Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Reading

Leo and I have our projects. Reading and Writing are at the top of the list. Not surprising, after all my stress and the various tests for learning disabilities and such that he's been through recently.

His teacher has given us two books to read this summer. A young person's Alexander the Great and the Odyssey. Both, normally, adapted for young readers. We've begun with Alexander and as we most painfully and slowly work our way through it I am relearning grammar, seeing words and sentences with another eye, and living through Leo's level of comprehension and frustration.

Three sentences devoted to a hydraulic column, references to Alexander's chief scientist, indirect pronouns in a third sentence making reference to the said column further back in the paragraph. Is it any wonder he's having a hard time? The glories of the battles, the achievements, the mystical nature of the visits to the oracle, the witch that is his mother... few of these details can penetrate through the dense and yes, at times beautiful language. I struggle alongside. I translate for him (should I be doing this for a French-born child?). I put the information into simpler phrases, and stress the imagery of what is being communicated. I want him to be able to then write sentences in his own words that summarize what we've learned. To bring back to school in September his own version of the book, ready to check and use as his teacher does whatever she's planning on doing.

When I read with Leo I return to the imagery whenever possible. In my classes for the Waldorf/Rudolf Steiner teachers' training, we stressed holding the images in our minds to facilitate story-telling, and the importance of putting images into the children's minds through words and actions.

Leo and I have had our breakdowns this week -- thirty minutes of severe unhappiness, weeping at his self-described stupidity which I strenuously, lovingly, achingly denied. Oh how hard it is for him! Writing just doesn't come easily. And reading: Well, he's reading in both languages, but in French it is hard, it is not flowing into his brain as it should. It requires re-reading, going back over and working through each sentence, each paragraph. He feels terribly at a loss, and declares that he's ready to give up and simply become a street sweeper.

And then, glory of glories, we had a beautiful breakthrough last night with English. Thank you to the Anglo-saxon world for so much marvelous children's literature. We plunged back into a book we'd begun this spring; he reading a paragraph, and then I. In this manner we read a chapter or two. And then, I was ready for my bath. I was tired; it was dark; and the weather is chilly. Well, he followed me in (once I'd chastely covered my privates) and began reading to me aloud from our dragon book while I soaked in my soothing hot water.

Proudly, delightedly, he acclaimed his newfound ease at reading aloud with as much pleasure and speed as when he reads silently to himself. And I added, you are also reading the punctuation, the periods, the commas, the question marks, the quotation marks. He's reading with feeling, comprehension, and the pleasure of story-telling.

Yes, I was tired, yes, I might have read my own book quietly in what is normally a rather private moment. But, I would never dare dampen burgeoning enthusiasm, and self-confidence.

Day by day, hope blossoms again.

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