Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Get Your Kiddo to do His Work: Part I

On the surface all appeared well - homeschooling was going great!!  We've been at it for over three years and have figured out much together.  It's been by far the best lifestyle change we've made as a family and if all goes as planned, we won't be heading back to regular school - ever.  Yes, good overall and I was certain we were on the right path, but lurking below it turns out we were harboring a little monster in our midst - a very clever and wily twelve-year-old who didn't want to do his work by himself.  He really didn't want to do his work, period, and he'd do just about anything to squirm out of it; it was a daily struggle to get him to complete a school-related task.  Fascinating to watch from the outside, surely.  Some would have pointed and smirked, "can't she see it??"  I could certainly sense it, but didn't yet have the wherewithal to comprehend the whole picture.    Kuddos to him for being so smart and crafty about getting his needs met, but this mama had reached her frustration limit!

Little by little I've morphed into one of those dreadful micro-manager-type moms when it comes to school work.  A recording device would be an excellent tool to tally exactly how many times a day I said phrases like these: "Max, do your work";  "get started on your math";  "put that down, buddy, and get your butt over to the table - you've got work to finish up";  "we're leaving in just over an hour; have you done your reading?";  "Dad will be home shortly - let me see how much you've finished."  Over and over and over until of course, the words became nothing more than background noise; I was wasting precious energy dollars on trying to spur him into action or keep him on task.  The words were not backed up by any consequences on my part and morbid frustration descended upon me like a heavy blanket.  Every day we woke to repeat the cycle, but not much changed.  I kept my head up and kept forging ahead.

Do you hear yourself saying these same sorts of things to your child?  Are you hanging over him urging him on to the next problem?  Can you leave the room and trust that he'll stay on task?  Does he follow you or get distracted and start playing with the dog or his Legos?  Does he stretch his school work out until bedtime?

Over the holiday break I made it my sole task to problem solve our situation.  I knew something needed to be done, but wasn't exactly sure what to do!  Help was needed to tease it all apart, and I wished to consult someone who was good at big picture stuff.  I'm notorious for swimming in the details and not looking up to see where I am, constantly bumping into things.  As luck would have it, someone mentioned an approach recommended by John Rosemond in his book, Ending the Homework Hassle.  Do you ever think that the right book is set before you just when you need it?  This one arrived with perfect timing.

I took a rational step forward and invited Mr. John Rosemond over to tea!   More or less.  "We" carried on with a lengthy one-to-one session focusing on restructuring the way school work is to be handled from here on out.  Truth is, Mr. Rosemond didn't really pop over - I downloaded his book on my Kindle and kept my nose to the grindstone until the very last word.  When I looked up again, somehow the situation had promise of a resolution, the sky looked brighter!  Nothing like a hefty dose of clarity to help a girl find her way.

I know that Max is more than capable of being an independent worker.  The responsibility for his school work needed to be set squarely upon his shoulders, and therein was my task - to hand the work over to him and let him manage it. It's not my job to do his work - it's his.  It's my job to look after the house, the animals, the finances, the food, and all the other myriad stuff that comes with being a mom.

Stay tuned to see how we've faired over the last two weeks...........I think we're on to something!  Certainly has taken a different sort of skill set on my part and I had to take time to organize a program, but the outcome is looking promising.  I'll share what we're doing in my next post.  In the meantime, if you are experiencing some of the same struggles as a homeschooling parent, by all means get your hands on a copy of Mr. Rosemond's book for information sake and let's share some experiences!  If you've reached critical mass in the frustration department, remain calm - there's hope!  :)

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