The new school term always brings its fair share of trials. Son number one is facing trial by literacy. He really, really, really dislikes this aspect of the curriculum, despite the best efforts of his teachers. There are several reasons for this. Number one: it has taken a long time for his fine motor skills to develop so he isn’t the fastest writer. I think keeping up with some of his peers (especially the girls) is tricky. Number two: his speech isn’t as clear as it could be so learning with phonics isn’t straightforward. Number three: He is an August baby so almost a year younger than some of his classmates. Number four: he missed quite a bit of his early years education due to his leukaemia. Number five: there is definitely some sort of family trait involved. He is the fourth generation of my side of the family to struggle with literacy, though all three previous generations got by pretty well in the end.
I feel ready to attack this problem now. Not because I want him to be a literary genius but because I want him to be able to cope with school and more importantly enjoy it! So much of school life is based around being able to write and spell. I sometimes wonder if you can really demonstrate your true intelligence in school if your literacy skills aren’t top notch. I’d hate for him to get to secondary school and be stuck in classes that weren’t challenging him intellectually, just because he isn’t good at expressing himself in writing.
The last few weeks have seen me attempting a range of strategies to help him with his spelling tests. The ‘look, say, cover, write, check’ method of learning just does not seem to work for him. So I’ve been re-writing the spelling list in colours, adding pictures and shapes, creating mnemonics, looking for patterns and finally, making the words out of playdoh. It seems to be helping, he got 10 out of 10 the first week we worked on it this way.
Apart from new ways to learn, we’ve had to find new spaces in family life to sit down and actually do the learning. I never find that after school is very productive. I think children need a rest when they come out of the classroom, especially at the age of seven! Having a toddler around is also not conducive to quality one-to-one time with older children. Our solution is to grab 15 minutes in the morning. We are all up at seven a.m. and don’t have to leave the house until quarter-to-nine at the very latest. That is the benefit of living on the street next to the school. Fortunately The Husband is often at home until at least eight-thirty so he can keep an eye on the younger two. I have removed the TV so that is not a distraction and at eight o’clock, we head upstairs to his bedroom for a quick look at the letters.
Having this short amount of time seems to work for us. Son Number One has been thriving on the individual attention. It’s been quite an eye-opener for me to get an insight into how his mind works. It’s quite fun and creative and I hope that a bit of success with his spelling tests might give him confidence. I think he’s going to be a late developer when it comes to literacy, something that our education system can’t quite fully cope with. I wonder how many other boys have brains ‘wired’ like his? No wonder they get fed up with school and fail to achieve.