Wow. This has been a tough academic year. I admit it. I recall a few years ago how I suspected home schooling would be difficult. But it has been difficult in ways I did not particularly expect. Fundamentally, the most difficult aspect of it all has been sheer parenting. It’s just that I am parenting more hours in my day now.
This year, however, has been especially trying. We have changed some things up, namely adding in an afternoon of co-op classes once a week. Whereas I originally thought a few extra hours of Mommy-G time would be great, instead it has become one more reason to get in the car, and that much more of a work load to keep up with their classes. Increasingly, I have been bothered by the difficulty in creating a free-flowing feel to our week. We struggle to focus on what is important.
Which leads me to the second , and weightier, reason this has been such a trying school year. Daily we are confronted with my oldest’s bouts with tantrums, defeatist attitudes and generally poor behavior. Daily we all feel battered by complaints and his lack of motivation. It pervades our household and drags both the smallest and sturdiest of us down. In all of this I am confessing as a parent that I am concentrating too much on my own suffering, and not as much on the root of it all. I need to look with a kinder eye in the midst of all the noise toward the frustration of my inflexible Aspie. The turmoil that has often taken over our house, primarily during math time, is significantly due to an Asperger’s diagnosis, but possibly, who knows to what extent, also due to raging preteen hormones.
Enter the Christmas holidays which began with a great deal of whining and sibling bickering, but ended with a lovely mixture of construction play, board games and movie viewing. The transition back to the school routine would be a hard one if we didn’t make some changes. While I recognize we still have concentrated and purposeful work to do to help A, I remain hopeful that the 2014-2015 academic year is yet salvageable.
So, what are we changing in 2015?
1. Namely, we are quitting our co-op. As harsh as it sounds, the amount of work and effort it demanded from our week was not worth the time spent there. Our days felt choppy, unfocused and stressful. It just wasn’t a good fit. Not everything is holy. Although not an easy decision, it was the first thing to go. Apparently, our decision to quit has not been a popular one with others, however, but it is truly going to be the best for our family. My guys are already breathing easier. We have retained our gym and art classes in the community, and will likewise not be abandoning the subjects previously covered in the co-op. Writing will be incorporated through the good, quality books we read, or through history or letter writing. Spanish will be continued largely through duolingo. I have come to adore this free tutorial website. It is positively addictive.
2. More specific schedules. This may fly in the face of my earlier educational philosophy that my children deserve the freedom to explore their own interests and studies, but you know what else flies in that face? An ineffectual system. Instead of writing a loose daily schedule on our whiteboard, we now have slots of time allocated for specific subjects. Now, A and S know when I expect them to read history or get on the computer for math. I know each of my children well, and I know when my own energy levels tend to lag. So, for instance, I schedule A’s math time first thing in the morning, but S’s reading later in the afternoon when he is more relaxed.
3. Grades. This one I never expected. Truth be told, even when my children were in public school, I never looked at their report cards. I never wanted them stressing out because of a “bad” grade. I wanted them to love learning for its own sake. And yet, there comes a time when we, as parents, need some collateral. We need to hold A in particular to a higher standard. He needs
slapped upside the head… a kick in the pants. Perhaps literally. But for now A and S will receive daily or weekly grades based on the following:
a. Attitude (willingness to work, giving it their all; no complaining)
b. Organization/study skills (time management, tidiness, etc.)
c. Academic /quality of work
Attitude is to comprise 50% of the grade.
Perhaps these are not exactly new year’s resolutions, but we are constantly grappling with what will provide our family (especially A) a stronger foundation, and a greater likelihood for success. It’s been a tough year, but we are hoping in a complete renewal with just a few alterations.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Blessings to you all in the new year.