Shh...Mum is Thinking

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...


My son learned to tie his shoes by himself about 1 ½ weeks ago. This was after our practicing together for a very long time, with me showing him over and over where the loop goes, pinch its bottom (giggle) and take the other lace around, under and through. My big hands were always in the way, my big head blocking his view, he unable to bring his foot up close enough to see properly…oh it was so frustrating for us both!

Then last week, older son was waiting outside to ride bikes, and mum was busy (Just a MINUTE! I called…a few times) He went quiet…older brother came in…and they both started cheering from the next room. Hurray! He’s done it!

He’s tied his shoes by himself at least once a day since, and he’s is so proud he learned at a younger age than I did. Good to have a chance to lord it over your mum. Indeed :-)

Now I wonder…maybe I should have been too busy to ‘help’ sooner. I think I was confusing him. Gah.


We sit together daily working our way through our maths book. He seems to find maths easy for the most part. But. There is something fishy going on…

Our math books follow the state guidelines for curriculum. They have a set way of teaching things. It seems the goal is to teach the simplest addition and subtraction problems by rote memory, then build on that to move upwards to using two and three digit numbers. Problem is, my son doesn’t seem to add and subtract that way, and strangest of all is that he is following the same path of thought with his maths that I did at his age. Say you’re adding 5 and 7…take 5 from the seven leaving 2, add the two 5’s quickly, put the ten in front of the two. I didn’t teach this to him, and in fact didn’t realise he was doing it until a couple of months ago, when I overheard him whispering to himself while working a problem.

It’s not so amazing that he does this as it amazes me that I did the same thing at his age.

Which wouldn’t be so strange if there were all there was to that...for example there's


I was reading quite well in kindergarten. He was also reading at that age, not quite so well, but better than average.

Didn’t understand what the fuss was about when I was little. Neither did he.

But as soon as I went to first grade and the teachers insisted I read fone-et-ickly I lost the ability to read ANY thing, and didn’t regain the skill until 3rd grade.

My first grade teachers insisted I’d never known how to read, that I’d only learned to memorise a few Dr. Seuss books; my kindie teacher, parents and most importantly *I* knew different.

Phonics were my downfall.

They seem to be his as well. He hasn’t had the same dramatic loss of skills I experienced, perhaps because I’m not forcing him to SOUND OUT EVERY SINGLE WORD letter by letter as they did in my day and on failing phonetic reading he’s not being sent to remedial reading class after school as they did me (that was so humiliating after having been rewarded for reading in kindergarten).

But I know that he can read a word by sight quickly and easily, or struggle with it and more often than not fail to read it if I ask him to sound it out. We discuss and practice phonics but I don’t push it. has been a godsend in this area, it's a relatively pain free place to practice phonetic reading rules. Still, he relies most heavily on using beginning sound + context to help him work out new words, though I am seeing more use of chunking words into syllables, etc.

I wonder why we both had such similar strengths and weaknesses in this area.


Monster Vegetarians

Son and I were discussing different classifications of animals the other day. He likes this sort of thing and the discussion was going into new areas as they so often do.

We were discussing herbivores, omnivores, carnivores when he asked “Mum, what would you call a plant?”

So we talked about why plants and animals were broken into two different classifications…that plants make their own food, but everything an animal eats comes from another living being, either plant or animal.

He sat and tapped his pursed lips…I love it when he does that. It’s a sign something good is coming soon.

“Mum, if plants could think would animals look like monsters to them?”

Hm. Good question.

Maybe a stalk of celery would view us as ravenous beasts, horrid in our need to consume the energy of other living things. What a thought! So we discussed how plants have come to rely on animals in many ways, and in fact many plants would die out if there were no animal life on earth. (Just don’t try to explain that to a tree that’s been chopped down, I think, but don’t say.)

It really was a fantastical conversation, the kind you sit and think about after the kids are snug in bed at night. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes home education can be frustrating, tiring or boring, but there are moments when it’s just magic.


At 7:22 AM, August 26, 2006, Anonymous andrea said...

Regarding the arithmetic, I do the same "chunking" process of dividing numbers into pieces to create sets of ten, and then tacking on the remainder.

It's actually a rather useful mental approach when you get to scientific notation, I've found.

Hope you all fare better with the multiplication tables than aspie kid and I did...

At 9:09 AM, August 26, 2006, Blogger Sharon said...

Ah nice.
I love the special conversations we have too.
It's interesting to see your son work out how to do arithmetic and read in the way that works best for him. It's good that you can support him in his preferred methods.

At 10:14 AM, August 26, 2006, Blogger Jannalou said...

Re: Maths
You said that, and I realised that that's how I do most of my addition, too. If one number is larger than the other, I take the larger one down to the same as the smaller and add them together, then add the remaining bit. Doesn't everyone do it that way? ;)

Re: Reading/Phonics
I've never understood the push on using phonics for all kids. Mom taught me to read when I was three years old, using sight reading books; by the time we started doing phonics (when I was in grade two) I was reading far above my grade level and thought the phonics workbooks were absolutely useless and a waste of my time. (Which they were, obviously.) I still remember sitting in reading groups in grade three, impatiently awaiting my turn to read aloud as the other kids in my group struggled through a sentence or paragraph in a story I'd already read in its entirety.

My point being that phonics work for some kids, but are useless for others. This blanket application of techniques is ridiculous.

At 1:32 AM, August 27, 2006, Blogger Mum is Thinking said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, I'm having problems with blogger these last couple of days...sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. I wonder if they're having problems with their servers...

Andrea, I'd forgotten all about scientific notation...we don't often need it for counting buttons lol! But those days are coming. Kids grow too fast.

We've started working on the multiplication tables; he's memorised the 3's, 4's tables and promptly forgotten them. Eh. At least 2's 5's and 10's are easy-- hopefully the rest will come in time!

Sharon, aren't the conversations the best part of home ed? He constantly surprises me and gives me reason to stop and see things from a different perspective. I guess that's true for all kids, though, not just autistic children. They have a fresh view on the world.

Jannalou, I think I was unlucky to go into the school system as they were just starting to push phonics really heavily, to the exclusion of sight reading. It was a very 'right/wrong' view of learning! I'm glad your mum gave you a good head start; amazing how school can mess things up, isn't it?

Sometimes it seemed I learned despite the instruction we received, not because of it. The best teachers I remember were the teachers who were very flexible to different learning styles :-)

At 1:59 PM, August 28, 2006, Blogger Jennifer said...

My child is also a whole word reader. In, fact, so are most adults. See this very interesting article for a discussion of this phenomenon.

At 6:04 PM, August 30, 2006, Blogger abfh said...

The celery conversation sounds like great fun! I sometimes feel like a monster when I'm pulling weeds out of my garden; they seem so little and defenseless.

I've tagged you for a book meme -- hope you like it.

At 7:16 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger S.L. said...

Love your blog, just found it tonight. Interesting, I do my arithmetic the same way! Also love the veggie conversation, how wonderful! Your art is great too, I'm hoping to get my own up on my blog once scanner is set up properly!! Well, glad to have found you. Take care.


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