Friday, January 6, 2012

An Ephiphany of Sorts

We're half way (and one week!!) through our school year, making us also that far through Jackson's kindergarten year.  Jackson has kind of always "marched to his own beat" and that being said, first semester didn't go down exactly how I had hoped.  There was more than a fair share of him sitting at the table, arms crossed, angry eyebrows furled, me trying to coax just one little three letter word out of him.

It wasn't pretty.

And I was perplexed.  My two girls came into reading easily at the older end of four years old.  I was trying not to compare, but Jackson was closing in on six and a half and I was thinking I should see *something* by now.  He knew all the sounds, he could even spell some words (if I asked "What does CAT start with?" he could go letter by letter and spell it out), but I could not get him to verbally read them.  He enjoyed working with numbers. He was fascinated with keeping score on sports games.  He adored maps and memorized the names of places and even drew his own maps.  I knew he had a good attention span because he could sit with a Lego kit for HOURS following the directions and putting some cool stuff together. He WAS learning, but he just wasn't reading.  I kind of realized it wasn't so much about not being capable of reading, but just having absolutely no interest whatsoever. 

And there lay my problem . . . how to make him interested. 
The last few months Jackson got into board games, awakening in him a fierce competitiveness--a competitiveness that reminded me of a certain brother of mine, who also happened to be the first boy after two girls. ;o)  Over Christmas I was chatting with this brother about how Jackson reminded me of him sometimes.  We talked of my brother's utter disinterest in all things scholarly while he attended the little country school two miles from where we grew up--all that changed when he started up in a public school with a classroom of kids to compare himself to.  He realized he wasn't up to par and started working hard so he could be grouped in with the kids who were more advanced.  It's always been about competing for him. 
And so I wondered if that would be the case for Jackson?  I needed to find a way to make this reading thing competitive, but we homeschool, so how to do that when he has no actual classmates his own age?  In the end I took a piece of paper, handed him a "Bob Book" and told him I would make a mark for every word he read and then I would add them up when he was finished.  He was delighted, and suddenly he could read.  Oh not perfectly by any means, but he knew what to do, and for the first time there was progress.  I wondered aloud if he could read more words tomorrow.  And sure enough he could!  He asked to try a 2nd book.  And each day he wants to read more than he did the day before.  He asks to read!  *she faints in shock*
This boy, he stretches my brain in so many ways--always a puzzle for me to solve.  After several days of my "score-keeping" he is excited to sit down with a little book.  His excitement over this new "game" has made Emmett interested and he wants to do the same.  Jackson suddenly wants to write words, hanging a sign on his door with words he informed me he knew how to read.  I made him his own little books and he has begun copying the stories from the "BOB books."   (which he intends to sell for $100 . . .) ;o)  It's still early in the process, and by no means is he a fluent reader, but I'm delighted that we finally found some momentum . . . now just to keep it going!!
So my lesson . . . study your children and meet them where they're at.  Oh, they are endlessly surprising (and all SO VERY different).
Some reading resources for anyone interested:
Our favorite first readers--
They have five different levels as well as having added some new series with sight words.  These are SIMPLE and BASIC but a huge boost to a child learning to read when they can do a whole book all by themselves.
How to make your own little books:
Try this link for inspiration
I basically just use printer paper, folded in half and then sliced in half to form the pages, construction paper for the cover, punch two holes in the in the crease and thread some embroidery floss through and tie it all together.  They're pretty simple, but you could make them pretty if you used neat scrapbooking paper.  They could be a fun gift for a birthday party . . . throw in some colored pencils and some sticker sheets and you have a little author kit already to go. ;o)
Idea for a writing center--easy and accessible to create to their heart's content.
I'm debating some rearranging in the boys' room--maybe moving the train table to the basement and moving in a table for writing/drawing/creating.  What I wouldn't give for a fourth bedroom. . .


Brooke said...

This is so encouraging Janna, thanks for sharing! Although we aren't to schooling yet I'm anticipating having to be creative with my little girl. Yay for Jackson and go you for persevering!

Anna said...

Praise the Lord for such a big breakthrough--that's GREAT!! :) ...I will keep this idea tucked away, I'm sure I'll need it at some point.

And those journals and writing center--how fun. :)

Kris said...

Thanks for sharing this story..what an exciting discovery and joy for you guys! I often wish I could find a breakthrough for Xan's fine motor/writing skills, but I have a feeling a keyboard will probably become a close friend of his (or he'll be a doctor that typically necessitates bad handwriting) LOL. I also loved your title of the post...I've heard that January 6 is "Epiphany" celebrated in certain church denominations. :)