This story, their story, I am now aware of how difficult it is to share. I have not revisited these circumstances in many years. Obviously, I am aware of our boys and their diagnosis on a daily basis. But to "relive" all of what they went through, especially Cheese, before we were actually given a diagnosis that made sense. One that we could work with and find a solution for, it was hard. For many years, we really did not understand what was really going on. Although, we were working with professionals we really did not know how to help him. The speech therapists were working on language type stuff but it was not helping his reading. He was not making any progress in this area.
During this time, we even asked his Montessori Preschool teacher to tutor him in reading. However, there was still very little retention. He just was having such a difficult time absorbing and "holding on" to the information.
I have a confession to make. Right or wrong. We stopped all therapy at some point in this process. It is fuzzy now at what point we decided to take a break. I am sure that it was around the time that the reading specialist indicated that he was concerned that Cheese would never be able to read.
It seems to me though, that I need to back up a bit in this story.
When did we begin homeschooling? and Why?
When we moved back to the southwest, we lived in a small community outside a major metropolitan area. The public school systems in our area are not great. Again, not really knowing what the learning challenges were, we felt that we wanted a smaller school environment for Cheese. He would have been going into first grade.
We visited several Montessori Schools in the area and finally settled on one. I was reluctant though. It was expensive and about forty minute drive from our home. One day, I was complaining to my mother-in-law about the drive and the concern that I had, especially for the little boys because that it was going to be a long day for all of us. Then she blurted out "why don't you homeschool? you could do so much more at home with them then spending all that time in the car". I think I must have responded at the time with something like "HOMESCHOOL! you a are crazy person, I can't homeschool these boys! we don't even really know what is going on for Cheese!". She held fast though, always believing in me. We ended our conversation but something happened. The idea began to grow inside of me.
Several days later, I woke in the middle of the night. Cheese, his learning challenges, moving, school,.....homeschooling all floating around my head. I was buzzing. Unable to sleep, I got up to get a drink of water. As I was getting back into bed, it hit me. I could homeschool! I could spend more time helping him, instead of spending all of that time in the car. An idea was born. As crazy as it was.
I hit the ground running, I began researching. I met with our Montessori teacher. I took a Montessori assistant teacher training course. Along the way, I learned about Linda Mood-Bell and decided to attend some workshops they were offering.
That was funny. I attended the workshop, the only parent in the room. The facilitator began talking about cvc words and cvvc words. I would have loved a photograph of my expression. I had no idea what a cvc word was! At some point in the morning, as I was frantically trying to take notes on concepts that I did not understand, I leaned to the gal next to me, and confessed that I had no idea what the facilitator was talking about. An incredibly nice gal, who was super supportive, responded with "it is okay, you will figure this out, you know how to read, you just don't know how you know how to read". It turned out that this gal, the one sitting next me, homeschooled all five of her children. We ended up meeting before the workshop ended and she shared her thoughts.
Once we were settled back in the southwest. I began to set up our then dining room as our homeschool room. After all of my research, I had settled on using a Montessori type approach. I ordered several Montessori materials. I created a beautiful classroom. I wish I would have taken photos back then.
Then one day in the middle of November, I declared the first day of school. I "opened" our doors and expected things to run smoothly.
At this point, I would love to share how amazing it was to teach our children at home. I would love to explain with minute details of how our children spent hours in our school room making discoveries on their own. I would love to share that we laughed and learned together. That many days, extended beyond the hours of our actual "school" day, as our children were excited to learn and spent their time in my newly furbished Montessori classroom. This is not how it went.
That first day, I remember slumping down on a small chair in said classroom feeling defeated. I think the boys stayed fifteen minutes in my beautiful room. But spiderman and legos from their bedrooms were calling them. I had to drag them out several times. Figuratively, not literally of course!
But I went to bed, feeling a new sense of enthusiasm. Montessori says that my job as their teacher is to connect them to the material. So, I need to do better. Connect them. Make space.
Day two did not go any better.
The following day, I decided that I would make tiny boats out of walnuts shells, equipped with toothpick sails. I thought that they could spend time learning their numbers from 0-9 counting sailboats. It took me severals hours to finish these boats. Long after the boys fell asleep, I climbed into my own bed excited for the morning.
It took the boys ten minutes to count the boats. Then back to spiderman!
Montessori was not working. "Free choice" was not working, free choice in their mind was spiderman!
I decided that I needed to find an alternative. Having been following the blog "Soulemama" by Amanda Blake-Soule, I decided to look into Waldorf Homeschooling.