Monday, March 12, 2012

Me? Homeschool? Oh God...Please No.

Poor little Bear has been having a really rough time at school lately. Because of his anxiety, he doesn't like doing anything he isn't familiar with and good at, and that causes problems at school where he's always having to do new things. When he digs his heels in and refuses to work, he gets removed from the class. I'm sure they'd let him stay if he were quiet about it, but an anxious and oppositional Bear is a disruptive Bear, so out he goes. And so starts the cycle: Bear doesn't want to work so he gets pulled out of class; Bear doesn't understand the work because he's been out of class, so Bear refuses to go to class; Bear finally goes back to class but is now even more confused, so Bear refuses to work and gets pulled out of class. You see the problem, here? Me, too. The only problem is that Bear doesn't see it. Granted, he's only six, but he's his own worst enemy.

Towards the end of week two weeks ago the school wasn't able to get Bear to so much as step foot into his classroom. In addition to that being a problem for Bear, it is also a major problem for the school. As you can imagine, they don't have the manpower to have someone work with him one-on-one for days on end, but that's what they had to do. Unfortunately it means that someone else's child probably didn't get the attention they needed last week, and that's a problem for everyone. The school, bless them, is doing their best to convince the school board that Bear needs someone full-time, but that's a long-shot.

After a rough day on Monday of last week, Tuesday didn't start so well either. I finally got Bear dressed for school, but every time I mentioned leaving, he literally began to climb the furniture. Literally. I eventually got him to talk to me, and he finally confessed that he didn't want to go to school because he was "stupid" (his words, not mine) compared to the other kids in his class. As much as I tried to explain the cycle that he was on and how he just needed to catch up, he didn't get it. But again, he's only six.

Long story short(er), Bear stayed home last week to work with Mommy on the stuff he's behind on. I know from previous experience that the week before March Break is a difficult one for kids -- they're excited, they're silly, they're easily distracted -- so I knew it wasn't going to be a productive environment for Bear anyway. And given the fact that he hadn't actually gone to class in days but had just hung out with the learning resources teacher, I figured he couldn't possibly do any less work with me.

So last week Mommy home schooled, and I have to admit that it went pretty well. Bear was reasonably cooperative and did quite a bit of work. We dropped by the school towards the end of the week to pick up some work his teacher had left us, and their jaws dropped when I told them how much reading we had managed to do.

I have to say that the experience has left me wondering if homeschooling would be beneficial for him: no pressure, no peers to compare himself to, and the ability to learn at his own pace. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Except for one teensy, weensy problem: Yours truly would have to do it, and that ain't happening. Ever. So much for that idea.

29 comments:

  1. I hope that the school board can be convinced that he would do better with one on one as that sounds like it would work better for all. You are a saint!

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    1. I hope so, too, Sharon. If not, I can honestly say the school has done their best. As for being a saint, yes...I am. lol ;-)

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    1. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

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    1. It has occurred to me, but I don't know if it's necessary yet.

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  4. Hey Laura, apologies for my silence of late, I've had problems posting comments on your site, but I'm very glad to see a new post today! While my monkey doesn't suffer from ODD, he does have anxiety issues. I have NO idea if it helps but I add pure essential Lavender to his nightly bath, put more on his pulse points at bed, and his Naturopath today prescribed a homeopathic remedy 'Kava' for anxiety. I've just started it but thought I'd put it out there for you.

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    1. There you are! I thought you had gotten bored of us. ;-)

      I've heard about lavender for anxiety, but I haven't tried it yet. Kava is new to me, so I'll have to look into that. Thanks for the tip.

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  5. Hi Laura,
    I live in the UK, my son is your son's doppelganger! I know when I read your blogs that I'm not the only one, my son has severe ADHD & ODD (on medication) with ASD thrown into the mix, he will be 6 in a couple of months.
    I took the decision to withdraw my son from school and home educate, one year on I can honestly say it has to be the single best thing I could EVER have done for him, I have watched him blossom and it makes me smile every day to see him so much happier and more confident

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    1. I'd love to hear how you've managed to get your son to do his work. I can't get mine to do homework, so I can't imagine how I'd get him to do any work. That's one of my biggest concerns, but I don't doubt that some aspects of homeschooling would be beneficial for him. How have you managed?

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  6. His words..."i'm stupid" just broke my heart into a million pieces.
    I have no idea how he must feel every single day.
    I have no idea how you feel every single day.
    But I do know that you both are pretty amazing.

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    1. I can't tell you how hard it is to hear your 6yo say he's stupid and mean it. As far as I know, no one has ever said those words to him -- that's all him. And for the record, he couldn't be more wrong. The school says he's brilliant, and I couldn't agree more. Thanks for your kind words, Kimberly. I appreciate it.

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  8. I'm sorry Laura, I wrote my comment(s) at half-past midnight last night, after being up for over 48 hours thanks to illness... They were rambling and out of place and I apologize.

    I just wanted to say that "full-time" homeschooling is not for every family, but can work in some cases. I'm sure you have your reasons to not want to homeschool. I hope that Bear can get the resources he needs soon.

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    1. Johanne, I was away so I never had a chance to read your comments. For the record, I have nothing against homeschooling. I know of other parents with children like Bear who have done it and have had great success with it. From an objective standpoint, I can see why it might be a great idea for Bear. From a personal standpoint, I'm not sure it's our best bet. For one thing, I have ADHD myself and can't organize/motivate my way way out of a cardboard box. I honestly think there would be a whole lot more TV watching than learning going on if I were in charge. My other big concern is Bear's ODD. The school can't get him to do any work, and neither can I (for the most part). Perhaps it would be different in a homeschooling environment, but I'm worried it wouldn't be. When a child throws a chair at you just because you try to get him to sit down and do his work, you tend to not want to take on any additional schooling. And lastly, I never wanted to be a teacher and still don't. I don't have the patience for it, and I don't think this situation would change that. Right now I'm still hoping the school will receive the resources we need, but if not...well...homeschooling may still be in our future.

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    2. Laura,

      In the extra long and rambling post that I had put up I explained how we did homeschooling. Like you, I have ADHD (at the time I was untreated), in my case it's pretty severe. We did what most would consider "unschooling" - partially because I have ADHD, partially out of necessity. The need for unschooling came from (a) the fact that my kids also had untreated ADHD and (b) I was homeschooling in French and there was no curriculum and only very few resources available.

      Unschooling isn't that the kids don't learn. It isn't that the kids make all the decisions. It's more of a "free-form" method of learning. Considering what the kids wanted to learn (anything from whales and dolphins to robotics to the Incas to name but a few of the projects we worked on...), I taught them how to read, write, about science, math, and history. I had my own business at the time, so they saw first hand the real life applications for the things I was teaching them.

      It took about two or three hours a day of "sit-down" work, which was hardly ever done "sit-down". Our "classroom" was our dining room table. I used everyday occurrences as teaching experiences. Could they read the recipe? Could they measure the ingredients? Could they scale the recipe up/down? We went to the museums and art galleries. We were constantly at the library.

      Their education was more based on experiencing life than what could be found in a text book - mostly because I couldn't find one.

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    3. Once I let go of my ingrained and preconceived ideas on education, my girls were finally able to learn. My oldest had started at school, but by the end of 1st grade was burned out. What 6 yo gets burned out?! And the school didn't see there was a problem, except that she wasn't getting her homework done. Except we were spending 2-3 hours trying to get the homework done. By the time she'd get home from school, and with supper, bath and homework, she had no time left to play or decompress.

      Anyhow, I decided that for her mental health that I would homeschool. I figured if I taught her how to walk, talk, draw, count and her letters in two languages, then I could probably teach her how to read and write.

      I found that if I allowed myself to not be limited by my expectations, and if I was more fluid in my parenting/teaching, then we would have a good learning experience. For myself, that's what I found to be more important. Was it important that they learn to read from easy readers, or that they just learn how to read? Was it important that they complete page after page of math worksheets, or that they learn that 2+2 is 4? And once they learned it, really learned it and understood it, was it important that they repeat the work over and over again?

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    4. I never expected to be a teacher - even a homeschool teacher. The kids loved it. They learned a lot. When the girls returned to school two years later, one went straight to her grade level. The other stayed in grade 1 because she refused to do the placement evaluations (sound familiar? ;) ). Two weeks into school, her teacher looked at me and told me that she was in fact ready for grade 2, but that it was now too late to move her up. My girls are now in high school and middle school, and at the top of their respective classes - which I think is a direct result from their homeschooling experience. Beyond teaching them the basics that they would have learned in school, I taught them how to think for themselves and solve the puzzles and problems of life.

      Yes, homeschooling is intimidating. Yes, it's a lot of work - kind of. I know that it's not right for every family. My girls miss homeschooling. They liked the pace and the fact that we could explore things that caught their attention. It was right for us. It was right for us. I hope you and Bear can find a solution that is right for you.

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    5. Johanne, my idea of homeschooling is much the same as yours. Bear isn't a sit down with a textbook kid, so there would be no point. Right now he's home a few days/week to try to ease some of his anxiety, but our schedule is pretty flexible. He was allowed to play video games on the computer, but only on French websites (he's in French school). He was allowed to play on his Leapster, but only with the French games. Reading wasn't out of his reader, it was using his new LeapPad reader...in French, of course. He's in school tomorrow and back home on Friday, but I think Friday might be the library or the museum. Like you, I'm more concerned about what he learns than about how he learns it. Fortunately for us, the school feels the same way, so they're extremely flexible and open to ideas. Thanks for sharing your experiences with me.

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  9. Did I write this? My girly has attended no fewer than 5 schools in her 7 years, and I often wonder sometimes if homeschooling would be better. Then I wake up. Neither she nor I would emerge unscathed! I understand and admire homeschooling now WAY more than I used to, but not for us...at least not now.

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    1. Poor little thing. Why has she moved around so much? Are they not able to handle her?

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  10. You could also look into hybrid homeschooling, which it sounds like is what you are doing now, unofficially. For 2 years we belonged to a homeschool academy where the kids went to school 2 days and were home with me the other 3 days. We switched back to public for my older since he behaved MUCH better at a school with more structure and an authority figure that was not me. (Go figure) I'll admit I was completely surprised at how much I enjoyed homeschooling. Did it out of a reaction to the poor rep. of our local school, but ended up really liking the flexibility and lack of a structured schedule. Doing the hybrid thing meant that the school came up with the lesson plans and told me which books we needed. For K - 2 (I have 2 sons who went through these grades while we were there) it took no more than 30 minutes of work each day. You might be surprised at how much you take to it!

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    1. The problem with Bear is that I can't get him to do traditional "work." He shuts down completely when I try, so I've almost been doing more of an "unschooling" thing with him when he's home. The interesting thing is that last week he did better at school on the days that he actually went than he has in a long time. I'm not sure if that was just coincidence or if it had to do with our one day on/one day off schedule. And I have to admit...I had fun with him.

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  11. Hi Laura, UK girl back again! I home educate by not doing "lessons". ADHD kids as you know are naturally inquisitive, and engage well but usually only if they are really interested or inspired. I leave interesting books with lovely photos in around the house in various places, my sons finds them and asks questions, we chat about it in a casual way often using the internet to back up and confirm our discussions but i find if he is doing the initiating he soaks up the information. We learn stuff in the park, at the river, in the library, (we chat about tudor history while we play tennis together!!)but very rarely do we sit at a desk. We learn different things to the "schooled" but that is a good thing as if all kids left school/college knowing the same skills wouldn't life be boring! I took my 5 yr old son for a holiday at the beach last week, he has returned and can now name and identify 7!! different types of seaweed, 9 shells and 3 diffent types of crab...now theres not many 5 year old kids that can do that!! We have a bird feeder outside our living room window, he watches them feed with binolulars and can identify about 8 birds too, he draws them and labels them, why? because it interests him, good luck

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    1. Hi UK Girl (that's your new name). I really admire what you're doing. If I ever go the homeschooling route, that is what we'll do. Bear doesn't even like being read to, so it's extremely challenging to do any traditional school work with him. But, as you say, he's naturally inquisitive and asks questions like what a turtle looks like without his shell on. That came about because he saw a sign for a turtle crossing. ;-) I bet you find you're learning more about these topics than you ever thought possible, too! That must be fun. Enjoy.

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