At the end of your rope?

Posted by Annie on Oct 9, 2010 in Education, Parenting |

It’s October! Fall is in the air. This is just about the time of year, when new homeschoolers start to question their decision to homeschool. The kids aren’t doing their seat work and getting the  math done is like pulling teeth.   Everyone is frustrated and at the end of their ropes.

You would be surprised at just how many parents give up at this stage of the game. Mom decides it’s just too much to deal with and enrolls the children back in public school. Nevermind that no one is happy now, at least mom won’t feel like a total failure.

I can hardly believe my son will be 14 this month. He has never attended public school and believe me there were many times of doubt over the years. I would threaten to enroll him in the public school during those times when he used every trick in the book to avoid doing any “school work.” There were times I felt inadequate. I will even admit, there were times I just wanted to be like other parents —  those parents whose children were in  school all-day-long.

Though he could count to 100 when he was 3. I was terrified he would never learn to count money, add and subtract digits or learn to follow a recipe. He claimed he hated math, that he was not good at it and was never going to do it.

Being the good mother that I am, knowing how important a good education was to his future — I said, “Okay, fine!” We put the math books away, tossed out the workbooks and promptly lost the pencils. Obviously, my son wasn’t ready for math. No big deal. Yes, it was a big deal to me. I was frustrated beyond measure but I had one thing to cling to, which gave me cause for hope and faith in my son.

I remember when I was in school — yes, I am a product of the public school system — sort of. (More on that some other time.) In 8th grade I had a math teach who was supposed to teach me pre-algebra.   There were two things wrong with that statement. He was no teacher and I did not have the capacity to learn algebra at that time. I couldn’t even formulate a proper question. The teacher wasn’t interested in answering any questions. His standard response to my questions, “It’s in the book.”

It wasn’t until  20 years later while attending CART classes (Computer Assembly & Repair Training) that I was forced to learn algebra, it was part of the  training and understanding electronics required algebra. I couldn’t believe how simple it was and how quickly I picked it up.

Some children just need to grow up more before things click for them. I simply wasn’t ready for algebra when I was 13, but at 33 it was a simple task. It was just another thing I needed to learn to do a job someone was willing to hire me to complete. I’ve had many jobs over the years, most required some form of training.

There have been many subjects my son has resisted studying over the years. I am slowly learning to go with the flow and allow him to reject things that he doesn’t fancy. Sometimes, I will ask him to just try out a new course of study because I know that just like most of us, he is resistant to new things. Often it is simply the fear of the unknown that prevents him from exploring new subjects.

As parents, we are the authority on our child. We must stay alert and observant of our child. We must often be creative.

Okay, so my son hates math. We provide “natural” opportunities for him apply the concepts of math, without it appearing to be “school work.” We intruded math in many ways:

  1. We started playing dominoes as a family, both on- and off- line.
  2. We made sure he received an allowance, learned to save for a rainy day and received our council on spending habits and financial planning. If a child never has any money, he will never learn how to use it.
  3. We began cooking instruction in earnest. Cooking requires math skills and kids learn quickly the difference between 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup of milk. Let them make mistakes, it’s a cheap lesson in math and worth every penny.
  4. Shopping. My son loves to shop — especially for new games. I would ask him to find a good deal, compare prices, features and options. He has even helped me find good deals on items we wanted to purchase for the family.
  5. YouTube — Did you know that YouTube has some really neat math videos? I introduced my son to math tricks on video and he will often seek them out on his own. The first time that happened I was shocked beyond words.

These are just a few of the many tactics we employed to increase our sons mathematical skills and alleviate my conscience. It didn’t help that the grandparents loved to quiz my son on his math at every opportunity — which of course didn’t help my own self esteem.

I am finding that as my son is willing to try new things and to talk about his plans for the future,  with me as he gets older.   Our relationship is always changing as he matures. I have dreaded these teens years for so long, but I have found as my son grows older, I am getting to know him better and I really like what I see. He is a nice young man. I am excited to see what he will do with his life.

If you are at the end of your rope, tempted to give up, my best advice to you, is don’t! Put the books away, read together, watch movies together, take a nature walk. Learn to explore. This is especially important if your child has been enrolled in the public school. The transition isn’t an easy one. Your child has been training to follow directions, not take the initiative. Your child has been taught to raise his hand, not lend a hand.

Just as we must learn to trust ourselves during this process, we must also learn to trust our children. Children come in all shapes and sizes, as parents it is our job to help bring out the best in our children, accept their shortcomings and encourage them to reach for the stars.

Happy Homeschooling!

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