First of all, for teacher background, I recently read a book called "Simply Classical" by Cheryl Swope.
Maybe some time I will review it in more depth, but for now I will just say that it gave me some ideas and inspiration in regard to Aidan. Cheryl Swope and her husband adopted twins with complicated special needs and managed to give them a classical education which brought them to a level much beyond what could have been predicted given their initial cognitive and developmental testing.
Her thesis is that every child deserves the best education they can get. She had a gift for teaching functional skills to her kids in the context of real education. I do not have that gift by nature, but her book has given me some practical ideas for working with Aidan.
Another thing that helped me when planning Aidan's school year, and indeed the school year in general, is an idea a friend gave me in a discussion of education. She told me that in every educational decision she makes for her daughter, she is guided by the desire to "get the fundamentals right -- to build a solid base."
This probably doesn't seem that radical but it really made me think. I've noticed for some time that when I am reading difficult books, like philosophy or science, that I am really at a disadvantage because I don't have the basics down. And also, I just started taking piano lessons, and this has been a concrete experience in noticing that I missed some piano fundamentals in my adolescent years because I was always in such a hurry to get to the advanced stuff.
The basic take-away point is that I think Aidan can go way further than he has gotten to this point but ONLY if he gets a thorough foundation in basics. So I looked for materials that are not necessarily exciting, but very solid in fundamentals. Aidan is very self-motivated. He can put up with a fair amount of tedium as long as he feels like it is getting him somewhere and so long as the goals are framed to be reachable and concrete. So far he seems to be enjoying what we have been doing.
So now, after all that preliminary, here is his book list.
Spell to Write and Read
I've had this program for several years but this year I'm dusting it off and using it for both Paddy and Aidan. Aidan needs to get a solid base for reading. He can read probably on a second or third grade level but relies too much on memorization rather than decoding phonetically. He has always done better with reading whenever writing is involved so this is pretty much the perfect type of program for him.
My plan is to have him start at the beginning of the WISE Guide to Spelling and orally or in writing, spell about 5 words a day until he gets to the point where he is having more trouble. At that point, we will slow down and work more methodically. So far this is working fine.
The program comes with flashcards containing spelling rules and phonograms. Aidan loves flashcards and is pretty good at memorizing.
For the writing component of the program, I am starting him back at the beginning with a review of letter forms (handwriting basics are covered in the program). He loves the Handwriting Without Tears slate (pictured below along with some other manipulatives we are using) and I think using chalk gives his fingers the input they need, because just in a few days I've noticed his letter and number formation has improved by quite a long shot. When we are done with a writing session, he usually keeps going for several minutes and has already worn through several sticks of chalk.
|Some manipulatives we are using|
Right Start Mathematics B
The Right Start mathematics program,. because of its heavy emphasis on manipulatives and building a solid foundation, has from what I've heard been notably successful with autistic children. Aidan is close enough to autistic so that a lot of the same approaches work with him.
The "B" book can be used as a starting book with older children; it reviews the material presented in "A" but at a faster pace. Aidan already knows numbers up to 100 and so on but I have been stuck for several years on making him comprehend addition and subtraction conceptually. He can DO it, he just doesn't understand it at all. So I am hoping the Right Start approach, which discourages counting, will get him past the conceptual logjam.
I got a pile of these for Aidan. They are bright, not too babyish-looking, carefully sequential, and cover the K-3 basics pretty well. My goal was to fill in possible gaps. My other goal is that Aidan get a chance to work independently, since as is normal for a young teenager, he likes to be able to do things on his own. So I got some preschool-level books to start him on, and we'll gradually move into the ones that are more on his level. He spends a few minutes a day tracing, cutting, drawing lines, and doing dot to dot puzzles.
These all incorporate the 3Rs but my main focus for using the workbooks is more for Occupational Therapy. One of the ideas I got from Simply Classical was that you can combine goals -- use the 3Rs to incorporate therapy goals, and use therapy activities to consolidate the 3Rs.
Catholic National Readers -- Primer and Book One
The Catholic National Reader series is from the 1890's and has been called the "Catholic McGuffey". We've had them around for years. The virtue of this primer is that it is solidly grounded in phonics and moves very quickly, so is a suitable review reader for an older child who may have some gaps. We started at the beginning and are reading a lesson a day until he gets to the point where he doesn't know the words and can't sound them out. Then we'll pause and bring out the flashcards and review the sounding-out procedures.
An excellent supplementary resource is the Treadwell Reading LIterature series. These aren't intended to be basal phonics readers but they are very good for building fluency in the context of real, traditional readings of folk tales. I have used them with Aidan in the past. He finds them very amusing and he needs the exposure to real stories.
Loyola Adaptive Sacramental Resources
For sacramental review, I bought Aidan these flip books that bring the sacramentals down to the concrete step by step level. I also have the Living My Religion series and am planning to have him memorize the first communion catechism along with reviewing the basic prayers.
First Year in Number
This is a cute book I found in public domain. I am planning to use it as a sort of math reader and activity book. It is full of visuals and also contains some building exercises which are just the kind of thing that Aidan needs because his motor processing difficulties affect the way he constructs models in his head and this of course affects how he sees and designs things in real life.
Adaptive Memory Work
I have Classically Catholic Memory Alpha for Paddy and I may use bits of it for Aidan as well -- it contains catechism questions, poetry, Latin prayers, and some math memorization that may be applicable to Aidan as well.
Some of the material I can't imagine making much sense to Aidan, like taxonomy of living things -- however, I don't want to underestimate him either, and perhaps we can use some of that type of thing as a foundation for say, a lapbook unit on animals.