Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Second Graders

Any parents out there will tell you that even when two children come from the same two parents, those children are as different as different can be. Snapper and Pepper share Matt's and my genetics. In many ways they are alike. But they are so different in far more ways! Add in three more girls with totally different genetics, and we have a house bursting with uniqueness!

We love the individual beauty of each of our kids. Each has something special to offer, a different perspective, and a different way of expressing him/herself. I've written about this before, and about their unique challenges as well.

Never is this as evident as on Report Card Day. Momma and Daddy are faced with two very different report cards from our two 2nd graders. How we respond to them could with make or break these two children.

Piper's report card:
Reading: C+
Language Arts: C
Math: A
Science: A-
Social Studies: A-
Citizenship: All S (Satisfactory), with an S- in "Stays on task and completes work within the allotted time."

Pepper's report card:
Reading: A
Language Arts: A
Math: A
Science: A+
Social Studies: A+
Citizenship: All S (Satisfactory) with a note that there has been great improvement in Pepper's completion of in-class work.

Pepper (age 7.5) has a very, very high IQ. He is a sponge for information, is a brilliant speller, reads on a 10th grade reading level, learned his multiplication facts in one day, and can write circles around most kids in his grade. He has Inattention Type ADHD, and the medication he has been taking for the last month has freed him to be able to focus on his work. His Reading and Language Arts grades have never been this high because never until now has he been able to keep himself focused long enough to thoroughly complete his work. Reading a passage, answering questions, and using advanced reasoning skills have requires too much sustained mental effort for him in the past.

Our celebration of Pepper's grades will not be focused on all those A's. We will buy him an ice cream cone to celebrate the progress he has made in his focusing, his effort in writing, and now four whole weeks without a behavior notice from his teacher!

Piper (age 8) has a brain that was damaged by parental prenatal drug use, profound neglect, and abuse. She also comes from genetics that are not known for intelligence. She is very bright with numbers, and enjoys the systematic predictability of math. She likes one correct answer, and following a procedure to reach the answer. She reads slightly below grade level, and comprehends what she reads. Her problem with reading is the way that Common Core tests. Unless the child has advanced reasoning skills, they will not test well. Piper does not have advanced reasoning skills. The tests are not a true representation of Piper's reading mechanics, nor her comprehension, so this C grade does not really concern me. The fact that she loves to read, reads all the time, and is able to easily retell the story are proof enough for me. Her real area of struggle is Language Arts. Writing. Spelling. Grammar. These come very hard for her, especially since she has expressive language processing struggles. She also has full-blown ADHD. She takes medication and it helps tremendously, but she still has to work very hard to stay on task and finish her work.

Our celebration of Piper's grades will be focused on the improvement of all grades over last quarter! She had C- in both Reading and Language Arts last quarter, and she has been working very hard, especially on her spelling. She had a B in Science last quarter, too, that came up to an A. So Piper will get an ice cream cone in celebration of her effort and improvement.

Our challenge is for the two kids not to feel compared to each other. The truth of the matter is, no matter how hard Piper works, she will never equal Pepper in academic ability. In fact, Pepper will go far, far, far beyond what Piper is capable of. Pepper knows this. Piper knows this. We've been lucky so far, in that no one feels bad about it. Pepper is a sensitive soul, and he is very careful with Piper's feelings. He's quick to offer to help her, and because they use the same curriculum, he's often more help than I am. They enjoy studying together, and Piper feels safe with Pepper. I love that.

Matt and I have realistic expectations. We ask that our kids do their best at school. We require all homework to be completed and turned in on time. We carefully review homework with them before we send it in, and we review the graded work that comes home. If a paper is completed in a sloppy manner, we have them re-do it. If they skip problems or don't read the directions, they do it over. We're teaching them to be neat and thorough, and to pay attention to the directions. When their grades come back, we know we've all done our part. We celebrate progress, hard work, and good effort. The kids are satisfied and we are satisfied. We never, never compare the two kids. If Piper gets frustrated that Pepper doesn't have to study his spelling words (she does get frustrated on occasion), I remind her that Pepper's brain is wired differently than hers, and he has an easier time with spelling because of it. Then I feed her an M&M when she has learned a word correctly, and Pepper doesn't ever get M&M's for spelling. Chocolate makes everything better. =)

How do you approach learning differences in your children? Do you have any special celebration or technique that builds their confidence and celebrates their uniqueness?

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