All About Learning Press (AALP) is a publishing house that produces several unique and extremely effective language arts products: the All About Spelling and All About Reading series, All About Homophones, and the Beehive Readers. In early 2009, I was personally invited by Marie Rippel, AALP's founder, to serve as a regular contributor to AALP's first interactive website, The ChatterBee, which she ran from February, 2009, through September, 2011. This was one of my articles.
One day last week, we had a really bad school day, complete with yelling and sobbing...and that was just me!
Thinking back now, I don't know how we got off on the wrong foot. I remember that both my girls seemed especially pokey and distracted as they read to me, which probably doubled the time each reading lesson took and put me in the "We're falling behind!" pressure-cooker. As a result, I decided to back-burner a fun Dr. Seuss-based activity I'd planned for all the girls - my two and my two daycare charges - and that frustrated me.
So when I sat down for math with Rachel, I was not in the best frame of mind - and she seemed as unable to focus as before. She couldn't remember how to do her math problems, and that set me off because the task was one we'd been practicing for months. So I yelled. Now, even as I ranted, thank God I remember thinking, "Don't attack her intelligence or her character." And I didn't; I kept my focus on her behavior at that moment - on how she did know how to do the work if she thought about it because I'd seen her do it dozens of times before. But I still hurt her heart, and she cried.
When she finally finished and we'd kind of patched things up, it was Abbie's turn, and I thought I could use my time with her to get my head back on straight. Even though we were only on the second day of a new topic, she'd been doing pretty well with her math in recent weeks; surely, she'd focus and I'd explain things clearly and we'd be fine. Then I could really make sure everything was okay between Rachel and me and go on with our day. Only Abbie didn't "get it" either! Her concentration was off, and I couldn't seem to get through to her. And that's when my tears came - along with hers - as I lamented about how I seemed unable to teach either of them.
I probably should have closed up shop for the day, except I didn't want to send the message that we give up in the face of hard things. And by that time, we only had spelling to go. But I wasn't looking forward to it because - as great as AAS has worked for us - we were on Step 17, solidifying when to use an initial c or k, and I was convinced the girls just would not get it. So I approached my time with Rachel - the one who had pretty severe spelling (and reading) difficulties before we started AAS - with great trepidation, certain that AAS's logical explanations would sound like Greek to her that day.
But I should not have worried! Again, I don't know what it is about AAS, but Rachel totally understood the rule - she took to calling e, i, and y the "meanies" - and could correctly apply it to all the practice words in a matter of minutes. Of course, that delighted both of us so much that we finished with a round of high-fives and big grins. Ditto for Abbie: She understood it quickly and was obviously proud of herself for consistently remembering to look for e, i, or y. And so AAS really did save that day - enabling all of us to close up the proverbial schoolroom on a positive note.
Epilogue: As with everything we've done with AAS so far, the girls easily remembered and applied the c/k rule the next day, too...and when I "quizzed" them for fun (to show off for Daddy) a couple days later over dinner. I also fully expect to find that to be the case when we jump back into our lessons following this week's spring break. As for math, even the difficulties of that day have born fruit: I realized that I needed to investigate different math programs, and I believe I've found a new one that will much better meet their needs and help them grasp the concepts they need to learn. Interestingly, the curriculum I've chosen is to math what AAS is to language arts: research-based, multi-sensory, sequential, and logical. It should arrive in my mailbox any day, and I can't wait to be as excited about our daily math lessons as I am about spelling. :^)