Question: “I am a homeschooling mother of 4, (ages 7-12). I’m at a loss as to how to homeschool my son Nathan, who is 12 years old. He’s behind in everything. It takes him all day to do his work. He freezes when he looks at his math papers. It takes him forever to write anything. I know he’s smart, but he says he’s “dumb.” I want him to be an independent learner, but don’t know how to get him there.”
Answer: It sounds like Nathan has shut down on school work, and is giving up. He is doing this because he doesn’t have any other strategies to move on past the “stuck” phase. This is the exact population I taught in my 6th, 7th and 8th grade Resource Room. I called it my “Intensive Care Unit.” All my students had given up on learning. In spite of good parents, teachers, and effort on the student’s part, they met with more failure than success. I knew that I needed to do something different than was going on in the regular classroom, using regular curriculum. They needed what I call, “Healing Teaching.”
What is Healing Teaching?
Healing Teaching is a teaching method in which the teacher comes along -side a child and gives him learning strategies. It teaches the child how to use his brain, by modeling this with him. It sets up each lesson to ensure immediate success. It takes many baby steps towards that success. There is no “getting behind”, because the work is done together in a finite amount of time, with the goal to learn the material…not necessarily to do all the problems, or all the worksheets.
The content of the grade level is never compromised, but the method of teaching is turned “upside down.” As they are gently led to the right answers (and wrong answers ignored, versus pointed out), they begin to relax, and enjoy learning, and become confident in their ability to learn. This is why I referred to it as my Intensive Care Unit. I saw these wonderful students as having a severe case of the “learning flu”. This process can easily be done at home, even with other siblings to teach.
Examples of Healing Teaching Methods
Leading to Correct Answers
We are going to use gentle methods to lead them to the correct answers. For example, in my Remedial Reading class, my students came into the room, and folded their arms; resistant to any reading aloud, or any phonics program. What to do? I took away the non-essential parts of decoding…such as writing, tiles or remembering rules. I wrote long words on an overhead transparency with the “decoding unit” that we were working on in color in the long word. I also had a picture of the decoding unit, and the sound it gave, taped on the overhead transparency. If a student sounded out the word incorrectly, but used the decoding unit (like “au”) correctly (remember we had the “au” over the picture of a saw), I would say, “I agree with the first part of the word, now let’s look at that tricky last part. Then I would re-write the last part on the transparency, and we would see if we could find a little word in a big word, or some other strategy. When we did that, the student found he could always decipher the word correctly. We never went on until we had questioned (together) each part of the word to see how we could tackle it (not a fast method…but a healing method). Their confidence grew, and after a week or so, they were asking to have a chance at the longest word in the list for the day. You can see how by the end of the year they all tested two years ahead in reading!
Spelling was always hard for them. So I showed them how to use their wonderful photographic memory. We took the longest word, like “psychology” and jazzed up the letters, giving funny meaning, color, and even blood on some of them. In only one session they found that they could not only spell that word, and the other words we were working on forwards, but they could just as easily spell them backwards. Using Healing Teaching they learned to believe in themselves as learners as they had the secret strategy to easy spelling.
Writing paragraphs or papers was not easy for them. We tackled this job together. No workbooks, worksheets or curriculum. We did this together on the board. We came up with an easy topic, drew “blobs” to put our ideas in, added one word reminders of sentences, and then added the transitions to this Right Brain Webbing method. The students found that the paper practically wrote itself.
When we were done, we “corrected them together” using an overhead transparency.
At first, they were terrified of this process, and did not want their paper to be used. But, then they saw what I meant by “correcting”. I began by giving them points for every good thing they had on the paper. For example, if they started with a capital letter, they got a point, had an adjective in the sentence, they got a point, ended with a period, they got a point. I read it out loud, ignoring any spelling errors, and just pointing out the good thoughts, words, or grammar, and giving points for all of that. At the end we added up the points together for prizes (like gum)…they loved it.
They soon were adding many adjectives to their sentences, and more sentences, until we were doing multiple paragraphs. What did I do with their misspellings (which were numerous)? I “harvested” them. That means I made mental notes of the spelling words that we were going to put in our spelling list the next week, and “jazz up” the troublesome letters. They were beginning to feel smart, as they wrote longer, more sophisticated papers each week.
Nathan’s mom reports that just by doing the math on a white board (no video or workbook), modeling how to do them and then making a “template” to put on the wall, that she saw Nathan smile all day. He was getting things right without having to cross out a checklist in a workbook. Mom said she wanted to cry and even put it in capital letters in her email, “SMILING.”
Grace’s mom wrote me about her 15 year- old daughter who was having such anxiety about schoolwork that they had to technically stop schooling her because of the tears and frustration. Upon switching to Healing Teaching with each subject, Grace’s mom says that she is now doing all subjects, and enjoying school!
Emma’s mother contacted us because her twelve-year-old was spending a lot of time crying during the school day. She was frustrated having to re-do her workbooks or because she was experiencing trouble remembering how to do a math problem she had just learned the day before. We sent Emma’s mom a plan to switch Emma’s school day to include the subjects she needed, but with an entirely “healing” way to teach her, leading her to the right answer each time.
Her mother called, and Emma told me that she now likes to do school. She likes to write paragraphs, and loves spelling with her photographic memory. She is remembering how to do her math problems because her mom has made a zany “template” of each process and kept it on the wall. Her mom found the secret to helping Emma feel smart.
Mom made the statement that she had to do an entire “paradigm shift”. It is difficult to adjust to teaching to success by ignoring mistakes. But, pointing them out tends to wound our already wounded kids. Of course, we eventually want to correct the mistakes, but we wait until the next day, and incorporate that in the lesson, without pointing out the error. This keeps the healing going.
We don’t have to do this forever; in fact, not usually for more than a year. Then they can go back to regular learning. No more “getting stuck” for these guys! Experience a “Success-Driven” school year. It’s easy!