Monday, April 26, 2010

I'll Take That Glimmer of Hope

Two things happened this week. Well, three, if you count SJ's surgery.

Because of the surgery (a minor procedure), we had no choice but to lay low this past week. I purchased an online reading comprehension program, Learning Upgrade. It's what educators are calling "artificially intelligent," where it feeds the student concepts only to the level they can/have mastered. It won't let a student advance until he is at least proficient.  I handed over the laptop and took a shower. Usually, I would expect to find that he has moved on to something much more intellectually stimulating when my back turns, say the Legos site. Imagine my surprise to find him working through his second and third levels of the program. Ping.

Next, I scrapped the paperback reading book and offered him stacks of Popular Science, Breakaway, and various cycling magazines. I told him he needed to read for 1/2 hour, just like if he were reading a book. An hour and a half later, I had to pull him away from the magazines. Ping ping.

I found what I thought was a super cool visual dictionary site called Visuwords. If you have a visual learner (middle school or above), I would recommend checking it out. It uses colors and shapes to make connections to word parts, definitions, synonyms, and more. Thinking we were on a roll, I introduced the site and watched as SJ promptly switched off. Not successful. Move on.

He had fun with a site full of "brain games" also beneficial for we adults who fear losing our acuity. Many of the games are similar to exercises he did in vision therapy. Sometimes we have to redefine our ideas about "play." He may have accidentally sharpened his thought processes on Oh well.

But these weren't the two things I refer to in my title. I lead him to all of the above. He just took the bait. No, what I saw were glimmers of an independent thinker.

First, on Friday night, I caught him with the Direct TV manual in his lap, open to a page of directions. With remote in hand, he was reading and following directions to solve a problem he needed to fix. He didn't ask us to tell him how (ok, he did try his brother but when that didn't work...). I was tempted to jump in and give him the simple answer but, thankfully, recognized the opportunity for what it was. For most, a small thing. For me (and for him), it was a huge breakthrough. Other than Legos instructions, I doubt SJ has ever sought an instruction manual for anything in his life.

Second, and equally mundane for most, he responded to his dad's need desire for cookies and milk. He offered to make cookies knowing that we didn't have any more of the super fast and easy fundraiser cookie dough. Did he realize he had to follow a recipe? Apparently he did! I helped find the recipe and left him to do his work. We had a near miss as he forgot to add the dry ingredients but he got right back on track as soon as we called this to his attention. The cookies were both tasty and beautiful. And to this mom, they were so much more than a treat. Those cookies represented an early and encouraging step in the direction of confidence and independence. Ping. Ping. Ping! Sometimes we need to take what we can get.

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