Early Graduation and Young College Students

I’ve been homeschooling for a very, very long time.

It’s been 15 years. (Wow. It seems impossible that it’s been that long!)

When I first started homeschooling, I was fascinated with the idea that my teens could graduate early from high school and get on with college, work and normal adult life. See, as a high schooler, I loved school. I would have loved taking classes all summer and graduating a year or two earlier so I could go onto college and take more classes. So this was kind of the picture that I had in my head for my kids’ high school.

Then we began using the county virtual school and they didn’t allow that kind of thing, so I shrugged and graduated my oldest on what was a typical time frame.

Now that I’ve been through the teen years and graduated on myself, and having met many other homeschooling families, I can see some of the pitfalls of graduating a student early.

Of course, let me say what I mention so often on my blogs–there is no one size fits all solution to anybody’s life. Everyone’s homeschooling journey will be different. I think that early graduation could be appropriate for certain situations–students who have babies themselves might benefit from this type of arrangement, as could students who are extremely advanced academically. But by and large, I’m not a fan of early graduation for homeschoolers.

Often I see a pair of siblings close in age…both are slated for graduating in the same year. The younger sibling was sort of folded into his sibling’s high school material, and before the parent knew it, had completed most of the credits needed for graduation. So parents think…hmmm. Why not do it? Younger student can get on with life, and (perhaps they don’t always verbalize this) parents can focus on the younger siblings and their education with the high schoolers otherwise occupied.

Striving for Excellence, Rather Than Box-Checking

There’s a couple things that are hard for me to swallow in the above scenario. First, the younger sibling may have gotten the work done, but did they really do stellar work, demonstrating a mastery of the material? In our homeschool, checking off the boxes isn’t only what I want to accomplish. Particularly if I can move a little slower, at a more age-appropriate pace, an average student can become an excellent student. Giving a middle schooler more time to mature before he starts trying to keep up with his older sibling’s high school lessons is okay. I’d rather move more slowly for my younger child and allow him to expect to accomplish mastery rather than moving on for the sake of keeping up with an older sibling.

Sibling Rivalry

My kids constantly compete with one another for attention, for time with mom, for time in the bathroom. I don’t want to add another layer of competition to their relationship. Do I want the older student to feel constantly threatened by his younger but possibly academically brighter sibling? Do I want my younger student to feel that her sister is always going to out-do her (because with an extra year of brain maturity the playing field is not level) so why should she even try? Combining students in high school can yield these types of dynamics, so homeschooling parents should be extra aware of the relational challenges that combining can present. If either student starts to seem demoralized or doesn’t give good effort, parents may want to figure out a way to do levels separately, even if it seems inefficient.

Scholarships

Our state has excellent college scholarship opportunities. The very best scholarships, however, go to students who perform well academically and can test well. If my student has checked all the boxes for high school graduation and I feel good about their academic accomplishments, but they still aren’t scoring well on the ACT or SAT, I’d rather they waited a semester or a year, and prepared completely for these important tests. Taking that extra year to beef up on test skills can be worth thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

Maturity

Students mature differently. And they also mature in different areas of their brains at different rates. As a parent considering early graduation, be sure that you take into account emotional maturity, academic maturity, and social maturity. Additionally, many young people, girls in particular, are really good at presenting a mature face to adults. However, these young people may not have the social maturity to handle some of the demands of the adult world. Don’t forget, either, that having a sense of responsibility in some situations doesn’t necessarily mean that a young person is fully mature. One of my kids was very responsible with younger siblings and our family’s pets at very young ages. I would have trusted her to care for these things at the age of 14, 15, and 16. However, she was slower to develop emotional and social maturity. Had I graduated her early, she would have struggled to relate to the other students at college.

Friends

“If your friends all jumped off a cliff…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we shouldn’t make decisions based solely on friends. But full time college changes things socially. The friends who are still able to clown around doing high school things are going to struggle to relate to a serious college student. A college schedule is demanding, leaving less time for the friend group at co-op. Sometimes, friendships can be left behind as life shuffles kids in different directions. For the teen who is younger than the college aged peers in all their classes, it can be difficult to find new friends in the first year or two.

Grades Are on the Record

Are you 100 percent certain that your student is academically ready for college? For sure? Are you sure they have the time management and organizational skills to keep up with all that college will ask of them? Because once they start college, those grades will become a permanent part of their academic record. You don’t want an unprepared student to permanently lose a scholarship or jeopardize his academic future because he wasn’t ready.

What’s Your Hurry?

Kids grow up all too fast. There’s no rush to reach milestones before anyone else. Enjoy your teens, and don’t push them to adult places until your completely sure this is for them. With all of the options for dual enrollment and online school you can take your time with the step of college. They can take a few classes while still being classified as a high school student and you can see how they do, easing their way into the world of college.

Of course, I don’t know you and your kids. I won’t be presumptuous enough to tell you it’s always a bad idea to graduate a student early, but please consider these points before you graduate your child early. Take your time with these decisions, pray about them, talk to your kid about it, and talk to other parents about these decisions.

Advertisements

Unexpected Things About Homeschooled Teens

I was a great mom of teens before I had teens.

I read all of the homeschooling literature. I was sure that my teens and I would discuss interesting literature and history. We’d do science experiments together. They would work in their math books, reading lesson after lesson, and somehow, the intricacies of algebra, geometry, and trig would be grasped. They would help their siblings with school work and perform much of the housework for me.

That was before I had teens.

I’ve been surprised by many things in my life, but many of the biggest surprises have been the way real life goes down with homeschooled teens. I’m sure parents with their kids in conventional schools have many surprises, but because I’d read all the “right” books and because I was homeschooling, I was sure that my kids’ experiences as teens would be different.

Here are several of the biggest surprises that I encountered in homeschooling my teens.

  1. They often develop just like typical teens.

I was certain that teenagerhood was just something created by society to excuse bad behavior and poor parenting. All of the conservative Christian homeschooling literature talked about how helpful and cheerful their kids were. How motivated the young people were to do chores and help with siblings. I was shocked when my kids displayed moodiness and bad attitudes because “they’re homeschooled!”

The teen years are not an excuse to let your kids get by with bad attitudes, but don’t be surprised when these things crop up. Teens are trying to figure out their place in the world. They’re learning about love and friendship. They’re dealing with strange feelings toward the opposite sex and figuring out how to make their own way in the world. Some days they can’t wait to grow up and other days they wish parents had never been invented.  Teens are dealing with all of this conflict using very immature, inexperienced brains along with huge rushes of hormones.

Homeschooled teens have just as many bad days as traditionally schooled teens, so there’s nothing wrong with your family. Deal with the attitudes in a compassionate loving way and don’t smother your kids under the expectations that they will never have those rotten times.

2. Homeschooled teens teach themselves all their lessons.

I can’t believe I fell for this homeschooling myth. There are many smart homeschooled kids who do teach themselves chemistry, algebra, and calculus. However, there are just as many who need a little–or a LOT–of hand holding and direction in their lessons.

This concept scares many homeschooling parents (myself included) because their math skills may be a little shaky. I’ve seen these nervous parents dump the responsibility for learning these lessons into the laps of teens, saying that “People can teach themselves anything if they really want to.”

Of course, this is true. But most homeschooled teens don’t really WANT to learn these difficult subjects. If left to themselves, they’d rather do anything else than struggle alone through lesson after lesson of upper level math. These kids are aching for a teacher to come alongside them to teach them what they need to know.

I’ve dropped the ball far too many times in this department. It isn’t fair to my kids to just glibly tell them to figure it out. On my better days, my kid and I spend time together looking up website after website, lesson after lesson until the two of us figure out how it is done.

It IS hard. But it’s the right thing to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my kids when they ask me to do what I signed up to do when I decided to homeschool them. They’re asking for a teacher. I can either do it myself, or find one for them.

If I want them to have an excellent education. I am going to have to make that happen.

3. Homeschooled teens need friends.

I read all the books that said that homeschooled teens love hanging out with their families and siblings more than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, my family enjoys spending time together, but around the age of 12 or 13, my kids really longed to step away from the family a bit and make friends with their peers.

This was tricky for me because I read the books that said that my kids should be best friends with their siblings.

But, it’s developmentally normal. I had to step it up socially for my teens. And, yes, as an introvert, it was very, very challenging. But it was SO important.

My kids have the best group of friends. I love these teens so much, and I am so glad that my kids have this peer group. In fact, their concept of friendship is so much healthier than mine was as a teen.

I figured out that I saw teen friendships through the lens that I had developed as a teenager–teens that encouraged one another to develop poor attitudes and to do wrong things. In reality, teens can have healthy friendships that spur one another toward growth, spiritually and emotionally.  I’ve seen it happen in my kitchen every time their group gets together.

The energy that I expended making these relationships happen has been so worth it.

Teens do need friendships. I’ve learned to encourage the healthy ones, making them a priority, and talk, talk, talk to my kids so they know what healthy friendships look like. This helps them spot unhealthy relationships and manage the challenges relating to needy or unhealthy people.

4. Homeschooled teens need just as much prodding to get things done.

There are many tales of homeschooled teens who happily do their chores, their schoolwork, and start home businesses.

In my 15 years of homeschooling, I’ve never met one of these homeschooled kids. I am sure they exist somewhere, but most of the kids that I know…are just like mine. They’ll leave their shoes laying around, have to be told to do the chores that they do every single stupid day, and need external motivation to get their schoolwork done every day.

That’s normal teen behavior. They do grow out of it. At least, I’m told that they do. The jury is still out on my kids.

The teen years are hard but they’re not impossible. Just remember that kids are kids everywhere and don’t hold yours to an impossible standard just because they are homeschooled.

Should You Put Them Back In School?

In many areas of the country, school has been ongoing for a few weeks. For homeschoolers and typical schoolers, life has settled down into a somewhat predictable routine. For those who have started homeschooling for the first time this year, generally one of two things have happened. Either the routine is working and you’re loving the homeschooling life or things are way harder than you expected and you’re having some doubts. If you’re in this second category, this post is for you.

You feel that you’re in over your head. Perhaps the toddler dropped an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet during math yesterday and the baby just won’t stop crying. The laundry is piled so high you can’t even see the washer, and you ate the kids’ leftover pizza crusts off their plates for your supper last night. You’re wondering if you’re cut out for the homeschooling life and that big yellow school bus rolling down the street at 7 a.m. is extremely tempting.

Should you put the kids back in school before the rest of the class gets so far ahead they won’t catch up?

Are you going to damage their educational success by continuing to try this experiment?

Wouldn’t the whole family be better off if you could get a few things done each day instead of adding ‘educate the kids’ to your daily to-do list?

The answers to these questions are not simple. The decision to homeschool is an extremely complex one and individual to each family. Here are my thoughts.

First, regarding “being behind the rest of the class;” If your child is younger than the fifth grade, I wouldn’t worry too much about this one. A few weeks or months of slow but steady learning will not hurt your child.If you don’t get to history, science, or art for pretty much the whole year, your child will not be damaged in any way. The key is to keep trying and make a diligent effort every day to do *some* math, *some* English, and *some* reading, at least for the first month or two. If you don’t get to do a full lesson each day, just do what you can. Put in a reasonable amount of effort and let the rest go. The key is to start getting the whole family into a learning routine. As you go, you and the kids will get a bit better at time and family management.

Second, are you going to damage your kids learning like this? As long as your kids are learning and progressing, they’ll be fine. Slow for the first few weeks is okay. Just be diligent.

Third, the doubts about whether this is working are much more difficult to assess. I’m not one of those people who believe that homeschooling is for everyone. Each family is different. However, I would encourage you to give it three or four weeks of diligent effort before you throw in the towel. You can discern then whether or not it’s going to work out long term.

If you feel constantly overwhelmed with the chaos of juggling littles and teaching lessons, perhaps you should put this undertaking off for a year or two. It’s okay to admit that this is not the season for homeschooling for your family.

However, if you really want to make it work, figure out some strategies for making it doable.

If household chores are making you crazy, learn a solid housekeeping routine and get the whole family on board. Be realistic though and understand that your kids won’t like that very much and you will have to tell them again and again to do their chores. You could hire a maid or just do all of your cleaning and laundry on the weekends. After all, you are working when you are teaching your kids, so treat your household work like other working moms do.

If littles are an ongoing struggle, try to figure out a way to address it. Perhaps there’s a homeschooled teen living nearby who would love to earn some money playing with your toddler for a few hours each week. Maybe you could put your toddler tornado into mother’s day out once or twice a week. Use nap time as a good time to study. Or, just study with your kids while your little guy takes a bubble bath, plays in the sink (the floor needs mopping anyway), or sorts Fruit Loops. Your kids can also have a rotating assignment of entertaining the toddler as a part of their school.

If the kids are struggling to adjust to mom teaching them and taking their turns with her, brainstorm ways of making school work better for the family. Everyone should take turns and be fair. Maybe the kids can figure out better ways of juggling mom and the baby. I promise that they’ll be more invested in working a plan if they have a hand in creating a solution to the problem.

In the end if you do decide to put the kids back in school, know that it’s okay. You didn’t fail. You tried something and it didn’t work out the way that you planned. Maybe next year. Let go of the guilt and enjoy your kids while they are home in the afternoons and evenings.

 

 

How Do You Do It All?

I stay busy. I like to. We farm. I homeschool. I love to cook. I write as a freelancer and work at my church. I teach a weekly drama class and we put on two productions per year.

People ask me how I do it all.

Honestly, I don’t do it all.

I don’t create my own homeschool curriculum. I buy premade stuff and we do the next thing.

My high schoolers use the virtual school.

I don’t get caught up in “growing everything we eat, making 100% of our food from scratch with all organic ingredients.” I do the best I can to fill empty tummies with good wholesome food, but I don’t stress about it.

Our yard’s not pristine and weeds grow in my flowerbeds.

My house is livably clean but quite disorganized and sometimes messy.

I sew but only specialty items that are expensive and hard to find…which means a prom dress or two per year. Maybe a baby quilt for a gift.

So how do I do it all?

Well, I don’t do it all.

Nobody does.

No one can homeschool with nothing but a library card, raise all their own food, teach their kids three languages, sew their own clothing, teach at the local co-op, run a homeschooling group, cook from scratch, and run a part time business from home while keeping a sparkling clean, Martha Stewart home.

It’s impossible.

As an experienced homeschool mom, I’d advise anyone who feels inadequate to evaluate their own family and their own priorities. Focus on the two or three things that are most important to you and your kids, and let the rest go. Take into account the ages of your kids and don’t stress about it.

You don’t have to do it all, and neither do I.

Forget about Pinterest-perfect, and Facebook-flawless and just live your life to the best of your ability.

It’ll be okay.

 

 

Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, I took my girls to the Roxy in Clarksville, Tennessee to see a performance of The Taming of the Shrew as a homeschool field trip.

I loved it, and so did my girls. My youngest daughter, who is only 11, said ” Well, I didn’t understand a word they said, but by watching them, I knew what was going on. It was funny.”

See, that’s the beauty of Shakespeare onstage. Shakespeare was never meant to be read from a book. The full effect of Shakespeare’s scripts only occurs  when a troupe of actors takes those words and magically transforms them into stories.These stories, when done well, are interesting and often hilarious. Even a younger child like my daughter, who may miss some of the beauty of the words and dialogue, can follow the story.

Taming is my number one favorite Shakespeare play. I love wordplay and repartee and this play has so much of it. Another thing that a well done version of Taming of the Shrew contains is lots of physical humor. Yesterday’s fight scene between Petruchio and Kate was one of the best that I’ve ever seen. And yeah, I’ve seen many versions of this play.

Things I liked about the version we saw yesterday:

  • Kate, played by Margaret Eilertson, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. She did an excellent job of demonstrating the subtle shift between “Katerina the Cursed” and “Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate” who comes to love Petruchio. Also, Eilertson’s presentation of the Kate’s final monologue, scolding the other women for their selfish, disrespectful attitudes toward their husbands, was the absolute best I’ve ever seen, including the one that Liz Taylor gave in the 1967 movie version of the Taming of the Shrew.
  • I loved the costuming. The Roxy presented this play in the style of the 1920s and 1930s. I love it when people adapt Shakespeare’s works to other time periods.
  • Petruchio was masterfully played by Jonathan Whitney, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Flynn Rider from the Disney movie Tangled . With Kate having such a strong personality, it takes an equally strong one to stand up to her and make it believable. Despite an unfortunate pair of pirate pants (I could feel myself blushing…yikes), Petruchio was very well done.
  • Sometimes in these plays much attention is given to the lead roles and the supporting cast is rather mediocre. However, the other actors were great too. We especially loved Jay Doolittle’s Baptista (he was so cute!) and Michael Klug’s Gremio. Bianca was played by Emily Rourke, and we all wanted to slap her, which is a sign of a well-played Bianca–she’s supposed to be a manipulative, little snot.

A few cautions. First, King James English is used in Shakespeare of course, and the three letter word for donkey, considered crude in modern times, is sprinkled through the play. I just talked with my girls about that afterward. The make-out scenes between Bianca and Lucentio are ummm…very realistic. One of my friend’s daughters commented, “That kissing stuff isn’t as gross in the movies as it is in real life.” Considering that the Roxy is a small theater and we we sitting near the front, my 11 year old was about 10 feet away from some rather amorous behavior. I think she’s decided that kissing is  really disgusting and she’s going to avoid that for pretty much forever. I was a little nervous about taking my youngest to the play since Shakespeare can be a little raunchy, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.

Now that I’ve seen the Taming of the Shrew onstage, this weekend I am planning on watching my favorite movie version of this story, McClintock, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. While this movie was made a very long time ago, it’s still fabulous. This is a Western, cowboy version of Taming and I so love Maureen O’Hara in it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Taming of the Shrew as presented by the Roxy. I hope in their next season they include another of Shakespeare’s comedies, because I will be there.

Getting It Done

Over the past few years, my part time work has gradually ratcheted up. I’ve also taken on some duties at our church and began a drama class that consumes at least six hours a week. Despite my other interests, we still have to tackle schoolwork and take care of our farm animals. All that to say, we’re pretty busy people and I have to be quite intentional about getting important stuff done.

So how do I do it? Well, here are a few tips that I’ve used through the years to stay on top of things. Of course, I frequently get behind, but when things are working well, these are the things that I do.

Make a list. I usually make a couple lists. I make a weekly list and a daily list. Sometimes, if I don’t have a pile of stuff on my weekly list, I just check things off of it and don’t do a daily list. But, if there’s a ton going on, I tend to get overwhelmed with a huge list of my whole week’s chores, so I need it broken down into daily tasks. Furthermore, I will break down my daily list into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks to keep myself on track. Everyone know that “If mom doesn’t write it down, it doesn’t happen!” so, my family makes sure that things get jotted down on mom’s notepad. These lists aren’t complicated, but I usually make them on a steno pad or other notebook that lives on my counter. Otherwise, the lists get misplaced.

Delegate. First thing in the morning, I decide which chores will go to which kid. If I don’t consciously make these decisions when I am planning my day, I tend to try to do too much while the kids sit around and do nothing.

Use Pre-Planned curricula. As much as I love the idea of curricula that combine library books, art projects, printouts, and lots of informal learning, I’ve figure out that they are not for me. I need things that are open and go. If things get crazy, those planning-intensive programs will not happen. So, I’ve chosen things that don’t require lots of prep work from me.

Simplify where at all possible. My meals are tasty and nutritious for the most part. But they are not extravagant. Most of our meals are 30 minutes or less of prep. On days that I have to leave the house in the afternoon and won’t get back until late, I plan a quick and simple or crock pot meal. Also, my kids eat (gasp) cereal for most breakfasts. I like to cook, but I don’t have time for extravagant at this time in our life. At least not on school days.

Use little chunks of time. Many tasks can be broken down into 10-15 minute increments. Don’t have a huge block of time to clean the living room? Tackle it ten minutes at a time. You can clean out the couch, dust, or wipe the baseboards in ten minutes at a time. If you do this a couple times per day, your living room will be clean by evening. Don’t waste those tiny fragments of time that come your way. If I pay attention, I can use them to get things knocked out quickly. I timed myself once. It takes me less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher!

Don’t get behind on dishes or laundry. If I do nothing else with housekeeping during the day, I always do dishes before bed and a full load of laundry, including folding and putting it away.

Don’t get more than a week behind on grading papers. I hate grading papers, but it’s worse when it’s a huge mound that takes an hour and a half to plow through.

Just one more thing. I know, at the end of the day, you’re tired and so am I. But sometimes, I need to push through and finish that one more thing before I quit for the night. Clear that counter. Fold that laundry. Straighten up the living room. Just do that one more thing before you quit and that’s one less that will be staring at you in the morning.

I still get woefully behind on certain tasks. However, by using the above tips, I generally can avoid my work becoming overwhelming. Remember, if everyone has clean socks and undies, and a full belly, you can live to fight another day.

 

 

 

 

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns Part 2

Learning to accept mistakes and failure has been a LONG process for my daughter . I mean YEARS of work. There’s nothing that I’ve done that was an automatic home run. It’s taken many many years to come as far as we have.

One thing I’ve had to model was my acceptance of my own mistakes. “Rats. I burnt our supper. That is so annoying. Ugh. (sigh) Okay. I guess we will have grilled cheese tonight. It’s okay!”

You see, my kid was constantly comparing herself to an adult who (in her eyes) always does everything right. However, she can’t see the years of practice it takes to get good at stuff. So verbalizing my own mistakes, and failures and modeling how to gracefully accept mistakes helps.

With regard to school, I had to change from the mindset of “doing it over and over” to “We’re a team. Let’s (me and you) work through this together and find the problem” I had to come alongside her and help her. Markerboards are great because if you mess up, the mistake is wiped away. However, I have to approach helping this daughter differently. Any expression of frustration, any irritability on my part, and emotion other than cheerful helpfulness (and it has to be genuine! She can spot my faking it!) just multiplies her emotional response to failure.

So, when we work together, I stop and check my mindset. Am I stressed? Am I annoyed that she’s whining or frustrated yet again? I’ve got to get that under control before I can be an effective teacher. It’s okay to say, “Sweetie, I am having a hard time today. I would love to help you but you deserve a teacher who can be patient with you and I’m just not there right now. Is there any way we can come back to this in an hour?”

Next, I try to reassure her. “Hey, this is hard. It’ll be okay. We can get through it.” Gentle hug on the shoulders. Help her take deep breaths. Remember it’s just ONE lesson on ONE day. “If we don’t get it today, we’ll try again tomorrow. No big deal.”

I often hand her a few chocolate chips or a peppermint to suck on as I look it over. Sometimes, especially if I am working with my other kids I say gently, “Hey, I know you don’t want to be interrupted, and I want to give you my full attention. Is there any way that you can move on to something else for a bit and we will tackle this with fresh eyes in an hour?”

So we sat down with a marker board. I tried to explain as best I could. I definitely tried to avoid “talking down” to her. Things went best when I could keep it on a peer-to-peer type tone to the explanation.(I know I am still the mom, I’m just explaining how things work best.)

For us, things went best when I could break stuff down into microbits and make sure she got one step down pat before we moved on to the next.

Also, in math, for very tricky concepts (especially word problems with fractions!) I tried to demonstrate it with small manageable whole numbers and then once the understanding was there, we tried to apply that to the complexity of fractions.

Remember, I’m a mess too. So often, I forgot to do all of the above and we had a huge breakdown that was partially caused by my being in a hurry or my own frustration.

Another thing that I wish I had done when my dd was younger was to be more in tune to age appropriate materials. See, she’s really really smart and just zipped through material in the first and second grade. By the time she was 8-9 years old she had the assumption that school was supposed to be easy. Then when the materials ramped up in complexity, she didn’t know how to handle it. Also, she probably sensed my own foolish pride at having a child who was working so far ahead of grade level.

I also didn’t take into account that materials written for the average 5-6 grader assume that the child has the maturity to sit down for  a longer, more strenuous lesson. The lessons had more problems with more complexity. When my 8 yo was given these same materials, she was frustrated because she didn’t have the EMOTIONAL maturity to sit down and concentrate that long on the subject. So I should have been more conscious of the fact that while she could understand the complexity of the topic, she was still very much 8 years old and she probably needed more than one day to tackle a typical lesson for an older kid.

Also, I’ve learned to very wisely choose my battles. As long as handwriting is legible and reasonably neat, I don’t say too much about it. As long as she’s doing her work well, she can work with classical music blaring. As long as she’s doing well, I don’t care if she’s slouched on the couch or sitting at the table.

These kids really need autonomy and respect. Giving her the freedom to choose how to learn certain things shows her that I respect that. And I try to phrase it in a way that says, “Hey, as long as it’s working, we’ll do it your way. If it stops working you and I will figure out a better way.” The key is to make sure that she’s in on the solution to finding that better way, rather than me dictating stuff to her.

Homeschooling an intense kid is not easy at all. However, it is possible. There are many ways to figure out how to make it work. These are just some suggestions that worked for us. If you’re a parent of an intense, easily frustrated child and you want to homeschool, it is possible.

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns!

One of the most difficult parts of homeschooling my intense child has been working around meltdowns related to schoolwork. It’s practically impossible to teach a child who is crying, screaming, or throwing things.

Intense kids have very low tolerances for frustration, and this means that the instant something is difficult, they may fall apart. Some kids may lash out in anger, while others melt into a puddle of tears. Either way, you can’t make progress on your lessons when the second that something is challenging, your child melts down.

For many years, I was unsure how to handle these events. I tried punishing her. I tried making her redo shredded or wadded up papers. I tried being slow, calm, and patient, which only seemed to infuriate her more.

Eventually, I had to start considering things from my daughter’s point of view and I began to understand some things about her.

I had to realize that my daughter has insane expectations of herself.  She is totally a perfectionist and totally can’t accept failures and faults. She believes that she should instantly know everything that she doesn’t. She bristles at the idea that parents might know more than her.

You can call it arrogance or whatever, I think it’s mostly immaturity. Remember when as a teen you thought that your parents were ignorant? You didn’t understand about life and the real world. You didn’t respect that they had experiences that you didn’t.

All that to say this: I took the mouthy argumentativeness way too personally. Most of her problems with school stemmed from her immature inability to accept help and her own limitations. Of course, she WAS being rude, but by thinking about her mindset, her terrible expectations, I could see that she was expecting WAY more of herself academically than I EVER could. That’s why “being right” or being unable to gracefully accept correction became such an issue. She took those red Xs on the page completely  personally. She saw them as a personal attack on her intelligence.

My fussing and fuming over her rudeness and arrogance was missing the point. I had to find a way to help her see that failure isn’t the end of the world. That asking for help wasn’t a failure. That she was valuable and loved even with flaws.

Now stay with me here. I’m not into that parenting paradigm that says, “Nothing is a child’s fault. If they feel loved and accepted they will not behave badly. Bad parenting is the only reason that kids struggle.” I promise that is not what I am saying.

But the point that I am trying to make is that unless I could look deeper and get to the root of why she was so hard on herself and why she had such dreadful expectations, I could expect the melt-downs to continue. If I could help her understand more about the learning process, the struggle to get things right, and that naturally some things are going to be hard, she might eventually be able to not take failure and struggle so personally.

I can gripe at my daughter for being rude and arrogant, but until she grows into the realization that her value is not related to her academic success, I’m fighting a losing battle. She will still react badly to failure until she gains the maturity and insight and the confidence that she’s going to be okay even if she screws up.

I’ve had to try to stop punishing and isolating her for poor reactions due to this. Instead, I try to be proactive and change the way that we do school to help her gently accept correction. I’ve learned that traditional school methods (marking things wrong and expecting the child to correct them or redo them until it’s right) will just lead to her feeling more down on herself. She interprets them as a personal attack. I’ve had better success changing the way that I approach schoolwork and corrections and asking for help.

Even when an intense kids seems old enough to be able to tackle lessons on their own, I learned that things went better when I sat with my daughter as she worked on difficult lessons. I could keep an eye on her progress and her mental state. If she seemed to be getting worked up, we could tackle the problem together before the meltdown hit.

I also had to be super careful not to get frustrated or act bothered by her requests for assistance. If I could keep it together, we stood a better chance of getting through the snag without falling apart.

I’ll go on to part 2 with some concrete examples and more practical advice on school work meltdowns in a day or two.

Well Trained Mind Seminar—Slideshow Link

Today, I presented my seminar “Teaching ‘Ramona Quimby:’ Homeschooling the Intense Child.” I presented a slideshow along with my lecture. If you are interested, here is the link to it. I hope that the seminar went well. It’s hard to judge when you are presenting online whether or not you are boring people to death. I hope that it was somewhat helpful to those who are in the trenches with their intense, challenging, argumentative kids.

Exciting News–Free Homeschooling Seminar!

I have some exciting new for all of you. This summer, I am participating in a homeschooling seminar. The cool thing about this seminar is that there are no flights to catch, no hotel rooms to book, no traffic, and no parking. This seminar is online, so you can watch your sessions without ever having to get a babysitter for the kids. Additionally, if you can’t watch online live, you can access recordings for awhile through the website.

The focus of my seminar are those challenging, difficult, hard-to-handle kids who do so many great things, but can also drive us crazy. I’ve titled this discussion “Teaching Ramona Quimby: Homeschooling Your Intense Child.”

During this talk, I will provide encouragement for moms of these crazy kids, common-sense, practical ideas for managing their personalities without going crazy yourself, and how you can have a successful homeschool with one of these kinds of kids in the house.

The awesome thing about this opportunity is that it is absolutely free. You can register online with the link to the Well Trained Mind Online Conference Series.

Previous Older Entries

My Fitness Pal Tracker

%d bloggers like this: