From Dis-Courage Comes Courage (To Choose What is Right for Your Child)
This past Monday, this email arrived in my inbox.
“My 5 year old son started kindergarten at a private school this past September (2014). At the first parent-teacher conference, the teacher said she had concerns that he was easily distracted, could not focus very long, and was showing signs of dyslexia. She said she would call in the Child Study team, and recommended I contact my pediatrician. In the meantime, I began researching learning styles and found the Child 1st materials. The description of a right-brained learner was the description of my little Josh. I decided to withdrawal from the private school in December 2014, and began homeschooling using the Child 1st materials for both reading and math. I am happy to report that my little Josh is reading short sentences from the 1st reader, practices his body spelling while in the car, and practices forming his letters/numbers outside in the backyard using sticks and anything else he can find! We usually do "school” while he is jumping on the trampoline or jogging on the treadmill. It is amazing how much he retains while he is moving! My guess is that if I had gone the route of working with the child study team and the pediatrician, Josh would have been placed in the Special Needs class, diagnosed with ADHD and perhaps dyslexia, and put on medication. So before jumping to medication, I would encourage parents to research learning styles, incorporate movement with learning, and take a look at the diet as well.”
There are several reasons I am sharing this letter with you
- This scenario describes well what happens when a right-brain dominant, visual, or kinesthetic child goes to school. In brief, the sequential, left-brained way we teach reading doesn’t blend with this type of learner and before long, the child’s failure draws the attention of his or her school.
- The options available in school when a kindergarten baby begins to fail are not pretty. First of all, the child sticks out for his inability to process learning the way it is presented. And believe me. No child wants to draw attention to themselves for this reason! Next, testing results in labels given and in some cases medicine is recommended. Let’s pause to consider exactly how the child internalizes this sequence of events. He is freshly enrolled in school and already he’s been pronounced broken and even has medicine prescribed to try and fix him.
- For a parent, it is hard to see a baby come home from school discouraged. It is hard to have him labeled as a failure even before getting into school properly. It is hard to hear that the only avenue open for their baby is special education and or medication. It is very hard for the parent to be faced with choices that are this scary. This mother chose to bring her baby home and follow his lead in how to teach him successfully.
- I am sharing this story in hopes that if anything in it resonates with you, if you have a child who sounds remotely like this one, that you be assertive and courageous and choose FOR your child. Study your child. Listen to what your own mind is telling you. And lastly, trust your instincts as regards your child no matter what anyone else says.
- Finally, I am sharing this story with you because I want you to know that even if your child has abysmally failed to learn to read, frequently the “fix” is simple. I hear from parents on a regular basis that their child completely turned around in a very short time when they changed their teaching approach.
Parents can make all the difference
In this day of educational mandates, common core, and extensive testing in early grades, the role of parents in the education of their children is so critical. Teachers and administrators have lost the freedom to teach their students. States have lost the freedom to make decisions for their own schools. There is one very specific program that has been mandated for all our children and reality is that this core does not reflect what our best and brightest educators believe about how to most effectively teach young children.
Children under Common Core are failing at higher rates than before. Teachers and administrators have no ability to choose something different that might be more child-friendly. This choice for Common Core is one that was made at the highest levels of government by politicians and by business moguls. We can’t afford to continue to trust our schools to know our children and educate them – not as long as our current system is in place.
So while the war over Common Core rages, while fighting words are being exchanged, while business tycoons quietly position themselves to become even more rich by controlling the content and delivery of our curriculum (with the blessing of our leaders in Washington), we have to choose for our own children what is best for them.
Parents still have the freedom to evaluate the own children’s experiences. If what children experience is not in their best interests, parents still have the right and responsibility to say no. I understand that not every parent is in the position to withdraw their child from school and teach them at home, some are. For some children, it is sufficient for a parent to advocate for him or her with the teacher and school. Some educators welcome this support.
My heart is full this morning. My heart hurts for every single child who has been told something is wrong with his or her brain. My heart hurts for parents who want something better for their children and aren’t sure how to get it. My heart hurts over the fact that powerful people are fighting over how to make money from our education system while our kids are suffering. Let’s get our focus back on what is best for our children.