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Homeschooling: All Things

Who Is Your Child?

By Virginia Vagt

Children are all so different. We're with our children a lot. So we think we know them. And we do know a lot about them.

But the pace of our lives takes time away from our ability to make observations and reflect on the patterns we see. Don't we often make quick judgments about what they're doing and not doing? Our judgments are often based on what we expect them to do and who we expect them to be.

Real-life, real misunderstanding. I've been an adult for a very long time, but only recently did I learn I have a severe reading disability. This explains a lot, but it was still a surprise. I learned this while editing a book! My particular disability – eye movement deficits – actually has some benefits when it comes to editing. I naturally read sentences over and over again. I can spot words that need to be rearranged. But to help me read longer amounts at a stretch, there are therapies for eye movement deficits and I've seen some improvement. Looking back, I also see how I've positively accommodated this disability. So this isn't a sad story. Not now.

Real-life can stump us. The entire time I was in school, I didn't know I had this reading disability. Neither did my parents or teachers. They expected that I could read well, or should read well, because of the amount of time I spent in school and on homework. The big gap was unexplainable. They looked at me with a frown and talked among themselves. Why doesn't she read faster? Why doesn't she finish books? Why doesn't she finish her homework? And why does she tend to do well on essay tests? On multiple-choice questions, the ones she finishes, why does she get most of them correct?

What's the real answer? The real answer was that tests, back then, did not have large amounts of reading. I did better on tests because they were shorter than homework assignments. Because of my reading disability I naturally re-read each test question and rarely mis-read a question. At the time, reading disabilities weren't understood. My parents and teachers were groping in the dark for explanations. They came up with these: she's daydreaming, she's not cooperating, she needs to buckle down, she's lazy, she could do better, she should do better, she needs a speed-reading class (didn't help), she needs to be grounded, to stop piano lessons and everything else. She needs to spend more time on homework. I did spend a lot of time on homework. I just couldn't finish it. My parents did their best, and so did I. But now that I've found out about eye movement deficits, I've been able to make real progress in reading. It feels good. I'm glad to be able to read longer and also glad to know I wasn't a homework slouch all those years, but a person with a reading disability.

Observe and Conditionally Evaluate. One of the biggest tools in assessing learning disabilities, and all kinds of issues, is observation. My parents were halfway there. They did observe. But because of their lack of tools, their conclusions didn't address the real issue. Without realizing it they jumped to conclusions. Don't we do that all the time? To help us today with our kids, what if we said to ourselves, "I think this is the issue?" instead of, "I know this is the issue." When we name the issues in their lives, and ours, conditionally, we're more likely to continue observing. When we continue observing, we can get to know our kids better, know their real issues better, and enjoy and parent them better, as well.
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Written by Virginia Vagt, a writer, speaker, editor and 13-year veteran homeschooling mom. Click here to read selections from Vagt's Be Encouraged column or, for additional resources, visit HomeFieldAdvantage.org.

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