To get some pandemic and Learning Program perspective from our community, we spoke with Jacque Baker about how her daughter, Madeline, who has benefited from Learning Program in the past and now applies the program to the present.
How are you spending your time at home during this pandemic?
With Madeline, we’ve been working on maintaining reading and math goals, and also broaden life skills, while becoming very creative with what a play date looks like. We’ve been delighted that Madeline has accepted Zoom interaction so readily after a short, “I don’t want to do this” period. She misses seeing friends in person, greatly, and she REALLY misses swim hang outs, but she has accepted being on Zoom with friends to draw (Art Hub for Kids) or both parties just hang while doing a similar craft, share a SO Gymnastics class, or play charades or a scavenger hunt, for example, and that helps her emotionally. If what is done over Zoom is a task that both parties are actively doing, then it’s a good fit. The few safe hangouts have been taking turns running through sprinklers, playing water balloons in perfect social distancing fashion, and making and going through an outdoor obstacle course that involves water of course. Family time has been playing a board or card game, or heading out in the backyard for soccer or basketball together.
What do you miss about school?
Surprisingly, not much overall. I’ve been relieved from worrying if and how things are set up at school, and been able to take charge of it myself. I’ve enjoyed being able to know, first-hand, what she is working on and how, and how she’s progressing in it. It’s actually lightened the concern I usually carry and has brought more peace to that area of my life. I do miss that her daily exercise was structured into her school day, and I miss that she is not receiving the valued and loved feelings she used to get through being a part of her broader school community.
When did you participate in the Learning Program? How many times?
We took part in the Learning Program from its inception, completed three years and two levels.
What was so impactful about Learning Program?
It was impactful that we learned that our daughter could read and recognize words, given the right opportunity and practice. She was 4 and up to that point I wasn’t seeing her read any words and it was a real struggle to get her to learn from me. She had visual trouble too, so it complicated her looking at a printed page and wanting to maintain her attention, but in this method, with the simple and bold materials offered, she could read and attend anyway. She saw herself succeed and that was gold to her continuing to try. Additionally, having seen this, I could confidently advocate to school that they should expect her to be able to read and show comprehension, and I could show them a method that would be successful.
Having the printed material from the courses has also been impactful over the years by being a source of what she should be working on next, and seeing examples of how to practice those skills through examples provided. During COVID, I got the Learning Program binders out and reviewed the material; searching for what should precede what skill, so that I could design my child’s own curriculum at home with authority. Madeline is in a different place in academia than where she was when we left the program, and there were still worksheets that supported goals she has right now.
The program can be especially impactful during COVID time, to support parents having materials, and knowing how to begin to teach their kids at home themselves. Each month a “Daily Activity Guide” is provided. It has a summary page of suggested literacy and math exercises to complete for the month, websites, and apps that are relevant to supporting those skills, and a Facebook group to join to post any questions and read how other families are using the materials or how they are setting up things that work for gaining cooperation for their children.
What were some of your favorite activities during LP?
Madeline was the most interested in reading when I had her physically be involved. Given a sentence in the story book, she’d duplicate placing given word cards in the order of the example, and then she would use the picture cue and a choice of 3-word cards to select the correct ending of the sentence. (I’d cover up the last word on the page: which was the novel word) For example:. I see the _____.
She liked this activity because it was tactile and engaging, and she saw her success. She’d repeat saying the beginning phrase on each page, and then there was a component that she got to “think” about and finish the sentence. With a picture cue to select the word that matched it, and having been introduced to the novel words already in print through matching picture to word exercises, she could select the right card to finish the sentence receptively, and then practice saying it, expressively. The activity supported a lot of learning goals. We used a fun pointer stick that she could use for the exercise.
Other exercises she liked were simply the matching of cards: word to word, picture to picture, and then, picture to word. She also liked the drawing lines activity of similar contexts and I liked how it allowed her to practice her grip and control the pen on a slippery surface. The treat of finishing that activity was wiping off the board, after.
Did you like the teachers and therapists?
The teachers were of high skill and they had extensive experience in education. They offered their email addresses if we had questions after class; although I never had to use the offer. The therapists really cared about each child and when needed, they offered input on my particular child’s participation, socialization, and skill ability. I learned a few things about my daughter due to that class. Things like: she needs to learn some self-advocacy skills because she lets others take from her, and won’t “speak up” for herself, and that she tends to not stay with the rotating group. They worked to shape her desire to stay with her group, wouldn’t let her stay removed, and by the end of the first LP program, she was readily moving with the groups as they moved and staying with them even when she didn’t feel confident in the task at hand. Knowing how she acted in a school environment early and how these professionals set her up for success, also helped share necessary information to her next years’ teachers.
What would you like families who aren’t sure if LP is right for them to know?
As long as your child is 1st grade or below in reading, your child and family would benefit. I’d recommend talking to a representative to help you select the correct Level for your child if you want the fullest benefit. It was valuable to me to have hands-on materials to use and to be taught a method of presenting material that is already proven to have success with our children, versus me trying to come up with the content, materials and method through research and preparation time. If you devote 10-20 minutes, depending on the attention and motivational level of your child, several times each week to interact with the materials together, you will see them read and you will see proof of their comprehension. That result feels pretty great. We entered Level 3 before Madeline could fully benefit and we still benefitted from the community sharing time, and the materials which have grown with her. And, fear not, most children do enjoy this time working the materials with their parents and as a result, everyone gets a “feel good” for it.