Educational success is often measured by a single letter grade on a piece of paper. An “A” means you succeeded. An “F” means you failed. I believe letter grades can be helpful, but I don’t believe that they give a full picture of a students abilities. Kids who are auditory learners thrive in a school setting. Kids who are hands-on learners and life learners will often struggle in a typical school setting.
I’m an auditory learner. If I heard the teacher say it and I took notes, I could usually remember it. I was also very good at memorizing, so I got A’s and B’s in school. But I’ll never forget the day that I got an F.
It happened in 7th grade science class. The teacher made us dissect a frog. I was totally mortified. What 12- year-old girl enjoys a dead frog mixed with the smell of formaldehyde? Definitely not this one. I can still smell that frog smell as I’m typing this. I suddenly feel nauseous.
The frog test was one of the worst days of my life. There were several stations and each station had a different frog. There was a pin in a part of the frog’s body and we had to write down the name of that body part. As if identifying the parts of a dead frog wasn’t bad enough, it got worse. We only had 20 seconds at each station. I didn’t have a good feeling about this test. I don’t like dead critters and I freak out when I’m under any time pressure.
None of the test frogs looked anything like the frog that my lab partner had dissected. The smell of formaldehyde mixed with the time pressure I was under made me go brain-dead. I only got one answer correct on the test. I correctly identified fat bodies. It was the worst day of my life.
I remember something else about that day. There was a boy in the class who was known for his failing grades. The heavens opened up for him that day and he received an A+. It just didn’t make any sense.
Now that I know a little about learning styles, it makes complete sense. The boy who got an A+ that day was a hands-on learner. He was learning as he cut up his frog. He thrived in a hands-on learning environment and he aced the frog test. I was an auditory learner who didn’t adjust well to the hands-on learning approach. Maybe it would have helped if I had actually touched the frog. I didn’t enjoy one second of the hands-on learning that I was exposed to and I failed the test. I was so relieved to go back to the teacher just talking and me taking notes. It was a world that I understood. The boy who got the A+ was probably wishing he could stay in the world of hands-on learning. He was successful in that world. But he was thrown back into the auditory learning world. He probably didn’t enjoy one minute of having to sit and listen to the teacher talk. If he could have learned with a hands-on activity every day, his report card would have looked a lot different. Learning styles matter.
Our twin girls are life learners. They learn best from experiencing and observing life. We have chosen to home school our girls. They struggle with auditory processing and handwriting, which are two of the key ingredients of traditional school. They excel with visual computer programs, sight words, and hands-on activities. By teaching them at home, I am able to teach to their strengths. We spend most of our time working on the computer and doing hands-on activities. We also work everyday on their weak areas of auditory skills and handwriting. We need to strengthen those weak areas, but I don’t put all of our focus on the weaknesses. Focusing on weakness only leads to frustration. The psychologist who tested the girls last year said that she believes that we have made the right choice by choosing to home school the girls. It was the first time that a professional has ever told us we are doing the right thing. It was music to my ears.
One thing I’ve learned in our special journey with the girls is that success is not about a grade on a piece of paper. Success is when they can suddenly do something that they once couldn’t do.
These are the successes that make me smile:
Mikayla puts her shoes under her bed without being reminded.
Hope puts her towel in the hamper without being reminded.
Hope writes an absolutely perfect letter “P” for her occupational therapist.
They get an “A” on their progress report at Easter Seals. “A” means that they achieved a goal.
They say spider instead of pider, sticker instead of ticker, and speech class instead of peech cwass.
They put their shoes and socks on without any help.
Mikayla stands quietly and doesn’t interrupt when I’m talking to her speech therapist.
Hope turned around and quietly walked away when I told her no. She didn’t stomp her foot and demand that I change my mind.
Those successes might not sound like much to some parents. But let me tell you, they are huge successes. When Hope’s occupational therapist showed me the letter “P” that she wrote this week, I didn’t know whether to cry or jump for joy. It was one of the biggest victories we’ve ever had. It took daily practice for years for her to be able to write a perfect letter “P”. She persevered even though writing is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. I walked away looking like the proudest mommy you ever did see. We came out of therapy, I got in the van, and I told my husband that Hope had made the prettiest “P” that I had ever seen in my life. In my excitement, I didn’t realize that sentence sounds a little funny when he had no idea that I was talking about handwriting. Oops.
Mikayla stood quietly and didn’t interrupt when I was talking to her speech therapist. She is starting to show self-control, which is extremely hard for her. It was a complete miracle that she was able to remain quiet for as long as she did. I was bursting with pride.
I’m constantly reminding the girls to put away their shoes, put their towel in the hamper, put the “s” on the beginning of words, and not to interrupt when people are talking. I get so weary of having to give constant reminders. But now I’m seeing that my constant reminders are starting to pay off.
Success is when I finds towels in the hamper instead of on the floor. Success is when I find shoes under a bed instead of in the kitchen. Success is when a little girl writes the letter “P” and then she grins because she knows that she did a good job. Success is when a little girl doesn’t interrupt a conversation. Success is when a little girl says the word spider instead of pider. I see the broken pieces of our girls lives every day. Now I’m beginning to see the beauty that comes when the broken pieces are put together. And it makes me smile.