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.
Me: IT IS NOT 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.