The joy of reading.

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It is so lovely to watch the joy on HB’s face when he realises he can read.  He can actually read by himself…and when he realised he could do it, he was so extremely excited…the look on his face made me want to cry.

I don’t remember learning to read, I am sure I must have been formally taught to read.  I don’t remember that joy HB felt when he realised he could read by himself.

Hubby even made a video for him, and showed it to HB…him reading by himself, with me just pointing to the words.  Without even trying to teach him, he seems to have picked up the sight words by himself.  I have just been concentrating on the synthetic phonics, because that is what he needs to learn, but the reading seems to have allowed him to work out the sight words at the same time.

With all the talk about how behind my little boy, this little achievement gives me the confidence to know, even if he is a few months behind the rest of his class, he can still do it.  He still has the ability to read and love it.

I have been so afraid, he will not want to read, because it is all about school work.  I know he does not love schoolwork, however, we have to do it. We go to the library and he is allowed to choose whatever he wants to read. He does understand there are English and Afrikaans books, so he will ask if a book is Afrikaans.  Then there are the books we read for school.  These readers are excellent.  We read the first round, with him only reading the phonics.  Second round is him reading all the words he thinks he knows and third round is reading with actual expression.  He loves the stories, and I like being able to sit with him and read too, not  just instruct.

We now use this manner of reading with all books.

In the meantime he has also learnt to read different fonts (which we had not actually taught to him…and he has picked up most of the capital letters).  At this stage they do not learn capitals.  Maybe it is for next term, I am not sure.

In the end we decided to make an actual appointment with another educational psychologist for an assessment. There is only one term of school left, and we need to make decisions and prepare our child for Grade 1 or staying another year in Grade 0. A proper school readiness assessment will help us make that decision. The school will want one by their staff psychologist, but it happens too late in the year. We also need to understand the ways in which he needs help from an emotional point of view.  The wait and see approach is not working, and the distraction of the school staff with personal issues, means he is not getting the full help he needs at school. Whether he stays or moves on is immaterial at this point, it is about making the right decision for him.  I feel I cannot rely on the school alone to make this decision.

While I feel for the personal lives of the school staff, I cannot put that in front of the needs of my child.  I will do everything I can do to make sure he remains happy and know that he is loved.

Need to be more grateful.

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Today I feel sad…I grew up with Linkin Park.  I loved and still love Linkin Park.  One of my regrets is missing their concert when they came to perform in South Africa.  I was mother to a nutty toddler and going to a concert was not one of those things that it was possible to do.  I had to be a good mother and not do those things anymore (I have since revised that view…because mothers are still people).

Hubby and I have different tastes in music, but Linkin Park was the one band that we both loved. Linkin Park music was the music that I used, and still use to get through deadlines.

I remember watching the second Transformers movie, and listening to that Linkin Park track in the Imax theater was amazing.

It always surprises people to hear I am such a fan.  A good girl like me, now a mother, does not listen to that music.  Linkin Park used to put my toddler to sleep.

I was very sad to see that Chester Bennington (lead singer of Linkin Park) apparently committed suicide yesterday.

It brings thoughts to my mind….we never know the terrible things that go on in the heads of other people.  He was famous, six kids, a successful life, but beneath all that is the sexual abuse, a broken family, drugs and alcohol and someone who looked like he was past all that and making a good life.  He was obviously troubled.

Another case:  I am frustrated with HB’s situation at school and the apparent disregard from the people we pay to help him…and one of those people who seemed to have it all, does not have it all.  I thought…wow, she is successful, beautiful kids, her own business…only to find out that she is going through a tough time.  I feel bad about that snotty email I sent to her now…though even if there is crap in your life, you still need to do the things people have paid you to do.

I am thankful for the life we have.  We have a beautiful healthy child.  Besides the stuff at school, he is fine.  I have a caring husband who loves us and is there for us.  I have a home we were able to buy, two cars, two cats, and a huge loving extended family who are there for us.  We have friends we can rely on.  We have jobs we are happy in.  We are healthy, loved and really…living a life of privilege.  In this day and age where people are so troubled they commit suicide because things seem so bleak, we have hope.  We have food and shelter and we are not grateful enough.

The meeting.

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This drama of the school thing had me so down for the earlier part of this week.  We had our all inclusive meeting and I left it feeling like the worst tiger mother and so sad and inadequate.

The three women turned up late and unprepared, so it was a waste of time, as the could offer nothing in terms of the way forward.  I found them to be patronising and uninformed.

I was so upset, I just cried and that continued up to yesterday.  I have seriously been considering moving him to another school.

Moving schools is not a really feasible option for us because we really do not have the money to just move, and really that school is a very good school and it was a carefully considered decision when we chose that school for HB.  All my feelings yesterday is a very unconsidered emotional response, not necessarily rational.  The money we can make a plan, and that fact will not be the deciding factor.  HB’s well being will always be the only factor.

The principal was not in the meeting, because I decided not to ask her, and escalate the whole thing to a level we could not resolve.  Anyway, she did call me and we had a long chat.

I then decided, all caution to the wind, and I was frank with her that I feel the teacher is not giving him a chance to be himself, and he is has been forced into a label, and I feel that he cannot shake that label if he remains in that teacher’s class.  I also said that we were considering moving schools, because this is all too much.  I just feel my child needs to be given a  chance to learn in his way and also, he is not in Grade 1 so can we please stop forcing that pressure onto him.

I was also clear that I think the teacher is not making an effort to assess him properly.  I mentioned that we are paying for a private school for one on one attention for our child in the class, so I cannot accept it when the class teacher says she cannot give it to him.

The principal was very calming, objective and she was great to talk to.  She invited us to observe in the class anytime we feel like it (not that I think that will help, because it is not as is we can do it secretly).

I am glad I told the principal everything that has been going around in my head, because she helped putting it into perspective.  She also knows that we are not going to sit back while our child is walked all over.  I may have been totally out of line criticising the teacher, but I did say, it was my subjective view of the teacher, and I do realise that it is not necessarily a true reflection of the teacher.  I was also clear that I felt that they are not helping and I wish they could provide more direction.

I have made enquiries to get a private evaluation for HB, but I have held off actually making the appointment.  He has enough with all the testing and I think he needs to know he is good enough just the way he is.  Even if he cannot read or whatever the teacher feels, he is good enough and is our darling child and we love him, and do not need for him to bend into a pretzel to fit into a mould.

The playdate.

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We had our first formal playdate over the weekend.  The aunt did not stay.  She was a  bit odd, because we never actually properly spoke to her.  She was on the phone when she arrived, then she used the loo and went outside to talk for a good 45 minutes.  She wandered back in and said she had some things to do and I said it was fine, she could go and just pick up the kids later as we did not mind. Whew! it was great not having to entertain another adult.  She came back (a little later then we expected, so we know next time to give start and end times).

The kids had fun.  It was really nice to have a house with three kids (the younger sibling came too, but I had said it was fine, because what do you do with the other one?).  They played with the toys and then we set up the marble run, which was a huge hit.  They then needed a break so I allowed a movie and snacks (they watched about half or so).  Back to play with toys and then we played a board game.

It was a bit too cold for outdoor play but the kids did not seem to mind too much.  The aunt was a bit surprised to find Hubby and I playing board games with the kids too.

I will invite them again, as they were well mannered children who did not destroy the house and they did not do anything especially crazy.  We have had kids like that and I always worried about inviting them over.  The good thing, they did not come with an adult who stayed.

I can understand the adult needing to check you out, and I respect that, because I too need to do that. If all is fine, I will leave and HB will happily come on his own next time.

HB asked me to organise another one with another friend.  I feel brave enough to do another one.

Homework strategies.

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I have written many blog drafts and I cannot post them.  I cannot post the same things about the worry I feel about HB and school. We have a meeting at the school next week ( organised by  me) to get everyone to sit down and then we must be done with all this.

I have organised a playdate for HB.  I have not told him about it yet.  I figure I need to get him out there, even if I do not love the idea of playdates.  With the type of world we live in, the kids cannot just run down the road to a friends place.  I feel sad about that.  I grew up in a pack of kids and it was so much fun.

I do not want to overplan the play date, because I love planning.  It is one child and one adult.  They can play with the numerous toys that we have in our house, and then they can also go play outside in the jungle gym and sandpit.  I think I will have two planned kiddie friendly activities, but I will see how it is going and take it from there. The aunt, I have never met, but I will take it as an opportunity to make a friend.

On the homework front, I can see the improvements with HB.  The hours and tears are paying off.  I just wish we could get it done with fewer tears.  HB starts to cry if he is feeling like it is too much and he cannot do.  He will refuse to try and start crying. He starts crying, I get frustrated and the whole thing deteriorates. I am hoping with dedication, he will grow enough confidence to try and get it wrong.  I am not sure how to show him that getting it wrong is OK.  I know we need to model the behaviour we want to see.  We will practice and persevere. With practice, the both of us will eventually learn the patience and confidence we are struggling to find.

I was a huge fan of the phonics system the school is using to teach the kids, and while HB can confidently point and correctly say the sound of the particular phonic, he has struggled with the blending/segmenting method of teaching.  Partially it comes from a refusal to try and get it wrong and I think the other part is a memory thing.  He seems to struggle with remembering things, and  I do think it is something we have to work on.  The failure in the phonics system the school is using is that there are too many “sight” words which do not follow the rules of phonics, blending and segmenting, that they have been taught.  There is insufficient repetition and my little child needs more repetition, and he seems to be better when he can see the whole picture.

I have found this brilliant site, where these lovely women have made up readers which is fully interactive between the child and the parent/teacher.  It is also very repetitive, without being boring.  I think HB needs to see the words in the sentence context, and the story context, and then he is quicker to work it out and remember. Also, the phonics system the school uses does not talk about rhyming words and word families. This means that reading is not fluent, because they do not recognise similar words and are taught to sound out everything.  This means they lose the context and the meaning of what they are reading.  With the word families and repetition, within a reader, HB understands better and in one session he was able to recognise the similarities in words, and was able to read them without sounding out every word.  He made the leap to rhyming words and it was like a revelation to him.

For now I have decided to abandon the school phonics system.  He knows about that already.  I will do these books that I have found and see how it progresses.  It is also easier for me to read with him because these readers require the parents to read the difficult words and the children the read the words they should know.  There are less tears, it is more relaxed and the other system is not working for any of us.

I wonder if I am allowed to give their site address?  It is such a brilliant way to teach beginners.