Slacker? Genius? Smartass?

Back in the days of OH I COULD NEVER EVER HOMESCHOOL (haaaaaaaa!), my aversion to this idea was multi-pronged. Basically I was convinced that:
A) I am not patient enough to be my child’s main teacher.
B) Curriculum planning is probably hell on earth.
C) Spending all day, every day, with my child would strain our relationship.
D) Working and homeschooling are incompatible, even though I work from home.
E) There is not enough Excedrin in the world for this.

Spoiler: I was wrong. I mean, Excedrin comes in really, really big bottles (especially at Costco!), plus there are ways to deal with all of those other concerns. For example, we use virtual school classes, which means that my “curriculum planning” consists of going through the course catalog to pick classes, rather than actually writing syllabi. Also, when I need to get work done I just ignore Monkey for a while. Easy!

[As for patience, well, I still think I’m probably not patient enough, not really. But I’m a lot more patient than I was a few years back, which is just as good for me as it is for him. And when all else fails, there’s that whole ignoring thing. Which I am totally joking about! Except not really.]

I could say many things about Monkey’s evolution as a homeschooled student over the last several years, but let’s just stick to my side of things for the moment. Me, I tend to be a little helicopter-y. (“YOU DON’T SAY,” snickers the peanut gallery.) I want to organize and fix and protect and I want things done in the most logical (to me, admittedly) way, and life has a way of serving up the lessons you most need to learn to cure you of any illusions you may have of knowing what you’re doing. In my case, two headstrong, special-needs teenagers thrust into my need for order all but came tagged with, “Abandon hope all ye who try controlling THIS.”

Although I fought the good fight, trying to continue my let-mom-help-you-with-that ways for far too long, this year I had an epiphany. I probably should’ve had it much sooner, but what can I say? I’m a slow learner. In a nutshell, although I’ve always KNOWN that the goal is to create self-sufficient humans, my actions of catching the kids every time they fell (or—let’s be honest—swooping in and propping them up when it looked like they MIGHT fall) wasn’t doing anyone any favors. Yeah, my darling snowflakes need some accommodations for various challenges. But beyond that, it’s time to start backing off.

I’ve done this with both kids, mostly in response to their repeated assertions that, as they insist on saying, they’ve “got this, yo.” As expected, both children went into scholastic free-fall, waiting to see when I’d step in, then being furious with me that I hadn’t. (Parenting is FUN!) Someone, and I’m not naming any names, carried a 44 average in a certain class for a while, all the while insisting that “I’ve got this.” (Me: “Your definition of ‘got’ in this context is confusing me. Or does ‘this’ refer to that F?”) I set the expectations and outlined consequences, and then I backed away and waited.

For the kid in public school, I have to say it’s been pretty entertaining. I no longer comment on grades. Hey, you want to go to college? Fantastic! Good luck getting the grades to make it happen! There’s been a few teacher calls, and a lot of fast-talking on the part of my daughter, and as a teacher said to her in exasperation yesterday, “I don’t understand how you have such good grades. You never do any work!” Apparently she’s got this, after all.

But for Monkey—dear, darling, disorganized Monkey—we’re in this school thing together, whether I like it or not. We have a master calendar and class schedules and checklists of assignments. He is expected to spend a certain number of hours working each day. He is expected to cross items off his list as he goes. He is expected to arrive at every assignment checkpoint (every two weeks) with all of the assigned work completed.

Let me repeat: There is a schedule AND an assignment checklist for every class. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

At the first checkpoint, everything was fine. All assignments turned in, zero drama.

At the second checkpoint, he was missing several items for every class. How? No one knows. He forgot to look at the list, because he’s “got this,” in the sense that he is cute but somewhat delusional. There was some minor drama and then he caught up and things were fine.

At the third checkpoint—now with all sorts of checks and balances in place with his teachers—the day of the deadline, his biology teacher emailed us to say that it looked like he’d somehow missed an entire week of assignments, and was everything okay? Given that I’d been allowing myself to sneak over and check his tasks lists and everything was crossed off, this was puzzling. But what better way to follow up not crossing anything off than randomly crossing off All The Things? He hadn’t done it on purpose. It’s unclear what happened, really. But he had to do an entire week’s worth of work in one afternoon. This was preceded by a dramatic meltdown, but then he pulled it together and got everything done. He was so proud! Right up until the math teacher emailed to say that he was missing several assignments. (*insert sound of my forehead hitting the desk here*)

Today is the fourth checkpoint. After the Biology Debacle, we had a Serious Talk about Keeping Track and Staying On Schedule and Being Responsible and You Are Almost In High School And You Have To Figure This Out. He agreed. He swore he was on top of things. He said “I’ve got this, yo” multiple times. His assigned math work was done by Wednesday, including all of the stuff he missed from the last marking period. He’s only got one assignment left to do for Lit. And… this morning I got an email from his biology teacher saying he’s over a week behind.

I mailed her back and said, “Be right back, I have to go beat Monkey with a wire hanger for a few minutes.” (It’s okay, she has a sense of humor. I hope.)

I got him up and we had the same all-too-familiar conversation we always have.

Me: Your teacher says you’re missing a ton of assignments.
Him: I am?
Me: You are. What happened?
Him: I don’t know. I was busy with math?
Me: You can’t just not do your other work because you’re focusing on one class. You have to do ALL of your work.
Him: I know.
Me: Get going, you have a ton to do today.
Him: Okay. It’s fine.
Him: Remember last time when I did an entire week of bio in one afternoon? I can handle it.

That day when he did a whole week of work in a single afternoon was the worst possible thing that could’ve happened to a kid who already believes he’s smarter than the rest of the class. I mean, why bother doing a little work each day when you’re capable of just cramming it all in at the last minute? HE’S GOT THIS, YO.

On the one hand, I’m beyond aggravated, because how hard is it to follow a schedule?? On the other hand, his approach is… pretty much how I got through college. Maybe he’s even more precocious than I realized.

Or maybe my hands-off approach isn’t working, and I should try beating him with that wire hanger, after all.


  1. Damsel

    That moment when you punish your kid for acting JUST LIKE YOU. I live that life. I texted my sister one day last week “this homeschooling $^!+ ain’t for sissies, yo”… as I poured myself a glass of wine at 4:30 in the afternoon.

    You are an awesome mom!

    • the Iowa Expat

      That moment when you punish your kid for acting JUST LIKE YOU. I live that life.


      • Arnebya

        Totally here only to retype That moment when you punish your kid for acting JUST LIKE YOU. I live that life.

  2. Kim

    Ohhhh, lordy. It is wrong that I am hearing echoes from my past in his statement.

    I think your instincts are spot on. I do think there should be a consequence for the amount of hell one puts one’s mother through, or how many times a teacher has to call home. Because essentially, he’s transferred the tracking onus from you over to his teacher, and yeah, NO. Either Monkey’s got this, yo, or he doesn’t, and right now he doesn’t.

    But you are smart as well as pretty, so I know you definitely do. Yo.

    • Lucinda

      I think you make a good point about the teacher now doing the tracking. So it seems the next logical step is a positive reward for each period that is free of teacher reminders. That was what ultimately worked for me. I didn’t see the point in doing the assignments on time if I could do them all at once. But when my teacher started rewarding kids who had everything turned on in time without being reminded, I missed that reward once. That was all it took. Then I was completely motivated. It might seem like you are rewarding for what should be done anyway, but you and I both know that sometimes it takes an extrinsic reward to get the ball rolling and the habit to form. I think you are doing splendidly. (Says another helicopter mom).

  3. Tenessa

    We don’t do any virtual classes, but I don’t do any other work from home either, so my whole job is to teach these little buggers the stuff they need to know. We utilize a workbox system that allows my kids to know what’s coming up, what work needs to be done, and how much they have left. My Aspie is my oldest and he is VERY disorganized, but these workboxes really keep his schooling rolling along and IN ORDER. It’s been very nice once we got all the kinks worked out and got the system set up to fit our particular schooling needs.

    I’m not sure how this would or could apply to Monkey. Maybe something more interactive than a calendar or a list would help him out?

  4. Bob

    Well, if he gets his smarts from you, then he’ll get them all done and get good grades. (thus rewarding his procrastination, and frying your ever loving last nerve.) Can’t argue with results!

    Me – I did that through high school, no problem, graduated 11th in my class of 300+. then I went to college and met calculus and calc-based physics. Went down in flames and wound up quitting. 30 years later and a wealth of hard-earned habits changed via workplace expectations (i.e. no more procrastinating) I went back to school while working full time and finally graduated – a few weeks ago – at 50.

    I hope for your sanity and his continued stellar school work that he’ll figure out how to schedule his assignments – before he reaches 50 or you go grey.

    • Crista

      Bob, that is SO fantastic!! Congrats!

      • Bob

        Thank You! Now the student loans………

    • Damsel

      Way to go, Bob!! Congratulations!!

      • Bob

        Thank you!

  5. Fairly Odd Mother

    Oh, this sounds like my year so far. I’ve decided I can’t hand-hold my oldest through 7th grade, esp since she’s taking so many outside classes. It. Is. Making. Me. Crazy b/c I KNOW she can’t cram a week of vocabulary words into her head in a day, and yet, she tries. Much drama ensues and somehow it is always MY fault that she’s waited until the last moment. I keep telling myself that she needs to figure this out (we have daily schedules too, so she knows what is due, so it’s not like I’ve thrown her to the wolves) but to get her to focus may be the end of me. And it’s hard not to feel like her missteps aren’t somehow a direct reflection on me.

  6. js

    Oh, thankgod. I so badly need to hear someone else is going through this, especially this week. We are only 3 weeks into the school year and I have already thrown up my hands and quit sixth grade! I’m not a parent who yells, but I have screamed at my kiddo more in the past couple weeks than I have in her entire life.

    I am a control freak. When I was young, I was a tiny control freak. I practiced my neat penmanship for hours and used my lunch time to keep my locker tidy. How did this disorganized little girl come from me?!

    Also, I’m trying to stop doing too much for her. My husband said I had to quit babying her. I know having her clean her own glasses or making her own lunch isn’t going to hurt her. But I like doing things for her. It makes me feel good. All the yelling does not.

    So, you’re not alone. School is killing me, yo.

  7. Mara

    My god, Monkey is me. That approach of missing weeks’ worth of homework and then doing it all at once was how I got through junior high, high school, and college… Especially in college where nobody is checking up on you with daily assignments. In Lit classes I’d write the entire paper the night before. Honestly, I wish my parents had put some emphasis into helping me develop a study system or method. Their practice was to punish me for bad grades by grounding me,and rewarding a good report card (generally ice cream.) This was before people were really trying to find out why some smart kids do so poorly in school… It was all considered ‘laziness’. (This was back when girls didn’t have ADD because they weren’t hyper, you know?) All I ever heard was that I wasn’t applying myself, when the truth was that I didn’t understand HOW. Keep working with Monkey, just keep drilling down. 15 years from now he’ll be thanking you, I promise.

  8. Carrie

    Last night my husband and I were discussing some of our second grader’s executive function challenges, and I reminded him of my freshman honors lit class in college; the professor expected us to read a specific book, write a paper on it and be prepared to discuss the book with the 14 others in the class at 10am Monday. My weekly routine was to get back from “last chance mass” at 11pm Sunday night,find my book and begin reading it. I never failed to have my book read and paper written by class the next morning, but I often wonder why I had to make it so hard on myself… Oh yeah – the executive dysfunction, I can pretty clearly figure out where that comes from!

  9. Sarah B.

    Monkey’s experiences sound like EXACTLY the kind of scenarios I would come across if DS decided to go back to public school. As it is, though, I’m about to lose my shit entirely if he doesn’t stop mouthing off and throwing toddler tantrums (even though he’s almost 11 and at 5’4″ is taller than many adults) and put him on that bus and not look back, whether he likes it or not. Kudos to you for letting go!

  10. Megan

    Right. I think I need to email some mea culpa action to my mother…

  11. Sassy Apple

    There’s a saying in the education profession that I’m fond of, ‘The teacher should never work harder than the student.’

    OR ‘The parent should never work harder than the child.’

    You’re doing the right thing.

  12. Rocky Mountain Woman

    he’ll get it sooner or later, hopefully sooner and hopefully before the old wire hanger comes out…

  13. Lara T

    I think this may be quite common with online courses. I had a nephew who struggled to stay on task. It did make me wonder though (ducking head in fear of projectiles), given recent family revelations, whether ADHD could be at play. Often goes hand-in-hand with Aspergers. In fact pretty sure my ADHDer is an Aspie too. Hopefully, it’s just a typical adjustment :)

  14. addy

    This is how I got thru High School. Frustrated the stuffins’ out of my teachers. An entire semester worth of work in one week – consistently. I still work better under pressure……. Sorry I know that is not what you wanted to hear. Breathe – have a glass of wine – and know “he’s got this,yo.”

  15. sassymonkey

    Wait a minute! There were people who went to college and didn’t do a whole week of work for one class in a single day? I’m relatively certain I didn’t know any of those people. (Ok, fine. I knew one. He pretty much lived in the library.)

  16. Chris

    I have to say this is where I am glad for our school which still requires homework to be handed in and gives a zero if not. It makes my life much easier since the zero freaks them out (and in many classes I am not sure if homework really even counts toward the grade :) ) but it is very helpful for my last minute child.

    Weekends are still interesting though. On Friday response is “very little homework this week”, Saturday “I have plenty of time left to do it” and Sunday “oh my goodness, I actually have tons of homework” and everyone gets to be stressed on Sunday night and not going to bed on time so Monday at 6:30 am is just lovely.

  17. Amanda

    My favorite? When you not only realize the child is JUST LIKE YOU, but you are emailing and calling teachers to figure out how to get him the supports you never had so he becomes LESS LIKE YOU. That is the life I live. IT’S FUN! Especially when he points out, “But that’s how YOU do it.” *grumbledoasisaynotasidogrumble*

  18. Jen

    Share that wire hanger, will ya? I have a homeschooling tween next to me who may need it if he doesn’t get moving with his assignments…

  19. Julie

    I am a school administrator of a K-12 school. It is common for middle school students to struggle with time management and task completion. It is especially true for boys and it is the same whether they have been diagnosed with an exceptionality or not. The more you worry, the less he has to. Ever wonder how his future behavior would be shaped if he failed a course?

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest