The plan for Stephen is to teach him to read. Some how, some way, he is going to learn to read. I have never had a child more compliant, more motivated. And yet, it's just not clicking. He's finished Little Stories for Little Folks and the speller/phonics to go with it;completed all of Get Ready, Get Set, Go for the Code and Explode the Code 1 (with lots of hand holding), most of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and a smattering of alphaphonics. We've pulled out tricks of whole language and sight words to balance the intensive phonics. And still, there is no fluency. Poor dear, he's really frustrated. And he sees Katie and Nicholas surpassing him in reading skills. I know that things will click, that he will read. But it might not be this year or even next year. My job right now is to keep his interest high and to help him learn without constantly reminding him how hard it can be to acquire the knowledge he wants.
This summer, the reality is setting in. I think we're looking at another child with special needs. I'm noticing things, though they are not nearly so obvious as the first time around. This child is obedient and eager and compliant and uncomplaining. But he is also distracted and he has very poor visual memory.
We'll do lots and lots of read alouds, because I am very certain that all those stories bear great, juicy fruit. We'll persevere with phonics practice, relying heavily on the moveable alphabet and pulling out Touchphonics to see if this intensive tactile approach will help him to see onsets and rimes instead of single letters. We'll create word walls and word banks and I'll re-acquaint myself with some of my favorite books, Phonics that Work and Teaching Reading and Writing with Word Walls. It will be okay.
For handwriting, we'll make the switch away from a traditional Cahtolic handwriting program and back to Handwriting Without Tears. I'm not sure what it is with my boys, but they need this very clean approach to forming letters. Later, we can return to beautiful script for copywork.
Much of Stephen's program will be similar to Nicholas' because (1) they are at about the same skill level and (2) they are inseparable anyway. He has already received his First Communion, so instead of a notebook for that, he'll work on a Catholic Mosaic liturgical year notebook and he'll continue to work on a Rosary book. I know all the stories of Catholic Mosaic will find their way into his heart. There, they will do two things. First, they will teach him to appreciate fine language and fine art and to write stories himself, even if he has to dictate them to me. The books will inspire him to write in some form or fashion. I'll watch and listen and facilitate. Secondly, they will touch his soul. They'll become a part of his spiritual journey, companions towards heaven. This is education for real, education that matters. He's very, very enthusiastic about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, so Moira's second guide will be his "religion spine" this year.
He's a very physical kid--he loves to climb and to play soccer and would much rather be outdoors than indoors. He's guaranteed to spend lots and lots of time in our backyard, ball at his feet and song in heart.
He's a science guy in a very inquisitive way and absolutely loves Animal Planet. He's already an enthusiastic bird watcher and he'll love every living book on nature we read. I'll revisit our "Great Outdoors Booklist" (righthand sidebar) with him frequently this fall. Baby and I will be at home still and I know I won't be getting out into the woods with these busy boys, but the stories will take us there. Truth be told, Stephen's pining for a camping trip, but I don't see it happening until next spring. Hopefully, the baby will distract him a bit and soothe his disappointed soul. So many summer things I promised in the spring when I thought that certainly I'd get that second trimester "great feeling" reprieve... Nothing quite like the mommy-guilt of broken promises.
For math, it's going to be all tactile, almost all the time. We'll use the same materials as Katie does and just bump along at a pace for Stephen. I think I will also introduce him to the Touchmath way of doing things while I show Mary Beth and Christian.
Mostly though, the plan for Stephen is for me to take lots and lots of time to be totally available to him. He's quiet and obedient and never ruffles anyone's feathers. He's also in the middle of a big family. It's easy to lose him in the crowd. My goal is to not let him get lost.