How to Create Effective Curriculum for Your LD Child
- Letz Farmer
- 2003 18 Sep
Have you enjoyed God’s creative gifts lately? He didn’t choose just one color to paint the trees in autumn or one flower to grace the perennials in spring. He doesn’t recycle the same glorious sunset every evening or give a monotonous sunrise every dawn. And He didn’t create just one bird’s song or one baby’s cry. In His infinite wisdom, He has made every person different, too. Not everyone plays the piano; some can only play the radio. Not everyone is tall; some come in small packages. Some are dark, and some are fair. Our God is a magnificent God of creative variety.
Children come with special differences, too. While some learn best by hearing, others learn best by seeing. Some are “movers” or jabber constantly, while others sit quietly by the hour. Some love math, while others prefer a good book. Some love to put their thoughts on paper, while others prefer creating a masterpiece from the recycle bin. Some are compliant and cooperative, while others are argumentative, always challenging your authority. Some excel in sports, while others can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.
Since you are reading this article, chances are God has given you a wonderful, frustrating, perplexing bundle called a “child.” Nobody else has one just like him. She is one of a kind. Someone has suggested the label of learning disability or ADD or ADHD. Please understand that a learning disability is not a learning inability. Rather, it is a learning difference! Your home schooling mission, should you decide to accept it, is to discover the unique way God wired your child. Be forewarned that discovery’s very nature requires trials and errors—and it won’t happen overnight. And since there is no one curriculum that works for every child, let’s explore some practical, realistic ways to best choose the closest curriculum match for your “gift.”
Your home schooling mentor, Susie Q., has been teaching her 42 children for 500 years. Her son, Sam, is just like your son, Jeff. They both play baseball, hate baths, eat spinach, and have shaggy brown hair dangling in their eyes. Should you take her curriculum recommendations as gospel?
Before you plunk down your money on Susie’s suggestions, take a few minutes to think it through. No one likes making expensive curriculum mistakes.
What Are the Different Learning Styles?
Let’s briefly look at how people learn. Information comes into our brain through our senses: sight (visual), hearing (auditory), touch (tactile), movement (kinesthetic), and smell (olfactory). Most people depend upon one dominant sense, reinforcing it with the lesser ones. This dominant strength, or information-gathering preference, is better known as a “learning style.” Once the message arrives at the brain through your preferred “style,” it must be processed into meaningful information. This information is then acted upon or stored for a later time.
Each learning style manifests itself in particular ways. In general:
Visual people tend to enjoy beauty, noticing tiny details the average person overlooks. They are good picture readers, discerning the story by its illustrations. They love finding hidden pictures, too. Visual people tend to be the most successful in school because nearly every curriculum is aimed at them.
Auditory people love to listen to music or tapes, don’t fall asleep in lectures, and usually love to talk. They chatter away, asking questions, interrupting, and supplying the last word in a sentence before you can say it. They love to rhyme and “play with words,” often making up new vocabulary. Auditory children often whisper to themselves as they read silently (subvocalize) for reinforcement. They are usually good in phonics, but poor in visual memory, so spelling and math memorization become difficult for them.
Kinesthetic people are “movers and shakers”—ones who can’t sit still and are movement oriented. They are frequently athletic and very competitive. Very little holds their attention. They are the hardest to teach because they don’t stay still long enough to learn. They frequently get labeled ADD or ADHD.
Tactile people are “huggers” and “touchers.” They are your cuddlers and “lap children.” They immediately reach for the toys on a shelf, caressing each one carefully, running their fingers over its contours or stroking the fur of stuffed animals. (If they turn it over in their hands and examine it visually, this indicates visual, not tactile, strengths.) Most kinesthetic learners are tactile, too.
Olfactory people are very sensitive to smells (as are many gifted children). These people must depend on other modes of information gathering. Since you can’t learn to read by sniffing, however, we will skip this category.
What Do You Need in a Curriculum?
Two people must use a curriculum—you and your child. If it doesn’t fit one of you, it won’t work. You want a curriculum that helps you teach, not one that is a taskmaster. Since no one knows your situation better than you, examine your needs first.
Realistically, what are you able and willing to do for your LD child’s curriculum? Look realistically at the demands on your time—from family, friends, telephone, outside employment, etc. You have other people in your life, not just your special needs child. In fact, many of you have your “quiver full”—and one on the way. Other family members deserve some of your time, talents, and energy, too. And don’t forget your needs; you can’t run on empty.
Do you prefer Christian or secular materials? Do you like textbooks or unit studies? How much time do you have for preparation?
Do you like curriculum already laid out, with every little detail highlighted and underlined (highly structured)? Or do you prefer to “do your own thing,” with minimal direction supplied by the author (creative/flexible)?
Do you have the time to select library books by the dozen, or do you need to have the whole package come in the box so you can pull out Book 1, knowing that Book 2 will be next? Do you want flexibility (where you can decide which unit to use or its presentation order), or do you want to be on page 44 on the 22nd day of school (highly structured)?
Do you like all explanations written as a script you read to the child, or do you prefer explaining things your own way? Does he understand your explanations, or do you end up arguing a lot? Do you have time to watch a video or read the Teacher’s Manual? Or do you already know how to explain it?
How much “hand-holding” do you need to make this curriculum choice workable for your child? Will too much help from the curriculum confuse you?
The Two-Choice Process of Creating Curriculum
1) Create your own curriculum. Maybe you have lots of time on your hands, are a very creative person, and have resources that tell you the sequence of skill introduction for each grade/age level. If that is the case, God bless you in your efforts for your child.
2) Buy someone else’s curriculum package. Most of us don’t fall into the above category, so don’t feel guilty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a set curriculum. Hopefully, we merely supplement and/or minimally adjust these into the best materials for our child.
By knowing what you expect—and need—from a curriculum, you can avoid expensive time and money wasters.
Photo credit: ©Element5 Digital/Unsplash