Today I want to introduce you to Lisa, an SWR user that not only has a great understanding as to why SWR is so helpful, but she has a wonderful story to tell….
I am not a writer, a blogger, or a reviewer, so I’m not sure how I can put this into words at the moment, but since this has been a request of many, many, many folks on the SWR Yahoo Group, I will attempt my best via “Reader’s Digest” version. Know this: I wish I could shout it from the mountain tops and convince every single person I come into contact with who asks the same questions over and over again, “What is the best program to help my child remember his spelling?” or “for my dyslexic child”, “for my adopted child,” etc, etc, etc. SWR!!! SWR!!!
I know this is my opinion, but after viewing loads of programs through friends in my homeschool community and the Internet, and using a few other programs for my three older children, SWR IS THE BEST PROGRAM for all of the above questions and so much more!!!!
I believe that people avoid SWR due to the learning curve at the beginning, the teacher involvement, and its extremely unique and different approach than all other ‘phonics-based’ programs. In addition, this program requires an investment of your time, especially the first few years as you and your child get used to the method.
My husband and I feel that spending the necessary time laying a solid foundation in language arts and math, the “skills” subjects, are essential to enabling a child to perform at their best potential. SWR is an investment of your time which will reap fruit beyond what you can imagine across all subject matter. Your attitude in presenting the SWR program is key to keeping the child on board long term.
Most folks want to “open and go” so they can fit all the other school subjects—the ‘content’ subjects—into their day. We found that relaxing about those other wonderful topics created an exciting learning environment. Unit studies, literature, hands on projects, narrations, lap books, notebooks, field trips, DVDs, audiobooks, and games were more than sufficient to provide a well-rounded and delightful way to enjoy and retain those other subjects. Every year looked different, and every day we covered what we could outside of the essential skills, accomplishing those as a family in a group setting during the rest of our day. This enabled me to focus on each child’s needs. After much reading about the effects of media on the brain, we did not use video games or even computer games, so our use of media was/is very limited. Also, providing good and healthful diets was important, though I am not a “crunchy” mama, but I digress.
I homeschooled three older children using other spelling programs. Only one child was a “natural” speller; the other two still struggle with writing and spelling. The eldest child sees how I instruct my four other children and has told me that he wishes I would have taught him using SWR. My heart becomes heavy recounting their struggles. But I have gotten ahead of myself.
In November of 2008, our family adopted a sibling group of four children from the Philippines. At the time their ages were almost 9, 7.5, 6, and almost 4. They had very limited schooling before we brought them home. We were told the 7.5-year-old boy had “issues” due to severe malnutrition. We were soon to find out that the 9yo and 4yo also struggled academically and could not learn in the “traditional” sense. We are convinced that if we had had them tested through the public school and local hospital, they would all have had an alphabet soup of letters attached to their names from ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, sensory integration, central auditory processing, and more. We were determined to educate them with no time limits for graduating, our goal being to raise them for the glory of the Lord according to the abilities He has given.
Preparing to bring the children into our family and knowing we would also homeschool them provided a perfect opportunity to do my research during the year of waiting. With much prayer, the Lord graciously led me to find SWR.
The summer before the children’s arrival, I attended a 2-day Basic Seminar with Tracey Williams. This was worth every single penny. I took copious notes, asked loads of questions, and followed her instructions to the “t.” I became a member of the SWR Yahoo Group and read everything I could get my hands on. I prepared my Learning Logs, SWR book, and Wise Guide using highlighters and colored sticky labels.
Then the children arrived. The first year they were home we worked on becoming a family. We read, read, read lots of picture books and stories. We filled our home with literature, puzzles, games, and took nature walks and field trips. I avoided the temptation of teaching them their “A,B,C’s,” but began by using the SWR phonogram cards to learn the sounds as directed. For handwriting, we utilized Cursive First and used the saltbox, sandpaper, whipped cream on paper plates, whiteboards with colored markers, hide ‘n seek the phonogram cards, plus the other board games from SWR. All of this happened while developing their verbal English skills. Each child had a different way of learning. It was challenging.
The second year we began with our Learning Logs. Moving along at the prescribed pace caused me to doubt, but I would pray and trust that those who went before me were telling the truth about the expected results. Boy #2 definitely had memory issues, but the repetition and phonogram game-playing was enjoyable. Taking the time to finger spell each and every phonogram while ungluing and dictating the words was key.
I would encourage whatever part was done well and with good attitude and effort. I would explain that I was learning the program along with the children and would laugh at my own “bloopers.” There were lots of smiles and some tears…from them and from me. Lastly, I would share that I was there to assist them in succeeding to the best of their God-given abilities, reminding them that the Lord creates each of us uniquely.
It took two of the children with moderate challenges about 2-3 years to begin reading the words without hesitating (ages 11 & 9), and the same to begin reading using the little books like Wanda’s Play by the Sea. Boy #1 had severe learning challenges and took longer (age 12), but we were in no rush. It was all the Lord’s timing. We used the original McGuffy Readers. My husband would allow each of them to go around and read a verse in our nightly Bible reading.
Line upon line, precept upon precept, their reading skills increased. They started picking up the picture books to read on their own. I had shelves of used books which I had purchased from Goodwill for them to read without me, beginning with the Children’s Illustrated Classics. They quickly moved to regular literature for our history readings recommended from Tapestry of Grace, Sonlight, and others like the Newberry and Caldecott award books. Non-fiction become a way to complete our science units through note booking. Life of Fred Math allowed them to experience math in a storybook manner.
Creating a quiet reading room with a comfy couch provided them the freedom to relax and get lost in other worlds. THEY GREW INTO A LOVE OF READING ON THEIR OWN!!! At times, I have to pry them off the couch. Child #4 is just now taking off at age 11.
This really is the “short” version, as I could write a chapter for each child’s difficulties and how we approached those. They each are able to work independently on other subject matter using the options I listed above. We still use SWR daily. I teach four children at three levels.
The oldest child is reviewing the last 13 lists this year as reinforcement. She is now a Freshman at 16. We hope that she will be able to attend community college and pursue helping younger children with the same attitude of loving and encouraging each individually according to their ability. Boy #1 will hopefully graduate homeschool at the age of 20 and desires to become an auto mechanic. He will still need to read manuals and perform math skills. Boy #2 hopes to pursue engineering. Girl #2 has an interest in nursing. Today they are 16, 14.9, 13.4, 11.
Confessions: Did I ever have times of doubt, fear, impatience? Definitely! Did I storm the throne after crying on my husband’s shoulder many a night? For sure! Am I tired? Yep! Have I attempted to convince others that SWR really works and is worth the investment of your time? Yes, I have trained two, and am working with a few others.
How do I say this emphatically enough? Your children will gain the ability to pursue learning independently and chase their interests and dreams if you lay a firm foundation.
My older three children are married with children of their own, some of whom will soon be attending a classical Christian school that uses SWR; I can’t contain my excitement!
Blessings, hugs, and encouragement from one who is still in the trenches, but has traveled far enough to be convinced to pray for others to come on board! My dream is to one day become an official SWR instructor! Wanda, you are one of my heroines! “God is good” doesn’t begin to surmise my feelings of appreciation.
For Christ and His Crown,