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I could use some insight....and maybe encouragement

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

*deep breath*


I started homeschooling my 7yo grade 2 son in January.


We decided to homeschool because:

  1. we never meant to public school in the first place, but my husband's a student and I had to work, and that meant public school. The ideal, IMO, would have been montessori, but we could not financially swing it.
  2. the amount of time wasted to transitions and busy work in the public school system (I'm a public school teacher and often look around and ask myself "would I want my kid in this class" and the answer is *almost* always a big fat no.
  3. DS was unhappy and frequently complaining that he was bored. Social issues played a small roll, but nothing more than typical playground disagreement stuff that DS would take to heart or he'd try to solve everyone else's problems and create more of his own.
  4. He had anxiety before bed, which lead to late nights and early mornings, and often rough mornings trying to get ready and get out the door and get to school.


We hoped homeschooling would:

  1. allow him to rediscover a love of learning
  2. help his confidence and improve his outlook on life


What we got:

When we first started, DH wanted assessments and tracking progress and schedules and distinct times for "school" and man-o-man did that flop. DS and I both wanted to punch eachother by the end of it. I saw he'd stress when things got challenging and sabotage the activity choosing silliness or attitude in order to avoid making mistakes or admitting he didn't know something.


From there I backed off. We focussed on expectations (dressed to socks before sitting down to breakfast, getting through the tasks of the day- simple, low-output/low-stress things like Lego and drawing and reading, then screens were an option after 2:00).


In the midst of all this, DS started seeing a psychologist to help with nightmares and a general dislike of sleep (at night....morning's a different story). After 6 weeks, the next step is a psyc ed assessment which actually makes me giddy because I'm starting to see he's not bored because he's advanced, he's bored because he's avoiding, and there's something going on, I'm 90% sure of it.


Tonight, DS is begging to go back to school. He claims I don't love him and I wish he were never born (?!?!?). If I had my way, we'd be eating up our time together: museums, homeschool groups, extra-curriculars, science centres, the whole nine yards and really connecting and exploring and I could boast how awesome this is and he couldn't do that in public school. The thing is, with DH in school and me on mat leave, we are living on half of a single income. We have a housemate and I do childcare just to keep us in the black. That means no transportation, no mounds of time (transitions are hard on DS...when I have to do afterschool care, doing anything else earlier in the day is a recipe for disaster), and no money to do much with.


I feel like there is NO local support. There is one gym class on Wednesdays for homeschoolers that DS almost got in a fist fight at the last one (I was busy with the younger child I care for, and my 7 month old) so didn't even pick up on it until he tried to go after him swinging. He doesn't want to go back. He claims he doesn't want to be with younger kids (he forgets that there were older kids and a couple his age there as well). It costs us $10 by the time we pay for the bus, and often have to leave early to get back to do after school care. 


We have our good days, we have our great days, we have our crap days. Today was decent up until going to pick up a friend's daughter who we watch after school. That's when things took a turn for the worse. We talked tonight and he said seeing school makes him sad and that he wants to go back.


Honestly, I do not think putting him back in school is the answer.


I'm feeling like I can't wait for this psyc ed assessment so I can better understand what his brain is doing and support him in ways he needs. He's a sensitive boy, and super snuggly when things are good, and super sour when things are bad.


I just want him to find the sweet him that he used to be. I want us to find a way to make this work. Please tell me it can and that I'm not being a complete witch for not letting him go back to school.

post #2 of 10

This doesn't sound easy.  Maybe that's what he expected-- that homeschooling would be easy and this hasn't met his high hopes.  Doing "school at home" sounds like it is bringing some of the problems from school home with you.  7yo is still very young.  


I have no advice for you.  Just posting to wish you well.

post #3 of 10

My gut instinct is that putting him back in school would be a disaster. He will have to navigate social situations and enter into a classroom of established friendships, being a little behind in school work, and having to do the morning thing all over again. I think it would last a couple of days at most and he'd want to homeschool again.


All of his issues, including what he is labeling "boredom," could easily be anxiety. Anxiety makes it difficult to focus and engage, which is why anxious kids sometimes say they are bored (when the problem is that they can't find something engaging enough to hold their interest because they can't allow themselves to fully enter into an activity because of the anxiety). TV feels really good to some anxious children because they don't have to direct their attention anywhere... its captured for them by the tv show.


Could some of his unhappiness be due to not having a solid, secure schedule, in which things happen exactly the same way every day? You guys are in transition, feeling out what works and what doesn't, and making adjustments as you go, and its a necessary part of figuring out how to best homeschool your child, but it might be leaving him feeling a little destabilized and uncertain, and having more power over his schedule and activities than he feels capable of handling.


Maybe you can approach the idea of returning to school with him by having him "get ready" first, so that the transition will be easier:


1. He'll get up at the time he would need to if he were going to school, and get ready

2. He'll participate in the academic activities he needs to each day to keep up with his classmates.


If he can do those things for one week, then maybe he really does want to go back to school. But I'll bet he's anxious and adjusting, and needing a whole lot of structure and predictability. I also suspect he won't be able to do 1 and 2.  I suspect what he really wants is relief from his anxious feelings, and he's grasping at straws as to what will bring him that relief.


The beauty of homeschooling is that the child gets to have more choice in what they are learning, and how, and when, and all that... but that is at odds with a child with anxiety. Children with anxiety actually feel better when they have fewer choices, as long as the things they don't get to choose are kind and sensitive. (So do grown-ups).

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thank you both.


BC, I think you hit the nail on the head.


I don't think school is the magic answer either. I think it would be disasterous and you're right, I don't think he'd be able to do either of those two things.


I do think we need structure (we have more of a routine than a schedule, but maybe I need to add in even more. I'm hesitant to insist on specific activities too much because he easily gets overwhelmed and defiant, which to me is a defence mechanism for his thoughts of "I can't do do that, I'm dumb, and that's too hard". He really is mostly happy to do his thing through the day; we play games, make books, craft, draw, read. We do have truly enjoyable days, but then when it comes to leaving the house (which personally, I NEED and he does too once he's out there....usually) he'll sabotage it. He hyper-focusses on the negative too. In that moment of feeling awful, nothing else matters. In his mind he's been cheated and wronged and that person's actions are seen as a direct attack on him that he's the victim of with no control over (when in reality he'll be asked not to do something, get over-cocky/confident, only be asked once more then risk consequences....when conflict progresses this far the rest of the day's a write-off and guaranteed to be the worst day of his life...in his eyes).


My hard decision right now: I see that me doing child care is a MAJOR source of stress for him. It's an hour out of the day a few days a week and then we have a 16mo old with us two days a week. It's really not much, but it's enough to make those days bad days, but those days are the difference of keeping our family in the black or going large amounts into debt each week.


Maybe a predictable weekend job would be better, but that brings a whole other slew of issues (I'm on EI so am capped to making only $50/wk extra if it's official pay, and being away from my 8 month old).


He is seeing a play psychologist. My thoughts: some learning disability (and maybe anxiety) is leading to a poor self-esteem and a low-confidence, which makes him try to over-compensate and grab at  status whenever he can, which is often done inappropriately, which leads to concequences, which destroys him because he's sensitive. ....any advice on how to break that cycle are welcome too. That's going to be my focus of the week. He will typically loose access to screens if he's not listening to a reasonable request with one warning/reminider (and he really doesn't get too much screen time, IMO. Screens are only between 2:00-5:00, most of which is time we end up out of the house for so really it's closer to 1hr max/day).

post #5 of 10

I think it might be worth it to get a first grade curriculum of some sort (or put one together yourself) instead of focusing on second grade academics (not that you are) to build his confidence. Something at which it's difficult for him to fail.


My DD was avoidant of much of the second grade academic work we were doing, especially reading. She would get really silly, and when she wasn't being silly, she'd squirm, dance, take forever to do anything, sing, try to make deals with me... I thought she was bored with the material at first. Then I suspected some kind of dyslexia, maybe, so I took her to a special tutoring center for reading and they evaluated her and are now doing lessons with her. (DD had gone to public school for much of first grade and they hadn't picked up on anything). She is now making great progress. But what I learned from her language arts tutor is that it doesn't matter where they "should" be, what matters is that the work you do with them is fairly easy to do and that they don't have to struggle with it, and that there is an ideal range, somewhere between difficult enough that its engaging and easy enough that they don't have to work at it too much.


With a child with anxiety, that range is even narrower. If you could find a first grade or even kindergarten workbook or a system that he could see he is making steady progress (and if he complains "this is too easy!" that's a good sign, because it means he's feeling proud of himself and confident - it doesn't always mean he's ready to move to something more challenging) I think he'd start to feel better about his ability to do schoolwork. One of the things I do with DD is use the DRA system at the library (there's several different ways children's books are coded for level, and our library uses the DRA system) which has numbers on the spine of some of the books in the early reader section. DD is supposed to be reading at 24 for second grade; she CAN read level 18 books; I have her reading one 10-14 book each day, because that is where she is comfortable enough to read it well and thus gains confidence.


Regarding the childcare, I wonder if you could problem-solve with him, letting him know that you HAVE to do childcare, and given that, you see he is having a hard time with it, and you'd like to find ways to make that time of the day on those days easier for him. Maybe he'd have some good ideas; maybe he could have special computer time during that time, or special movie time, or if you are in the car, do you think he'd like playing one of those hand-held games or listening to a book on CD/tape from the library? Or maybe Legos are available only during childcare hours, or something. I realize that might be a long chunk of time for the days you have the 16mo - but maybe on those days the special activity could be during those hours he most struggles and not all day.


I see that he loses priviledges when he gets defiant and absurd about stuff but is there also a positive program in which he can earn special priviledges, such as for going in the car with you without complaining, delaying, or dramatizing, or for completing his small list of academic tasks each day, or whatever you think he CAN succeed at and is specific and daily? I think when only negative consequences are used without a robust program of positive consequences at the same time that can undermine an child's confidence and cause him to start thinking of himself as a problem, as someone who can't do it, as a person who will fail.

post #6 of 10

I would sit down as a family and commit to giving homeschooling a fair trial for the rest of the school year at least and then re-evaluate. It takes time to find your groove- a month or two really is not enough time to give it. Try different things and work on connecting. Every moment isn't going to be bliss no matter what you do.


Read aloud to your ds while he plays with legos or draws. Get him involved in doing things around the house with you.

If he does not feel confident moving ahead academically can you do a bunch of review or approach the topics a different way? Maybe try lapbooking or do some fun unit studies for awhile.


Remind him that he was unhappy and bored at school and maybe the stuff he misses are things you can find another way to do. Talk about the things he likes about not going to school even more than what he misses. Listen to him and work together to find ways to make homeschooling fit him better. I would ask your ds what he wants to do with you, what makes him feel loved and what he would like to learn.  Brainstorm all the free things you can do to have fun together.





Have more structure if you think he needs it but I would be flexible about it. I wouldn't nag or punish if things weren't getting done if they don't really matter. There is a difference between not walking the dog and not wearing socks. I would thank him for the things he does to help your home run more smoothly.


Have you thought about something like Big Brothers, Big Sisters for him?


I've been homeschooling my dd who has anxiety and a tendency to be negative. She balks at change, is upset by surprises and we often have to do things at a much slower pace. We have outings much less frequently because they do stress her out. We try to help her see positives instead of negatives. It is a lot of work and we definitely have bad days but I think it is much better for her than a school environment would be.


My dd liked What to Do When You Grumble Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Negativity  and What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner.

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks again.


This is such a wild roller-coaster ride. Today's been great, but the witching hour is near (2:00 toddler is coming, then we head out to pick up our friend's daughter....we're walking down for pizza today because neither one of us can handle another cruddy day like yesterday).


We are able to talk (not in the moment, he shuts down, but at night he's really good about pin-pointing what he needs). And are slowly but surely finding our way through this mess.


He would like us to just let him know when something's a bad idea and then leave it up to him. I'm willing to give that a try, as long as it's not hurtful, neglectful, or grossly un-safe. I see those punishments crush him (it was me attempting to take the choice out of things and maintain structure, but clearly that's too much push and not enough give). Hopefully we'll find that sweet spot.


He mirrors a lot of what he hears from DH, who also has a tendancy to hyper-focus on the negative. He's made an honest effort in the last week to change that, or at least to consider the negativity he shows in front of DS. 


As a teacher with a degree in both psychology and child studies, I have NO academic concerns with DS. He's a smart kid (though I do see him struggle with written output and would like to find ways to help him with that). DH on the other hand, doesn't see the learning that takes place in play, and is fixated on data and tests and output. DH is worrying that he's falling behind, so DS is starting to think the same (and worry about it). 


DH has agreed to let him try a karate class (which he's wanted FOREVER and I do think will be good for him), so I'm hoping that helps give him a sense of companionship and community, which I know is another thing he longs for (but seems to think he needs fancy toys and video games in order for people to like him, so will rarely invite anyone over).

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

^ I put that second title in my Amazon cart the other day. He gets books from the psychologist and they are really helpful (we've read a book on Mindfulness for Children, and Peaceful Piggy Meditation). He LOVES to read, so those positive messages and coping mechanisms coming from another source other than me are really nice to have around.

post #9 of 10

One thing that helped my oldest to not dwell on the negative was to keep a journal.  This wasn't an ordinary journal.  Everyday she wrote "The best part of today was. . . " and then she put her favorite part of the day in it and drew a picture.  She was only five at the time, so the writing really was minimal and we helped her often.  I could see offering a selection of "prompts" and letting him choose which prompt to use for the day.  


Then, my middle child was really hard on herself when she came home from school to begin homeschooling.  For a brief period of time we actually "forbid" hurtful words.  If she was "caught" she had to say three positives about herself.  And then (horror upon horrors) she got to listen to me say three more.  This wouldn't work for everyone, but for us, it helped her realize that she has lots of good qualities and we usually got silly at the end of it.  Once though, she crossed the line. . .I don't remember how, but I was so frustrated that I made her write "I am a wonderful person and my mom loves me.  I am nice, smart, kind, and a good sister."  I think she wrote it three times and then had to say it every morning.  Recently, she overheard her younger sister say something bad about herself.  K was shocked and told her that she used to feel bad about herself sometimes too, but that she was really a good person.  Then, she warned her sister not to let me hear.  That got me chuckling and we all had a really good laugh about it.  Like I said, this wouldn't work for everyone because it might actually seem punitive.  I did this with a light hearted touch.  She is now a very positive person, and still every bit as wonderful.  I don't think it was simply because of this though.  I think she NEEDED to come home to learn vs the b&m school.  It was rough on her self esteem.


I don't know what the magic trick will be for my youngest.  All my girls have gone through this though.  However, the above method would only feel like punishment to my youngest, so I need to get creative.  


Good luck



post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Great ideas. We've started a pillow journal to eachother and he does have a journal but writing stresses him out, so I haven't MADE him write. I will try to encourage him more regularly though. He does have a list of prompts, but maybe I should sift through them and mount them in a visible place.


I like your positive self-talk ideas. I think done playfully, it just may work. I'll try it :).

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