Here's what definitely worked: having a daily checklist for him to tick off his accomplishments; getting a chance to work on the computer once he had finished his work for the day; map skills (by both Carson-Dellosa and School Specialty Publishing); the new handwriting program called Write from the Start; playing active games before we started school such as "The Giant Says" (ie, Simon Says but with a gobbling-up bit when you do it wrong); and making Lego stop-action animation films about Bible stories.
Here's what sort of worked: ShillerMath (when I worked alongside him and made him slow down); Draw Write Now for art; writing stories on the computer; Thinking Skills workbook until it went into overdrive about alphabetizing, and our co-op on poetry, art, and drama.
What didn't really work at all: I Can Do All Things art curriculum (he begged me for this, having seen his big sister complete her copy -- I don't quite understand his problem with it), open-ended project work, foreign languages (even hiring a tutor).
Here are some thoughts in a nutshell based on Gurian's observations and on hard science about boys' brains:
- Boys can be extremely distracted and stressed by a messy, disordered room, so I must de-clutter. (No, I mean it -- really! I must, I must, I must ... higher priority than painting the study ... remember!)
- Boys apparently need more space to study than girls. They tend to want to spread out when they work, which has something to do with their reliance on the visual/spatial senses. That means the table I currently intend for both him and his sister to work on is w-a-y too small for two.
- Boys tend to need brighter light to work in than girls, so I need to be careful about siting his table and perhaps provide him with a desk lamp.
- Boys like displaying and arranging their work, so a large cork board would seem a good investment.
- Boys respond better to diagrams and lists written down rather than lots of talk. Sounds like it's time to get out the ol' easel and employ a bit of "chalk" and not much "talk"
- Boys can be frustrated by switching too often between topics. This puts me slightly in a quandary: the Charlotte Mason method I tend to follow is a big advocate of short, sharp lessons, so that a child maintains concentration over a period of time, and learns not to dawdle. The other method I incorporate into my eclectic mix is Montessori, who argued that switching too often was actually more tiring than just leaving a child alone. That's perhaps why the checklist-idea worked well for him last year -- it scooted him along through a variety of subjects, but he chose the pace of it.
- Boys seem to want to move while someone is reading aloud to them. We do a lot of reading aloud, and it's very difficult to get him to retain anything, whether he's lying down and fidgeting and interrupting, or, as Gurian suggests, playing Lego. I need to find a balance between his movement and his remembering what I'm reading. Therefore, I may try something like a stress ball for him to squeeze, or play-dough (if he can stand to get his hands dirty -- depends on his mood that day), or even -- gasp -- letting him chew gum.
That's a lot of changes to consider, and I'm only 1/3 of the way through Gurian's book!
Well, if I can just get through the de-cluttering before September, I will have taken a major step toward removing stressors in "Killer's" environment, and hopefully, put him on a firmer foundation for next year's learning experience.
Are there any of these suggestions that you have implemented recently?