When told by Xaviar’s second-grade teacher in a public school that he should be tested for ADHD I knew in my gut something was off. I started reading lots of books related to boys and learning. I stumbled upon two: The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias and Character Matters by Thomas Lickona.
What really stuck while I was learning styles truly play a role in a child’s education. In my experience, educators mostly turn a blind eye to a learning style’s role in the traditional classroom. To their credit, I am sure there are many reasons, however, proving to be a disservice to the student mostly. When I say traditional, I mean a classroom setting where a teacher teaches and children sit and listen for the most part.
One way to see the traditional approach to learning growing more and more ineffective is to look at the attrition rate of high-schoolers. In particular, those from a public school setting where a standardized test determines whether they move on to the next grade. Yet so many come to college ill-equipped. I see this everyday in my advising role at the local community college.
Lets face it, the affects the traditional teaching approach has on the student’s success is not the only variable to blame. Xaviar wasn’t the easiest student to educate…I can say that, I am his mother! We must consider the students motivation, attitude, and intelligence to name a few. In The Way They Learn, Mrs. Tobias explains in her book how each child is intelligent as it relates to the way a child learns. Clearly, teachers don’t have the resources, support or maybe even desire to discover every child’s learning style. But to add to this schools aren’t doing so well with boys.
Remember the post about boys and the Boy Code. Dr. Pollack, in his chapter entitled: Schools: The Blackboard Jumble, asks these questions of our schools: Does my son’s school have a sufficient understanding of the emotional challenges boys face in becoming confident, successful men? Do the school’s teachers and administrators know about the Boy Code? Do they understand the mask? Are they sympathetic to boys? Does the school teach subject matters and use classroom materials that interest my boy? Does it use approaches to teaching that will stimulate him and make him to eager to learn? Lastly, is the school a place where my son feels safe, happy and engaged, a place where he’d like to be? He states that all to often the answer to these questions is “no”! I answer with a resounding NO!
Each year I home-schooled Xaviar, and I struggled with how to teach him. And as he approached the pre-teen years other variables became factors in learning. Then the teen years…thankfully we had the opportunity for him to attend a private, Christian high school, otherwise, I may not be here today to write this post! (All the parents out there with teens may know what I am talking about.) Here are highlights of the particular curriculum I found most helpful for a learner like Xaviar.
Comprehension and retaining were a struggle at times. Although, I do remember that when he was reading something he enjoyed, he could narrate the whole story to me, details and all. I find this to be true in adult life so why do we make children read about something that doesn’t interest them for the sake of learning to read. Lastly, I found that if I read the story with him, I was a better audience. I could verify the construction and sequence of his ideas. More on this topic can be found here, a very theoretical article that touches on the tool of narration for evaluation.
For Science, we used Considering God’s Creation. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this curriculum. Science is taught from the perspective of creation, not too busy and hands-on. It appears the same even after 10 years.
For Spelling/Grammar/Writing, I went with it. I might use the game Scrabble for a spelling test. For Grammar, I used various approaches: traditional in nature like Daily Grammar worksheets, or a more thematic approach by writing a narrative about a person. (Another website that gives a good foundation and ideas for thematic learning is here.) If we wrote about Eratosthenes of Cyrene we would cover Science, Math, and Grammar.
In summary, Xaviar made it to college. Currently, he is approaching his sophomore year at the local community college and plans to transfer to a university upon completion of his Associate of Arts degree. In bringing this up, may I suggest this route, especially for your teen who isn’t sure “what they want to be when they grow up?” There are other reasons I would recommend this but won’t indulge in this post. I leave you with a golden nugget a wise, godly, elderly woman told me during this time of my life: be firmly flexible!