Lisa Goff’s article last week “Deal with It” inspired me to write about one of my boys. Most of my children have had the same challenges, but this son has overcome these challenges in a visual way that I can share with you. This son would never have made it in public school without being medicated. He was unable to sit without moving some part of his body; his hands, his foot, or even bobbing his head up and down. Banging on things was a favorite pass time.
He was unable to be quiet either. He would make noises of all kinds; sing, chant, and the worst, click his teeth! And to keep his attention on anything he didn’t want to do was difficult, if not impossible. The dog in the movie “Up” describes his challenge perfectly! - “Squirrel!” - was an adept portrayal of our school hours (sadly, he wasn’t the only one!).
This required me to learn about teaching methods for short attention spans and about how the curriculum, and the “classroom”, influenced learning. I had to change my approach to meet his needs. After much trial and error and lots of prayer, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who was a homeschooler in a different state. Through her I learned about a new curriculum that was just what my children needed. What a blessing!
He also had motor skill challenges. He was ambidextrous. So much so that he was unable to cross the center line of his body. When he would color, draw, or write he would use the pencil or crayon in his right hand until he came to the center line, then he would switch the pencil to his other hand to finish the letter or shape. It was very frustrating to teach him to write legibly!
This made it necessary for me to study how the brain works and then find ways to help him learn to write and continue to learn the skills he needed.
Even with these challenges he was very smart! He taught himself to read with almost no help from me. He just listened in on what I taught his older siblings and just did it. He could (and would) take everything apart. When anything was broken he was the one I called to come fix it. He could understand complex math and science concepts and explain them in a way that others could easily understand.
I had to become skilled at the best ways for him to learn, one of which was for him to teach others what he was studying. We used a curriculum that encouraged this style of learning, thus helping both him and his siblings learn from each other.
When he was in high school he was taking piano lessons from a teacher who also taught at Julliard. She told us that it was a waste of time and money for him to continue taking piano because he just couldn’t focus on the tasks at hand. I knew she was dead wrong and he continued with his lessons. Once he discovered jazz it was like a light bulb went off and he rediscovered his love of music.
The quandary was that his challenges could have outweighed any intelligence or talent he had. Homeschooling was the perfect method for his learning challenges and we managed to get him through Chemistry, Algebra II, and all the other education he needed. It wasn’t easy for either of us, but we met the challenge.
What I was inspired to do after reading Lisa’s article was to show what the results can be of letting your child blossom where their talents lie, instead of trying to make them conform to others expectations. And show what can happen when you don’t make your child “deal with it”.
This son, my number four child, is now in his middle 20’s. He is married and is now working to achieve his life goals. Here is how he has used those seemingly dire learning challenges that didn’t fit into the norm of public school.
He is an amazing musician who can play countless instruments. His ambidexterity has become an advantage as he plays piano, drums, guitar and other instruments.
His ability to understand complex concepts has helped him understand sound recording. He has a sound studio in his basement and uses a computer to record things like this.
He also has other musicians send him their recordings and he cleans them up, adds back up tracks and sends back a finished product.
With his ability to explain complex concepts he can explain things like Pinterest to guys so they understand.
His ability to make noises and always be “on” he uses to do things like this.
His sense of humor was honed during the many hours he and his brothers did their best to keep me entertained so I would forget the school work we were supposed to be doing. He uses that skill to think of things like his band "Me, Myself and I".
He also is the lead singer in a local band that plays around the Philadelphia area and he has an album on itunes as well as several other singles.
I know that our decision to homeschool Matthew has allowed him to take the talents he was blessed with and learn to use them without the label of being a special education student. He did need special education. The kind found in the safety of our home until he was ready to release all that energy out into the world in positive ways. That’s all we want as parents, isn’t it?
Matthew Wood lives in New Jersey with his wife Maren. Matthew will be teaching Music Composition 101 and 102 at the LDSHE Friendship Conference on Wednesday May 16th. Sign up your musician today!