriculum that is heavy on writing. Maybe he needs help learning a proper pencil grip so his hand doesn't hurt, or maybe he needs his vision checked because it's hard for him to visually track when he reads. Does your son have an expressive or receptive language delay? If so, speech therapy type activities could help develop his language skills so that he can communicate more effectively in all domains. Try to see through his eyes and observe him. Ask yourself questions such as "Is the amount of print on the page overwhelming?" If your son takes one look at a page and thinks "This is going to take a long time", that notion is enough to send an AD/HD child off on a tangent! It's not because the work is too difficult for them, but because they dread spending much time on subjects that are not as interesting for them. There may be ways you can modify the curriculum you have now to make it work better for your family. With the flexibility of homeschooling, you can make modifications. Consider doing a half lesson a day, or splitting the language arts time into two sessions with other subjects in between. Allow your son to answer some questions orally instead of writing them down. Yes, he needs to learn to write. But as long as he is writing some of the time, it is acceptable to check his comprehension orally to see if he is mastering the material. Instead of a book report, he could draw you a picture and tell you what he learned from the book. He could do a shoebox diorama to depict some concepts. Remember, the goal is for him to learn the material, not just to finish the curriculum. These types of options allow him to be creative and show what he knows in ways that fit with how he learns. You could also utilize topics that interest him, and instead of using the written passages in the curriculum you have you could substitute sentences or paragraphs from books that you know your son will like while still teaching the skill the text intended. Maybe he could come up with some of his own sentences or ways to practice the skill being addressed by the curriculum. You will still need some written documentation, but a creative child like you described may come up with ways to demonstrate his knowledge that will be acceptable to you in addition to some of the traditional curriculum assignments. I hope this is helpful for you, and I wish you and your son much success in your home schooling endeavors.