When my kids were little I took on the huge responsibility of homeschooling all three on the heels of our move across the country from San Diego, California; to the northwest.
My kids had gone to a small private school for the first couple of grades. Jonathan, my youngest, had just finished kindergarten.
He did okay in school except for the teacher’s frequent complaints. Jonathan, she said, was a very “intense” child.
“Jonathan is not a rude or undisciplined child,” his teacher said,” but he has a difficult time keeping quiet during class, sitting still, not speaking out of turn, and he often corrects the other children on the playground when they aren’t following rules.”
As his parents, we didn’t know what we could do about our son’s “intensity.”
I always knew Jonathan had a hard time sitting still, but didn’t realize how hard it was for him till I became his first grade teacher. His mind moved around as quickly as his body, which made it difficult to teach him.
I was not very familiar with conditions like ADD and ADHD in the 1980s. The information highway of the World Wide Web was not as easily accessible as it is today.
Jonathan was very easily distracted. I was especially exasperated with him one day when we were working on phonics. I had already taken all my inspiring posters and educational pictures off the walls. All that was left in our bare little classroom was a desk for me, three little desks for the kids, a bookshelf filled with books, and a plain black and white poster of the alphabet. I even had to close the curtains during lessons sometimes because the trees or clouds would distract him. Heaven forbid if a bird or an airplane flew by. Even a fly in the room could distract him from the lesson at hand until it was removed. I was teaching three children, but spent most of my time with my young son then.
We had been working on the same phonic sounds for what felt like weeks, and though he seemed to “get it” while I was working with him, when we went back to the subject the next day it was as if it was all new to him.
One particular day I was hopeful. It seemed he was actually getting what I was teaching him after an in-depth explanation of vowel sounds, reinforced by colorful little phonic cards. We went over the sounds we had covered many times before. The D makes a duh sound, the A makes an ahh sound, the R makes a rrr sound, the K makes a kuh sound, till he could read that word and similar words on his own.
“Jonathan, do you understand how these sounds work together to say DARK?” I said to my son who seemed deep in thought as he handled the phonic cards.
Jonathan nodded. Oh Good, I thought, we were finally breaking some ground.
“Well, do you have any questions? Is there something you don’t understand?” I said pointing to the phonic cards.
After a moment he replied. “I don’t understand if God loves people so much, why did he make Jupiter so much bigger and Earth so much smaller?”
That was my son. Lots of intelligent questions, but none about the subject. I was frustrated. Jonathan was always thinking of anything and everything other than what we were working on. I knew his hyperactivity got in the way of his learning, but I also knew he was very intelligent.
I used a curriculum called Abeka for my third and fourth grade daughters’ science and history. I loved the informative pictures in the book and the way the subjects were presented. But the curriculum was definitely advanced by about two grades compared it to other grade level curriculums.
I had the teacher’s book with all the questions and answers and each of my girls had a student book. My daughters and I took turns reading the lessons, one paragraph at a time, out loud, then we would discuss the lesson afterwards. We were using a third grade Abeka history book and always did our history lessons in the living room.
I allowed Jonathan to sit with us during the history lessons, he built all types of castles and pirate ships with Legos as a way to occupy himself when the girls’ and I “did history.” It never failed to amaze me. Whenever the girls and I discussed the questions after the lesson, Jonathan always knew the answers. Not only did he as a first grader understand this advanced third grade level lesson, but he retained the information.
The Legos kept his hands busy and freed his mind to focus on what he was hearing. He sat with his Legos an entire hour without fidgeting, and he was learning!
I finally read in a book that some little children are just are not ready for school at five or six or seven. I agreed. Jonathan certainly qualified. Once I got the hang of that, things went much smoother as I did not feel so pressured, nor did I pressure him to learn as much. I lightened up on his paperwork and cut my lessons with him in half. It was like someone let a blast of sunshine into our little classroom. We did school like this for another year till he was more mature and was able to concentrate. Just waiting a bit, made a huge difference in his learning. Though he was never tested for ADHD, he showed all the symptoms as a child. During high school, Jonathan kept a great GPA, he was often on honor roll. Not surprisingly, one of his favorite subjects in school was history.
Jonathan went through the police academy and had nearly five years under his belt as a police officer. He had almost completed his Bachelors of Science degree when the Lord called him home at the age of 27, two years ago next week.
While going through his stuff I found a college paper he wrote and self-diagnosed himself with hyperactivity and ADD.
Don’t lose hope if you have a child struggling with a learning disability.