Last spring, our school district and two others started a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) charter school. The kids had to qualify for the lottery; but homeschoolers and private schoolers were not allowed into the lottery. BigGuy saw the trailer for the new school and was out of his mind with excitement that was quickly squashed. He even asked me “if I go to the regular school for a year, THEN would I be allowed to go to the STEM charter?” It was heart-breaking to see him so moved only to be so knocked down… because he’s a homeschooler.
So, there was an interesting topic recently in a homeschool forum and somewhere along the way, a friend posted:
My mom is a recruiter, and has tried to find jobs for people with PhD’s before, because they can’t even find work in their field. It’s sobering. “Doing what you love” is great, but doesn’t always pay the bills.
It occurred to me that people have a misconception about what “do what you love” means…
I just needed to update you all on BigGuy’s writing. I’m VERY. PLEASED with it! He’s seriously coming along really well!! We don’t work on this every day but after his first whipping out of a page of writing, I introduced the process of rewrites. There is a local homeschool mom I admire very much and she recently divulged how she tackled writing instruction and the gusto with which she embraces the rewrite. Her kids (who are high school age) know that there is pretty much no set number or max on rewrites.
I gave this some thought, and decided that I would really rather my son be prepared to rework his writing many times over than assume he was done after any set number (likely a number close to 3). Continue reading The Dragonnaire Cluster
Sho ’nuff did. So, I have not been able to get my act together–especially to facilitate Socratic/thinking discussion.
But I was inspired by my son’s willingness to write when the writing was about the fictitious land he created and made a map for. Then I saw a TEDx talk on hackschooling. Suddenly, I remembered the whole reason we’re homeschooling is to allow our kids the experience of learning by way of the things they love–that drive them to learn. Continue reading Totally hacked my son’s education today
Girly loves, love, loves, LUUUUURRRRRVES the Magic Cabin catalog. Me, too. Inasmuch as our family has tried to phase out “Santa” for more reality-based ideas about the December holidays, Girly will have none of it. She wants to believe in Santa and there’s really no way to gently let her down; and I will not shatter that illusion in a disturbing manner. Continue reading My kids did a LOT of writing today
We have just had a full week of the BigGuy uninspired to do anything academic. It didn’t bother me, but the change certainly threw me off. He had been so inspired for a while there.
And then I realized why… and I realized that the problem is truly me. Ugh… Continue reading I realize that *I* am the problem
I actually speak on this topic and people always find it informative so I thought I’d share it here. Financial education is near and dear to my heart. When I taught high school, I taught business and computer courses. My business courses were Intro to Personal Finance, and Business Management. I loved them both; but it became really clear that the majority of my students knew very little about financial responsibility even though many of them had jobs. I didn’t want that for my kids.
Needless to say, a morning of scheduled schoolwork is bound to NOT go well in this house. Mama gets all panicky and goes into teacher/project manager mode rather than Mama mode. It’s like a flip of a switch. And then when BigGuy does anything other than sit at a desk and belt out work as if he were in a classroom, I lose it.
Suddenly, he is 20 years older and a bum or a prisoner or living with me for the rest of his life and I’m hearing everyone tell me all the things he could’ve been “if he’d have been in school”… as if this trajectory could be backed by evidence. And of course, if he enters now and fails miserably it will be because he needed to be in school earlier. Of course. Because ya know–it’s not like we had a reason to pull him out, people… right? People don’t see that. And those that do would say “But you could’ve put him back in before now.” No matter what parenting decision you make, it’s just going to be wrong.
Whatever. His complete lack of discipline or perseverance towards a goal (keep in mind that this was all his idea) make me LOSE. MY. SH!T. I know what makes a successful person and it’s the ability to face a difficulty and take it on. Even if you don’t overcome it, just having the ability to attempt getting through it is so huge. And he completely lacks that. And it’s so polar opposite to the person I am at my core that I cannot even understand how he will function in life. Ever.
BigGuy’s IQ puts him in the 99.9% percentile of human intelligence. This is beyond Mensa. There are organizations that I didn’t even know existed for this kind of intelligence. Sometimes, it’s hard to NOT see that he’s a bright kid. But he also has Asperger’s and sometimes the connections between work and reward/success or other relational connections are completely absent. I can’t bank on the neurotypical developmental trajectory that would say “He’ll get it someday… maybe at 22, but it will come” because for BigGuy, it truly may never come. When he was younger, the therapists were so lost because there was no consistent “currency” to work with him–no consistent motivator. There is no carrot you can dangle in front of him to bribe him; and nothing he loves enough to motivate him on his own. Truly. Now, at 10, there are definitely some motivators, but nothing that pushes him hard. Even his strongest interests do not push him to do simple things if he just doesn’t feel like doing them. So losing his Minecraft time is not enough to make him brush his teeth. I don’t think you can grasp the gravity of that statement. It will result in a one-hour meltdown with begging about his being willing to “do ANYthing” to get his Minecraft time, but the offer to let him brush his teeth to get his time back results in him running up the stairs and playing with a Lego or his stuffed Tepig or reading whatever text-based material is within view. And the reminder that this is what he needed to do to get his Minecraft time results in “OH YEAH!”, but no movement.
You cannot wrap your head around this. I know you can’t. And it’s not just frustrating–it’s scary.
I was so thankful to see Time put out an article that (at least a tiny bit) addresses this oxymoron. Even without Asperger’s at play. In their article “How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science” they note that IQ is kind of worthless without self-discipline.
“Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”
How do you teach a kid to have self-discipline? Seriously? How do you instill perseverance? We are not indulgent parents and there is a good structure to how our house operates. We’re not helicopter parents nor permissive parents. We facilitate our kids making their own choices (and having to stand by them as long as the consequence was foreseeable and not excessively/downright cruel or harmful). Some kids are just not going to get it. Especially those with impaired relational skills (and “relational” doesn’t just mean “between people” it means “connecting less concrete things”).
I’ve watched other kids with these issues in the schools and I’m not going there. People like to tell me that I don’t know that MY kid will wind up like that, but ya know what? I’m not rolling the dice either. I’m watching a rather brilliant young man who is VERY similar to BigGuy pretty much fail out of high school for the exact same problems and a mother who has given up trying to find his currency. I’m thankful to be able to see how his life is unfolding and seeing how removing the things he lives for or holding them hostage are doing absolutely nothing to move him. Just like BigGuy. I feel like I can learn from this and feel confident that this is just not going to be the route.
But I don’t know what the route is yet for my guy. And part of me is heartbroken because I often wonder if the last 4-1/2 years of moving and my less-than-engaging/encouraging/supportive behavior have squashed any potential inspiration and motivation or willingness to chase after his interests with more fervor. I can’t think about it. That’s over. We were in survival mode. It happened and I can’t change it.
I just need to get back on my horse and leave it alone. I need to focus on Girly. I need to do more with her. If he doesn’t want to work, nobody’s going to make him. Not here and not at school. That Cell Biology lab motivated him and I just cannot find a place like that for him to be full-time. I ache for that for him. Explaining to him that doing this work would get him to such a place is too far out for him to grasp.
Maybe his sister surpassing his achievements will be the motivator. Because that kid’s going to knock it out of the park.
And really, if I go back and look at MY goals for my kids, I could give a rat’s ass about any of this crap. But trying to meet his needs as he has explained them has been rough and it means doing this kind of crap. Maybe I just need to change my attitude about it. I don’t know. I’m having “a day”. And I love him so much. I just want to meet his needs. And hers.
It’s Sunday night. Girly is out cold and Papa is giving BigGuy some reiki (more power to him because I’m so completely unable to wrap my head around that stuff).
Every Sunday night we have a family meeting. The agenda is like this:
- What happened last week
- What is happening this week
- Old business
- New business
- Money stuff
- Something wonderful my family did for me
- Something wonderful I did for my family
- Comments/questions about anything anyone needs to talk about
As we went through item #2, Papa noted that he goes back to work this week and BigGuy jumped on the end of that with “and we start to do REAL schoolwork this week”. I looked at my husband–whose eyebrows denoted his equal surprise. He asked my son “Haven’t you already done ‘real’ schoolwork?” and I then took over so as to make my life a lot easier and said “Well, we’ve been figuring things out this August and then you had vacation; but we’re ready to get down to business now.” (I GUESS!! *whew* Nice save, Mama!)
But of course, now the pressure is on. On ME! GEESH! This kid is no joke! He wants to do some serious learning and I need to move my ass and get to it. I just seriously cannot figure out how to accommodate Girly! Ugh… I need to get it together. I think I’m going to photocopy some of the pages from the Ancient Egypt coloring book for her tomorrow and tonight I need to sit down and lay out a daily time schedule so that I can work with BigGuy as needed and then work with Girly when I don’t have to work with BigGuy. But I also really need to sit down and plan out HER activities, too.
Wasn’t I just spending the month of August trying to figure this out? Wtf?
Let me just say this: *I* do not motivate my kid. “Kid” singular–because I don’t actually educate Girly at all yet. But BigGuy is 10 and would be entering 5th grade and I regularly see posts from parents who “can’t get their kid to do anything”.
Totally been there.
But I’m usually dealing with that kind of stuff when I’m shoving my own educational agenda down my son’s throat. And really, if I wanted that kind of experience for him, I could’ve put him in a school… amiright?
So here we go… now what do you do, right? Why not let your kids decide? One message board post today expressed frustration with a 4th grader that wanted to do his 6th grade brother’s math work. So what? If he’s not capable he will soon find out and either decide to do the foundation work needed or will realize it’s just not where he’s at.
When my kid pushes back, I have to really ask myself the following:
1) How does this particular thing contribute to my child’s stated desires and goals? If it DOES contribute, I just need to explain the “how” to him.
2) If it doesn’t contribute, is it something he NEEDS to learn? Like, ever? I’m sorry, but my son never needs to learn that papyrus was one of the first wannabe paper products. It will serve no useful purpose in his life. Same for the year of any given battle of the American Revolution.
3) Let’s assume he NEEDS to learn it. Does he NEED to learn it NOW? In the grand scheme of things, is it something that “needs to be learned before being an independent adult” and therefore can maybe wait 2, 3 or even 5 years? Who NEEDS to read before the age of 9?
4) Okay… you get past all of that and decide it’s something they NEED to learn NOW. Well, then your challenge becomes the METHOD of teaching it. Because the current method is clearly NOT working.
Out of the box thinking, y’all. It requires a serious willingness to step outside of the mainstream and their expectations about what a child should learn and when. Believe it or not, that is not exactly as cut and dry as the education community would have you believe. Sorry, folks–but even among your very own children, some will do addition at 4 and some won’t do it until they’re 10. As long as they can do it by the time they have to balance a check book, does it matter?