Monday, July 29, 2013

In Which I Confess My Academic Struggles

Every summer, I set out to make sure my kids don't loose academic skills while they are on vacation. I don't want to teach, teach, teach them over the summer and suck the life out of their vacation but neither do I want them to become literal zombies who play Minecraft all day as their brains ooze out of their ears. I usually make them do a page or so of math in a workbook and practice reading, either to themselves or out loud. Most summers, we do a great job of this. This summer, not so much.

Adam expressed concern to me today that our daughter isn't reading well. I know she had some struggles and got a little extra help during the school year. Her first grade teacher and I stayed in close contact during the year and I asked time and time again if we needed Cami tested. We discussed her progress (slow and steady), what errors she makes in reading and so much more. In the end, her teacher advised us to wait on extensive testing and, based on our many conversations, input from Cami's reading teacher, the teacher's MANY years of experience and my (much more limited) educational experience, we agreed. Some basic testing had already been done (out of our pocket and away from school) and a couple things had been ruled out. Camille was a struggling reader, who was progressing on at her own pace in an upward trajectory.

This summer, I had hoped to work with her on reading every day. It hasn't happened but she has been practicing here and there. She goes to tutoring once a week and the tutor is her reading teacher during the school year. She enjoys this and works hard for her teacher. All reports indicate the same thing: she is struggling but progressing and working hard. Don't worry too much, keep helping her and she will get it.

I told him all this and he didn't look convinced. Something must be wrong, right?

I hesitated for a moment and then said, "You know I was a late reader, right?" He looked back at me, surprised.


School wasn't always easy for me. I don't remember the specifics about kindergarten and first grade (except for the paste! Oh, those jars of paste!) but I know I had a lot of trouble academically. My report cards indicate as much. I know I went to the resource room and that, at times, this was upsetting or embarrassing to me. Reading and math were struggles.

The funny thing is, though, that I loved reading. Loved it! My mom would take me to the local library and fill a brown paper sack with books. We would read them all many times before returning them and getting more. She read out loud to me often and frequently. I remember reading Sweet Valley Twins books and American Girl stories snuggled on the couch. My struggles weren't for a lack of stories or modeling. It was just... hard.

I don't know what changed, when it clicked or what the magic solution was. I know I had a tutor one summer. She was called the "Toodling Tutor" and let me use a type writer. I remember she was good but I don't think she had a magic solution. I think... it was just time.

I think was about eight when reading really took off. I know we moved when I was ten and, by that time, I was a very strong reader. By fifth or sixth grade, I was a decent writer and I know that really took off when I was in the seventh grade. (Three words: Early Fan-fiction.) Now math . . . not so much. Numbers are not my strong suit. But reading? Everyone knows I love to read. Writing? Yes, please! I adore the fact that I am published on the web at the Natural Parents Network and soon I will be on Catholic Mothers On-Line! Sure, it's small and unpaid but I love it.

Am I a perfect reader? No. Sometimes I read too fast. Sometimes I read too much, if that is indeed a problem. I am constantly working on my writing skills. I can't spell worth a damn. I make mistakes and typos and I really could use a class that works on the nitty-gritty parts of grammar, something that is lacking in my education. Oh and sleep. I could really use sleep but I think that will only be solved when there are more hours in the day.

That's why, yes, I am keeping an eye on my daughter but, at the same time, I'm not too worried. I was older than she was when reading was really opened up for me and look what happened! Look! I became an avid reader, a book addict. I became a writer. I became me.

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