A Word about Remedial Issues
Most of the questions are about remedial issues. I’d like to explain a few things that are common to all the remedial questions.
My co-author, Janet Langley, tells her teacher trainees an important truth: Teaching academic skills such as reading, language arts, and math requires specialized knowledge, not generalized knowledge. What she means is Waldorf grades teachers can create good main lesson blocks for subjects such as history, geography, natural science, etc. when they do not have any formal training in the subjects. Generalized knowledge is all the students need to know at this stage in their education. However, teachers need to become specialists in reading, language arts skills, and math. Teachers need to know everything about teaching these subjects. This is their area of expertise. They must be specialists.
What about homeschool parents? Do they need to be specialists, too? The short answer is, it depends. If they have a scripted curriculum from a good source, it is not necessary for them to become full specialists in reading, language arts, and math, but they need to know more than lay people do because they must be able to help their students with routine challenges that all students face when they are learning new academic skills. However, when the students have challenges that are not routine, that go into the realm of remedial education, the answer changes. At this point, the students need an expert because the challenges are severe. In regular classrooms, such students go to remedial teachers with extra training and extra expertise. In this case, homeschool parents must make a choice: bring in expert(s) to work with their students in the weak areas or become full specialists in remediation so they can do the work with their students themselves. There are pros and cons to each approach.
Hiring one or more experts: It can be very frustrating to work with a student who struggles, and that frustration can undermine teaching—and learning. Often a fresh face is necessary to be able to circumvent the frustration that has grown up between a teacher and a struggling student. Furthermore, the specialist has knowledge and a background in working with these issues. She is experienced; she has helped numerous students. She recognizes routine remedial problems quickly and has the tools to help the student. She also can refer to other specialists if she sees less-common issues that need to be addressed, such as eye tracking problems. That said, it can be expensive to hire a professional, and people’s skills vary.
Becoming a full specialist: If remedial issues cannot be addressed in the short term, parents often have to become advocates for their children—both in a regular classroom setting and in a homeschool setting. If the remedial issue impacts learning across multiple grades and multiple subjects, it is necessary to adjust the curriculum and how it is delivered. In the public school, the student gets an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that is used to customize the education and to help the student catch up with his/her peers, if possible. In the homeschool environment, parents can adjust the curriculum more easily, but the temptation is to give the students more time, in the hope that the problem is just a lack of maturity. If the problem proves to have a different source, the parent and child are now is a difficult position. They do not know what the problem is, how to fix it, and the student is now quite far behind his/her peers. The student’s academic challenge now impacts more and more aspects of the curriculum, necessitating further changes and further impacting his/her education. The parent must step in to greater or greater lengths—or sacrifice aspects of his/her child’s education.
So, what to do with the remedial questions you asked? Most of the answers would be as follows: Use The Roadmap to Literacy to figure out how you plan to remediate the problem. The book is set up to help you deal with common remedial problems and to tell you when to seek outside help.
This may seem overwhelming. This response is normal. Waldorf classroom teachers also experience this feeling of overwhelm when dealing with a student who struggles. An important difference is, they are not the student’s parent. They have an extra degree of separation. Do not hesitate to call in a professional if you are feeling too overwhelmed to work with the challenge in the way described in this article. That struggling boy or girl is your child first, and your student second.
Now that we have the basics covered, I will provide answers to the questions asked.