HS 211 [AUDIOBLOG] From Struggling Learner to Thriving Achiever by Dr. Rebecka Spencer
Links and Resources:
HS EP 211 Dr. Rebecka Spencer
Wendy – Well hey there. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions podcast. I’m your host, Wendy Speake. Here on the podcast, we start each week with a longer, more traditional podcast, most often with guests. But sometimes, we simply open the Word together and apply it directly to our homeschooling days. On Thursdays, however, we share shorter episodes that I like to call blogcasts, where one of our favorite homeschool bloggers simply encourages us with the content of one of their recent blog posts. I hope this message serves you and your family today.
As always, I’d like to thank our sponsor, Sonlight Curriculum. The wonderful people at Sonlight Curriculum offer complete homeschool curriculum that you are guaranteed to love. And now, let me introduce you to one of my friends.
Rebecka – Hi. I’m Rebecka Spencer and I’m a Doctor of Education. I have been in the field for over 17 years I have taught in the public schools and Christian schools, from early childhood through high school, been a part of the faculties of Missouri State University and State Fair Community College, and was a leading author in a study produced by the Missouri Reader in reading and student achievement. I even volunteer at summer camps during the summer for children who have a parent that is incarcerated. And I love every minute of it.
My heart is that of Christian education, homeschooling, and helping all children thrive. I helped found a little Christian school in our hometown that’s truly a unique and lovely model, being that we get to homeschool two days a week and then partner with amazing parents and teachers three days a week, to help our kids thrive.
We know that we all have unique gifts and talents, and we actually get to share these with our families and our little learners. And now at Cherish Children Ministries, I actually get to help moms and teachers help their kids thrive no matter where they are. I help them learn how to balance the brain. And I also help them determine the learning style that their child is, and how they connect with God so that there isn’t such the struggle.
You can find out more about this at cherishschildrenministries.org
When I was asked to share a blog, I knew what I wanted to share. You see, yes, I’m and educator. Yes, I’m a doctor of education. But, I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three boys. And two of those have learning disabilities.
Let me share with you a blog entitled, Struggling Learner to Thriving Achiever, in hopes to encourage you in your homeschool journey.
My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years. And we waited seven years for our first son. He was perfect in every way, except for napping and eating and… well, the list goes on. But really, he was a great toddler, and he began talking when he was about one year of age and reading when he was three. No problem. We have this parenting thing down, right? Well, we thought so.
He was the pickiest eater ever. We all know that toddlers can be pretty picky, but to not even want to look at your chocolate cake for your very first birthday or want to taste the homemade ice cream that your grandmother made you. I thought something was definitely wrong here.
Then came our precious middle son. Weighing in at just over ten pounds at birth to his hundred twenty pound mama, broke his clavicle upon entrance into the world. He had to have his tongue clipped when he was just days old due to nursing complications. And he walked at just nine months so that he could be his big brother’s shadow. Our world changed to say the least when this precious boy’s eyes met ours. Little did we know that this would later lead me to gain knowledge and insight into brain balance learning and primitive reflex integration.
And then two years later came our third son, and he was born hearing impaired. Multiple tests were run and frequent visits to the audiologists were made just to learn that he had no nerve endings for hearing on his right side. His hearing was fine on the left, but we were instructed to do as much as we could to protect the hearing he did have.
I was continually asked if I did anything during pregnancy, to which I would cry and have hurt feelings. I mean, I was the youngster who never partook of any kind of drinking or drugs or alcohol of any kind. And I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me, that I was being asked these questions. I felt like a complete failure. You can imagine how difficult it was.
My husband and I prayed that the Christian school would open in time for our oldest son to attend kindergarten and it did. I had two little ones at home, and I didn’t really think much about the hearing impairedness or the broken clavicle or him walking at nine months. That is until…
Homeschool. Oh yes, those homeschool days, I remember the very first week of homeschool. It was devastating. We were both in tears, and I couldn’t believe this was happening. Sight words were atrocious. I tried everything there was to try. You name it, we tried it. Here I was, a Doctor of Education, helped hundreds of kids read, and couldn’t even help my own. I felt like a failure once again, and. I didn’t know what to do.
It got to where I just dreaded the homeschool days because I didn’t know what to do. I did know that what I learned in college needed to be done. So, I extended the short vowel sounds and I used a mirror for letters and sounds in order to optimize the time that we did have on task, and we did that. Those strategies really did work, but only to end in tears the following day because it was all to do over again from the very beginning. It was like nothing was even taught the prior day. So needless to say, every day we would have tears. It was horrible.
I would call his dad while he was at work and he would try to encourage us and talk to him on the phone. Looking back now, I see this child really was trying his best. He was giving it his all. He just was not able to connect those little letters and meaning in his brain. I knew this was not the way it should be. I am an educator and I had a child who was struggling.
I reflected back. I had some classes on brain balance and brain-based learning while in college, and then one of the school districts in which I taught began to incorporate such learning into the classroom. It was quite amazing really, as I think back on it, but little did I know I would need to pull that out of my tool belt with my own child after being home for about five years of just being a mom for a while.
I began to integrate some of what I remembered one summer, and I saw immediate success which really encouraged me to continue my education and take some more classes in this. I did, and then I learned about retained primitive reflexes and how they can negatively impact learning if not integrated by certain ages. Primitive reflexes are found at the base of the brainstem and in order for higher-level learning to occur, the primitive reflexes need to be integrated.
I learned to check all of the milestones and I realized that none of our children really had all of their primitive reflexes completely integrated. I did not realize that they were just hanging on to them. I learned that traumatic births and nursing complications were part of the inhibitors. Remember that tongue clipping and the broken clavicle that happened at birth with our middle son? And in the early reading, with our oldest son. Those were all red flags that I just did not know about at the time.
Now don’t get me wrong. Later they would come to fruition and the brain would become balanced, but these were things that I had to learn.
Then I realized, our firstborn who began reading at the age of three, was really a bright student. He was self-motivated, a self-learner. We’d always joke about him walking on his toes, and that he could never taste any of his food. And then I had an ah-ha moment when I realized the olfactory sense was not functioning as it should. You see, he had some primitive reflexes that were not yet integrated, hence the toe-walking.
He just had a simple brain imbalance. I learned I needed to actually isolate the weak side of his brain and do just, simple, easy exercises with him to strengthen it, and so we did. And for the first time, he actually said, “Wow, mom, I can taste my food!” Who knew that the olfactory sense could actually play such a vital role in learning?
Our second son just could not connect letters and words together. He had such choppy reading and would literally sound every single letter. He could comprehend what he had just read, and I really couldn’t figure out how he could do that. And then I began to learn how his brain really did function. You see, he had a heavy right brain and a weak left.
I knew I needed to help him strengthen the left side of his brain because I learned that’s where the word form area is, and that’s actually where reading occurs. Dyslexia is real. These kids work twice as hard, often get headaches and tire quickly. I learned this was what was happening.
There’s good news though. This is a happy story. We worked really hard for six weeks. I decided to have a peace inside of myself to give myself a break, to take a break from the curriculum for just six weeks and focus on primitive reflex integration first. And then work towards balancing that left and right brain. This was truly a game-changer for us.
These precious children are brilliant, they really are. They are the successful entrepreneurs who may not have been quite so successful in school, but they are awesome problems solvers. They learned how to pick up the pieces and just keep going. Failure is not an option for them. Just like our middle son learned during his language lesson on Maxims last week, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, by T.H. Palmer.
Now our hearing-impaired child has been doing these exercises to strengthen the weak side of his brain too. We have not been back to the audiologist, but I know that the more neurons that fire together, wire together. And we have been working really hard on getting them all fired up. It has been my prayer that when we return to the audiologist, he will see healthy neurons present. God is still working miracles and I believe He can do this, perhaps through this method.
Can you imagine how difficult how it must be for children who have the two hemispheres of the brain out of sync, where they cannot even communicate with one another. The left hemisphere actually controls the word form area and the right side does the comprehension. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s amazing how God created the brain. Once these get back in sync, they can start talking to each other again. And it really is so easy. You can do this all in the comfort of your very own home and you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars for special equipment. Right now, there are homeschool moms and teachers everywhere, struggling. They just really care about their kids and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get results. Really long-term results.
I hope this is an encouragement to you wherever you are on your homeschool journey. Our lives all look a little bit different, but in the end, we all want what is best for our precious children that God has entrusted to us. Is everyday beautiful, no? Is reading our child’s favorite subject? No, it’s actually not. Yes, we still have bad days here and there, but you know what? Instead of being in tears most days, most days really are productive. And the best part is our child likes school. He feels successful. And he is thriving.
I liken what Cherish Children Ministries does to coaching a sports team. Not every coach played professional sports. Success as a player is not necessary to being a good coach. Great coaches know the game better than the players. Parents know their kids better than anyone. And your expertise has to do with crafting those strategies and helping your children see what they cannot see while they are in the game of learning.
Coaches focus on how to make bodies move in the right ways to get maximum performance from their players just like you, as parents, focus on ways to maximize your child’s performance along the educational road. Parents enable these kids to perform to their highest God-given potential, because they can convey the right kind of information that causes growth and self-awareness, and the flexibility in critical moments.
And this is what I get to do. I’m very passionate about cherishing children. I get to help children thrive. I get to help parents coach their children to help them thrive. I’m gonna be sharing this at the National Homeschool Convention in St. Charles Missouri, and I hope to see you there.
You can learn more about what we do at cherishchildrenministries.org. I don’t have any special power that you don’t have. You know your kids. Your kids are smart, and they will succeed with the right protocol and with the right dose of love and encouragement. You will thrive.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you wanna know more about Cherish Children Ministries and what we do to help the brain get balanced, as well as learning all the different ways kids connect with God, and their different learning styles, just visit cherishchildrenministries.org.
Wendy – I hope that today’s blogcasts equipped and encouraged you. Remember that next week, I’ll be back with another great conversation right here on the Homeschool Solutions podcast. My name is Wendy Speake, I’m your host, and I am so glad that you tuned in today. But before we sign off, I’d like to invite you to subscribe right now to the Homeschool Solutions podcast through Apple or Google Play. And speaking of invitations, wont you join me at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions this year? These conventions are my favorite, offering dozens of wonderful speakers and hundreds of inspiring exhibitors. God to greathomeschoolconventions.com and find one near you in 2020. This year, I will be at the Ohio, Texas, South Carolina, and California conventions. Make sure to stop by and say hey if you’ll be at one of those events. But in the meantime, we’ve got this podcast and homeschooling.mom as other great resources to support you as you educate your kids in math and science and literature, yes, but also as you train them in Godliness and love. Until next time, this is Wendy Speake. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful day.
Thanks to our sponsors: