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9/11/2008 4:12:48 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
Septemer 2008
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WELCOME

Welcome to our first edition of "Homeschooling a Struggling Learner"
monthly newsletter. We are excited to use this format to explore
various aspects of homeschooling a child who has needs that are
different from his or her siblings. We will discuss a different topic
of interest each month.

Past experience has shown that the parent is the best teacher for a
child who is struggling with the learning process in any way. Our
goal is to help equip parents to identify their child's struggle and
teach their child successfully at home...and have fun doing it!

Future editions of this newsletter will be available only by
subscription through the HSLDA e-lert service. Sign up now at
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5504 .

CHILDREN WHO HAVE TO WORK TOO HARD TO LEARN

It is always puzzling to parents when one of their children doesn't
learn to read or write as quickly as their siblings. Sometimes
parents find that giving the child more time to mature works well.
Other times the child struggles with the learning process in spite of
being given more time.

Maybe you are a parent who has recently taken your child out of the
school setting because he was not learning well, despite an Individual
Education Plan and special reading and writing classes. Your child is
likely suffering from a block in one or more of his "learning gates."
One of the main learning gates is the "writing learning gate," and
consequently is the most common to be blocked by a glitch in learning.


WRITING GATE BLOCKED--WHEN COPYING DOESN'T WORK

God designed our left brain hemisphere to concentrate on new tasks,
such as driving a car, or riding a bike. After concentrated practice,
that task is then transferred over the corpus callosum (the brain
midline), to the right brain, which is responsible for automaticity of
processes. If we imagine the left brain hemisphere as the "thinking
(concentrating) brain" and the right hemisphere as the "doing
(automatic) brain," we can see how this transfer allows us to "think
and do" at the same time. Then we can think and drive at the same
time, or think and ride our bike at the same time.

Generally, when we teach a child how to write, after six months of
practice that writing is expected to cross over from the
"concentrating brain" to the "automatic brain" so the child can now
"think and write" at the same time. For many children, this transfer
does not easily occur. Thus, they have to give energy, or a level of
concentration, to a task that other children do not have to do. Dr.
Mel Levine, in his book "One Mind at a Time," calls these blocks,
"energy leaks."

This often solves the mystery of why many children learn their
spelling words easily by writing them in a workbook, or writing them
five times each, while other children can write words hundreds of
times and still not store the spelling word in their long-term memory.
Now we realize that these struggling children have to use their
"batteries" just for the writing process, so that the learning process
cannot occur. Thus, the method of copying to learn is totally
ineffective for these children. We need to help them open up their
writing gates.

These children are very commonly thought of as "lazy, sloppy or
unmotivated." We unknowingly make them re-copy work that is sloppy,
not realizing that they have a bona fide writing block. The majority
of the time, when a child who loves to listen to mom read stories, but
says that he doesn't like or even 'hates' schoolwork, he is struggling
with a blocked writing gate.

CHARACTERISTICS

Let's look at some of the symptoms children who have blocked writing
gates present to us daily:

> Frequent or occasional reversals in letters or numbers (after age 7)

> Letters made from bottom to top (vertical reversals)
> Writing is very labor intensive
> Copying takes a long time
> Math problems solved mentally to avoid writing them down
> Writing appears sloppy and child is often considered lazy
> Oral recitation of stories is excellent, but writing is minimal
> Capital and small letters mixed in writing
> In math, lining up numbers in multiplication or division is
difficult

No child has all of these characteristics, but if your child has
several, you may consider this an area he or she is struggling in. If
a child has many of the characteristics, or is over age 9 and still
writes reversals, they may be labeled with dysgraphia. Many times
these children are considered "gifted with a glitch." They are
excellent in verbal expression, but way behind in written expression.
Writing paragraphs and longer papers are something that they take
great pains to avoid. They give one-word answers whenever possible.

COMPENSATION

When a parent recognizes that their child has a blocked learning gate,
and is not just being sloppy or resistant to writing without a reason,
then steps can be taken to alleviate some of the writing burden on the
child, until the problem can be corrected.

> Reduce the amount of writing a child needs to do during the day. Do
more answers for chapter questions orally. Limit the amount of writing
in workbooks.

> Reduce or eliminate copying for 3-6 months. Save the child's
"battery energy" for writing paragraphs, or a paper once a week.

> Use another method of learning spelling words that does not include
writing multiple times. Resources include Sequential Spelling
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5497) or Right Brain Spelling
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5498).

> Teach the child keyboarding for some writing projects (However, most
children who have dysgraphia, or a writing glitch, also find
keyboarding quite labor-intensive also.)

CORRECTION

There are various methods that can be used to take the stress out of a
child's writing system, and make the whole writing process more
fluent. Here are a few:

> NILD has a private therapy program that incorporates "Rhythmic
Writing" to help reduce the stress in the writing system
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5499).

> "The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia," from LinguiSystems
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5500) contains ideas on how to
correct writing problems.

> The "Brain Integration Therapy Manual" by Dianne Craft,
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5501), contains a daily "Writing
Eight Exercise," that opens the child's writing gate and eliminates
reversals.

> "Handwriting Without Tears" (http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5502)
is a writing program that works well after a child has a strong
midline.

CONCLUSION

A child can have a learning glitch, or block in a learning gate, that
causes him to struggle everyday with schoolwork, without the parents'
knowledge. Using some simple checklists, the parent can identify this
problem and design the school day to be less frustrating. More
importantly, the parent can avail herself of all the wonderful
corrective techniques, so that the child does not need to struggle
with the burden of having to work so hard at writing, or with a
dysgraphia. God has wonderful answers for us. He leads us in so many
ways, and we are ever grateful!

For more information on the Four Learning Gates, and how they can be
affecting your child's daily learning, visit the HSLDA Struggling
Learners website, http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=5503. This site
is designed to help parents both identify and correct many of the
everyday learning challenges that children experience. Of particular
interest is the "Smart Kids Who Hate to Write" article on that
website.

The HSLDA Special Needs/Struggling Learner staff prays that this
newsletter has been a blessing to you. Please look for upcoming
topics such as: "Alternative Assessments"; "Children with Sensory
Problems"; "Teaching Versus Assigning"; "Choosing Curriculum";
"Educating for Eternity"; "Help! My Child Can't Spell"; "Developing
an IEP"; and many more.

If you have particular topics that you would like to have us address
in these newsletters, please email: specialneedscoordinator@hslda.org
. We desire to meet our members' needs.

All members of HSLDA have the opportunity to call or email our Special
Needs/Struggling Learner Coordinators and be given resources, help,
and advice on how to teach their Struggling Learner at home.

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-> What do you look like when you get out of bed?

It's hard to look our best all the time. HSLDA works to present
homeschooling in an engaging, dynamic, and informative light to
the public news media.

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1104

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