Thursday, September 13, 2007

Searching for 'Salina's Inspiration

I love my daughter very much. There is so much about her that I sit and watch and am amazed - I have spoken often before about her creativity and she is a very bright, vibrant, energetic and caring child.

HOWEVER her development - or lack thereof - of late has been very shocking to me. Not because she is being super naughty (because she isn't) or inconsiderate (well, not more than the average 7 5/6 year old) but because there are some things she just isn't getting - and that I am having to look at my own mother and her methods to find ways of overcoming obstacles.

Tonight was a classic example. She is in Year 3 at school and doing "okay". Well, okay, she is an enigma which I think translates to "how the hell do you get this child to learn anything unless its on her terms".

However, tonight was one of those moments where you think to yourself "oh goodness - am I creating this - or what should I be doing to fix this?"

Tonight's drama revolved around the time - 7.57pm - and her inability to deduce from that how many minutes until 8pm. It was well after the hour of 8pm before nerves were soothed - well, hers anyway. Mine are still jangling.

I tried working it out with her. Her cousin, P-C, could work out far more complicated time calculations in his head before he even started school, and she often is quite peeved that he knows more than her.

But then, he is a very different child to her and has had a very different upbringing. Not better, not worse but very different. And on top of that, he listens and analyses constantly.

Part of her frustration in trying to work it out is that she "forgot" that 60 minutes was in an hour and thought I had said 80. The fact that I had to tell her (several times) about there being 60 minutes in an hour was slap enough for me. She forgets so many things.

I blame it on her busy mind, and we had a talk about "unconscious listening" where you put what you are hearing on a shelf to deal with after your mind has jumped all over the place (and I understand that process very well) versus "conscious listening" - a concept that I feel she will have to really work at as I have had to struggle with it (and still do) over the years.

But its not just the mental maths that she cannot grasp (wait for the cogs and fingers as she tries to work out 10 - 7), the concept of time aspect - its a whole bag of stuff that I have finally realised that I have to face.

With reading, she was very lazy and more capable of getting you to do all the prompting in return for her withholding tantrums and tizzy-fits.

I even sought help, and was advised that she was just above the line where she needed help. I ended up doing the "Readers at Risk" training myself (as a volunteer at the school with all those who fell below that mysterious line) just so I could have some tools to get her to start "clicking" on the reading thing.

As a bookworm who "clicked" at the breakfast table at the age of 5 it was incredibly frustrating to me to watch her not even trying to struggle with it.

She did improve greatly after I got that training, but it was still a little bit of a chore rather than a pleasure - which was painful for me to watch.

Well, about 4-5 months ago it "clicked" for her - I have the Sheltie series by Peter Clover to thank for that transition - and now, while not proficient she actually chooses to read as a past-time.

Her handwriting is appalling. She had a very good excuse for that. Besides having me as a mother, that is.

On the 8th of April 2005 - that would be in the first term of her first year of primary school - she failed to adhere to her mother's constant "one at a time on the trampoline" rule (which her mother learned - from experience - can lead to broken legs) and then failed to return to the trampoline mat after one "super jump". Well, between gravity and the ground, her funny bone was the loser.

Well, actually, her humerus was - completely - resulting in months of back-slab casts and inventive clothing options, fear at anyone jiggling her, constant pain, several surgeries, physiotherapy and the possibility of a palsied hand. Can we all shout out "I told you so"!!!

This was a very convenient excuse for her having shocking handwriting (even though she learned to then write passably with her left hand) for a long, long time - that and the genetic factor - until I found a school book of mine from her age.

Now, I know I have shocking writing and it was drilled into me in childhood what shocking writing I had. My mother gave me special exercises to do (even on the school holidays) to improve my writing. I am only now coming to terms with forgiving them (my father shall share the blame as he was in cahoots with her).

However - my writing at a year younger than her was vastly more neat than hers unless she really tries - and she really tries so rarely.

Her spelling is abysmal. With all of her creativity, she is in so much of a hurry to get her ideas down that the whole spelling concept goes out of the window.

Which is fine - I am no despot on spelling at the age of 7 - but words that she should have down pat as she learned them 2 years ago are part of the carnage, and it is all very well to write a book, illustrate it and then give it away, but if no-one can decipher it what has the world lost?

I asked the teacher for the words she should know (as she has had to do spelling for homework this year - when the homework actually gets home) and so got her friend's homework book.

I could have cried. Her friend has neat writing and such attention to detail, while my daughter cannot even remember to bring the darned thing home to TRY. I know she is only 7 5/6 - but that is part of the point. What do I have to look forward to?

My mother (again) was very tough on our spelling. We had our words recited every evening, with left field ones thrown in for good measure. My first letter home from boarding school was returned with the spelling corrected in red pen.

I come from a very mathematical family. We do maths problems for fun. I write computer programs, for goodness sake!

When she was very young, she too enjoyed playing with numbers and working out stuff with me. Now, however, she is learning to dislike even that part of life - because we are past the joys of addition, and apparently subtraction just doesn't bring the buzz.

To help her, I have tried to work out fun ways for her to have the necessary facts at her fingertips. Frankly, if you can add and subtract by rote numbers to 20, you are really set because the rules don't change.

But my daughter "can't remember" and I am starting to lose my mind.

Its not like I am an uninvolved mother and couldn't be bothered trying to keep up with where she is at in the classroom, either. If anything, I am slightly over-zealous and volunteer once a week just to keep abreast of her classmates, their rituals, how the teacher handles them and what they are doing.

I found out today that she is having special assistance - she is part of the "sentence group" that gets short sessions with a tutor (during school time, so she misses out on whatever they are learning at that time).

Now, I am at the school at least twice a week - once actually with the teacher in her classroom - am I asking too much for it to be mentioned to me that she is getting this help?

I am constantly wanting to know how I can help my enigma to move forward and always asking for feedback - and I don't get told "this is where she is falling down" but rather "she is always such a happy girl".

Am I unreasonable about that?

I remember the resentment I had toward my parents with their snap quizzes and spelling bees around the dining table; being thrown sums on drives and expected to answer in the snap of fingers; j hooks, lines and curves until my hand froze just to jump high enough for their expectations.

And I realise now that it helped me enormously - and I wonder if I have to become that figure of pain to get my daughter into gear.

I need help to help my daughter.



Is there a way you can channel her creativity into memory games for spelling or math?

If she is prone to forget should she have a very pretty, very special book and pen just for writing down things to how many minutes in an hour?

Does it matter if she is at the same level as anyone else in the class? You can go crazy making comparisons that might mean nothing 5 years down the road?

I couldn't spell until I learned how to use a dictionary, probably in grade 6 or 7. I didn't read much until I could get books from the teen and adult sections of the library. To this day I need a calculator for just about everything in math beyond the basics. I like to think I am creative and a little off the norm.

I graduated college, had a good job until I became a stay at home mother and worried like hell the whole time my son was in school.

Try and stay relaxed. The stress will kill you both.

Anonymous said...

Heya, I used to use chalk on the concrete and hop scotch type games to get Baa's memory going, I don't know how many times she jumped up and down a row of numbers. Language she has no problem with but her writing is terrible. I am a totally kinetic learner, if its not hands on I don't get it, so maybe getting a whole body experience could be a way to try, my friends daughter does cheerleader type poses to remember letter orders. oh and you can write a word and draw a line around the outside of it so maybe it becomes a picture instead.
Most of all, good luck and its great that she reads for entertainment, that is fantastic.
One day it just suddenly clicks

Tracey said...

Oh jeanie, I can feel your pain and frustration. I don't really know what to suggest... except that I know that comparisons with other children are probably not the best idea... I do know it's very frustrating when you think it's just their attitude that is preventing them from moving forward.

I have snippets of similar experiences... being really boggled that the eldest child is worse at mental arithmetic and time than her 5 years younger sister! What's more, when we try to get her to *think*, she just doesn't want to...

Re the spelling, I did hear some expert (talking about the Premier's Spelling Bee in our state), that he did actually believe that spelling was an innate thing. I tend to believe him.

With computers being the future, neat handwriting is less important than it might have been years ago...

I'm not being much of a help, am I?
It seems to me that you are doing so much already, and you should go easy on yourself.. Sounds like stuff *clicks* with her, and if you just continue chipping away at it, without going overboard, things will continue to *click* in time and when she is ready... If you turn her whole life into a classroom situation she will resent it and resist it even more probably...

Lin said...

I have no advice to give as my daughter is not even 3 so I have not started to worry about such things.

So all I wanted to say is that I think I can truly imagine how frustrating that would be for you. I come from a family where intellectual games were very much 'in' (more initiated by my older sisters than my parents) and I would be as horrified as you are now if my child would not show any interest in practising her brain.

But there is only so much a parent can do. Try to keep your stress levels down and leave plenty of time to focus on those loveable, amazing sides of her that do make you feel proud.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I don't know that I really have any advice for you as I've nothing to really compare with. JJ has found it a bit hard to learn to read and he's still learning, but something has clicked in the last few months. I'm sure that's a combination of a lot of things.

I think try to channel her creative energies into something she enjoys, try not to stress too much (hard I know) and help out as much as you can which it sounds like you're doing anyway.

Good luck with it all.

Brissiemum2 said...

Oh the agony of parenthood! I am so hearing you! Yes, it is difficult to know what to do and difficult for everyone involved in her education as children are not black and white and therefore more difficult to see what the cause of the issues are and how to help. Does that make sense? But you are right....the teacher should have told you if she was getting any type of support.

And I know exactly what you mean about how different they can be from us. I have a son who is in big trouble at the moment for not getting homework done. Now, if the homework actually gets home it is a miracle and if it gets home and is done then it is more than a miracle and if it actually gets back to school completed then we have celebrations! Lol! I sometimes wonder how on earth he and I actually share genetics! I blame his father! ;)

Tee/Tracy said...

This post was hard to read b/c I really empathize.

I've had trouble with my 9 year old a few times in past years. He goes through phases where he has difficulty in school even though he's very bright.

It's frustrating when you don't know what to do or how to help.

I wish I had some good suggestions. Is there anyway to get her professional tutoring help outside of school? It's best to let someone else do this because the stress and tension of you doing it will cause so much discord in the relationship.

I can remember my father losing his temper on me when I just didn't "get" my math. It was so hurtful. Eventually they set me up with a math tutor. It was less pressure to please since this person wasn't my parent --- and less stress for my parents, too.

With my son, when he is struggling with something, when I help, I do it in a non direct way, usually. For example - when he didn't get fractions I let him cook with me more often. He loved baking and stuff - and using the measuring cups, etc seemed to help.

Good luck. {hugs}

Anonymous said...

I can really relate to your troubles, and feelings. Our second youngest is 9 and in the 4th grade. He happens to fall below that "mysterious line" and gets special help for reading and writing. He can knock out math, and science with no problem, and has excellent spacial skills, but reading sends him into a frustration that can bring the whole house to tears. His handwriting is barely legible. He says when he tries to read it's like hundreds of images are flashing in his brain and he can't just pick out the one that matters. We just try to always make sure he has any books that intrest him, and even though he is reading books that his younger brother has outgrown, at least he is reading, and enjoying doing so. Even if he isn't doing as well as the other kids in his class, we know that he is doing HIS best and really, that's all we can ask from our kids right? I know we all want our kids to be right up there with all their peers, but all kids are different, and really, that is what makes them all so special.