Monday, April 30, 2012

Studying Owen-figuring out Schooling/Driving my friends crazy

So for the last couple of years I may have been driving my friends and family insane.

At some point before I was even thinking about children I heard other moms saying, "You need to look into schools early because you'll have to put them on a waiting list if you want to be in a charter school or school of choice."  Others were getting evaluated by teachers who would come into the home( and see my mess possibly labeling me as unfit because of my lack of organized papers, uh uh).  There are public schools to check out(at least 3 elementary schools in my tiny town) and of course home schooling.  I thought I'll get to it went it's relevant.

So I blissfully went along with life and eventually found out I was carrying a bouncing baby boy( most likely because he was developing inside a swimming pool).  I remember seeing him on the ultrasound doing these ninja kicks and thought, "Yeah that's a boy".  Still why in the world would I be researching school methods or learning styles when I hadn't even met the tyke yet.  Breast-feeding was the thing I really needed to figure out at that moment.  I was content learning about how his lungs were developing and once born learning how we would ever get to sleep again.

Then 4 came with 5 nipping at it's heels and I started thinking I better figure this stuff out.  Along the way we've tried different school-like schedules, work sheets, had many field trips and I've answered well over a trillion questions I'm convinced.  Somehow learning has been going on since he greeted us outside the womb and has never stopped.  I became a teacher almost immediately teaching him 1st how to regulate his breathing when laid on my chest after birth, then how to eat, and encouraging his rolling over, words, walking, creativity, and eventually critical and empathetic thinking.

How did he learn best though and what type of schooling would be best for him?  I knew some people had concrete viewpoints for one way or the other but I didn't know my own.  All I had was a romanticized vision of him all ready for kindergarten with a backpack, brand-new school supplies and a handsome new outfit about to board a school bus.  "Good-bye Dear Son, I shall miss you till you come back in a fortnight."  Ok maybe that wasn't going to happen but I have a bit of the fanciful in me.

Something else fancy:

Source: via Tara on Pinterest

I didn't really get to visit all the schools I wanted by the time we had to enroll for school so I prayed about it and felt that the public school down the road was the best choice to begin with.  I still wondered but believed this was what we were supposed to do initially.

School has been interesting and a challenge.  Whether public school is the right choice for Owen's future is still being determined but it has helped to answer some questions and illuminate traits in Owen that have helped me to understand him and the public school system better.  I had previously thought Owen needed to be around more people to thrive academically because at home he hardly ever wanted to work on a project alone.  Now I know that he needs encouragement to delve into learning on his own to build his confidence (not more people in the room).  I've also learned that he is a visual-spatial learner because of a combination of book learning and observing and evaluating his responses at home and in the classroom.  Especially when I was called in for the, "Why is he doing that?" meeting with his teacher, a special education teacher and some other military like kindergarten teacher.  At 1st I was upset at their bewilderment and frustration but it spurred me to learn more so in the end it was helpful.

I want to write more about his learning style in depth but some things he was doing that lead me to discover his visual-spatial style were:

Tipping his chair constantly
His eyes rolling back in his head when being called to make eye contact
Many times at home he would tell me what he was picturing
He has very detailed stories that he has gotten worried about translating to paper(crying even, poor boy)
He is doing better with whole-word reading than phonics(memorizes what the words look like)
I remember when he was 3 or 4 he made a Lego airplane and used it to make several exact copies
and many other things, etc, etc, etc( King and I anyone?)

I've read a plethora of books in the last 9 months or so and if you want to skip the giant bundle of books with tidbits of good information(all helpful though) I would pick up .

It's called The Visual Spatial Learner.  It is written by a teacher(and parent to 2 VS learners) to teachers or parents with the purpose of understanding this growing learning style and helping these kids to do well in school.  Some other books seem almost negative(towards schools or towards the learning style) and in some teachers viewpoints learning styles equals learning problem( which I believe is not true).  I've noticed that it seems as though people believe that visual-spatial learning and dyslexia, ADD or ADHD go hand in hand(which it can) but may I suggest that we begin to look at our children's learning to see the strengths because they may be having a problem in school because there is not an understanding of how these learners thrive.  They are inventors and visionaries.  They look at things in ways others can't, creating multiple solutions to problems they find and there are techniques that help those worrisome things like reading and writing become simpler and less frustrating for both student and parent(and research papers, book reports, showing math work, etc).  I'm not saying that dyslexia, ADD or ADHD don't exist but I do think there is more to look at and consider.

Like this:

I read in an ADHD magazine that some amount of "Nature Therapy"(spending time outside playing, discovering, resting) helps dramatically with the focus of ADHD students in the classroom.  It made me wonder about the need for more free time as opposed to more scheduling and more testing.

Here's some online nature therapy while you read:

So I still have to decide about Owen's schooling for next year and down the road but I feel confident that this information has equipped me to understand my son and maybe even myself better.  I have a much better idea of what he needs and how I can advocate for him if I have to.  I'm starting to think we are more alike than I thought but he is still so much like his dad.  We have a whole family of very unique learners in different ways.  It will be fun to discover Noah's strengths as he gets older.  So far I know that he is head strong wanting to do everything on his own starting and the age of 1.  I know we all think our kids are like that but you should have seen him climbing the mountains at the Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend.

Me: "Noah we need to come where everyone else is."
Noah: "No"
Me: "You want to climb higher?"
Noah: "Uh huh"
Me: "Noah this is too far we have to go back down."
Noah: "No."
Me: "Ok we're going."
Noah: "Nooooooooo!", while running higher and higher.

I eventually grabbed him and attempted scooting down the mountain while he kicked and screamed.  I didn't fall......but it was awkward.  That boy.

I apologize to all my friends and family who have heard me waffling through this learning/schooling research. I promise I am coming over to the side of clear decisiveness.  Darn you open mind.  :)


Charrin said...

Beautiful. Well said. And way to be persistent, Jessica. Thinking outside the box is fun. Seeing the other side of a situation/learning, etc. is also fun, but frustrating when you seem to be the only one thinking that way. I LOVE how you write. You pulled me right in with you. I'm looking forward to more posts!

Jessi3 said...

Thanks! I currently have a paper from Owen's elementary asking if he's returning next year that's been staring at me for a few weeks. I know what I'd like to do but I'm waiting to make sure that Travis and I agree about it. I've been getting excited about new discoveries in learning methods. I love to see when brain science and learning methods line up in a fun and easier way than you might think. :)