Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wanting to Throw in the Towel: When Homeschooling Gets Rough

We started the day in good spirits. While I took care of some housekeeping the kids began some simple workbook exercises. My son completed his kindergarten pages quickly, easily, and with good cheer. My daughter, who had nine math problems to complete, ended up curled in a tight ball, grunting and screaming at me.

Half way through I asked her to go do some jump rope and come back when she was ready to work with me.

Then I needed a break.

Then I pulled the classic if-you-don't-work-with-me-you-have-to-go-to-school line. I've said it before. But this time, I meant it. I am totally fed up with her melt downs and I am ready to have someone else deal with her. In school she would struggle with anxiety, but she would never behave this way with a teacher. I said - and she heard me - that this was her last chance. I am tired of fighting her about math, writing, goal-setting, and every other little bit. While most of our homeschooling is life learning, reading books, and playing, a small part of it has always been and will always be some of the nitty gritty, like math computation and handwriting.

She sort of pulled herself together. We identified that the problem isn't that she doesn't know how to do the math, it's that her lack of neatness (and her insistence on doing huge problems in her head) gets the problem all jumbled up, and then she get's the answer incorrect, and then she says she's stupid and it's impossible and then it's a self fulfilling prophecy, and she can't do the problems.

So we have to work on neatness. Writing fives the correct direction and lining up place values, for instance. Getting over doing it all in your head. We have to work on following mom's directions even when we want something to be easy without them.

And honestly, I don't want to do this with her, because I know it's going to be an anxiety-ridden fight every single freakin' time. And I am over it.

We finished the problems. We talked about goals for neatness. We high-fived. I gave her some 5-htp for her mood. She went off to play with the chickens, grumpy, but not curled up in a screaming ball. Progress?

I sat on the floor, where we do our math, and prayed. Please, God, show me the way. If I put her in school, her anxiety will be a problem, but she will have friends around her every day and a teacher will work with her. This is ridiculous. Please show me what to do. I realize it is late July and I may have trouble finding a space, but I am tired of wrestling with her about every little thing. Please help me, God.

A gentle image came into my heart. Think long term, it said. Don't worry about computation. Focus on neatness, fine-motor skills, and confidence. Those will build a foundation for later. Don't compound the external work - spelling and computation - with the neatness and patience. Separate them. Stick with this, and think long term. That is not something she will get in school. It is a gift only you can give her. It is not easy, but it is a gift that will serve her in all areas of her life.

I can't say I liked the answer but it resonates deeply. I feel supported, and understood. That will keep me going.