When was the last time you tried to learn something new? The other night my eight-year-old daughter was trying to teach me some basic Irish dance steps. She’s in her third year of Irish dance classes and is learning many types of dances. As for me, to say I have two left feet would be putting it kindly. I could not get these steps at all. She was a patient teacher, having us stand side by side just as her teachers do with her. I just could not get it. I got frustrated. We were having fun but part of me simply wanted to throw up my hands and give up.
It served as a good reminder that learning new things as hard. My young daughter is good at many things. She’s strong and very athletic. She also has a wonderful gift of creativity. She’s a maker and loves to make crafts and design clothes for her dolls. But when it comes to learning academic subjects, she struggles.
I’ve been trying to teach her to read for three years. I’ve read aloud to her since she was a baby. We go to the library every week. She’s lived a life surrounded by words. She sees the other four of us in her family reading all the time. Yet, for whatever reason, her brain struggles to make the connections between the printed words and the words in her head.
I’ve read lots of articles and books on teaching reading. I know some children are simply older when they “get it.” I use a reading program designed for struggling readers and she is making slow, steady progress, the emphasis on slow. I pray novena after novena begging God to help it click in her brain, but so far God’s answer has been “not yet.” My heart breaks when I see young children reading chapter books while she can barely get through a Kindergarten reader. (This is true even though one of my older children read well at age four. I could take no credit for his ability, yet I feel like a failure as a teacher because my daughter has a hard time.)
Reading is hard for her. We work on it every day. I make sure to be patient and encouraging, but she still gets frustrated. She doesn’t want to do it. She wants to give up. I sometimes forget how hard it can be to learn something new. My attempt at learning Irish dance served as a much-needed reminder that learning new things can be very, very hard, especially when your brain does not have a natural gift for them.