I needed a break. I needed it more than I can express in words. I felt worn down, frustrated, jolted, and exhausted. The academic year 2012-13 was challenging for me as a mother and as a teacher. My youngest son, who was in seventh grade at the time, is an intelligent, push the parental boundaries type of tweenager. I felt as if I were somehow failing him. I spent a great deal of time thinking and analyzing the situation during the summer of 2013. I developed a plan and moved forward with it. This led me to an unintentional blogging hiatus. I did not have time or the energy to think about or process anything outside of being a mother or teacher. Now, after finishing the 2013-14 academic year, I feel as though I am ready to write again.
My then tween has an uncanny ability to remember almost everything he reads or hears with immense accuracy. He is a chatterbox full of curiosity, ideas, and creativity. He may be extremely focused on a topic, yet easily distracted if the assignment is not high on his priority list. (I would venture to say that many of us experience this type of distraction.) He went down an academic path that sapped my cognitive processes. I would make assignments that would never be turned in to me. When I questioned him, he would tell me that it was misplaced. Somehow all of his assignments were misplaced. When we discussed the material he was studying, it was evident that he was reading the material. However, he chose not to write papers or complete any of the written assignments. I know some people would argue that I should allow him to direct his interest and assignments. Personally, I believe in balance. I discuss interests and learning objectives with all four of my children as we plan each school year. I believe it is important to teach them how to follow directions and complete assignments, even when it is not their number one desire. I provide them opportunities to express their concerns, ask questions, and request assistance. After all, they will be in college someday and their professors will not negotiate. They will have bosses who will have expectations and set deadlines.
I had to determine an appropriate plan for my son. I did not want to discourage his love of learning. Truly, he loves to read, ask questions, research, and analyze information. And, while I needed to pull in the reins on him to teach him that assignments matter, I still had three other children who needed me to let go a little. If only I had the training of a circus high wire performer. I felt this balancing act was about to crash. I discussed the issue to death with my wonderful, supportive husband. I am sure he was tired of listening to my venting. I was feeling self-doubt and failure on my part. Luckily, my husband was standing nearby with a net to catch me just if I fell off the high wire.
I am sure many people would disagree with the approach I used with him. That is fine. The way I see it – children are all different. They are not cut from the same mold. What works with one kid, will not necessarily work with others. Believe me, all four of mine have similarities, yet huge differences as well. What did I do as a solution? Take a deep breath. I failed him for the school year. Yes, you read that correctly. This homeschool mom failed her son on his seventh grade year. This time last year, I would have told you this while hanging my head, trying not to cry. This year, I write about this experience with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Why the change? Initially, it was heartbreaking for all of us. But, he jumped in with both feet and completed all of his seventh grade work by mid-year. He worked every weekend on his school work. I did not tell him to do this. He asked me if he could work hard to get back on track. I told him to turn in his work daily, including his note taking tasks, and we would see how things panned out. We revisited planning, organizing, prioritizing, and decision making. We are constantly working on executive functioning skills at our house. I get to be the frontal lobe for five of us. Hubby is on his own, well, most of the time.
I also had to juggle the schedules of our seven and eight-year-old daughters. I was teaching them basic time management skills and prioritizing assignments. I still had to work individually with them, but I was teaching them the building blocks for independent learning. And, our oldest son was in his senior year of high school. This required monumental patience of guiding his frontal lobe to be certain that he was completing everything necessary to be accepted to college. Now, that is a blog post of its own. So, I’ll drop that topic for the moment.
There you have it. I was on a blogging hiatus in order to go through homeschool circus training. And, what did I learn?
1. This homeschooling journey is a balancing act. Sometimes the wind will nearly knock you off the high wire.
2. Sometimes the animals have their own agenda. You have to find out what makes each one tick and work with them.
3. The animals need boundaries. They all need love, and encouragement. And, when they fail to perform as expected, they need more boundaries, love, and encouragement.
4. You will feel like you are falling from the high wire at times. Hang tight and look for your safety net. Who is there to support you?
5. Remember why you began this journey. Look at where you were at the beginning, and how far you have traveled.
6. Laugh. Cry. Laugh until you cry. Then, laugh some more.
I hope to get back to weekly posts. And, for those of you who are wondering, I am referring to my children as animals in jest. Also, by no means do I support the cruel acts of circus animal training – just so you know. Most importantly, my son finished seventh and eight grade in one year. He is on track to be a freshman in the fall. His work for both grades were thorough and impressive. Now, you will find me smiling. I am proud of what he accomplished.