CM book 6 – thinking out loud here…

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  • mrsmccardell

    I read a comment from Charlotte’s 6th book regarding “the feast.”  She was stating that reading living books was an excellent choice for advanced learners and slow learners…they would each take from it what they needed.  My thoughts keep going back and forth on this for my dd7 with special needs.  If she can’t really comprehend what I’m reading to her or even pay attention then what is she even taking in?  It’s very hard to determine what she’s comprehending as her needs can be complicated and layered.  When something is stated to her as factual, like a textbook, she seems to retain that piece of information.  My heart is torn between her loving knowledge for it’s own sake versus knowing just for life/work, etc.  Also, since she is already behind I feel like stories from living books may keep her farther behind b/c she’s not getting it.  

    As soon as I grab a book I feel like she runs away mentally.  I know it’s challenging her b/c it’s making her think versus just being told the info but I’m struggling to get her to really want it…the desire for knowledge isn’t apparent across subjects like Charlotte mentions children having.  

    I know all the benefits of CM and truly want to use them with her but I need to make sure I’m doing what is best for her.  I’m really interested in any comments you may have (including Sonya).  I love this philosophy of school but I am open to any thoughts/ideas you may have.  Thanks.

    Sonya Shafer

    I’m happy to think out loud with you about this and glad that you want to teach your child in the way she will learn best! Here are some thoughts to get the discussion going.

    RE “spread the feast”: I think this is referring to more than just living books. The main emphasis is on giving your child a wide variety of subjects, not just the bare bones. I went through this with my youngest and have seen the difference it makes for both of us when I try to include art, music, dancing, drawing, games, handicrafts, and life skills as well as the 3Rs. There was a season when I focused only on the 3Rs with her and we both grew stale and bored. When I purposely added as much variety as I could and scheduled different things on different days, there was a noticeable improvement in our enjoyment. Looking back, I think I focused so hard on the 3Rs because that’s what she seems to be lagging behind in the most. But I found that the more I focused on those skills, the less I fed her spirit and the less I viewed her as a person. Please hear my heart, I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing. I’m just sharing my experience with you (and whoever else may be reading) to plant a seed about “spreading the feast” with our special needs children. I guess the main take-away is that the living books are only a portion of their education.

    RE living books: Now, having said that, living books ARE a portion of a CM education. So let’s see what we can discover in that area with your daughter. It seems like the time when we have the least amount of “connecting” with my youngest is when I’m either reading with no preparatory schema/framework for her and/or reading a book that is too advanced for her.

    Can you remind me of what kind of learning delays you’re dealing with and maybe give me an example of what living books you’re using?


    I thought you might find this post especially encouraging.


    Thanks for the encouragement.  

    Sonya, you said, “I try to include art, music, dancing, drawing, games, handicrafts, and life skills as well as the 3Rs” and that is exactly what I’m trying to do.  I agree that it’s easy to focus where there is a delay and that would suck the life right out of all of us! 

    “It seems like the time when we have the least amount of “connecting” with my youngest is when I’m either reading with no preparatory schema/framework for her and/or reading a book that is too advanced for her.”

    How do you give the framework?  How do you know it’s too advanced?  

    When I try to give her a visual or something to hold she really seems to tune me out.  She’ll start humming and when I ask her to tell me something about our reading she has no idea.  

    We were using Book 1 Elementary Geography and when we got to lesson XI, I could tell I was losing her.  So I put it away for now. I don’t how to prepare for her w/o spending an hour each night to get the visual, hands-on, and auditory pieces together.  Does that make sense?  

    We were using Outdoor Secrets w/companion and I lost her on that one too!  

    Literature has been Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Bears on Hemlock Mtn., Trumpet of the Swan…it’s like pulling teeth to get her to sit with us.  My ds6 and dd2.5 love to sit and read with me.  My dd7 just wanders away and I feel like I’m failing her b/c I can’t get her to sit with us.  

    Her needs are hard to describe!  She loves movement and cannot stand to sit still, she’s delayed globally, she’s just learning to match rhyming words, making alphabet letters sticks with her for a few minutes, she’s clumsy (low-tone)…I hope that helps a little…I need to go get the baby so I’ll check in later.  

    TailorMade, thanks for the article.  It helped me to re-read it!

    Sonya Shafer

    Your descriptions help a lot. Thanks. My gut feeling is that she’s more on a preschool level for academics. Now, you know her much better than I do, but much of what you wrote coincides with my daughter a few years ago. She did not want to sit and read books. Mine would sit passively, but she refused to look at the book or me. She would hold a toy or stuffed animal and face the other way until I was finished reading.

    Her own reading skills were very delayed as well. So I quit requiring a narration, because I didn’t think she was at the 6 year old mark yet developmentally in that area. I figured my other children were learning their letters and rhyming when they were 3 or 4, so that was where I marked my youngest developmentally, even though she was 8 or 9 physically. Once I started thinking in terms of her developmental “age level,” it took a lot of pressure off. 

    As far as how you know the book is too advanced, I think you answered your question. Both books you’ve listed, you say you lost her. To me, that’s the tell. I tried Outdoor Secrets with my youngest, and she didn’t have a clue either. In fact, she might be able to comprehend it next year, but not right now (and she’s 15 now).

    I don’t know what kind of academic pressure you have in your situation, but if possible it might be good to back off and do preschool-type activities like you described with letters and numbers, and use good living picture books for other subjects. I would continue the one literature book for all but not make her sit. Maybe have a rule that she must stay in the room but she can move quietly. Here’s my thinking behind that recommendation. In recent years we’ve had peeks inside Hannah’s brain that have shown us that she has retained some from those literature books I read to her way back when. I never would have guessed it at the time, but somehow it’s in there. Do you have a little mini-trampoline she might jump on, or a Sit-n-Spin that she might spin on while you’re reading? For Hannah, she processes better when she spins. Sometimes they can be loud, so be careful they don’t cause a distraction to the others; but that might be an idea to consider.

    As far as prep time goes, I’ve tried to stagger the other subjects throughout the week so we’re reading just one book per day for Hannah. (We also have her reader going, now that she can read; but that wouldn’t apply to you right now.) So on Saturday I sit down and look at the 5 or 6 books/stories we will be reading this coming week and see if there are any that she can relate to. For example, one of the stories was about sea-shells. We’ve gone to the beach as a family a couple of times and she has loved it. She has dug in the sand and played with the shells there. So I make a note to myself to invite her to remember those trips and the shells she has played with, maybe find one around the house (if I know where the basketful is), before we read. We read a story about seals last week and I remembered that she has a favorite pop-up book about the zoo that has a page with seals on it. So I asked her to go get that book and we looked at that page and talked a little about what we saw. Then I told her that today’s story was about seals like those, and we read. Since we’re reading only 5 or 6 per week, it doesn’t take too long on Saturday to look through and see if any of those ideas come to mind. 

    It’s going to be a different scene than with your other children (as you know). With typical children we get feedback to let us know what is going “in” and making connections. Not with our delayed children so much. We have to “direct our hearts into the love of God and the perseverance of Christ” especially with them (a new favorite verse, 2 Thess. 3:5). But we can take what little feedback we notice and make adjustments accordingly, and I think you’re on the right track by noticing that she’s lost with those books. My advice would be to back off to easier – but still good quality – books and take them a little at a time. 

    Now, you can incorporate the factual books too. For example, my daughter has a fascination with dogs and has been asking us questions about whether they have wrists and what’s the name of the muscle that makes the tail wag. Things like that. So we found a book called Uncover a Dog that gives her a peek inside at some of the bones and muscles and such. We are taking it in tiny sections and will probably be looking at it for months before we are done. That’s okay. 

    Sorry for the long ramble. Maybe you can get some ideas and, most of all, encouragement from a bit of it. (Give that baby a kiss for me!)


    That was a huge help!  One last question if you don’t mind.  What did you give to Hannah to keep her busy while you worked with the other children?  I know your children are older so they may have been more independent at the time.  Mine are all younger and anything I give to dd7 to work on she needs help…even play-doh she’ll need help at times.  I can’t figure out how to keep her around us with something educational so the others can have some independent time.  Maybe I’m being lazy with preparing good work for her?  Any thoughts?  

    Thanks so much for your time.

    Sonya Shafer

    No, you’re not being lazy. That’s one of the hardest aspects, finding appropriate independent work. Some of it depends on how much of a roamer she is. Hannah is pretty passive and will sit in one place for a long time. I used framed puzzles, sometimes the ones with only four pieces. And you might take a couple of minutes ahead of time (or ask one of the other children to do so) and show her how it fits together, let her practice a bit until she feels confident. (On a random aside: that was one of my a-ha moments last year, that our special needs children want to feel successful too. Since they don’t show it, I tend to forget.) Paper and crayons. I don’t know how you feel about electronics, but Hannah loves the Drawing Pad app on the iPad. Stickers and reusable sticker books that are more free form, not requiring certain stickers in certain outlines. Sit-n-Spin. Mini tram (if you don’t have one, an old crib mattress works pretty well too.). Salt dough and cookie cutters. Salt dough seems easier for low-muscle-tone hands to manipulate. Plus it doesn’t have all the artificial colors. 

    Does that get your ideas flowing a bit?

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