Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thank You and Gary Paulsen

First of all, thank you for all your kind comments both here and off-line after my post yesterday. I am going to attribute my relative melancholy and Sophie's increased seizures to solar flares and Mercury being in retrograde, because why the hell not?

I posted that photo of Oliver above because it captures perfectly what sort of boy he was and continues to be. Looking straight at you, right? He's the cleverest of children and always has been -- that's why his difficulty reading was so difficult for me to understand at first. When he came home from first grade, so many years ago, and claimed that he was a bad reader, I knew that he needed to be removed from Catholic school where rigor and conformity were prized and individual learning abilities not celebrated. He attended a wonderful constructivist public elementary school for four years where he was diagnosed with some auditory and visual learning issues and where he thrived despite an ever-growing dislike of books and reading. Middle school, though, was a disaster, much of it chronicled here, and last year about this time, Oliver's unhappiness reached its near peak, and I pulled him from school to begin our homeschooling adventure.

Last night, I downloaded the sixth or seventh Gary Paulsen book on Oliver's Kindle. Over the summer, he read four books, which I can honestly say is probably the most books he's read in his life. He read them on his own, listening to the audible version while he read and exclaiming after each one how much he loved it. It seems like a small miracle that my boy is reading and loving reading. That he reached this at the age of thirteen is perfectly fine. I shudder to imagine what might have happened had I left him at the Catholic school or even the middle school that had departed so dramatically from its original constructivist intentions. Every now and then I feel a bit of panic about what we're doing and how it's all going to shake out. We did the right thing, though. Oliver is reading with joy -- something I had imagined when he was a little guy but had thoroughly lost as he grew. And thank you, especially, to Gary Paulsen.


  1. I always want to say that the first poem that captured me as a child was by Gary Paulsen, but it was in fact by Gary Soto (A Fire In My Hands). The first after nursery rhymes and Shel Silversteen anyway. But god, never mind that. I'm grateful for Gary Paulsen, and for all the writers who young people love. I terribly wish we had options like Oliver's elementary school here for Indy. But recently she's started staying late up to read Junie B. Jones and when I see that I feel like maybe everything will be okay, somehow. Oliver is, indeed, looking right at us, calling us out, allowing us to hide nothing. A wonderful trait, though hard on us parents, at times.

  2. I just read yesterday's post. Yes, I can imagine a bathtub involved seizure is particularly upsetting for so many reasons. Poor girl. Poor mom. Another sigh of relief that it is over; another round of shaking fist at universe that it happened in the first place. Solar flares? why not? Like you say.

    I don't think I know Gary Paulsen...I will have to ck him out. I was lucky to read a lot as a kid and love it. Math was my nightmare, in a family of math nerds, no less. My dad dared me to read War and Peace when I was ten, and so, I did. I also loved memorizing long poems to recite at the family dinner table.

    Oliver is a love. The photo is great!

  3. Sweet photo. Glad yesterday is done and you are celebrating Oliver.

  4. Oh, Elizabeth. How I love you as a mother. You are so intuitive and wise and brave when it comes to your kids. And a she-wolf. And a tender carer.
    I am so proud of Oliver. I know how you feel. When Jessie first went to kindergarten, she came home and said, "I can't learn my ABC's." And I thought, well, nah.
    But. She couldn't. There was a reading teacher at her school though who was a miracle and a wonder and she and Jessie fell in love and Jessie did learn to read and I am ever grateful for that woman. As I know you are grateful that Oliver has been able to learn in his own time, according to his own schedule.

  5. I'm so happy for Oliver. You saved his life taking him out of school.
    It's true.
    I can already see that school will not be a good place for our Dear Leader.

  6. Gary Paulsen would love to hear this story - I can't imagine that he would have thrived in conformist catholic education either.

  7. Oliver is going to be fine. He is more than fine.

  8. I remember taking my girl out of the public school after her sparkly self disappeared under the disapproving eye of her first grade teacher who told me she 'daydreamed' too much. Ha! Snatched her right out of that woman's clutches. And put her in an alternative school we couldn't afford. I didn't care. She thrived and thrives to this day. Good for you, momma, to do what's right for your offspring, all of them.

    XX Beth



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