Sunday, January 18, 2009

Watching them learn

As I contemplated my third post (out of ideas already?! It can't be!) my husband called me into the living room to check out The Bear. Dressed in a one piece, blue striped outfit and looking a bit like a jailbird, he had his back to me, facing an old rocking chair. As I watched he smacked the rocking chair with both hands then just watched it bounce/rock. Surprisingly, instead of pounding on it over and over and just being a typical, wound-up little boy, he waited until it was nearly motionless before smacking it again. Over and over I watched my Bear conduct his experiment, hit, rock, wait. Hit, rock, wait. I don't know what information he was gathering or what synapses were developing but it was obvious that he was learning. It struck me, too, that that was so HIM: methodical and curious.

I always find it amazing watching my children learn. As a homeschooling mom it's been painful at times, though. Especially since several of my children have been 'blessed' with, as some circles call it, the Gift of Dyslexia. When you're a mom watching your child struggle, without the resources to spring for the outrageously expensive tutoring, and the virtual academy/charter school wants to 'track' your child for yet ANOTHER year but is reluctant to do testing and intervention it doesn't seem like much of a gift.

In the midst of struggling to find a way to teach, find a way for that light bulb to finally turn on in their brains I've come to appreciate my children for their strengths. When reading, and therefore so much basic schoolwork, is nearly torture they need the encouragement of knowing they have a strength. Belle has a fabulous memory and comprehension, especially if things are read to her. Gil quickly memorized most of his math facts, without the usual flashcards. Just knew 'em. Pixie-girl, though her learning issue is more centered around ADHD which has led to memory and comprehension difficulties, has the higher-level thinking skills of an adult. She can't remember that Paris is a city in France and France is a country on the continent of Europe (truly! You have no idea how frustrating that is for her!) but she can theorize and philosophise with just about anyone.

For me, having children with learning difficulties has been challenging. I love to read, love learning and school was easy for me. I tested well. So I figured my kids would excel academically. They're my kids, right? They're all very bright. But, turns out, that's not always what counts. I've learned a lot about my children along the way and I've had to accept some things I really struggled against. It's been difficult to accept that some of my children might not graduate from college. Heck, they may not even GO to college. Many of my children will never find joy in curling up with a good book. Their daddy sure doesn't. I've come to realize many of these things are not what's most important. The college degree doesn't make someone a better or smarter person. Your reading list doesn't mean you'll be good company. Completing a degree at a four-year institution far from guarantees success on the job.

What is most important, I firmly believe, is simply learning. And the continual willingness to learn. Whether it's through observation, experimentation or reading. Whether it's in a lecture hall, a forest, or your own home. All around you, every day, every single person has the chance to learn something new. To file away some new observation. To ask a question, look up a topic, or work in some way to increase your knowledge. This is now what I hope and wish for my children. That, despite their difficulties, they spend every day of their life doing what The Bear did this evening: filing away new information in their big, beautiful noggins.

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