As I’m pretty sure is often the case with kids who’ve been in and out of foster care, Eric is slightly behind scholastically. In his case, I believe this is partly due to disruptions and instability, and partly due to an environment which allowed him to slack off. Regardless of how it happened, he will be entering 7th grade this fall, and while I backed off on school this year to focus on attachment and getting him settled here, next year will be a different story. He’s a smart kid. He has a 504 plan, but no need for an IEP. He’s just behind. He never mastered some basics (like the multiplication tables, or what a noun is, or some grammar rules), and so learning the more complex lessons which build upon those skills is getting more and more difficult. So I’m trying to help him catch up a little this summer.
Although in school I’m not a huge fan of using worksheets, for our purposes, they’re perfect. I picked up a few books from our local bookstore. They’re meant to be done one page at a time for the whole summer, but we’re doing at least 2 (he did 4 today). I started him with the “entering 4th grade,” which is probably why he’s blowing through them so quickly. It may be a little easy, but I didn’t want to start him day one with something potentially frustrating. Now, that’s actually exactly what happened. The first language sheet required circling all the nouns, so he struggled with that. On the math sheet, he did way more work than required because he didn’t read the directions carefully. That’s actually great, because that is definitely a skill he needs to work on. I’ve seen so many homework issues with him because he didn’t read the directions. Knowing that some people do better with aural instructions, the next time he got stuck on the instructions, I had him try reading them out loud so he could hear them. It seemed to help a little. Anyway, I’ve got the books for entering 4th, entering 5th, and between 5th and 6th. Nothing that gets us all the way to where he should be, but hopefully by summer’s end he’ll be much closer–and more importantly, won’t have lost skills he learned in the past year. He did ask me why he was doing 4th grade work, but I just explained that I wanted to start off reviewing what he knows and work our way up. He seemed to accept that, and does seem to appreciate being able to complete the sheets without too much frustration.
He’s also required to still do his daily 30 minutes of reading. We signed up for the summer reading program through our local library, and he set himself a goal of 100 hours of reading for the summer. I don’t know that he gets how many hours of reading a day that would require, but I’m glad he’s going big. Today we stopped to get his reading log, and he found two Jim Henson biographies and a Muppet craft book. He came home and read for 1 1/2 hours! It was great because I got to sit and read as well–a great way to spend a sweltering afternoon.
One of the concerns my social worker had with matches for me was for kids with learning issues, because often highly intelligent people (her words, not mine) struggle with that because they value education and scholastic achievement so much. And to be honest, I was worried about how my father would be, as his favorite point of bragging about my nephews is how SMART they are. I do pay attention to that, and watch how much emphasis I put on school work (Eric notices, and has mentioned that I probably liked school–which in some ways I did). I also make sure I praise his other “intelligence areas,” such as his way with people and his talent for puppetry. That being said, he’s mentioned that he’d like to go to college, and it would not be such a bad thing for him to learn that we still need to work hard and do our best even when things are not easy or fun, and that are rewards for being disciplined. This is something he’s never learned, and I know it will be tough.
Of course, worksheets and reading books are not the only ways we’re learning this summer. We’re taking walks (despite the grumbling that accompanies them) and going places (he got to bottle feed a goat kid!) and enjoying having so much free time together. I am teaching him to crochet–although moments after finally practicing enough to learn how to single crochet, the cat decided to play with the yarn and unraveled the entire thing. Poor kid. But as I told him–he didn’t lose the practice time, and he can start again. I see great things in Eric’s future, and I’m so grateful to get to be a part of it.