Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cooking Skills -- Don't Let Your Kids Leave Home Without Them

I was not really a mom who loved to have my children interfering helping in the kitchen when I was getting supper on the table.   Actually, I don't like to cook and so my goal was always to get in and get out fast. 

I might never have gone to the trouble of teaching my kids to cook had it not been for an unexpected blessing God sent our way when the two boys were 11 and 9!   I was so sick throughout my pregnancy with our daughter that the most I could do for food preparation was hang my head out the open window of my bedroom (to avoid the smells) and shout instructions through the door.

"Yes -- break the hamburger up with a fork as it browns and then add the canned tomato sauce!"

My older son, being in a growth spurt, was highly motivated by his desire to have three squares a day and so he was happy to don an apron both morning and night and prepare a meal.   After 9 months of taking instructions and following some simple recipes, he was quite the chef.  He actually enjoyed cooking!   He created his own recipe variations!

His take-over in the kitchen happened so subtly that it was only when he went away to college we actually noticed.  I remember the day one son #2's friend commented on how much they missed the older brother because he always had dinner ready in the early evening.  Ouch!   Actually, at that moment I realized that was the reason my life seemed suddenly off kilter - I had to cook again!

Evan was a favored room-mate after college because he could plan, shop and cook meals on a budget.   He worked out a deal with his various room-mates that they would clean the dishes if he cooked all the meals.

Like I said, I can't take much credit for this son's abilities in the kitchen.  They were acquired mainly because of a critical personal need and a certain natural aptitude.   My other son, when faced with an empty table just complained and drove himself to the nearest Bojangles.

I did observe the value of learning how to cook at a young age, so I made sure my daughter helped me in the kitchen from the time she was old enough to stand on a chair at the counter and stir.  I called her my Sous-Chef and made her a matching apron.   She loved it and helped willingly!   Through early exposure and consistent practice, she is a very competent cook and has regularly taken charge of the meal planning and preparation for our family since she was 14 years old.  She has regularly prepared lunch and breakfast for me!  What a blessing!!!!   

The moral of this story is to spend the energy while your children are young teaching them necessary skills and you will reap the benefits as well as prepare them for the future.  A friend of mine recently reviewed a book to help you with this important child-training task and she's giving away a copy of the Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner Cookbook.

Check here to read her full review and to enter to win a copy of this cook book. 

If you have elementary children or older, I believe this book will be a big benefit to aide and encourage you in developing your own kitchen sou chef!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Child Has Trouble Learning to Read - What Will Become of Him?

I learned to read easily and early, but poor spelling and the ability to proof-read my own work plagues me to this day (just in case you haven't noticed!).  I never associated my struggles with any form of dyslexia however.

Because I never struggled with reading, it was very hard for me to understand when my children struggled.  With one child I mostly berated him for "not trying" hard enough in spelling (yes, I feel like a bad mother every time I think about those days).  I apparently developed amnesia about my own problems spelling.

With our second son, who had more of a problem reading, than spelling. I knew something was wrong, but could not figure out exactly what the actual problem was.   A kindergarten teacher told me "he was lazy," but I knew in my heart that was not the case.

Eventually, after crying our way through two different well-respected reading curriculum with this child, I hired a tutor trained in Orton-Gillingham Language Therapy.   With the right instruction from a skilled tutor, this child became a competent reader though his test scores always hovered in the low average range.  He succeeded in college despite continued difficulty on things like complex questions presented in a multiple choice format.  He even reads for pleasure now, though I would not call him a prolific reader.  His skill set includes artistic ability, creativity, and an uncanny ability to work with difficult people.

I also learned those spelling problems my older son and I share are linked to a form of dyslexia specific to sound letter sequencing and a notably poor visual memory.  Twist the knife in my heart.  He graduated at the top of his college class.   I believe I hurt him with my tirades about spelling and actually created a handicap, but that is a discussion for another day. 

Our third child had another dyslexic package, easily recognized when she started having difficulty reading and writing letters despite her advanced oral language and reasoning skills.   She is extremely gifted in art, athletics and music, though she prefers playing by ear despite 8 years of piano lessons.  She is also a superior critical thinker.  Fortunately, I learned from the first tutor how to teach reading to this child.  As a student she does exceptionally well on projects, essays and things like labs...... multiple choice tests, not so much.

All through high school with these kids, I sometimes despaired, wondering what would become of them in college - would they get to college?    School seems to revolve around all things reading!   I obsessed about SAT scores.  I obsessed over foreign language requirements and accuracy in algebra.

I obsessed and worried and lectured and encouraged loudly at times.   In the end, very little of those emotionally driven responses proved productive.  My children are turning out fine, often because of the gifts that came in their learning package rather than in spite of them.   The gifts we thought of as "undesirable" turned out to be perfect for the role God has ordained for them. There are challenges, but they are finding their way through academia and life beyond. 

Perhaps you would be encouraged that the sweet little students who struggle at your school table will eventually succeed with the proper support.  When they whine and practice multiple avoidance behaviors, they is not "being lazy".   Put yourself in their shoes for a while and think.  I whine and avoid aerobics and taxes for the same reason they carry on over math and reading -- it is hard -- it actually hurts sometimes -- there are so many more interesting things that I'm actually good at to put energy into!

Here is a link to an important article from the Wall Street Journal and some YouTube links that I think will help you process what you are dealing with and feel hope.

As a homeschool parent, it is important to read about the particular learning differences you may be seeing.  Read widely because no two students will present with the same set of characteristics.   As a teacher you are the detective and you will need to piece together the particular behaviors and the particular interventions which help your student.  As a teacher who has worked with many students (not just my own), I'll tell you that prayer stimulated intuition and broad reading on the subject are your best friends.   

So often parents ask me for "THE" math program or "THE" reading program to fix their child's problem.  Such a thing does not exist.  There are some really great materials that work most of the time for most students, but sometimes you have to try different things with different curriculum until you hit on the right combination.  Almost without exception, the teacher is the most important variable to determine success with a particular curriculum.  You still have to use materials effectively and that may involve tweaking.  As a teacher, your role is to encourage effort and reinforce progress while using appropriate materials.  Students need to be taught in ways that capitalize on their strengths while strengthening their weaknesses.

In following posts I will be listing some resources we have found helpful with a wide range of students.  I hope you will join me and feel free to post your questions.   

One question I'll address is "What is dyslexia anyway!".   Check back later this week if you are interested.