Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nurturing Differences

Learning has always come very easy to me. I was an early reader and I loved going to school. Until recently, I had a mind like a steel trap for details. Unfortunately, that's all changed... but I digress. I'm also a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator, so getting me to do homework was challenging for my parents. When I finally settled down to do my homework, I did well and actually enjoyed what I was learning. Heck, I liked learning so much, I became a librarian!! My grades weren't always the best once I got into higher grades, but that had to do more with my own laziness than my intelligence.

Today, as a parent, I'm faced with a much different situation. (Debra is facing the bigger impact of this, but she can write about her feelings around this on her blog if she chooses to.) Sofie is struggling with homework and many aspects of learning in first grade. I witnessed it first hand when I was helping her do a simple math work sheet a few nights ago. The frustration on her little face was so sad to see. She has only had homework for a few weeks now, so this is the first glimpse we're actually getting of the struggles she's having with learning. Sofie is a very bright kid. She grasps so many things. This is the same kid that told a teacher in kindergarten that your eyes dilate when you go into a dark room. (Never mind that the teacher was only looking for an answer like, "you turn on a light" or "you look for monsters" when you enter a dark room!) I hate to see her get so disheartened around schoolwork.

Many of you know Sofie's story. Her early life was challenging for many reasons. Her strong spirit is probably what kept her going. I can only hope that same spirit stays strong during these first few years of school. I know Debra has done all that she could to make sure Sofie's had the best resources to encourage and assist her learning since an early age. She has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), but just how beneficial this will be for these particular issues is yet to be seen.

Debra and I are not professional educators by any stretch of the imagination. We're just concerned parents, with great intuition, who think there's something going on that's not getting identified. We've both commented to each other that we suspect dyslexia or her vision problems are hindering her learning.

How do you take a child with such individualized learning needs and allow her to succeed in a setting that's geared towards group learning? How do you nurture and assist someone you want to succeed without having any idea how to teach her? I really want to be a hands on parent in all respects, I just don't want to let her down or discourage her. All you wise souls out there, any tips?

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