This year I was introduced to John Taylor Gatto's philosophies of education and I must say, I have been inspired to change my children's educational experience.
One of the areas that Mr. Gatto addresses is that an education should give the child purpose and meaning in his life. How does one go about that?
My son, who is ten years of age, learned to really dislike school. He was struggling with reading, writing and spelling. As his teacher, I prayed earnestly, researched his learning style, patiently re-introduced concepts all to no avail. He cried almost daily. I wondered if he was dyslexic, but when I discussed it with his eye doctor, neither of us thought he was, due to the fact that he was an exceptional math student.
During the summer, my friend Elisabeth Wallace introduced me to Dianne Craft and her right brain teaching strategies. I bought her DVD and her phonics program and began to see some results.
Eventually, I was led to explore vision therapy. Having no idea what it was, I researched it and found a doctor in our area who used it. She tested Isaac and found that his eyes were not functioning together properly. One eye would literally bounce around, causing him to be skip words and lines and causing the letters to jumble when he read. I was so relieved to find the source of his problem.
Vision therapy was extremely difficult for Isaac. His eyes watered and hurt. He, who has never needed much sleep, was totally exhausted. He still cried nearly everyday. But, Isaac is very strong willed and he decided that he was going to master every lesson his therapist gave him. She made the mistake of telling him that she was unbeaten in the bean bag toss. She did win three matches against him, but with great zeal he soon became the bean bag toss champion.
At last his test showed that both eyes were working together properly! What relief flooded my being. Throughout his therapy I had been trying to re-kindle his love for learning. He has always been a natural learner, and each time he mentioned anything that he was interested in, we made a trip to the library to find books on that subject. Or we would research that topic on-line. He started doing his own experiments. Soon, he was in love with learning again!
People have commented on how helpful he is. For our special meetings, Isaac, of his own accord, shook each persons hand and gave them a song book. He also really enjoyed frosting and giving out cookies for the residents of the nursing home. He was so excited to be able to help the residents make hearts and cards.
So, I began praying about how to combine this gift of "helpfulness" and his reading. What could I do to let him see that reading could have purpose and meaning?
This morning on my daily walk God brought a solution to my mind. One of the people who live in our neighborhood is blind, as is my dad. My dad really struggles with feeling that since he can no longer contribute positively to those around him, he really isn't needed. I assume that the elderly gentleman in our neighborhood felt the same way. I began to wonder what would happen if I told him about Isaac's vision problem and how that Isaac needed to practice his reading skills. I wondered if he would be willing to help Isaac, by allowing Isaac to read to him. Isaac would feel that he was helping this blind gentleman. They would both feel they were fulfilling a need in each other's life and they would both benefit. On the other hand, I didn't know this gentleman very well. Was this really a good idea?
I began to think how nice it would be if Isaac could do this for my dad...if only he lived closer! And then it came to me...why not have Isaac call my dad and read to him over the phone?! Any words he didn't know how to pronounce, he could spell and my dad could help him sound them out.
When I got home I explained to Isaac that "Papaw" really had a need to feel wanted and asked him if he would like to call him and read to him everyday. Isaac was only too happy to oblige. My dad was overjoyed that he could help Isaac in this manner.
Isaac now has a purpose for reading and helping his Grandpa in this way has brought meaning to his life.
I'm so thankful that we can take every problem to the Lord in prayer and that He cares and sends the answer!