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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is highly probable that my homeschooled 8.5yo will be starting school this Fall in the 4th grade. The only thing I really am worried about is his writing. His science is advanced, his math is fine, his reading is fine. He has no problem with reading comprehension or organizing his thoughts or anything like that. It's the physical writing that's a problem.

I don't think he's ever written more than 3 sentences at a time, and even that's a stretch. His spelling is horrible. He just absolutely hates writing, and does not "get" spelling. It's odd, because he can sound words out pretty well when reading them, but doesn't have a clue when it comes to figuring out how to spell something based on how it sounds.

I'd really like to try to bring him up to speed over the next 5 months. Where exactly should he be so that he's not too far behind when school starts this fall? What is the minimum he should be able to do?
 

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You might nose around your school district's website to see if they have a "grade level standards" list -- I know there is one for our public school district. I suspect this is one of those things that might vary by school district.

I have a 4th grader in a small, academically oriented private school. So these standards might or might not be appropriate for your school. At the beginning of the year he could write a 1 page research paper with coaching from us, produce a large poster board with paragraphs about whatever the assigned topic was and his spelling words were multi-syllable (which I'm pretty sure I've mispelled, ironically enough) words mostly taken from his science and history texts ("hypothesis" for example), but also including 10 commonly mispelled words each week. On homework and tests he is marked down for mispelled words as well as sloppy penmanship and lack of punctuation. He is expected to write everything except math in cursive.

Tests this year have included short answer questions where they are expected to write 2-3 sentences. Homework answers routinely expect a paragraph answer for subjects like history and reading comprehension.

I hope that gives you some idea of where he might be expected to be. As I said though, this is DS's school and yours might have different expectations.
 

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I don't know about the specific answer to your question, but I wanted to say that not being able to work out spelling from hearing the sounds of the words can be a sign of dyslexia.

You say his science is advanced. Dyslexia often hides in gifted kids because they develop compensatory strategies that mask the challenge.

I think 3 sentences at a time is a 2nd grade level of expectation in our school district, but I am not sure.

HTH
 

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My 3rd grader often comes home with an assignment that has 1-2 pages of writing. She says that, right now, they are working on fiction stories. The teacher gives them a story board with 6 pictures, and they need to write a paragraph for each picture--so 6 paragraphs total for the story. She said that a lot of kids don't complete it the first day, and are working up to that level.
 

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I know that my 1st grader has an expectation of journal writing each day that includes several sentences to a paragraph, depending upon skill level. They also are working on the more common spelling words-I would guess that you might be able to get a list of the spelling/vocab list that the kids in your school have covered 1st-3rd grade and work on those.

If your child isn't up to speed w/writing most certainly help will be given. If there isn't an LD or mechanical issue w/writing, it will come along. It's amazing what kids will do in school as part of a teacher given assignment, that they won't do at home!
 

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My recollection of 3rd grade is that ds was expected to write a daily journal entry. It was often a half-page or page long. There were longer writing assignments too.

By 4th grade, they were writing short stories and completing social studies projects and science reports that were several (about a half-dozen or more) pages long, but they would be allowed a couple of weeks to complete these assignments.

DS, identified gifted, had/has written expression issues that became apparent when he was in 3rd grade, which is when the writing demands increased significantly at school. DD is also gifted and had atrocious spelling. It's improved a lot, but she still makes pretty basic errors.

There are several strategies to help out with writing and spelling. I used to scribe for DS while he dictated on longer assignments, he started working on a computer because keyboarding is easier than handwriting, we taught him how to outline written work and then complete it in small chunks at a time so it wasn't too overwhelming.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by oceanbaby View Post
It's the physical writing that's a problem.
Something you may want to look at is cursive. Many schools introduce this in 3rd grade, so you may want to check that out. My ds struggled with printing and I finally ditched it this year (we homeschool) and went with cursive. He *loves* it. And weirdly enough, doing cursive is helping with his printing.

Like ollyoxenfree, something that helped us is having ds dictate stories to me, I wrote them on a white board and then he copied into his writing journal. Over time he's become more independent, so he'll write the stories on his own. It wasn't until he could spell much better that he started to really take off. There's a lot going on with writing/composing/editing/spelling, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies. So many things to consider!

First of all, dyslexia is something that is always on my mind, because both dh and his father are dyslexic. We need to find out how we got about getting ds tested. So thank you for bringing that up.

We have done dictation, but it's been me writing it on the computer and then printing it for him to read. He never went over and copied it, mainly because he just hates writing so much!

I just bought a cursive writing package, and we are going to start on that today. He was asking to learn cursive, so I have high hopes.

Right now he would not be able to do any of the things mentioned above, so we are definitely going to be working on this over the next few months. I really don't want his first experience with school to be overwhelming because of his writing level.
 

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As you start working more on writing, I would encourage you to just start with the basic 5 sentance paragraph.

Draw 5 rectangles on a sheet of paper (they should stretch across the paper and have space for one sentance each).

Label:
Topic
Detail #1
Detail #2
Detail #3
Conclusion

Even if DS just jots a word or two in each rectangle, it will help him get the pattern down. If he can perfect this writing style, he can then extend it into longer papers. Even if he *only* gets this pattern down, it will help him a *lot* in school.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by TiredX2 View Post
Draw 5 rectangles on a sheet of paper (they should stretch across the paper and have space for one sentance each).

Label:
Topic
Detail #1
Detail #2
Detail #3
Conclusion

Even if DS just jots a word or two in each rectangle, it will help him get the pattern down. If he can perfect this writing style, he can then extend it into longer papers. Even if he *only* gets this pattern down, it will help him a *lot* in school.
Yes! Here's an organizer that a mdc mama posted with something that you can print out to get an idea of what may work for your ds.

http://www.mothering.com/discussions....php?t=1188496
 

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I know you said you'd gotten a handwriting package, but I'd like to put a plug in for Handwriting Without Tears -- you can start directly with the cursive stuff.

FWIW, here are our district's learning targets for 3rd grade. They focus mainly on paragraph writing, with a few things longer than that. But they're really working on conventions (spelling, punctuation, basic grammar, capitalization) and different genres. They also spend a lot of time on the process and are really learning to draft and edit. That's one thing that a child who hates to write has a really hard time with.
 

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Can you call the school he would be attending and talk to them about these issues. These days many schools have occupational therapists that help students with fine motor problems, and almost all public schools have experts for read/spelling issues.
 

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Former homeschooler here --

I'd keep working on it, but I wouldn't worry about it. They reteach all this stuff every year. Your son is going to spend far more time every day writing than he ever has, and at first it will be really hard for him. Then he'll get the hang of it.

Homeschooled kids spend less time doing school work and much of their work is conversational instead of written. Traditionally schooled kids do a ton of writing in all their subjects. (And just because the schools says they want to the kids to all be doing X, it doesn't mean that all the kids can.)

This is the one subject that *most* homeschooled lag behind their schooled peers, but they can and do catch up when they are forced to really work on it.

If you suspect LDs, then getting testing and getting special help in place is very important. Some schools take AGES to get this stuff going, so getting things in place now could be very important. But, he may be a child who just needs to work on it several hours a day (as he most likely will once he starts school).

Personally, I think the amount of writing small children are required to do is over the top for many children. My kids weren't doing all that. They started school at 10 and 12 and within a few months went to the top of their classes -- even in writing.

The more comfortable he gets with writing between now and when he starts school, the easier the transition will be for him, but within a few months of starting school you will see a HUGE jump in his ability. So take a deep breath and don't worry about getting the poor kid to write an essay.
 

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I would send an email or phone call to the school you may be starting in the fall. I would list your concerns to a 4th grade teacher and try to get some ideas or tips on how to make sure your child is ready when the time comes.
 

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I'm coming at this from the perspective of a special educator who works in an elementary school.

I think your number one concern right now needs to be his ability to "invented spell" and his fluency -- that is how quickly and independently he can get his thoughts down on paper. In my school, and the school my son attends, there's an expectation that kids in 3rd grade can sit down for about 30 minutes and write in a sustained fashion with very little teacher support, while the teacher rotates and has 1:1 conferences or strategy lessons. A child who can write fluently, but makes lots of mechanical or organizational errors, benefits from this model. They get lots of practice, and plenty of feedback. On the other hand, the child who sits and stares at their paper, or starts to write and then sits there with their hand up because they can't spell a word, doesn't benefit, they just fall farther and farther behind.

Given that, I'd focus on three things:

One is handwriting, and I think the suggestion of jumping in to cursive where he doesn't have bad habits to undo is a great one. Handwriting Without Tears is a great program for this.

The second thing I'd do is work on the invented spelling. Play games where you challenge him to write as many sounds as he hears in a word (e.g. you dictate alligator -- he write ar for 2 points, alr for three etc . . . If he "marks" a sound by putting a different letter or letter combination he still gets a point for it so alugaiter would be a perfect score) when it's your turn, make errors where you reverse the order of letters and challenge him to find them (e.g. you spell the word agillator, and see if he can "switch" the phonemes).

The third thing I'd do is to work on free writing, and building up his stamina. Find a time every day when he needs to select a topic and write, just write. Start with what he can manage (5 minutes? 10 minutes?) and then add a minute every couple of days. The majority of writing he does during this time shouldn't be edited because you don't want to punish him for taking risks. Instead just focus on getting his thoughts down on paper.

As far as whether he has an actual disability, I don't think you can really know that yet. The current thinking about how to identify kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia is based on a model called "Response to Intervention" which is based on the idea of providing targeted intervention to kids and seeing who responds. Kids who fail to close the gap with this help, are referred for special ed testing. At this point his experiences have been different enough from his peer group in public schools, that comparing him to their norms doesn't make sense, and won't give us helpful information about what he's capable of learning. My best guess is that the school will want to put him in the regular classroom provide him with standardized instruction, and then watch his progress. If he starts to close the gap (even if it's a huge gap) then it's not going to be diagnosed as an LD.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
Former homeschooler here --

I'd keep working on it, but I wouldn't worry about it. They reteach all this stuff every year. Your son is going to spend far more time every day writing than he ever has, and at first it will be really hard for him. Then he'll get the hang of it.

Homeschooled kids spend less time doing school work and much of their work is conversational instead of written. Traditionally schooled kids do a ton of writing in all their subjects. (And just because the schools says they want to the kids to all be doing X, it doesn't mean that all the kids can.)

This is the one subject that *most* homeschooled lag behind their schooled peers, but they can and do catch up when they are forced to really work on it.

If you suspect LDs, then getting testing and getting special help in place is very important. Some schools take AGES to get this stuff going, so getting things in place now could be very important. But, he may be a child who just needs to work on it several hours a day (as he most likely will once he starts school).

Personally, I think the amount of writing small children are required to do is over the top for many children. My kids weren't doing all that. They started school at 10 and 12 and within a few months went to the top of their classes -- even in writing.

The more comfortable he gets with writing between now and when he starts school, the easier the transition will be for him, but within a few months of starting school you will see a HUGE jump in his ability. So take a deep breath and don't worry about getting the poor kid to write an essay.
Thank you - this makes me feel much better!

And thanks to everyone for all the great ideas. I am writing them down and plan on putting many of them into place.

We probably will get him tested, mainly because of dh's experience in school. He wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until high school, but was having problems with it all throughout grade school, and it really impacted his self esteem, not to mention his grades and his relationship with his parents! So dh is highly motivated to make sure that his kids don't go through the same frustrations that he had to endure.
 

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I did not read every response....but....

I would not go to cursive until he can write "regular."

Get him used to writing. Have him pick out a special journal, or decorate a plain book, and everyday do a "Free write". Start with one minute and move up to as much as 10 (after weeks of it). The rule- he can write whatever is on his mind, but he cannot stop! Even if he just writes "blah blah blah" for a line. His writing does not have to make sense, just write. It will get him used to writing more and then his other writing will gradually get longer.'

I would not be worried about a learning disability, because then he would be behind in reading as well and you said that was fine.
 

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I am another parent whose child has improved his printing by working on his cursive. Many Montessori schools teach cursive first. If part of the challenge is that writing is boring because it is slow, the connecting of letters helps writing to flow as thoughts are flowing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by betterparent View Post
I would not be worried about a learning disability, because then he would be behind in reading as well and you said that was fine.
This is a misconception and is one of the reasons that dyslexia is often missed in gifted kids. There is also a LD called dysgraphia that affects writing but not reading.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by betterparent View Post
I would not go to cursive until he can write "regular."
Why?

Quote:

Originally Posted by betterparent View Post
I would not be worried about a learning disability, because then he would be behind in reading as well and you said that was fine.
Do you have any information that a learning disability is not possible under these circumstances?
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by betterparent View Post
I did not read every response....but....

I would not go to cursive until he can write "regular."

I would not be worried about a learning disability, because then he would be behind in reading as well and you said that was fine.
One of my kids can write in cursive, but not print. It's actually somewhat common in kids w/dysgraphia. Cursive is a more fluid movement, and much easier for some.

Your comment on "LD's not being present if a child can read" is far off the mark. It's really not that simplistic, and well worth watching for in a family w/a history of dyslexia.
 
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