I don't usually get too personal on my blog. I will be happy to talk about my life experiences, my triumphs and my failures but I rarely go into depth on anything more. Today, I want to though, so bear with me. For those of you that don't know me or my family personally you may not know that this last year my husband and I chose to take our son, who is 10 now, out of traditional school. And by "WE" I mean "I". Ha. My husband is clearly a part of the decision process but not clearly apart of the actual decision making itself. He means well, but he knew that he wouldn't be the one having to do the actual schooling so he kind of left that decision up to me. Before I made the jump to homeschooling my son I had a lot to take into consideration. My son has ADHD and he is one of those typical kids that is very impulsive, very defiant in his behaviors and also very sweet and apologetic at the same time. He always has an excuse and he always cries when he is sad. He emotional a lot of the time to say the least. That all being said- I also have a business to run. My business requires me to be on the computer 90% of my time (yes- that is true). If that is not challenging enough, you can also mix in the fact that I live about 30 minutes away from the new school that my son will need to attend at least a few hours a day three days a week (as this is the way the charter-homeschool is set up). I won't go into specifics about why we made the switch for my son and not my daughter. I will not go into specifics about the details in the switch. But I do want to talk about my struggles today in not only being a mom with a child that technically has special needs but also my struggles in being a first-time homeschool parent and a parent that now has to learn how to do all of this while running business and a life. I don't want to make this out like I am complaining. I am not complaining about my situation and I do not write this at all to make you think that I want sympathy. As a matter of fact, I am extremely happy in my choice to put my son in the charter-homeschool program and would not have it any other way. So lets begin.
My son (C) has this issue. He is extremely defiant when it comes to finishing his work. I cannot compare him to other kids (other than his sister) because I do not know how they work. I cannot see them do homework and I know nothing of their struggles. But when C works, he is completely in his own world. Some days are good and some days are bad. We have made the collective decision to take him off his medication and ever since then, concentrating on things he has no interest in is a real struggle. He will literally sit there and do NOTHING. He will stare at the page, knowing his job, and do nothing. He won't respond to threats or negative consequences. Positive reinforcement is working a little bit - but in all the things I have tried, it is a real struggle to get him to complete his work. This leaves me feeling like we are always behind in his school work because I will give him multiple chances to complete things. I know he smart enough to finish the work and I know that he can do it. He just WON'T. So how do you get a kid to snap out of his day dreams and just finish the job at hand so he can move on to other things? It is a constant struggle. We are always having these little "talks". He always apologizes for his behavior and he never changes.
The top two things C struggles with the most are writing and math. When I say writing- I don't mean thinking up something to say. C has a great imagination and he can tell a story like no one else. But there is a disconnect between him saying something and writing it down. He will spend actually more energy on thinking of a "shorter" sentence to write down, rather than just writing down the sentence he originally thought up. I am constantly telling him that he would have been done already had he just written down the first thing that popped into his head. Ha! He doesn't quite understand that concept yet. And now, when I say he struggles in math- I don't mean that he struggles with concepts. Like me, C has this ability with math. He understands it really well. He breezes through lessons and he seems to grasp concepts really quickly. But when it comes to actually doing any math problems on his own, forget about it. I know he has the smarts, but he can't seem to complete the work. And when he finally does do it- he rarely gets a problem wrong.
Being at home now and having this opportunity to see how he is struggling is very interesting. The teachers used to tell me things that I just couldn't comprehend. It's really hard to see him struggle in areas that maybe I never struggled in. Whats worse is seeing him struggle in areas that I know he could excel in if he only tried a little harder. I think every parent that pays close attention to their kids' education can see this. Some parents don't see the nitty gritty in the details like me with C but they still grasp the concepts that the teachers are telling them. "Your child is having trouble with - x- and this is what I am doing to help him conquer that and prepare him for the next step". Teachers have the ability to know what to do and how to do it right? Not all teachers are willing and not all teachers are capable. When it comes to special needs kids especially that need an extra oomph of help, some teachers find there is a disconnect and they are unwilling or unable to help that child succeed. I am not here to talk about the public school system nor am I bashing the public school system. Remember that I kept my daughter in that system because I do trust that with proper guidance, she can succeed.
Now, today I had my last meeting with C's teacher at school. Every two weeks we meet to turn in homework, and talk about the struggles that C and I faced during the last two weeks of school. I find that it is really nice to have that someone to talk to and discuss the things that need to be done. We discuss the tactics I can use to help him succeed. I am not a licensed teacher. I do not have the resources in front of me to help me succeed. It is this teacher's job to help me help him succeed. So today, as usual, C was being especially defiant and did not want to finish his last test. It was a writing exam which meant that he had to write something! Remember writing is not his strong suit so it was especially difficult for him to work on the paper he had to write. Being in 4th grade, there are certain standards that he has to be accountable for. Certain standards that he has to uphold. He is not where he needs to be with these standards and it's not because he unable, it is because he is trying to come up with short cuts to get around those standards. We have been trying to explain to him that there are no shortcuts for standards. He is still arguing with me on that. But getting back to what I was talking about, C was being defiant. This led his teacher and me into a discussion about how to conquer this type of behavior at home. She gave me some great ideas on books to read and help me through. But the thing that she gave me most today was the gift of knowing that it is ok for C to fail. Let me say that again. She said it was ok for me to let him fail.
After hearing her say that, it brought about a ton of feelings. The kind of feelings that really can get overwhelming when you think too hard about them. I struggle daily with knowing he can complete the work and wanting him to finish so I give him too many chances to succeed. At this point it is C's choice as to whether or not he will complete the work. It is his choice to decide to sit there and do nothing or try and finish because he wants to. He is old enough to know that if he doesn't get it done, he won't pass. If he doesn't do enough work, he won't move on to the next grade. He will have to do the grade over again. He knows this. Then begins the idea that I must allow him to fail in order for him to realize it is up to him to succeed. If he knows I will keep giving him chance after chance after chance to finish the work, he will take it. He will milk it for all it's worth. I have to be strict on the time limits and all the while making them reasonable, I need to make them work for me. I need to set limits and stand by them. If he doesn't finish, then he doesn't finish. He will have failed. He will have been unable to complete the task at hand and he may not pass the grade level in which he is in. So what. Yep, I said it. So what. Maybe that is the lesson he will need to learn for himself. Wow, what a lesson that will be. Will it be hard on me? Yes, absolutely. But it will have to be something I watch happen. Why? Why is it important to watch our children fail? We must learn from our failures so we may grow from them. And as hard as it is for me to see, I have to let it happen.
I won't talk today about why we need to watch our kids fail. We all know why it's important. Our goal in life should be to allow our kids to grow up and make their own mistakes. This can be applied to so many areas of life. On the playground, if you child doesn't fall down, he won't know that putting his foot on the ladder that way will make him fall. He won't know that if he tries it another way, he will get to the top. If you are there to catch them fall, he will not learn that. My motto on the playground has always been, if you can't get up there on your own, then you can't get up there. The real world isn't about people helping you out the entire way. We need to help them understand that they are not entitled to help either. If they want something bad enough, they need to go for it and they need to figure out how to get there on their own. Guiding your kids down a path and helping them through it are completely different things. As parents we need to understand that we have to help them become productive members of society. My job doesn't allow me to lean on someone else. Why should I teach my kids that they can lean on me through everything. I am the first person to say that it is difficult to watch your kids struggle with failure. It is hard to see them miss the pitch in the game or fall when they spun in the wrong direction in dance class. What is important is that your kids understand you are there to hear them cry, help them through the tough moments and be there for them emotionally. If you tell them how to fall, they may do it wrong. Let them experience that for themselves.
And because I cannot let any blog post go without mentioning that you should contact me for a session, please do! I am in love with my job and I would love to help you get what you want!
Thanks for listening.
Member of National Association of Child Photographers ￼
Member of Red Thread Sessions