Friday, June 20, 2008

I Do Love a Challenge

Math Time - Playing Store

Me: "Welcome to Mommy's Market Place. How are you today?"

Timmy: "I feel great. I want to buy something for $.07. I see you have this Little People Farmer."

Me: "Oh, yes. You can have hours of fun with him!"

Timmy: "I know I have seven cents. Just let me look."

Timmy digs into his sandwich bag of coins, pulling out a nickel and two pennies, after slight hesitation. He repeats this scenario a few times, with equal success using different values, such as making twelve cents with a dime and two pennies.

Me: "That's correct. Thank you for shopping at Mommy's Market Place. Have a nice day!"

Daniel's turn.

Me: "Welcome to Mommy's Market Place. So good to see you today. What can I do for you?"

Daniel: "I am going camping and I need this flashlight for $.09."

Me: "Great. I'm sure you will find this very helpful."

Daniel gets into his sandwich bag of coins, counting out nine pennies, even though he has a nickel he can use.

Me: "That is correct. Can you think of any other way to make nine cents, with fewer coins?"

Daniel pulls out a nickel, but is confused about what to do next. I gently help him, then bag his purchase.

This scenario, with Timmy having more success counting on, repeats one more time. Then Daniel, clearly frustrated, announces that he no longer wants to play. I know what is going on under the surface, but don't say anything. We stop for the day, this being only our second time playing this game. Both boys learned a lot the first time we played, but Timmy retained everything he learned, while Daniel just needs a few more days of practice.

This illustrates a difficult part of our homeschooling experience. Timmy, four-and-a-half, is very bright. He is already reading at a mid-first grade level, having learned his letters and sounds by age two, without any prompting from us. Letter books, letter materials, and letter videos were around, but we never gave him any lessons. Of course, we did praise him, but words aren't his love language, so our praise didn't mean much to him. He just REALLY liked letters and numbers.

Truthfully, for a time, I worried that he might have High-Functioning Autism. He didn't say much until age two, but then quickly began using sentences. While very loving and affectionate, he preferred playing alone, mostly with his letters and numbers, until approximately age three. He would play at making words with the magnet letters, or set out all the magnet numbers in order. It was varied play, but usually with letters and numbers.

Daniel, during this time, was very frustrated that his brother wouldn't interact with him more. He bugged him a lot, which I think made Timmy crave alone time even more. Thankfully, for our sanity, around age three-and-a-half, Timmy became very good friends with Daniel. He grew out of the side-by-side play one sees in toddlers and younger preschoolers, and really began to interact fully and enthusiastically. They've gotten along extremely well ever sense, with Daniel's vivid imagination giving direction to a lot of their play.

Last fall, when we started formally homeschooling, both boys could sound out three-letter words, so I purchased a first grade reading curriculum, rather than kindergarten, for Daniel. Timmy was just turning four, and along for the ride, mostly so he wouldn't feel left out. I didn't have specific goals for him.

Within two months, Timmy started reading better than Daniel. At the same time, he lost some of his interest in joining us each day. We let him make the call, kind of hoping he would drop out. I started teaching Daniel separately, during reading time, to avoid the comparisons he might eventually make.

Timmy lost enough interest that for about two months, he only read to Don or me about twice a week, while Daniel read every day. That was all it took; they are now equal in reading, much to my relief. Timmy doesn't technically enter kindergarten until the 2009-10 school year. We will continue letting him lead the way in terms of how much formal schooling he receives, until then. At least for now, he prefers learning games, and insists on being included when we do them. At this point, I only have to worry about Daniel making comparisons during these games.

We take pains to point out their individual strengths, and it helps a lot that Daniel has such an interest in the content areas, like science and social studies. Timmy is only mildly interested in those things, which I guess is common for his age. Sometimes it is hard to remember that, though bright, he is still just a little boy. I see him excelling with computers or some other engineering field some day. Since I don't see a lot of broad intellectual curiosity in him, I don't think he's gifted, in the official sense. Gifted kids usually display intellectual curiosity that is quite beyond their years. Socially, Timmy is great with all ages, and autism never enters my mind now.

It will be up to us to continually praise Daniel, and point out his strengths. He loves his brother dearly, and respects him as well, and vice versa. My prayer is that their friendship will melt any jealously or resentment that surfaces. Certainly, it isn't always going to be practical to teach them separately. With the new baby turning one and becoming more active a semester after Timmy officially starts kindergarten, streamlining our homeschooling, and teaching both boys together when practical, is going to be essential.

Should be quite a ride. I do love a challenge. Guess that's partially why I didn't get that tubal ligation, or push that vasectomy. LOL

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