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Pulling out! Making the transition to homeschooling students with learning disabilities

Considering homeschooling your older child who learns differently?

Homeschooling Gifted Students: An Introductory Guide for Parents (every word of this applies to LD students)

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Home > Homeschooling >Learn This! Review

Materials Review: Learn This!



Learn This! Stuff You Need To Know, and Mistakes You Need to Stop Making, Before You Step Foot into High School by Charles Gulotta (Mostly Bright Ideas)

Reviewer: Susan Jones, M.Ed.

Learn This! is a humorous and much shorter summary of the kinds of things found in "What you should learn in fourth grade" and "Core Curriculum" programs. Teachers that think students should have this knowledge, however, often have arbitrary standards of what should be learned and how it should be done -- and these rigid requirements for memorization are, simply, overwhelming for a kid with a finite memory and a lack of confidence in that area. Other teachers downplay the importance of having certain basic knowledge available quickly and automatically -- *knowing* that the big country to the north of the United States is Canada... for that matter, knowing that New York is not a country.

The kid who's had the first kind of teacher and not only survived, but made sense out of what s/he memorized, has a huge advantage over the other kids, who either fully regurgitated the stuff and never did incorporate it into their 'long-term knowledge' base, or didn't memorize the stuff at all (whether they were asked to or not). First, when they see "Eisenhower" in a paragraph, they know how to say it and they know that was a U.S. President -- they may even know he was a five-star general. That kind of background knowledge does impressive things to one's "comprehension skills." Secondly, it's next to impossible to apply higher-level thinking skills to thin air -- the more of the 'fact' stuff you have available, the more grist you have for that mill, and the more enriched the flour will be that comes out of it. And thirdly, you've got some old-fashioned study skills under your belt.

There's no reason to assume that a kid with learning or attention challenges can't get at least some of these advantages, and Learn This! is a good resource to work from, though it is by no means complete. The contents include Universe, Solar System, Earth, Continents and Oceans, Countries and Cities, Lakes and Rivers, World History, U.S. History, Canadian History, LIfe and Miscellaneous -- and manage to get into reasonably complex ideas such as entropy. Many of the "Mistakes you have to stop making" are exactly the kind of mistakes kids with mild-to-moderate language problems make -- confusing astrology and astronomy, Washington, D.C. and Washington state, etc. The information is well-chosen, and there are lots of good ideas for building a framework of knowledge and then plugging in the details -- a skill many kids would benefit from learning, instead of trying to pile the facts on top of each other The 'piling on' is often necessary if there simply isn't time to make connections and associations, so it's important to make sure the students do have time to do this -- and they may need to be shown how to do it and be guided through it at first.

I'm not sure the section on math is very useful -- fraction and percentage concepts don't become clear by reading a few sentences about them (".9% is not the same as 9% -- the first is less than 1%.") However, it might help a person understand what it is that they don't know. Some students may also be put off by the flippant approach -- being told "Don't make these mistakes anymore!" may sound just like some of their very negative classroom experiences.

How I'd Use It: This kind of book is ideal for designing "Resource" or "study skills" activities -- "unit studies" to fill in knowledge gaps and apply study skills. The instructional materials would have to be created either by the teacher or the student, since this is not a workbook, just a compendium of knowledge. For instance, pages 20 and 21 display maps of the various continents, major countries, and major provinces. Pages 24 and 25 have major lakes and rivers of the world listed and mapped -- and includes how to pronounce the Thames and the Seine. I would give students the job of breaking the task down (by continent, into groups of five, or any reasonable breakdown) and apply a strategy for learning it (making blank maps and filling them in, making flash cards, tracing the answers, etc.) Students could also make the quizzes and then take them.

This is also a good resource for the student who is insecure about whether or not s/he is "keeping up," for whatever reason. It won't be enough to say "here's the book - go have fun" -- but the book can be a vehicle for planning a strategy for becoming a more literate student and a more independent learner.




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