"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A fork in the road...

The last month and a half have been fraught with worry and much self reflection.  I've kept my posts to reviews of late because I needed to reassess where I wanted to go with this blog.  For the most part, this blog is about me and my journey of self-education and the homeschool education I am helping my children attain.  But I've reached a fork in the road.

I learned early on in my career as homeschool teacher is that I can't teach my kids anything they don't want to learn.  My talk on motivation covers that in spades and I've got the research to back it up...they will learn something they don't want to learn to earn a grade or pass a test, but will most likely forget it if it is not of interest or not made of interest to them.  We, as a race, are pretty selfish in that respect, but it is all part of God's plan, I think.  He gives us all different interests for a reason.  We all can't be interested in the same thing or we wouldn't survive.  We can't all be doctors or engineers.

One thing I was not prepared for, in this homeschooling journey, was hurdles.  BC (Before children) I taught adults and developed curriculum.  I figured I had this "teaching thing" down pat.  Kids must be easier.  I faced difficulties that I assumed were much greater teaching adults, like being a very young diminutive female teaching men in a positions that were predominantly occupied by older male know-it-alls.  I taught UNIX system and network administrators at the upper level of their professions.  Remember the SNL skits done by Jimmy Fallon as the system guy, Nick Burns?

That's the type I'm talking about.  To be fair, not all my students were like that, but many were.
Who knew that teaching kids would be/could be harder than THAT?  Certainly not me!
But, that's good.  I love a challenge.  I just wasn't prepared for so many.

So, you may ask what those challenges were?  For many homeschoolers, they were just normal things like morning sickness that lasted all day and pregnancy fatigue that made me not want to do school - at all! Or, a parent who was terminally ill and had no one but me in town to care for them.  Or unemployment which made schooling the way I wanted to not easy, requiring creative curriculum methods, and illness and health issues on my part that knocked me on my backside.  But those were my challenges...more difficult were things that affected my kids learning like learning disabilities, mindset issues and boredom.

Why am I writing ALL this?  Because I've reached a fork in the road and the tone of this blog will be changing.  Up until now, I've purposely not explained my interest in special needs, though I've gotten lots of experience with it over the last ten years.  My son, who is 14 1/2, has had vision problems since he was one.  He's had surgeries, glasses, vision therapy, occupational therapy, and neurological therapy to work through issues he's had that have affected his vision and fine motor skills.  I've done a lot of accommodating, correcting, adjusting curriculum and environment to make learning easier for him.  It's paid off.  He's a smart kid who loves to learn and is a hard worker, but I can't take too much credit for that because he's the one who has chosen to learn.  I had chalked up his need for lots of different learning accommodations to his vision issues.  When your eyes don't work, other senses try to make up for that difficulty.  My son is an auditory/tactile-kinesthetic right-brained learner for whom adjustments have been made to meet his distinctly different and individual needs.

I knew that as college testing loomed ahead of us he would need some accommodations for testing.  I knew, even after all the work we've done, he might need more time to finish his tests and the written essay portion would be next to impossible for him.  A good friend of mine who is an Orton-Gillingham professional, recommended that I have him tested for learning disabilities before he started taking ACTs or SATs.  They will not give accommodations without a clinical diagnosis.

So last month he endured twelve long hours of neuro-cognitive testing as well as filling out several questionnaires outside that in-office testing time.  I spent time filling out forms, finding copies of previous years' standardize test results, and pouring through all his medical records and therapy records to provide the psychologist with a complete picture of his academic and neuro-cognitive development.  Then we waited three long weeks for all the tests to be scored and a diagnosis to be made, if necessary.  And in that time, I worried and questioned my methods and made myself and my husband crazy, wondering - did I do enough, could I have done more, what would the psychologist say, how would my son score?  During that time of self-reflection, I also worried how my son would handle any news he received.

Two weeks ago my husband and I met with the psychologist to receive the results.  We purposely chose to take some time to reflect on how to share the news with our son and to decide how best to adjust things as we continue with the challenge of high school before sharing that news with him.
So, if you have read this far, God bless you for your patience. 

Here's what we found.  While my son is gifted in some areas, he was diagnosed with AD/HD, a diagnosis I, up until now have despised.  I'll get to that in a minute.  The other diagnosis was dysgraphia.  That was no surprise.  When he works at it, his penmanship is legible, but large.  With lots of work and concentration, he can do copywork well.  However, he just can't write extemporaneously.  But, he can type.

The funny thing was that my husband, who has had to deal with my anxiety over all this, realized that as he listened to the psychologist's recommendations, that I was doing almost all those things he recommended.  On the way out, he said that if we didn't need that "clinical diagnosis" for our son's benefit during ACTs and SATs, he would have wondered why we were there.  I needed to hear that.
Yesterday, I had the conversation with my son.  We talked about what will change in his schooling to make things better for him and allow him to better reach his potential.  We will also be making different accommodations and I will learn to embrace AD/HD.  I asked his permission to write about it here.  He said that if it helped other people, he was okay with it.  He's my hero.  This kid will do great things.  I know it.

By the way, the reason I hate the AD/HD label is because it's used as a derogatory term,  not as a clinical term, by people not qualified to make that diagnosis.  I have one acquaintance that I remember saying ALL boys have AD/HD...like it was the plague.  She has only girls.  I have kids with AD/HD besides this kid, boy(s) and girl(s) and some that do not...it's not the plague.  I also hate it because I know I have ADD and, while no one ever told me, I knew something was different about me and how I went about things.  Reading the book You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! made the world of difference to me because I've gone through life feeling out of sync and constantly trying to adjust my organization skills to fit in with the normal people.  I used to beat myself up over not being able to organize my kitchen like my sister or keep my house clean the way my friends do.  I have other gifts.  I still struggle with it, though.

So, I will be changing the tone of this blog.   You will find plenty of blogs about homeschooling normal kids.  I will be embracing my smart 2e kids (Twice Exceptional is the clinical term, 2e the short hand).   And, I will be writing more about adjusting things in the homeschool to better accommodate those kids who don't learn the same way other kids do, but are just as smart, and just as important as the rest. 


just_hannah_p said...

It's hard to take the personhood and individuality of our children (or ourselves) to the feet of the psychiatrists.

However, when I was diagnosed as a college student, I found that the diagnosis process gave significant clarity on which things in my life and in my past were conscious choices of behavior and which things were not. This has had a very positive effect on my life and given me a focus on growth, not guilt, for my ADD tendencies.

I liked your husband's comment so much. I think that ADD moms like you and me have something to offer our ADD kids that is more difficult for parents without ADD to offer-- namely, well-tested, intuitive coping strategies that they can learn from us. This can be such a resource in parenting them. I feel that this resource makes up for the struggles I experience trying to provide more structure and order. These of course are helpful, but sometimes out of reach.

I'd like to echo K's comment here and mention that I've personally gotten a lot of mileage in my homeschool out of what you have to say about motivation in learning. I believe that the kind of mentoring you write and talk about is a great help to ADD kids in growing and learning without getting so "stuck".

The Road Scholar said...

Thanks, Hannah, for your comments. My ADD physician (that I LOVE), grew up with the same feelings of guilt until a professor pointed out all the positive things it did for her. She, too, has helped me. I'm working very hard to embrace both of our tendencies and continue to make them positives and not negatives.
More than anything, I want my kids to grow up building on their strengths and not stuck, like you say, on the negatives. I hope I can help others do that, too.

menm said...

Cathie, I have to thank you and your 14 1/2 dear son to share you awesomeness with us. I love you blog and more than ever I will be looking foward for your input and knowledge about 'kids who don't learn the same way other kids do, but are just as smart, and just as important as the rest.
I most say let's thank the Almighty that give us this great gifts as our kids.
Love your blog

The Road Scholar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Road Scholar said...

Thank you so much. I want to make sure that others who have kids that struggle know their kids are not broken, just different. We live in a society that, with regard to normal, wears blinders and loves to label, often without proof. If you can't read by 2nd grade, you must be dyslexic. If you can't sit still, you must be ADHD. If you can't memorize your math facts, you must be stupid...That pervasive labeling mentality hurts, not helps, everyone, especially these kids.
I know my kid is an absolute gift from God, for whom I'm eternally grateful, because of how he's helped me grow, the challenges he's given me that have made me take off my blinders, too.

RealMom4Life said...

I have the following as the tagline on my email so that I remember it and read it daily....for the same reasons you mentioned.

"Everybody is a genious. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid." Albert Einstein

Your advice has been very helpful and I am sure that it will continue to be. The information will probably still be useful to anyone - learning challenges or not. I tried so many ways to get one of my children to read... wasn't just a delay, it took a lot of work and advice from an Orton Gillingham specialist. Now I find that I use many of those same techniques when teaching my other kids...'cause sometimes those methods are a lot more motivating!

RobinLikeTheBird said...

Thank you, and thank your son, for sharing your story.

We recently had three of our children do standardized testing (the Peabody). I have a 12yo and 10yo who tested off the charts (I suppose "2e" children?) My 8yo was the exact opposite, at least in reading, comprehension, and spelling. Although he did very well in Math!

I've struggled teaching him to read. He attempts to decode the words, but mostly just short vowel sounds.

I wonder if it's just my not persevering, or if there really is a genuine learning issue, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia. It's just not "clicking" with him as it did the other two (although they did attend a private school for K - 2nd grade).

***How do you recommend going about an "official diagnosis"?***

I know I could have him go to a public school for free, but I would rather explore other options.
Any recommendations?

Also, I read your Logic of English post from awhile back. I reeeeally would like to use this program for him. However, from paging through the TM I borrowed from a friend, it just doesn't seem as user friendly for little people, or the teacher for that matter. (We currently use Saxon Phonics, BTW.)
Also, teaching cursive writing to someone who can't yet master printing or even identifying the printed letters?? It's just not sitting well with me...
***Any thoughts on the LOE?!?***

Should I try a different route like LOE before pursuing an official diagnosis?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again!

The Road Scholar said...

Hi Robin,
We opted to do a private diagnosis rather than go through the school system. We found, through an Orton-Gillingham consultant, a group that does neuro-cognitive testing here in the Twin Cities. Now, truth be told, I might have gone somewhere else if I had known how much it would cost and that our insurance would cover NONE of it.
I don't know where you are located, but here is a website I recommend:

I used Spell to Write and Read before Logic of English. Logic of English is based largely on Spell to Write and Read. However, the spelling lists have been updated to more commonly used words. SWR is based on the Ayre's list from the early 1900's, which is based on commonly occurring words from the newspapers of that time.
I agree that neither is just "plug and play". However, there are teaching videos on the Logic of English website that are wonderful. Most SWR instructors offer courses, which are wonderful, but charge $200-300.

And, I would finish with statistics I got from the Logic of English website. 1-on-1 tutoring using a product LIKE Logic of English is exactly what a child would receive in the Public School system and there are statistics that show that the amount of grade-level improvement is correlated to the amount of time spent 1-on-1 with an LOE type of program.
Contact me at cmbaier at gmail dot com if you want more conversation. I could write pages about this...and I probably will.


The Towers Family said...

Stumbled upon your blog. I homeschool and have a father and brother that are ADD. But totally surprised me when my first born son was diagnosed. It makes certain tasks challenging in the day but we have embraced it. ADD and Loving It is a documentary that we love and has helped greatly on this journey. He thanks God for his ADD because of the way it allows him to see the world.