The Eagle Has Landed!

8 Jul

Ok, I will be honest with you, I was preparing to write about something completely different and frankly not all that flattering about one of my children.  I’m sorry but sometimes you just have to vent.  But God must be looking for me to be more positive so just as I was looking up something in preparation, my son walks in to announce he has nearly finished a book.  Did you hear that FINISHED…honestly, this is a first. 

Some folks who don’t know me must be quite thrilled at this point, envisioning an adorable five-year old struggle over a copy of Dick and Jane or Biscuit.  Sorry to annihilate your Norman Rockwell vision, but this is my eleven year old completing one of the Nate the Great early chapter books.  Now those of you who do know me, know that this is indeed a momentous occasion – as non-Norman Rockwellish as it may be.  Despite the fact that he is reading the same books my older son read in first grade or so, this will be first book he has ever read independently in his lifetime.

As early as preschool his teacher suspected that he had issues with attention-deficit disorder.  At six years old, when my oldest was reading beginning chapter books, Jon could not identify the letters in the alphabet, count past twelve or even sing the alphabet song correctly.  He was nine when he finally chilled enough to learn his birthdate, where he lived and his telephone number.  It was about this time he was officially diagnosed with attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder.  We dabbled in medicine, but it tended to result in a non-Jon sort of kid living with us.  Jon from the time he was a toddler has gregarious and outgoing and makes friends easily.  However between medication and the hits to his confidence, he was slowly becoming a sullen and introverted guy.  More than his inability to read or maintain other information, loosing the kid I knew devastating.  it was at this point that we elected to reconsider our own perspectives on “normal”.

Jon was what primarily instigated my decision to homeschool.  While I very much felt God called me to homeschool, I also felt that my sweet boy would be devoured in label heavy world of public school.  Despite this, I had always measured his performance against what I perceived to be “normal” based on his brother and sister’s accomplishments.  It  wasn’t until a few years into things that I was advised that they were significantly academically accelerated.  Even though I worked hard not to make direct comparisons, daily the structure of his lessons were structured in such a way as to “catch him up”.  However, after seeing the impact of his constant sense of failure, we reworked normal and I began to educate myself more fully.  I became aware of other very intelligent children who were very late readers.  (Beginning to read between 10 and 13 years old.)  I also became aware of the concept of “Right Brained Learners”.  After examining the information I had discovered, it seemed to me that Jon was not behind, he was simply on a completely different track.  Jon excelled in art and art appreciation – his favorite artist is Chagall.  He has a natural aptitude for math, and can do quite well when he does his homework.  His memory is remarkable.  He can recite strings of dates and details from documentaries he has watched on the History and Discovery channels.  He just wasn’t reading.

I’ll acknowledge some days this “different track” concept felt more like an excuse not to push him harder, not to drill more, not to seek professional help.  There have been several instances where I have had to rework opportunities for him because he couldn’t read like other children his age, or I have had to hold him back.  Frequently I would feel anxious when he was friends, especially his non-homeschooled friends.  I would worry that he would be made fun of or called stupid if reading came up.  Jon’s pretty amazing because rarely did he have any issues, partly because it was never a worry of his and he always handled it matter a factly.  Despite my insecurities and my second guessing, after several periodic new “learn to read now” approaches I took, we would settle back into being patient and waiting.

This summer I stubbornly decided that he would earn a free book through the bookstores reading program.  Every year we get the forms and every year he accomplishes nothing.  As I was cleaning out my school room and reorganizing our books I came across our old collection of Nate the Great books and decided that Jon could give these a go.  They are simple, boy oriented and not too “babyish”.  Once again, just with every other new “reading initiative” I introduced to him, Jon slumped his shoulders, kicked a the ground and begrudgingly conceded.

Yesterday the first signs of a change began to emerge.  When he said he had read his book – he actually had.  He could tell me what happened, characters names and when I suggested that he should read a little more before he was done for the day he didn’t argue.  Moments ago, many years of struggle, angst, discouragement, anger and all things negative finally were overcome.  Jon announced he was only a few pages away from the end of the book and then mentioned that he noticed that were additional books in the series.  “Yep”, I told him.  “In fact”, I said, “We have five more.”  He said, “Cool.”  Not cool like “whatever” but more cool – nifty keen.  Jon will finish this book within a few minutes and has asked if he can start a new one right after.  I am trying to keep my elatedness in check and be careful not to jump into “Let’s catch up” mode.  But this is the single greatest day in Jon’s schooling – ever.

Now do you suppose there’s hope for a clean room?

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One Response to “The Eagle Has Landed!”

  1. Randi Wade July 9, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    Joyce, I can SOOOO relate to this! I also have struggled with these issues. Thanks for sharing his success, and good for you to create your own definition of success for him. On top of the reading “barrier” of focus issues, finding good, interesting books for young boys was always a problem for me. Here’s a toast to many more successes to come!

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