Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hope for Slow Readers and Other Learning Difficulties!

Doing reviews is a lot of fun, getting to try new things and experimenting with the unfamiliar often brings surprises to me (with the results) or with my kids (how fun or interesting something was), but this time it brought a bit of disappointment. With Bonnie Terry Learning’s Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, it was disappointment in the fact that I just now found the program!

You see, my son is mildly autistic and reads fairly well but rather stilted, often skipping words or substituting something close to the actual word. We homeschooled for years, doing various therapies to help with his different challenges; some things we tried were just downright torturous. This is NOT the case with the Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills program. In about five minutes, there is a lot happening for my son to help him become a better reader and it is just about as painless a program as I have seen.

I will be honest with my testing methods, however. I have not gotten to test this out as long as I really would have liked. For one, I no longer homeschool this particular child and so finding a regular time to do the exercises was hard. We are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities so it wasn’t that I couldn’t find five minutes, it just seemed that the five minutes were found sporadically, in different time slots and so were often inconsistent. So, we sort of started and stopped until I decided to just take a few minutes before he caught the bus first thing in the morning. Though that is not my best time of day…he was the one having to think fast and he actually enjoyed it!

The drills used in Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, are based on different sounds: vowel sounds, vowel combos, consonants etc. Using a student book and teacher book, which are basically identical, the child is timed to read as many drill words as possible within one minute. The teacher follows along in their own book, keeping a sheet protector over the word list and making a note on the page if the child misses a word. The teacher’s page is also marked with the number of words in various lines so that it is easy to tally the student’s words per minute.

When the minute is over, simply subtract the number of words mispronounced or skipped from the total word count and that gives the actual word per minute score. The student (or parent depending on the age and needs of the child) then colors in a graph showing how many words they accomplished on a particular drill, and another graph showing the mistakes made.

For my son, who is 16, we took a baseline score and then made a goal that in order to move on to the next drill, he would need to increase his score by 20 words per minute. Day one his score was 58, day two he improved to 67. Day three he accomplished 80 per minute but managed to skip a whole row of words and therefore had too many errors to move on (no more than four allowed). Day four he read 85 words per minute (and yes, this score is after I deducted his errors) but again he skipped a row of words. Finally, day five he shot up to 93 words and zero errors! Yes! He was excited and I was impressed! That is almost double the score with very little effort. The process then began all over again with the next set of drill words.

Each day, after the drill, we would spend the rest of our “five minutes” reading from a book that was at his reading level, with some challenge to it. He has been working on a Nancy Drew mystery. Each day his reading gains confidence and inflection, though he still has some trouble with skipping words at this point.

As I stated earlier, I wish I had discovered this program before now! I love efficiency and author Bonny Terry has done come up with a great, streamlined approach that gets the job done. Helping kids learn better is what Ms. Terry has always done, writing her own curriculum in school until others begged her to publish her methods to help them succeed in their classrooms too. Bonnie Terry Learning carries more than just Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, she has published books to help with spelling, studying, math, writing and comprehension as well. Check out her website at to see descriptions of all the great products. Ms. Terry also has helpful articles and short videos that you can view online to give you hope in many areas in which kids struggle, such as dyslexia and ADD. With so many valuable tools at reasonable prices (Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills runs $60) you can tackle learning difficulties with confidence and give your child some worthwhile tools to face their challenges!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.