In my last post, I shared a bit more about the difficulties my little A6 was having. I thought long and hard about sharing this type of information because she isn’t old enough to ask (I always check with the older ones before I share any of the details of their life). Ultimately, though, the changes we made have elicited such a positive change in her I thought they may be useful to someone else.
- Using other people
One of the first things I did was asked for help. I think sometimes homeschooling mums think they have to do it all themselves. I know I have at times. This time, though, wasn’t one of those times. This was no time for pride, my daughter’s happiness was a stake. A possible problem with teaching a child who requires encouragement every couple of seconds is that impatience may rear its ugly head. I would consider myself a fairly patient person but saying ‘Okay A6, concentrate, next word’ on literally every word in a book tests even my tolerance. Asking others to step in means that the intense mummy/teacher relationship is diluted somewhat. My mum very kindly offered her help a few months ago: She suggested having A6 round at her’s for an hour each morning. She offered to listen to A6 read, to help her with her writing and to read aloud. A6 has gone from very stilted, still sounding out words to fluently reading in just three months (she is now reading easy chapter books). My mum is a bit of a perfectionist and has already brought up a daughter like A6 (me!), so she takes absolutely no nonsense from her. A’s writing is going from strength to strength: and she now listens happily to read alouds, without pictures (yay, thank you mum!): It has been fantastic watching A6 improve her basic skills without me needing to be the one nagging her. But it’s more than that. Mum’s house is quiet with no distractions at all, which we have found is exactly what A6 needs but is impossible to achieve in a home school with four other children. And A really can’t wait to go over to Granny’s each morning. She receives undivided attention from a granny who adores her and who she adores. Their relationship has blossomed into something really special and A6 has, in some small way, filled the gap of friends of mum’s who have died over the last year or so. It is a win-win situation.
Gary also offered his services in any way he could help. We decided he would start A6 on the same maths program her siblings were using for half an hour each night. A6 LOVES it. She began about a month ago beginning with Reception level just to make sure she had covered everything. She had and therefore whizzed through. She is now working at grade level (Year 1) and begs to do it Saturday and Sunday evening too! Again, it has been very special for Gary and A6 to spend special one-to-one time together on a regular basis.
T13, L12 and C12 also offered to do anything they could to help the situation. Mum is unable to have A6 on a Thursday morning so I call on them to help out between 9-10 am. They usually do an hour of maths during this time but on Thursdays the girls do only half an hour and work with A for half an hour. I usually school B4 at this time so it is very helpful for maintaining continuum. A does similar work to what she would with Granny but uses colourful work books and a separate reading curriculum. The girls also read whatever FIAR book we are currently using: And finally we have a friend who comes in every Friday to help teach A6 to sew. A adores Sarah, and talks about nothing but her from Thursday night onwards. Sarah has the patience of a saint and she and A have developed a really special relationship: (I know Sarah reads my blog so, Sarah, I just want to thank you for becoming the eighth member of our family. We feel very blessed to have you in our lives)
Now lest you all think I have simply palmed my gorgeous daughter off to everyone else to teach, nothing could be further from the truth. The second thing we focused on was to help A fill her day up with a mixture of activities. I wanted her to have a huge amount to say in how her day was scheduled so she and I sat down together and we figured out how to fit everything she wanted in, as well as everything she needed.
I worked really hard at creating a schedule which would have a change of activity every half an hour (which suited her low attention span), and to put the activities in an order which mixed up the different types of activities (so not too much sitting down or not placing activities together which required her focused attention). I also tried to alternate who she was with, although I didn’t have a huge amount of wriggle room here.
I made up my own table using word, making four columns (Time, Location, Activity, Who with). Each row is completed in a different colour to make it easier for her to read across the table: We also encouraged her to choose her own digital watch (she is able to tell the time herself). I invested some time just teaching her how to use her schedule. This means that she is now able to look at her watch, look down to the correlating time on the schedule and then read across to find out where she is meant to be, what she is doing and with whom. Whilst it is not yet working like a well oiled ship, I know from experience with the older children that the more you do something, the more ingrained it becomes: The main advantage has been the fact that there is an activity to do at any given time of the day (from wake up in the morning to bed time at night), which means she is no longer bored and looking for something to do. It also means that she is, on the whole, busier than she had been prior to the strict, half hour incremental schedule, and so is sleeping a whole heap better. Her whining has decreased to almost nothing and she really does seem to be heading towards returning completely to her old self.
- Increasing Amount of Learning
Covering every half an hour over the course of a day automatically increases the amount of learning being done by A. But it wasn’t just the quantity of work I wanted to increase, it was also how hard or challenging that work was. I had held off for such a long time because A’s concentration was so appalling. Working with mum each day, in the quiet of her home, with a teacher who is more stubborn than she is 🙂 has meant her concentration has improved. Not hugely but enough that holding short lessons with her and B4 (who does not have attention issues) is now much more pleasant for all concerned.
During each day, as well as her basic skills (which are taught by other people), I have begun to hold a Morning Meeting just for the little ones. During this time we do bible, Life of Fred Maths and First Language Lessons for the well-educated mind. I also read them their FIAR book and whatever Dr Seuss book we are working from. We have a separate time when I teach them geography using the FIAR curriculum and Science using the Dr Seuss learning library books. At bedtime, thanks to the priming my mum did with A6, I am able to read aloud, easily for an hour at a time, thick and interesting chapter books. Reading aloud to the children is one of my most favourite mummy times, especially the more interesting chapter books. We are reading a new to me Land of Stories book by Chris Colfer, which looks into the back stories of all the characters of the Grimm’s fairy tales and the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. Honestly, every night all three of us can not wait to snuggle down and read another chapter or two!
- Increasing Chores
The last thing I did was to increase the chores I expected A6 to do. My older children have had chores since they were three. All three would, if needed, be able to run the household in the absence of Gary and I. It was always my goal to train them in this area because I had gone into marriage not having any knowledge or skill. But as each child became proficient in a new area and their skill base grew I could see their confidence in themselves grow. They now do all their chores without reminding and to a good standard every morning and evening. It warms my heart to see them happily choring together each day.
I have not been so diligent with the younger two, and this meant that A6 was not being given the opportunity to grow her skill set and confidence in the same way. I have, therefore, begun increasing their chores, adding a little bit extra each week. Training takes time and effort but I know is well worth it.
These are the four main areas we have been changing or working on. They have helped put a smile back on my gorgeous six-year-old daughter’s face. She is now significantly more content and has pretty much returned to her former happy-go-lucky self.
And I am a very happy Mummy!