Z’s lack of reading ability, frustration, and diet rants

Standard

Poor guy.

Z has an extremely difficult time decoding.  He makes the same mistakes over and over again, and doesn’t seem to learn from them.  A word will appear twice on the same page, and he doesn’t recognize it the second time he sees it.

School is going,  well, how can it be going any way other than badly if he can’t even read the work plan that he’s supposed to be doing?

Breaks my heart.

Focus and follow-through?  There’s little to none.  He seems to mostly just wander around, trying to look like he’s engaged in work, but really he’s just staring off into space.

Spacey.

And yes, he’s eating gluten and dairy at B’s house.

(Gosh, do you think there’s a link there????????????)

Well, maybe if we can get him formally “diagnosed” with ADHD (which I think is a somewhat dubious diagnosis in the first place, hence the scare quotes, but that’s a can of worms for a different day), we can finally force B to adhere to the GFCF diet, as gluten and casein are known factors in causing ADHD symptoms.

(Gosh, really????????????  Like we haven’t gone down this path about a thousand times before!)

It’s infuriating.  And preventable.

Maybe it isn’t really the diet at all, maybe it’s just being in B’s care that causes Z to fall into a well of learned helplessness, because god knows that’s B’s only way of being in this world.

Ok, so the problem is also, of course, the school environment.  There are good kids in that class, and a few obnoxious ones.  The teacher is very solid, but she has 24 other kids to attend to.

And Z is at the bottom of the pile, academically.  And that has to suck.

For the other kids, I imagine they find him pitiable or contemptible.  And that has to suck.

If he could only read, things would go so much better for him!!!

Yes, one obvious answer is to homeschool.   And I’m all for that.  Would be all for it if it weren’t for B.  Z is better being at school than with B full-time for days.  Period.  B is maybe capable of teaching him how to tie knots, set up a tent, make campfires and cook on them, and paddle a canoe, and while these are all valuable skills, Z needs more (and they’re mostly not that useful in suburban CA).  I mean for chrissakes, B can barely read and can only spell at the level of a slow-ish 2nd grader.  And he hasn’t a clue about basic science facts, including the fact that our sun is a star!  In other words, academically, B and Z are at approximately the same level.  And it seems like B is making little to no progress on his own stuff.  And B has 50% custody.  So.  Now what?

I don’t know.  But suggestions would be appreciated.

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3 responses »

  1. Apologies if I’m repeating anything I’ve said in the past, especially if it’s something you’ve already addressed…

    This is one of the things that bugs me about public school (though it probably wouldn’t have before L turned out to be a late reader) – that instruction and assessment in all subjects is so reliant on reading and writing ability at a young age. If you suck at reading, you suck in social studies and science and likely math, too. It seems to me that, in a mixed-grade classroom, the difficulties for the slower students in the lower grade (and the faster students in the older grade) would be even greater than in a normal classroom.

    Z has an extremely difficult time decoding. He makes the same mistakes over and over again, and doesn’t seem to learn from them. A word will appear twice on the same page, and he doesn’t recognize it the second time he sees it.
    This is exactly where L used to be. It has improved. I’m pretty sure there’s a developmental milestone involved there, and there’s only so far that teaching can go.

    Interestingly, the concept that the same set of letters makes the same sound each time is something that A managed to work out very quickly.

    It’s slightly comforting to see someone in a regular school with a presumably trained and reasonably competent teacher experiencing the same difficulties.

    Do you know what approach they’re using for teaching reading (phonics vs. site word vs. “whole language” or whatever)? What have you tried at home?

    Have you looked at http://www.progressivephonics.com/ at all? It has printable books (or read-on-screen, if you have something appropriate for that). They’re designed for the parent and child to read together, with the child reading only a few words on each page, which is good if he doesn’t have much stamina for reading (which I’d guess he doesn’t, what with having to sound everything out each and every time), with a lot of repetition, which I think helps with getting that concept across.

    Both kids are also liking the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems (author of the Don’t Let The Pigeon… books) – they’re pretty simple, with little text on each page, without talking down.

    Audiobooks have been kind of a double-edged sword for us. On one hand, they’re great from the perspective of exposing him to higher quality language, and just to the idea that there is worthwhile stuff in books. And, like you, I can’t read aloud nearly as much as he wants, between reading his actual school stuff and fun reading. Both my voice and my time have limits. On the other hand, I have a feeling that having access to audiobooks decreases his motivation to read. He wants to be listening to something ALL the time.

    We get a lot from http://www.librivox.org/, http://www.kayray.org/, and http://www.pinkwater.com/ (all free).

    Disregarding academic considerations, how much is school necessary from a daycare standpoint? I think that you can provide a perfectly adequate education during the time you have him and he can listen to audiobooks or watch documentaries or something at B’s, but I imagine B needs him off his hands at least part of the time in order to work.

    How does B feel about homeschooling if he isn’t responsible for the teaching part? Could he get Z to DSIS, activities, park days, or anything like that? (I know there are willingness, motivational, and logistical questions in there.)

    • Alright, ready to engage 🙂

      First, thank you for your meaty reply, I really appreciate the time you took.

      I agree completely with what you said about structural problems of public schools, that so much of the assessment is based on being able to read at an early age. Totally with you there. I was talking to another mom about this a couple of weeks ago (her son can read, but has terrible handwriting and other fine motor skills issues), about how completely normal it is for kids to acquire skills like decoding at different times, but in a public school setting, you’re made to feel stupid if you can’t read well by the end of grade 1. My friend’s father, who has a PhD in something or other, couldn’t read until 5th grade, and has nothing but resentment for his primary school teachers. In our case, I don’t think that Ms W, his teacher, is doing anything wrong; I have a great deal of respect for her in general. But, the institution itself, the structure, and the increased demand to have all students track at the same level on everything (NCLB bull$%Tery) is just massively unhelpful for a slow reader like Z. As you know 😉

      As regards the 2-3 classroom: Z did pretty well in K with 1st graders who took him under their wings. I had hoped similar things would happen in a 2-3 classroom, and to a certain extent they have, it just seems that Z is, as his teacher put it, rather “intense”, and his friends tend to burn out quickly when they sit with him to work. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I have some guesses. Z was GFCF at the start of the year, and he was doing really well. Then B decided to “relieve him of the pressure” of being on the diet, again. And things have gone downhill since. He tends to be spacey more and more, and more impulsive, and less able to engage with other kids in age-appropriate ways. B sees none of this. B just understands the GFCF thing to be a way for me to continue to control him, and he can’t get beyond that to understanding how it can help Z.

      So I’m definitely torn in two directions here. I really would like for him to do well in school. His school has so many more opportunities than mine had, and so many more decent teachers. And I want him to be a part of a community of learners. There are some really fantastic kids in his class that he could really learn from, and who could learn from him. I also need for there to be limits on Z’s time with B. B’s general influence on Z needs to be as minimal as it can be, given the 50-50 time split. B gravitates towards hanging out with young men who do a lot of drugs and drink a lot. B also doesn’t read much, and he can barely write. B cannot use a computer, and can barely use his cell phone (can’t text, or even figure out how to change the ringer settings). B doesn’t model helpful behaviors, such as joy for learning, or taking responsibility for things. B has never once taken Z to the public library, for instance. He tends to lose Z’s school library books on a weekly basis. and the list goes on.

      Now I know that those things that I want Z to experience in school can be done in a homeschooling setting, with coops and the like. I know. I also know that by keeping Z in school, I may very well be fostering a dislike for learning, that all this academic stuff is too hard for him. But I don’t think we’ve quite reached that point yet with him. I think that the positive things that he can get from the school environment are outweighing the other things for now. Until things can change for the better at B’s house, or until I can change our custody agreement, I think that the status quo is ok for right now.

      So that’s the long version of my justification for keeping Z in school for the moment.

      Down to the curriculum part: at school, they use a sight-word/phonics combo plan. I can’t remember the name of the company they use, but as far as I can tell, it is pretty reasonable, except for the part about how they can’t handle/ accommodate slow readers. At home, he plays with “Starfall” online, which has a lot of good basic phonics stuff. I haven’t tried progressivephonics, but I’m putting that on the list – thanks for the recommendation!

      He has a couple of the Mo Willems Pigeon books at B’s house, so I haven’t read them to him for a long time personally, but they exist somewhere in Z’s life. Z really likes the Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold. Simple text, focused on repeating letter/ sound combos, plus silly and gross story lines. We also have the two Max Spaniel books, Dinosaur Hunt and Funny Lunch, by David Catrow, featuring hilarious, simple text and lol-worthy pictures.

      In terms of audiobooks, we’ve only just started them. I do like librivox, and have downloaded some great stuff from there that Z really likes. At our house, Z just doesn’t have access to the players needed to listen to his audiobooks all the time. So he can’t just decide to listen on his own, he has to have permission and someone to set up the DVD/ headphone set for him, or he has to use my computer. We haven’t (yet) had issues with audiobooks decreasing his motivation to learn to read on his own. But I will definitely keep that possibility in mind, and do what I can to prevent it from happening.

      I also just splurged on a LeapPad for Z. I’m making it an award that he can gain when he finishes a week’s worth of jobs on his work plan (within a single week). I’m hoping that it will be motivational enough for him to focus on practicing his reading skills. I had a speak-and-spell and a speak-and-math (oh how I loved texas instruments!) as a kid, and I think that it gave me extra motivation to practice skills so I could become more fluent in basic math skills and reading skills faster. I’m hoping that the extra practice will help Z feel like he’s more able to handle things, that he’s not too far “behind”.

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