bingoI have hit the jackpot! Things have been building up over the last while and today was the day that *I* won! We have four beautiful boys, and I love them all, however, there is one that does not think nor act like the others; he is my special one and he has a heart of gold. I have spend many years and many tears and many prayers trying to figure out how this one special boy thinks so that I can teach him the best way for him, and until now I have been at a loss.

My black sheep is intelligent and extremely artistic. He loves to look at something and rattle off 100 different “useful” uses for any piece of garbage that I want to throw out. I feel bad about telling him “no” on almost everything he wants to do, but I know that he will create his masterpiece and in the meantime create this amazing pile of mess to go with it. What’s the problem? The problem arises when he is unable to clean up. It is not that he refuses, it is that he just can’t. This goes for everything from me telling him to put the hat away to cleaning up his room, to just gather all the clothes on the floor and put them in the laundry and it does not matter if they were worn or not, I’ll just wash them all again. He cannot even do that. It is too much and too overwhelming. This is the reason why I do not let him cook or do much in the kitchen. He will make a mess and I will be the one left to clean up. Other boys just don’t make the mess to begin with so they do not have as much to clean up and it is easier for them. My special boy, well, I think it is just part of what makes him special. A mess will be made, and he does not realize he is doing it for he is so into making whatever he is making.

He has a wonderful knack for languages. My husband had to go to the Philippines and so he was trying to learn some Tagalog so he can be polite and say some basic phrases. (Though all Filipinos know English he found out.) My husband also likes languages. For those who have not heard Tagalog before, it requires at least double the amount of syllables to say anything you want to so that is one of the things that makes it very difficult to try to learn. My special boy – well, let’s just say that several months AFTER Daddy went on his trip, and way after we stopped trying to learn, this special boy still had some of these phrases memorized and was able to spu them back out. This was true for other languages that we have dabbled into as well.

This boy cannot learn math facts, and spelling is out of this world. One thing I have discovered over the past year is that unless he gets the right amount of sleep, he tantrums really good, and it can happen over fairly minor issues that usually do not bother him so much. He is a very “feeling” kind of boy and “feels” that people do not like him (and even though we point out that most phone calls for boys are for HIM, not his brothers…. it is still enough to make a mother cry!) Trying to teach him his stuff is very hard. He was a later reader and just this past year has flourished in his English reading. Hebrew reading… don’t ask. We daven out loud and I have spend various stretches of time over the past few years trying to get him to at least point to the words for he has it all memorized. I figured he was a whole word learner and the problem with Hebrew is that he does not know the language, so it is hard to look at a word and have it mean anything. He still learns things differently than his brothers for the other stuff, and I have slowly, through trial and error, found a few things that have helped a bit.

His diet is fairly good. We only drink water and milk in the house, and other fancy drinks (including fruit juices) are occasional treats that are kept to times like kiddush on Shabbos morning at shul. I have not used white flour in years (except one time last year when we were on a trip and I had no choice,) junk food is the same as fancy drinks. I prescribe to the “real food” menu and so I make my own foods from real stuff, not boxed, processed items. He does love his carbs and will eat virtually only challah on Shabbos if I let him, but he does eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, along with his milk and I do not worry that much. No, I do not believe it is food that is the issue. There are no eye issues that would cause reading problems. (He now reads English pretty good, and has made huge strides this year.)

And then, lights went on in my emails this morning! One of the lists that I am on posted something about her daughter that resembled my son. I had emailed her privately several days ago, and today, I got both her response and another post to the email group basically stating the same things which just made everything make sense. My son is a RIGHT BRAINED person! I never really thought about it before for some reason I just associated it with left handed people. (Never mind that my left handed son is not like this at all.) Here is a chart taken from here that shows the main differences between Left Brained people vs. Right Brained People.

Below are some links to some articles that I found today. It is such a relief to find something that makes sense. I can now work with it. So much has now been lifted off my shoulders. I even found an online test where you answer questions and they let you know which side of the spectrum you fall in. Yes, my special boy was very right-brained. I have come across some ideas on how to help my child. I think I also now know why it was so hard to get him to do anything – I”m sure it is is very stressful trying to learn in a way that you cannot really learn from, and with me not knowing how to teach him, I just continued on the same broken path, and therefore was very taxing on his beautiful little brain. He would spend a great deal of energy just refusing to do a 30 second job, but that was his way of trying to get some space. Last week was hard for he went to bed late most nights and was tired the later half of the week. I ended up just ignoring his tantrums and let him have his space. When he was ready, he came out and did what he needed to do.

I now feel like I can fly and am looking forward to the coming year and helping him to really grow to his potential. I am still not sure how to do it all, the next step is for me to learn what to do, but just the fact that I know WHERE to look is half the battle! I’m off to bed with a happy heart, those prayers and tears have not gone unanswered, and did you know that Albert Einstein was a right-brained person, as well as Newton, Galileo, Aristotle, and Benjamin Franklin? 🙂

Galileo and the Magic Numbers and Testing

“Well, we’ll have to work on that Greek grammar.  Now, how about mathematics?”

“Mathematics? You mean arithmetic?  I can add and subtract numbers.”

“Do you know Pythagorean number magic?”

Galileo shook his head.  He about witches magic and black magic, but number magic –?  That was a new kind of magic.
Borghini went to the cupboard and returned with a handful of little white pebbles.

“Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who lived over two thousand years ago.  He loved numbers.  For him, the whole universe could be explained by mathematics.  He thought numbers could describe beauty, music, and even the acts of gods and men.  Your father is a musician, is he not?”

“Yes, Master, and a fine one.”

“So I am told.  Then you will understand what I mean when I say that Pythagoras invented the first numbered musical scale.”

“He must have been a very great man, indeed, to have done that.”

Master Jacopo knelt on the floor and motioned Galileo to do the same.  Galileo’s eyes widened.  This was a strange way for a teacher to act!  Most of his friends had told him dreadful stories of their teachers.  They all insisted upon strict discipline and were very formal and strict.  Yet this teacher was asking him to sit on the floor to play games!  Galileo sat, legs crossed like a Saracen.

“Now, this is the magic,” said Borghini.  He placed one pebble on the floor.


That was a passage from the new book I read this week –  “Galileo and the Magic Numbers” by Sidney Rosen.

I’ve spent a week trying to write this post.  Mainly for I was not sure what to write, and partly because I kept getting interrupted.  I’m just going to blame the interruptions 😉 .  However, after a flood of emails coming through on one of my homeschooling lists, I’m going to take what I liked about the above book and tie it into testing.

Galileo was not homeschooled per say, but he was privately tutored for a couple of years, meaning he was taught one-on-one, which is, basically homeschooling.  The above passage describes how out-of-the-box Galileo’s teacher was in his teachings and how it impacted Galileo.  Galileo ended up going to a monastery to learn for a few years, and then to university.  He spent most of his life learning, teaching or in some what associated with a university.  For the longest of time (shall I dare say until the past 50 years or so???) each teacher, each school, each chain of thought taught their students differently.  It seemed to work just fine.  We have benefited greatly from people such as Copernicus, Aristotle, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Samuel Morse, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Graham Bell and Alexander Fleming (discoverer of penicillin) just to name a few.  I have not read all these biographies yet, but of the ones I have read about, the education was all very different, and sometimes the person just could not get into learning the way it was taught and seemed like a “bad” student.  In the end, we see that each of these people all learned in various ways and contributed greatly to our lives today.

This brings me to standardized testing.  There is a big push to have standardized testing in the public schools.  Public schools in each state are given the curriculum to use for each grade.  They are told what to teach.  At the end, students take tests to see how much they have learned.  It is easy then for each state to compile a “standard” test for each grade, for every child across the state learns the same thing for each grade.

A homeschool student does not necessarily learn what they learn in public/private schools at the same time these students learn the material.  Is that wrong or bad?  Most would agree that not a problem.

I have 4 beautiful boys.  For each child, I have to teach them very differently, and at different ages I have to teach them differently as well.  One child can read to himself or a brother in the same room that I am reading out loud to another boy.  Others need to be in a totally different room when I am talking out loud for it is distracting.  Some boys can do math in the same room with me when I am busy with another boy, and yet, I have a boy who needs absolute silence and my 100% undivided attention when he does his math – not that I do any of the work for him, he just needs me to sit next to him and make him feel important by sitting there absorbed in only him.

The question arises then, what do we do with the standardized tests that some states require?  What do they mean?  A mother posted that her son was taking a grade 3 standardized test.  Someone else was the proctor, and the test was spread over multiple days.  The child “finished early” the first day, and did not complete the test, and at the same time, the proctor told her that he put D’s as most of the answers.  The mother realized that she never prepared her son for taking multiple choice tests and went over with him how to take them and some tips.  The rest of the tests he finished, and chose various letters for answers, but when the test scores came back in, he scored in the lowest 2%.  The mother was obviously very upset and concerned about the results.  The question is, what do they really mean?

Most of the responses stated that in general, the scores are not a reflection of your son’s intelligence, but rather his ability to take a standardized test.  Up to this point, he hadn’t had any exposure to multiple choice tests and the testing strategies that go along with those tests.

One response was, “I always tell them before we go to testing…I already know how well they are doing in school. We only take these to fulfill the law. These tests will NOT ask a single question about the Bible, good character, Shakespeare, any composer or artist, science that we are currently studying (I don’t follow the public school rotation), geography, famous people or history. So these tests will not test you on about 75% of our schooling.

I had a child ask me about the science questions once (after the above discussion) and I offered to look up what subject they would be testing him on that year. His eyes got HUGE and he accused me of offering to cheat on the test! I explained that schools know ahead of time what topics will be on the test and that teachers spend the entire year teaching students exactly what will be on the test that year. He was shocked that test scores were so low if that was true!”

Other responses were:

“ITBS [a kind of standardized test] is a norm refrenced test. Norm-referenced tests compare a person’s score against the scores of a group of people who have already taken the same exam. The score will be a rating rather than a percentage of correct answers.”

(I am under the impression that most standardized tests are also norm-referenced tests.)

” I also think that we are on a separate path from kids in school. At some point, perhaps college, our paths need to merge, so our children need to test well by the SAT, but not necessarily when they are young.”

I think the above quote says it all — we all learn differently, at different paces, but the idea is that it all should come together at the end – not the beginning or even in the middle.

So what about these tests?  Some of us still have to give our children tests occasionally to fulfill state requirements, we cannot get around that.  I have given my boys the full battery CAT (10 tests on reading, vocabulary, language, math, science and social studies.)  These tests were given for our benefit only, not state requirements. The results of the tests varied.  One child aced the tests.  On the other hand, I had one child who was a late reader and did poorly on most of the tests for grade 1 and 2 for he could not read the material. After the test was finished and packaged up I asked him the same questions orally and he knew the answers very well, however, the test results came back very poor for obvious reasons.

Most people seem to think that for homeschooled students these standardized tests are more for the practice of taking multiple choice tests than seeing how much the student really knows or learned for we are many times teaching different things or things at different times.  If that is true, are they a waste of time?  I would not call them a waste.  If nothing else, they are good practice for later.  Almost all kids who go to college will have to take the SAT or other such multiple choice tests and we want to make sure our children are on the same playing level as others for tests.  For language and math, the tests seem to be a little bit more relevant, but for my late reader that is not true either. However, other than I know my husband will disagree with me, I would not worry too much about the results if you can figure out other ways to check your child’s knowledge (discussions are great!).  If a parent is concerned, try giving tests more often so the child gets used to that form of testing.