Friday, September 9, 2011

An SAT Course and A Dyslexic Son

I never, ever, in my wildest dreams thought one day I would be able to use a course for SAT prep for my son.
I am genuinely pleased that Master Books/New Leaf Publishing has issued this course. Well done, James P. Stobaugh, and I shall tell you why.

1. I will pick up any curriculum/book and give one glance. You can lose me as a customer in a mere 3 seconds. What am I looking for? Font size and spacing between the lines.  My functional dyslexic son needs a sized text that won't strain his eyes. Once we have eye strain, it's over. The concentration needed to just focus is all he can handle. There will be no comprehension. I will never again waste money on something he can't use. And that is pretty sad because there is a lot of good stuff out there. They just didn't consider anyone with any eye strain when printing their book. Thanks, James. Now this book is at least an option for us. I will now look further and see if this will benefit us.

2. A Christian perspective- I can't say with total certainty, but I do not think there is anything that has the focus on Scripture for SAT prep that this course does. Not a sporadic reference, or honorable mention.....but the Scripture is part (and a large part at that) of the resource to learning how to think. Just in case you may not consider the incredible implication I just made, let me explain. Once these little kids hit 18 (I know it's some stupid magical number and we never gave it any credence in our home), there are very few resources that are going to carry over into their daily lives. We hope reading continues, but the books will vary. Pretty sure a calculator is going to stay with them forever. They successfully learned the value of a dictionary and thesaurus. But the number one tool/resource I NEED for them to keep is the Scriptures. And I want them to learn from it. So I appreciate anything that uses the Scripture for learning. It is a simple concept  yet one that most publishers haven't learned yet. The quality education within their Bible. Nicely done, James.

3. The varying size of the daily lessons- most days are a one pager for the lesson. Every 4th or 5th day is a two pager. Life happens. I cannot sustain more than one page most days. Clearly, James Stobaugh has children.

4. Active reading is taught- a concept that is not natural to most children! This course is training and this concept is explained well on day one. While this course can be self taught, I am going to have to spend some time teaching this concept to Jesse. Connect, question, predict, visualize, clarify, expect, and evaluate. We spent a couple years overcoming the hurdle of just being able to get through pages of text or pages in a book as a dyslexic, now we need to connect. And it won't happen by me just giving him a book and having him read it. I have to teach this to him. Train him. I have no doubt of his ability and now I haven't a doubt about how to do this. Leading questions and purposeful activities within the course are given not to keep a student busy, but to teach him to think as he reads. And that is gold.

5. The Lesson: Grammar, Math, Sentence Completion, Critical Thinking (comparison/analysis).  Not each one every day, and not pages of one thing. Short. To the point. While I think my son is unlike everyone on the planet, he cannot be the only one with a "you lose me after 15 min." mentality. And this idea not only carries over into life- K.I.S.S.(keep it short stupid) but Twitter even understands it. We do not need 3 pages of one concept. Brevity. My son can handle depth. He cannot tolerate longevity. Unless he is in a tree stand in the woods. Then we can not move for hours. I digress.

6. Tips and Strategies- there are tips on the sides of most pages. And my sons are all about strategy. Teach how to beat the test. And from an offensive point of view. Jesse will respond to this. Specific strategy. Such as- "You must not miss any of the first ten questions on each portion of the SAT1. Remember- each question counts the same and the last questions are usually more difficult. The bottom line is that if you can get all the simple and average questions, you will make about 1250 on the exam. Getting a few hard ones will only put icing on the cake."  This information was unknown and OH, so valuable! This not only takes a tremendous amount of pressure off, but puts a positive approach to test taking- a touchy subject with dyslexics. Any advantage is a gift.

7. Books- I love the book list. Most of all I love that books that are a huge accomplishment for Jesse to read are on there! Some of our children are never going to read The Scarlet Letter. They are never going to be able to read Bonhoeffer's works. The Last of the Mohicans is going to be movie mode only. And the Illiad- we went to comic book mode. BUT...books that are a victory to our reading list are not given with any condescension at all. Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Call of the Wild, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...these are all books Jesse can conquer. We will have to go slow, but no one should be made to feel that their best is not good enough. One of the reasons for our success in teaching Jesse has been the change of the mindset that learning = suffering. We just aren't going to play that game anymore. And this curriculum doesn't require it. Bravo.

There are a few, wee, little things that I am going to have to tweak. And I am a tweaker. I will not forgo a tool because it is not perfect. I will adapt it to be as close to perfect as possible.

SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student can be purchased here.

Plan: We plan on completing the 3 year course. I am very thankful to have this in my hand early enough that we can take it slow enough. There are 2 and 1 year courses.