Working Hard At It

I love the benefits of being able to school my children at home, but earlier this year I just about packed up both my kids and marched them into the local elementary and left them there. Things were NOT going well.

Last year, it was just my son, and I pretty much let him run the show as to when we did school (WHICH lessons we worked on were what I was mainly concerned about). I bent over backwards and it wore me completely out. This year, my daughter came in as a kindergartener doing first grade curriculum (she eavesdropped last year) and I was drowning in trying to school BOTH of them and run my household. And since I *couldn’t* drop everything when my son got the whim to work on school, he decided to rebel at doing any of it.

I tried everything that doesn’t work – rewards (I think these are also called bribes), progress charts, punishments, pleads and threats. The more I pushed the more he resisted. He would rather lie on his bed for hours doing nothing than write the three dictation sentences. And he would even use going to the bathroom to control the situation: going 10 times an hour and having to do it RIGHT NOW or claiming he would have an accident. Then my daughter thought she would see what fits could get her. If she didn’t get to do things exactly her way she melted down into an emotional pool and stayed there. I was fighting with both of them all day and still falling further and further behind. So there I was ready to throw in the towel and let it be someone else’s problem for awhile – fortunately, my husband happened to home that day and talked me out of it. He reminded me of why I had wanted to home school them to begin with. Then he reminded me of the Love and Logic classes that I had taken (and we were currently taking together) and pointed out I wasn’t doing it.

So I took the rest of the day off and really thought about things; I had to come to some tough realizations. What it boiled down to was determining the most important things I wanted my kids to learn this year. As important as math and reading are, I wanted them to learn to be responsible and to have perseverance more. I wanted them to see that their choices affected them more than anyone else. I wanted them to learn to make good choices because it benefited them, not because Momma was there knocking some sense in to them. To accomplish those goals I needed to be okay with one or both of them failing this year of school if that is what they chose to do (and not fix it for them because of my own embarrassment or to save them from the consequences). I needed to hand them back the problem instead of making it mine. I needed to see what control I could share and give that to them.

So I changed things. I went back to giving them little choices, even when they felt silly. I may *know* that he wants the blue plate for breakfast, but I asked anyway. I may *know* that they would rather stay up 10 more minutes instead of going to bed then, but I presented them with the choice. And I made sure they were aware it was theirs to make and I was perfectly ok with whichever one they chose. Anywhere I could give them a choice that I would be happy with either outcome, I gave it. That alone was enough to stop my son’s constant bathroom trips and get more cooperation. But I wasn’t done.

One morning when everyone was paying attention during our opening exercises I mentioned that Daddy was at work and asked if they thought he wanted to be there. I then took that opportunity to tell them that Daddy’s job was to provide the basic necessities for us. He does much better than that because of the education he has gotten. I told them my job was to take care of our home, make sure they had access to the necessities he provided, and to give them opportunities to learn to be the best person they possibly could. Then I told them their job was to learn and to contribute to our family. I showed them that I had made them each a blank calendar and provided them with little colored labels with their classes on them for the whole week. I told them I didn’t care when they worked on school as long as it got done each day, they could choose which subjects and even how many they were going to do. I then told them what Daddy and I were going to do:

~I would help with school during only certain hours (generally 9:00 am to 2:00 pm weekdays). I had other things to do and I needed to take care of myself by making time to do them.
~Daddy and I would provide the extras that we have (video games, movies, etc.) to those kids who completed a full day of schooling each day (generally 5 or 6 spaces on the calendar). We also stressed that this was because we know how important education is and we loved them too much to get them used to a lifestyle that they probably couldn’t afford if they chose to remain uneducated.
~If the school called with attendance concerns I would give them the phone to talk to them about it.
~We gave weekend privileges to those children who completed a week’s worth of school by the end of school Friday.
~I would no longer nag them about getting their work done. They could choose all on there own.

Both of my kids did fantastic that first day and whipped out a full day’s worth of lessons in record time. The next day, my son tested me and did maybe ½ of one lesson. I never said a word about it. When he would get off task I simply turned all my attention to helping his sister or I would write an email or work on a crossword. When 2:00 pm hit he was pretty disappointed that I was done for the day. I hit him with them empathy (and a lot of broken recording). I really was sad that he wasn’t going to get to do the things he wanted to do. I really did wish it was different. I hated to see him so disappointed. But I held firm and just empathized as much as possible without moving an inch. The next day he did TWO days worth of school to be able to play video games. I never told him to get back on task, he self corrected every time. There were no struggles, no arguments.

Has he tested me since then?Font size Heck yeah, and I fully expect him to keep doing so because he is just as determined as I am. But, can he bank on how I am going to handle it? He sure can. And his sister who is watching everything he goes through is getting to learn the same lessons without paying the consequences he is.


Kirtsdeman said...

I love hearing this story! Thanks so much for the tips and strategies you are offering to us "needy" parents! Where have you been all my life? ;)

-Amberly Keeler UTVA

Idaho_Girl said...

This is exactly what I've been going through! Thank you for the post and all the ideas of things you did. Thank you for being willing to share.


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