Category Archives: dyslexia

Is the Common Core killing kindergarten?

Is the Common Core killing kindergarten? – The Boston Globe

I guess you know the answer…

No brainer. 2 main points in the article 1) drilling shows nothing if kids aren’t developmentally ready 2) People are different. And any benefits fade quickly for those who ARE ready, and the negatives DO NOT fade for those who are not (shown in studies both in reading and math)

I would add: 3) school in general ends up being at least 90% extrinsically motivated learning, because people are all different and interested in a HUGE range of different things AND at different times. So to expect someone to be interested in the same topic at the same time at the same pace, etc. it difficult. If school were not compulsory, ok, but it’s not.

Anyway, my kids have been going to Sudbury Valley School since they were 4 where all of this is moot, thank goodness, because it’s just left to the kids themselves, with the staff and other adults in their lives to support them as they desire.

My kids are each very different from each other. One has a dyslexic brain (one of the 5% or so) and it has been frustrating the heck out of him that reading hasn’t just clicked like it has for most of his friends, cousins, etc. So he has been absolutely loving going to an amazing, enthusiastic reading tutor on the side who has been helping with his decoding skills. His choice. But to imagine this in a non-age-mixed, compulsory school setting is difficult.

Peter Gray: How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development. Academic skills are best learned when a person wants them and needs them.

– “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities… It is neurobiological in origin, meaning that the problem is located physically in the brain. Dyslexia is not caused by poverty, developmental delay, speech or hearing impairments, or learning a second language, although those conditions may put a child more at risk for developing a reading disability.”

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Reading is not natural — but that’s ok

Maryanne Wolf is a “neuroscience of reading” researcher at Tufts who herself has a son who is “dyslexic”. She is comfortable with using that term as a sort of umbrella term for learning-reading difficulties. (The estimates I see seem to be that roughly 5% of people are dyslexic.)

To me that makes her uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of learning to read and I was pleased to hear that she agrees with what I have been reading on the subject which is that “dyslexia” is a brain difference that has both advantages and disadvantages, and one disadvantage is that learning to read is more difficult.

Her book:

An interesting interview:

Anyway, my take-away as the parent of kids attending a Sudbury school is that it isn’t useful to believe that all kids will magically “get” reading and that reading difficulties are due solely to traditional school instructional problems. Certainly “almost automatic” reading does happen with most kids (Let’s call it 95%.) But with one of our kids (yes, surrounded by people reading and huge amounts of social conversation at home and at school) that isn’t what is happening. So reading is something that they have to explicitly work on (and want to work on!) And so we do. That’s what everything I have been reading and what Maryanne Wolf says in the video… explicit instruction and practice with decoding, etc.

I guess that is the obvious problem with traditional schooling and reading. The kids with certain brains will be just fine (or very bored) with the pace/timing of the reading instruction in class. And the kids who are “dyslexic” to varying degrees (since the researchers understand that there are different issues involved depending on the person) then run the risk of the labels/frustration/falling-behind cycle if they aren’t able to get enough extra help. I mean, 95% of school is reading, so if you are not ready to read yet (“cerebral diversity” I’ve heard it called) then you are going to have a problem.

If kids had more individualized attention (tiny classes, or homeschooling) or given the freedom to do and learn what they want (Sudbury schools) then it wouldn’t be an issue.

It certainly hasn’t been for us. Our dyslexic kid went from not being able to get through very simple books because he would get stuck too often, to being able to read at “grade level” (roughly 5th or 6th grade — Sudbury schools don’t have grades but that’s what he would be in based on his age) in less than a year of 2-hours-a-week tutoring (which he LOVES, btw). Again, your mileage may vary — our dyslexic kid is probably mildy dyslexic — but just wanted people to know what a joy it has been for him to learn to read on his own terms.

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Filed under dyslexia, reading, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School