Friday, November 4, 2011
Lessons from Week #1
Paul and Caroline have left for Friday night basketball and Jackson is outside playing football. This is my time to steal a few minutes with a glass of wine and get my thoughts about this week down in print before they become forever lost in the chaos of my mind. I plan on writing about why we decided to homeschool Jackson at some point, but not today. The reasons why make me sad and since this was one of the best weeks I've had in a long time, I prefer to dwell on my blessings and not my hardships. So here are my 5 main lessons from this week's adventure.
Lesson #1: The best way to learn how to teach Jackson is to listen to how he wants to be taught: Jackson has very low academic self-confidence. Even though he has "passed advanced" all his SOL's and been on honor roll countless times, he still needs a tremendous amount of encouragement that the work he is doing is correct and of good quality. So I learned very quickly to heap on the praise literally after every problem/question. I successfully moved him through 4 weeks of math in 5 days by just high fiving him every few minutes!
Lesson #2: The more detailed the schedule the better: Paul and I live by the belief that proper expectations are the key to a happy marriage and life! The same can be said for teaching many children with autism, especially Jackson. His daily schedule is not only broken into 15-30 minute blocks, but within each block, a detailed description of the activity is listed, i.e. 2:00-2:30 Math - 5 worksheets, Jungle Coins iPad game (level 3), Mathboard iPad game (1-20 question quiz), Money Tray Game - making change. And he does every single thing with zero complaining b/c he is mentally prepared for those activities.
Lesson #3: Stick to the Schedule!: Math never starts before 2 and never ends after 2:30, if something looks like it will get in the way, I change the schedule so the new times are in writing and he can read them himself, but I never disregard what I have written down. To Jackson, that is a binding contract and for me to break it would be a betrayal of his trust. He trusts me to be true to my word and I need to honor that everyday.
Lesson #4: Transitions are his Achilles Heel: If I am not prepared for what is next on the schedule then it will probably not happen. For example, I had "Reading Time" down for 8:45-9:00 and I couldn't find the book, so that whole block of instruction was lost. I need to bring my A game if I expect him to push himself to learn things that are challenging for him...like reading outloud.
Lesson #5: The more laughter the better the learning: Jackson is a funny man! He is genuinely hilarious. He finds tremendous joy in making people laugh. It is what gives him purpose and fulfillment. If I don't recognize his need for that feedback from me, then I am failing him as his teacher, friend and mother. So I laugh often and loudly, even if it is in the middle of a lesson on sentence structure or regrouping. He learns best when he is feeling understood and appreciated.
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