I have said it before, and I’m saying it again. Caleb is my catalyst for change. Does everyone have a child that stretches and grows them sooo much? I suppose the more children one has, the higher the likelihood is, of having one that is completely opposite of ones own personality. Caleb is 14 years old. We went on the Gaps diet for 3.5 years because his behavior (and health) warranted it. Well, I believe we have successfully healed Caleb’s leaky gut. We still eat very clean at our house, but Caleb on occasion partakes in junk food and he appears to have no reaction. He is not mean, which in the past was the first sign that he had eaten something his body could not process.
Despite healing his gut, Caleb still has schooling issues. I had wondered (desperately hoped) if Caleb’s schooling issues were related to his gut and would resolve as his gut healed. When I say schooling issues, I don’t know if I can adequately articulate the problems we had/have with schoolwork. Basically for the past 10 years Caleb has refused to learn the way I wanted to teach him. I have homeschooled for 12 years. My approach has been pretty traditional. Basically I have taught the way I was taught. I used textbooks, workbooks, tests, memorization, etc. Caleb has never learned well using these methods. Although, if properly motivated he will use these techniques. However, it takes ALOT of energy on my part to make it happen. When I realized the tradtional approach wasn’t working, I moved to a Charlotte Mason approach. Although I loved this approach, and my other kids did as well, it took an act of God to get Caleb to read the classics. After the Charlotte Mason approach, we moved into a Classical approach with a co-op. I had hoped having other teachers to help me teach Caleb would be a success. I’m not saying Caleb didn’t learn anything at our co-op, but getting him to do the work was a nightmare. Caleb has been EXHAUSTING to teach. Add on behavior problems to that and I have spent the last 14 years extremely frustrated in my attempt to impart knowledge to him. Plus, keep in mind he is not my only child that needed/needs educating. Lets just say, over the years I have loved the fruit of homeschooling, but I can’t say homeschooling has been my joy. It has been down right difficult!
I have expressed my struggles to many a people in the last decade. People would ask me if Caleb had a learning disability. From the limited reading that I did, Caleb didn’t seem to have difficulty reading or processing information; as long as it was information he was interested in. Caleb is SMART! Seriously. I couldn’t imagine him having a learning disability. But please keep in mind, that I really didn’t investigate learning disabilities much. I would like to throw in that I have been praying, praying, praying for an answer to Caleb’s struggles (which, because I am his mom and his teacher, are my struggles). I have a brother who is a Catholic Priest. And he has friends. They pray with me and for me and for Caleb on a regular basis. If I have learned anything in the last 17 years of parenting, I have learned that God does answer prayers. And if I have learned anything else, it’s that often, I am standing in Gods way. Meaning I have to have an open mind and an open heart to hear the answers to those prayers. Often, desperation and extreme frustration are the ingredients that need to be present in order for me to be able to hear God talking to me. I wish I wasn’t so stubborn, but apparently I am (something Caleb and I do have in common :).
So, one day in my desperation to help Caleb learn his designated curriculum, I went to the library and poured over the shelves in an attempt to discover something to enlighten me about Caleb’s needs. And I found it! It is called: “Late, Lost, and Unprepared- A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning” by Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel.
This book was written about Caleb. It has his name all over it. Executive Functioning delay describes Caleb to a T. It describes kids with this disability as being unable to prioritize, organize and control impulsivity. Yup, it’s Caleb to a T. The first half of the book explains that children/adults with ADHD, Asperger’s, and even “normal” people can struggle with executive function. Apparently, the part of your brain that controls executive function usually matures when the person is in their early twenties. People with this delay usually acquire brain maturation in their mid thirties. This has been a HUGE revelation to me! The first half of the book talks about the symptoms of the delay. The whole time I’m reading the book, I wanted to jump to the second half to figure out how to cope with it. But I refrained. I wanted to thoroughly understand this delay, so I could understand Caleb better. By the time I got to the second half of the book, I was a little disappointed. Not because it’s not a good book. But many of the suggestions they had to keep kids focused, organized, and on task, were already things we had tried over the years, to no avail. The authors also suggested that “helicopter parenting” works very well for these kids. I really don’t have time to be a helicopter parent. Despite my disappointment regarding the suggestions in the book to help ones student/child, I am so grateful that I have figured out that Caleb struggles in a way that most of my other kids (and myself) don’t struggle. He is not lazy, or defiant. He has a hidden disability. If I had a child who was confined to a wheel chair, I wouldn’t think of making him run a foot race. I think the way I have been approaching education with Caleb is comparable to this analogy. Knowing this has helped me to change my approach and my expectations for Caleb. It has only been a month since I read the book and already the change in my attitude and approach has led to much more peace in our home.
After reading the book, I got online and typed in “Executive Function”. A wealth of information was before me. I discovered that some families have found that “unschooling” was the answer to their struggles with this delay. So, I followed the rabbit trail and started to really look into “unschooling”. The more I have read, the more I have liked. I think Caleb would thrive with an unschooling approach. Heck, all my kids would thrive with this approach. I would thrive with this approach. In fact, unschooling is my approach as I learn what I need to know to keep my family healthy and happy. And so has begun a paradigm shift in my mind. Stay tuned for more on the amazing world I have discovered in unschooling.