Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is not what I signed up for!

My son has a myriad of social and sensory issues that make life difficult for him.

Of all of them, I hate dyslexia the most. I watched my mother's heart break when she was told that at the age eight her son couldn't read. I watched as she dragged out my kindergarten homework, lovingly saved through the years, and used it to write a series of phonically based stories. I watched as she did what teachers over four grades had failed to do, teach my brother how to decipher the alphabet soup he saw and learn to read.  I don't blame the teachers for failing, from personal experience, I know it's difficult to teach around dyslexia. I blame them for advancing him to the next grade when it was obvious he wasn't ready.  I wasn't prepared when my son's school did the same to him in kindergarten. 

Taking a page out of Mom's book I took my son's education into my own hands and found him a school that would help him work through his issues. We enrolled him into a, thankfully free (though we would have paid millions), national online charter school, Connections Academy. There we found teachers with great advice. A curriculum not too different from the one he used in public school and motivation in the form of clubs and electives to encourage him to want to learn after the wars of kindergarten made him no longer willing to even try. He had the flexibility to excel in the areas he could and still take extra time for the lessons he needed extra help in. Finally, after beating my head against a wall for more than a year I had teachers who not only listened, but had the ability to act on my concerns. Let me be straight up here. My son's kindergarten teacher was a gem. She did the best she could with him and the restrictions her direct supervisors and school admin put on her. My issue with "them" is a story for another time.

After two years at CA we are making headway. He is still below grade level in reading and especially writing. His math skills are amazing, in his head. The moment he has to work through a problem on paper from beginning to end he forgets everything he knows about math. The numbers and concepts he knows so intimately in his head are a jumble to his eyes.  I know he has an uphill struggle but he is climbing far more often than he is sliding these days. Being his learning coach is not easy and gives me a profound appreciation for the people who choose to teach as a profession. It has caused gray hairs and anxiety attacks, there have even been tears, he cries sometimes too. We push on because I have seen what else is out there and I, like my mom before me, am my son's best advocate. He wants to learn everything there is to know. It's my job to help him find the tools to do so.

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