Each week I have two children that I "tutor" at the elementary school that Ben and Kyle attend. These children are both boys and they are both in Kindergarten. And I will call them Bill and Sam. Both children are behind the curve and in danger of repeating Kindergarten next year.
Bill, has come to this place in his life because he is in a bad home environment. No mom, living in a homeless shelter, just a total lack of consistency and support from the family in his educational arena. When I work with Bill I am amazed at how quickly he can learn. He has the mental strength to get on track, and time, love and encouragement are his prescription for success. It is a very rewarding time each week that I spend with Bill.
Now Sam. A very different story. Very rewarding...don't get me wrong...just a different experience. Sam has a loving home - not as privileged as most of our kids have, but love and support just the same. Sam is slow? Not sure what that word means exactly, but there is no other diagnosis such as autism, or ADHD, or birth defects etc. etc. He is just a slow learner. His mind has a very hard time retaining information. His charisma - OFF THE CHARTS! So much so that he was passed by for state funding. A and B don't match in this kid. He has so much heart....
So each week I sit with Sam and we work on his letter sounds. We go over then and over them...we take a break from the "F" sound and read a short story...and by the time we get back to the "F" sound - just a few minutes later - he can't remember the sound, nor can he recognize the letter. And the look of disappointment on his face just makes me want to hug him and cry. He knows...the he does not KNOW? If that makes sense.
But Sam...has personality, and compassion for his friends...the desire to make people smile....and...an amazing ability to control a pencil? Amazing. He can copy - with perfection - anything that I write or draw for him. The artistic side of his brain is in full swing.
When talking to his teacher the other day she said to me, "Sam will be ok...he will hold a job and lead an independent life one day. And that is our hope for him." And truly...it took me back, but in truth....that is a perfect hope for Sam. He will struggle to achieve this kind of independent life...but he will succeed because of his heart. And what is more...he possesses a talent...a talent that rings loud and clear due to his lack of strength in other areas...and that talent may just take him above and beyond the realistic hopes that are held for his life!!
And so I come to the point of my story...not that the lives of these two little men are not point enough...but this all comes full circle in my mind to what I am doing in my own life...with my own children.
Two things that I take from my experience as a tutor to these wonderful boys.
First....The goal we hold for each child - can not be the same. I can't go through life looking at all four of my boys and expecting college, med school....and stardom. I can hope for happiness...and a full life...but what each child can and will accomplish...I need to be realistic, accept their differences, and set my hopes for them in line with who they are and what they are capable of.
I need to accept different strengths and different areas of weakness and as hard as it is when 4 people need from you at all times...I need to tailor the way I react to them and the leverage that I use on them...and even the chores and work that I set forth for them...on WHO THEY ARE. Individually - who THEY Are....Ben, Kyle, Will and Josh....the individual.
And second...and maybe even more important....I need to look at the areas that they struggle with and do my best to assist them in growing this knowledge...but at the same time, being careful not to bully them into "learning" it the "right way" ...right away. Rather, I need to look at the areas that come easier...that bring joy...and I NEED to assist them in these areas EVEN more - so that they can find their greatness.
it is almost easier to find these areas of greatness when child is so low on the curve in most areas. Their strength...Sam's strength in his art....is easy to see. A bright light in a dark tunnel. But when child is average or above in all areas....the tunnel is not as dark and the light not as bright.
So for my boys I am committed to helping them in the areas that they are weak. To knocking down the walls that make them feel less than adequate. Will - WILL learn to write his letters better. But more importantly in many ways... I also see an imagination in that boy that surpasses all of my other children. So we may spend 15 min of our hour together on writing and then the other 45 min writing a story together that we can read to his brothers. A story about the man that blasts off to mars with bananas in his backpack, and a potato gun in his hand?
And with Kyle, I will work on his reading for 15 min....he is above average there anyway, bu that is the main focus at school....andthen I will work on reading stories to him and talking about how it might end....we can analyze the books and think of other possible scenarios. That is his favorite thing to do, and it is not often in his life that he can interrupt a story to dig deeper. His reasoning skill are his strength and elementary school does not give much chance to really explore this passion.
And for Ben, He can do his homework quickly....and then I will let him draw his comic strips and write stories about them. He loves to draw and create characters. This is his current talent and it is so interesting to watch his books grow! He needs time to do this...even if he is not remembering that 4:45 and quarter to 5 are the same thing. That will come...but I will not push him to the wall on it. I will let him explore his passions with me there to support each day!
And Josh...well....Josh is just finding his way, so I have been putting him in his room for his hour of work and giving him markers, blocks, games and books. And I lay them in centers. And I watch where he gravitates each day. I will work with him to find his passion. And accept that right now...it is just exploring the world.
I find that many days, I WAS working with my kids as a unit....all with the same schedules and goals...and truly...that will probably still be necessary on some days...lots of kids...only one parent!! ha ha ha ha.....but It is my commitment to them to remember each day who my kids are individually and to help them to grow in the areas that they have natural greatness!!
I'll keep you posted!! :) And I will forever be grateful for all that my little "tutorees" have added to my life!