On Importance of Shoes and Mother

January 21, 2020

It was not easy for Robert to stay home while I took a 10 days long trip to France. He asked about me hundred times each day. He kept checking and rechecking on a calendar the date of my return. Often, he displayed anxiety and confusion.  My absence was not easy for my husband either as not only he had to take care of Robert alone but  he had to keep responding to wave upon wave of Robert’s repetitive inquiries.

They missed me.  No doubt about that, They wanted me home.

So I expected them to impatiently wait for me  at our town’s train station.  I called my husband from the airport. I called him from the Silver Line bus and from the commuter train. He knew when I was coming and he was supposed to wait for me.   But he wasn’t.

I called him only to find out that they didn’t leave the house yet. As they were getting ready to leave,  Robert shoe laces broke and he couldn’t tie them.  He couldn’t!  But if he couldn’t tie shoe laces  he couldn’t wear his shoes. Of course, he couldn’t leave the house in untied shoes. Those are Robert’s rules and he doesn’t break them easily. So he tried to fix them over and over and over again. He was not able.  He got frustrated and angry. And stubborn.

Although Robert had a pair of new shoes bought just a few weeks before, he didn’t want to put them on as that meant giving up on his broken shoe laces.

Moreover, Robert really wanted to drive with dad to the station.  He really did. He didn’t want dad to go alone but how he could go when the shoe laces were broken. Besides, Dad couldn’t go either as Robert was too agitated to be left alone. With  loud sounds Robert expressed his confusion and displeasure with this unsolvable dilemma.

Only when he saw his father getting into the car, Robert decided to put shoes on and drive with him. He was still tense when I finally met him. He was clearly contemplating if he made a right decision. Ignoring my presence, he  kept repeating “shoes, shoes, shoes. Ten times, hundred times.

With a tint of irritation in my voice I asked, “Robert what is more important: mother or shoes”.

“Shoes, shoes” he answered without hesitation.

I didn’t hesitate either and sternly replied, “Well, if shoes are more important to you, I am going back to France. Jan, please stop the car.”

Jan pulled to the curb and stopped the car.   I opened the door and put one leg on the sidewalk.  Only then I heard very loud, panicked voice,

“Mother!!!! Mother!!!! Mother!!!.”

For the next few days, whenever Robert began to perseverate  about shoes I asked the same question and got the same answer. “Mother, mother, mother.”



Routine, Routine, Routine

January 15, 2020

We are still learning. Sort of.  We repeat the same pattern every day.   I am not sure, however,  if following the same order for extended periods of time helps with the acquisition and retention of  information and skills or does not. Maybe reruns of the same steps over and over again carve the path too deep to allow smooth transition to other ways of acquiring and utilizing new facts and abilities.

But then, I would also like Robert to gain confidence in his ability to solve tasks that the world places in front of him by presenting him with limited number of tasks.

But maybe too limited and thus leading to increased rigidity.

That is a dilemma I face every day. Dilemma I try to solve by using the same form but filling it with varied tasks.

Years ago, Robert and I used Saxon Math grades 1 to 4.  Each page presented 10-12problems, but they all belonged to different subset of math knowledge. One task was about measuring the line. The next asked to tell the time on the clock. There was a problem demanding adding or subtracting and there was also a task of completing a number pattern.Those were followed by drawings of partially shaded figures with questions about represented fractions.

Saxon Math pages were very different than typical workbooks made of pages filled with only additions or only multiplication.

However, the next page in Saxon Math had exactly the same format. First task on page one and page two required the same skill -for instance  of drawing the line of a given length. So did page 3 and 4. That was where routine – familiarity -was present.

In the last few weeks I have used Evan-Moor workbooks with titles starting with the word “Daily”.

There are:

Daily Word Problems Math . Grade 1 and 2.

Daily Math Practice Grade 3 and 4.

Robert challenges with understanding language as it relates to math problems are reasons for the discrepancy in the levels of those workbooks. It had to add that Robert was capable of solving problems from fifth, sixth and even seventh level of Momentum Math as we proceed from one unit to the next. The difficulties became obvious when there was a need to switch from one sort of tasks (for instance only adding fractions) to others (rounding numbers). That is why the above mentioned workbooks come handy.  On one hand they present Robert with easier demands but require him to apply different strategies to find answers.

Daily Reading Comprehension Still on Grade 1

Very simple texts followed by three multiple choice questions. We read two of them each day. They are not very interesting, We read them only because they are easy so Robert doesn’t have difficulties answering questions.

At the same time Robert is reading one chapter each day from one of the set of 40 Usborne Young Reading, currently  The Strange case of Dr.Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Those books are considered to be on the third-fourth grade level. The easy texts are followed by questions to check comprehension in a non threatening way.  So Robert reads and chooses the answers to one of the three questions. I don’t ask, however, any questions following the reading of a chapter. Yes, I do sometimes quickly substitute a synonym for more difficult word. Yes, I come with sentences  connecting the texts with the illustrations, but I don’t punish Robert by checking his comprehension.

I need to add, however, that in two previous years, Robert and I worked with the old curriculum Reading Mastery V and VI.  We both were successful. He in learning and I in teaching because the curriculum addressed as much Robert’s needs as a learner as my needs as a teacher.  Unfortunately, those materials were also very expensive and I could afford only the old used ones.  The direct instruction format allowed me to present to Robert the string of  the well designed questions that addressed many different skills.  Yes, I followed the routine, but my  routine resulted in enlarging Robert’s world with new perspectives.

While writing this post, I realized that  there is not much benefit for Robert from Daily Reading Comprehension and that I should return to Reading Mastery. Why, didn’t I realize that sooner?

Well, I followed the daily routine and dug the path too deep to see that it doesn’t lead anywhere.