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Recommendations for my 10 yo son?

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A spin off of my other post, as I want to expand a bit on what I am seeking. What approach/recommendations would you give for teaching my 10 year old son this upcoming year? We really, really burned out last year. Mostly just because too many years of pushing the wrong curriculum, of pushing pedagogy that isn't really a fit for him, of not really working with his learning style (to be fair, I didn't really have a good understanding of it at the time), and he just grew to hate school. So, I am really trying to discern the direction we should go this year, and what we should use etc...  I asked him what would make the year better for him and he told me: "More science experiments, more art and fun math". 


Our lives are hectic. Our youngest (I've done a separate post for her) has some health issues which can keep us on the go sometimes (we have two trips to her hospital in September alone), and for whom a major surgery is being contemplated. My son, daughter and I are also all being evaluated for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder, so we'll be on the road a bit for that (our children's hospital/specialists are 6 hours away, so every visit is an overnight trip). My father in law is also seriously ill, possibly dying, so we are helping with his care as well. Though once we get home care in place for him next month that will ease up, but we could potentially have a turbulent year with emotional distress for the children (they're very close to their grandfather). So, all of this needs to be taken into consideration. I feel like if we use curriculum we need something that is open and go, that anyone can step in and do/oversee (often when our daughter goes to the hospital, our son stays with his Nana).


On the other hand, I have contemplated taking a year to "deschool" in a sense, and just be very relaxed/unschoolish, taking a break from formal math etc... to just try and re-energize ourselves and find the joy in learning again.


So with that background, here is some information on my son. I would really appreciate all your thoughts/insights. I'll also do a separate post for recommendations for my daughter. Thank you!!!



My son is 10. He is a left eye, right hand, right brained dominant, phlegmatic child with Sensory Processing Disorder (one of his biggest challenges is proprioceptive issues) and mild Tourette Syndrome. He "appears'' to have dyspraxia, but he also seeing genetics next month for suspected Ehlers Danlos Syndrome due to his excessive joint hypermobility (among other issues), and lack of stability. So, whether he really has dyspraxia, or whether it's just due to his joints/proprioceptive issues, we're not sure.


Some of his life-related struggles:


- He struggles physically with writing (hand gets tired and has horrible grip and presses too hard), and other things like using a knife (struggles with putting enough pressure etc..)
- I suspect he has some motor planning issues, as he struggles with things like shoe tying, catching balls, putting on gloves (just can't get those fingers into the holes, lol), zippers on jackets are still sometimes a challenge to get lined up and going etc...

- Needs some social skills work in the area of volume control and controlling his chatter


Some of his school-related struggles:


- Again, the writing. Now, he actually has very neat penmanship (print and cursive), but he struggles with output because it's tiring to him.
- He struggles with oral recall and narration. He does much better when he can write it out, or with your more typical workbook approaches (multiple choice, fill in the blanks, "essay" style answers etc...). After doing these questions he does a better job of narration, I think this is because it just helps to him to organize his thoughts.  He also can narrate better when allowed to draw or act it out. That said, he also doesn't like too many workbooks, because of all the writing.
- Struggles with any auditory based learning - he NEEDS to see it/read it for himself to really retain/get it.
- Horrible concept of time
- Struggles learning his math facts (and yet can learn his drama lines in one afternoon).
- Struggles with focus/attention with math
- Struggles some with problem solving/word problems with math (math is our Achilles heel here)

- Is a literal, black and white thinker. Does not learn well from "living books" (a la Charlotte Mason). He learns much better from text books, encyclopedias etc... He needs the information presented in a very clear format for him.

- He could care less about history. Not that this is a challenge, just more of a preference.

- Some auditory processing struggles (still struggles discerning certain sounds, which we often see in his spelling, because he hears it wrong). We had him tested for ADP and he passed, but he JUST made the cut off.

His strengths:

- He is an excellent reader - grasped phonics incredibly early/easily. In fact, we dropped phonics part way through grade 1 as they were unnecessary for him. He absolutely LOVES to read, and devours books. Spelling is good as well - he's very visual, so once he sees/writes a word a couple times, he has it. Grammar is fine - struggles some with using the proper past tense of words (been/gone etc...).
- He grasps math concepts very easily, especially the visual realms of math such as fractions, geometry etc... He easily learns new concepts, it's just turning around and remembering the math facts and figuring out the word problems to solve the questions that can be the issue. I think some of these math challenges are because I am just learning what a right brained/visual learner he is, and I haven't been properly supporting him. Over the years we have forced math on him so much: pushed it too hard, too soon, in ways that didn't meet his learning needs, and thus we have created a math-phobic/hating child, who actually does quite well at math.

- Loves art (has excellent drawing skills when he has a visual to look off of. He can do amazing replications of animated drawings etc... His freehand drawings could use some work).

- Loves music, and loves to sing. He's signed up for voice lessons this fall, as he has a beautiful singing voice, and easily memorizes songs, music etc...

- While not necessarily naturally talented in the "typical" sports  (though he enjoys them!) like basketball, soccer, baseball etc... he is a very skilled snowboarder and gymnast.

- Loves to "write" when there is no pressure - ex. he loves to do a morning journal where he can write whatever he wants, and can illustrate it.

- Is an extremely creative child. Honestly, it is amazing the Lego creations he can come up with just out of his head. He looks at a picture of something and then can build it. He's constantly turning things from around the house into creations of something or another. He loves to act things out, too. He has a wonderful imagination.

- Loves natural science. He has a fascination with birds and I call him my budding orinthologist, as he can correctly identify countless species. He is currently reading through a 750+ paged (adult level) encyclopedia of North American birds for fun. Likewise, he really loves anything to do with all animals, nature, etc... He isn't as interested in "typical" science topics such as physics, chemistry etc... That said, he loves to do science experiments.

- Likes typing




- He does better with just 2 or 3 subjects that take longer each day, than doing numerous short lessons. Ex: Charlotte Mason was a horrible fit for him, as even though some of the things only took 5-10 minutes, the long list of things to do every day completely overwhelmed him. (And he really likes having a list that he can check off). So, 3 subjects that take 30 minutes each are better for him, than 6 subjects that only take 15 minutes each. 

- Prefers science over history, reading over math




- He will be doing basketball from November through March, singing lessons from September through May and Sunday School from September through May. Total time commitment is 3 hours per week.

- He will be participating in a once a month Art & Nature School program (full day, drop off program at our local Waldorf School).



So, I think that gives an overview!



Edited by mshanson3121

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I posted on the other thread but yes if you wanted to do a year of deschooling and letting things be interest led and flexible I don't see why you couldn't.  He and your daughter are very young.  Your family has a lot going on right now.  If he needs structure you can still do that with interest led.  Just keep some form of math involved but you could do math games and even interest led in math as well.  Explore different math concepts.  Do some logic.  Step away from drill and kill on math facts.  Work on skip counting in fun ways.  Skip counting quickly can be almost as efficient as rote memorized math facts.  Not everyone CAN rote memorize math facts.   There are ways to still function effectively without having them all memorized.  And just let the rest of it kind of flow as you go.

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You know, when I think of my kids with challenges (I have one with Down syndrome, and another with probably SPD, and some chronic health issues), I think big picture. For kids whose issues are not going to go away, my perspective is to consider what I can teach them now that will help them be successful later on. I think if your mama-sense is telling you some de-schooling is appropriate, you can absolutely trust that and go with it. And I think while that is happening might be an excellent time to focus on skills like typing so he won't have to write, learning technology like voice to text for when he is physically tired and needs a break from writing/typing, learning some organization skills, use of technology to keep time and daily activities on track, calculator skills so he can drop the fact memorization, maybe do some extra occupational or physical therapy and get a good supportive exercise routine that will help support his joint issues (my sister has Ehlers Danlos, btw), just whatever you can think of that might support his ability to be and feel successful when you get started with a more regular school schedule again. I would also just let him follow his interests. I got a great book recently called "The Dangerous Book for Boys," and I was thinking it would make such a fun "curriculum" for an unschooling time of life. Something like that might be an idea to keep something going, but letting it be his interest leading the way. 

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Ok, I'll be a little against the flow and say I wouldn't go to *complete* deschooling or unschooling. I need to go look at your other thread. He sounds like someone who benefits from structure and clear expectations. How has he done this summer? I agree that this year is going to be a hard one and that you need a realistic, stable, healthy plan, absolutely. I just think you might want to find a plan that is trimmed enough that you *are* able to achieve some goals and hit them consistently to help him grow, to give him consistency and stability. He might be the kind who would do well with that.


For instance, it sounds like you have a goal to work on some social thinking. It sounds like he has some content things he drives himself in. If you haven't done typing, it definitely sounds like you need to work on typing. It sounds like you need some PT (which will have homework) to work on that dyspraxia or EDS or whatever they conclude is going on. So already that is like 4 subjects, boom, kwim? And none of that was wicked intense.


As a history hater myself (and I don't say that lightly, like 2 parents in the museum world, raised a history lover dd, married to a history lover, ugh), I would just like to connect the dots of social thinking (not engaging with people's narratives, whether it's history or literature) and the very visual, can't wrap your head around the big picture because history is all about narrative and PARTS, thinker. So your trick then is to reduce the emphasis on narrative and go for products that are conducive to big picture. For instance, the VP timeline cards work for me. They give you 10 facts to learn for the thing and you can see the entire time period in 32 cards. That works for me.


History, the way it's taught by history lovers, is a FRACTAL! And they think it's really cool that way, because every time you dig in you find another layer of detail. But nope, for some people it's just frustrating because you can't wrap your brain around it. History textbooks, really trim, concise textbooks, are also really strong for this kind of person, because they're going to get you to the big picture and give you something you can wrap your brain around. He could mindmap or do textbook mapping (google it) a history text. He can do this on his tech using an app. There are free apps like Popplet, but Inspiration is FABULOUS. If you plunk out for Inspiration, you won't regret it. Amazing, amazing, amazing software. Has app and desktop versions.


For Social Thinking, you can go to and look for materials. Socialthinking - Social Thinking and Me (Two-Book Set)  I'm doing this set with my ds right now, and it's WONDERFUL. We've already done a number of other sets from them (We Thinkers 1 & 2, Superflex with his behaviorist, etc.). I'm doing this with him myself, and I'm super impressed. I know my ds is younger than yours, but if he hadn't had the other materials first he would have needed to be older, like your ds is. This is VERY mature stuff. Don't have him write for the thinksheets. I just do them with my ds orally. I'll probably do this program over every year for several years with my ds, because it's SO rich, so good. It hits a lot of really rubber meets the road areas where people might be thinking rigidly or thinking a certain way and not realizing how other people are thinking or feeling. It will probably give you the tools you're needing right now. 


If you did that ST and Me book, like doing the lesson Monday and reviewing the thinksheeets the other days, it would be a subject in your day. It wouldn't be so intense, and it requires no prep at all. If you had a missed day or week, it would be easy to pick back up. And it would be something you can carry over to your literature time. You might want to consider doing that. With my ds, I tend to apply it to our Bible reading time and to life. I read (or try to read!) the Bible to my ds daily. It sounds like your ds is a strong reader. Socialthinking - I Get It! Building Social Thinking and Reading Comprehension Through Book Chats  It's not hard to carry the ST concepts over to literature that he reads, and this book can give you ideas. You don't have to have it, but it will get you inspired. :)


The ST people sell lots of other stuff for teens. You might find something else he can read for himself too. Just don't overshoot on materials. There's a lot of benefit to a simple thing done WELL. The concepts he's missing are simple concepts but rocket science at the same time. So you could buy a couple levels of materials and just use them in different ways. Like maybe something he reads for himself Socialthinking - Socially Curious and Curiously Social: A Social Thinking Guidebook for Bright Teens & Young Adults and the blue ST and Me set that you do with him, kwim? A blended approach.


You said he likes to DO things, right? Or maybe that was someone else? Oh well. His art sounds amazing. Have you thought of connecting that to his history? Like he reads and he responds by drawing? He could have a trim textbook or reading section assigned (maybe something very visual!) and then he picks something that interests him to draw of it for the week. That would be way cool and up his alley. Don't make it harder than that. 


I really think it's ok to have a list that is ONLY certain things. Like don't say well we're doing school so it has to be EVERYTHING. Some years it's ok to have a list that is really tight, like really only 3-4 things, things chosen really carefully. You might not get as much done this year as usual, so maybe look for 3-4 key things you can work on that will unlock other things. If he learns to type, that will unlock his writing. If he learns to interact with history in a way he enjoys (concise text, drawing, whatever), that will unlock his attitude. If he grows with Social Thinking, it will unlock his behaviors. And dude if he could get his thoughts out without pain, was understanding people and narratives (in lit and life), and life could be really good!


His interest-driven science sounds really awesome. Can you just facilitate on that? 


On the APD stuff, my dd is borderline like that, sigh. Couple questions. One, has he had a full psych eval yet? How many hours and what did they turn up? I'm wondering about SLD math, ADHD, inferences and particular aspects of his reading comprehension, etc. There is some software people use, like FFW, but also you can do Attention Good Listeners or see if anything from Super Duper calls to you. He might also have low working memory.


Does he issues when he goes out, like with noise? I'm asking about that, because you might want to track things to see if there are patterns to behaviors. Like if he's in noise one day and having headaches the next that affect his behavior and his ability to do his school work, that might create patterns you can identify.


He sounds like a really fun boy with a lot of strengths! He's definitely at the right age to be working with those strengths and facilitating those strengths! I would feel very good about putting the limited time you have into targeted work (trim, targeted), do something fun *with* him each week, and doing the rest as facilitating. 


Edited by OhElizabeth
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