"Learning" pressure from noncustodial parent - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-31-2014, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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"Learning" pressure from noncustodial parent

I am a single mother homeschooling my 6 year old son. His father and I have some disagreement on what he "should" know at this age and the amount of structured learning time he "should" receive. He's a very sharp kid with a broad vocabulary. I think his reading level is fine. He can sound out words. His dad thinks he "should" be able to sight read "pancake and peanut butter and jelly". His dad is doing flashcards with him now and I'm afraid their strong wills will kill my son's love of learning.
Should I get DS academically tested by a homeschool tutor? Maybe just a checklist for grades? But we homeschool he doesn't have to be on grade level. Grrr. We're never going to see eye to eye on many things but I would like to ease his worries and pressure on us.
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:55 AM
 
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Hopefully he will just kill his love of flashcards

Seriously, I think some change of perspective on your ex's part is necessary in order to keep what harmony you do have over your son's education. It's a good start that he is on board with homeschooling in general. What else does he enjoy about the idea of homeschooling?

I would not get into a knock-down-drag-out fight with him if he is on board, though it sounds like there is some tension already. Is he using flashcards to counteract the "deficit" he sees in your style? Or does he think that flashcards are a good approach in and of themselves? If it's the second, if he's not doing it to "make up for" your "slack homeschooling", or whatever, then I would roll my eyes privately and let this go. The fight could turn ugly, and you could find that you have to prove yourself in court.

Ideally, he would find that any potential struggles with teaching your son are not so much your son's fault or yours but his own expectations of what's normal. I think conversations with homeschooling parents with older kids, conversations with the evaluator about his experience with homeschooling families. Because--you know this--the truth is that, without the pressures of schools, kids begin reading independently at wildly diverging ages. There really is no hard-and-fast "should". Many of us learn that through experience, though, and your son is still young and you are still new homeschoolers.

For my dh, he had enough negative experiences in school, and enough positive experiences with pursuits of his own making, that he is fully on board with what we are doing and how we are doing it. Maybe your ex has no such experience that would make aligning to more relaxed expectations easier.

"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
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Old 08-03-2014, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks SweetSilver.

Yes I definitely want to keep the peace. There is already tension and I would like to lessen it. X has had some bad experiences in public school, but I'm not sure what he likes about homeschool.

The words that he thought DS should read were all food words so I'm sure X got embarrassed when DS couldn't or wouldn't read the menu. DS has a sense of when he's being asked to perform and can just shut down.

X is trying to counter perceived deficit. He has asked for more time for DS at his house, since getting married and sharing the homeschooling (with his wife) which I am not at all interested in doing. I do like her but don't want to give my time to her.

Has anyone had kids this young tested for reasons like this? Seems kind of silly. Maybe some good studies on age of reading?
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Old 08-05-2014, 04:20 AM
 
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I know I've read some informal studies/observations on average reading age, but I can't seem to find much of it online. I'll look when I get home to my library, but in the meantime John Holt has some great stuff on home/unschooled kids and reading. Better Late Than Early (Moores) makes some great points about delayed formal work in general; fairly heavily Christian, though, if that matters to you or him.

If it makes you feel any better, my DH, (who first brought up homeschooling, BTW) gets this weird obsession with reading at that age as well. I suspect for the same reason, though he would never admit it-embarassment/comparison with other kids.
It drives me bonkers because after they can read he pretty much abdicates these things to me, but we are on our second 6 yo and I can see the same pushing of workbooks and copywork and souuunding words out starting right back up again! Even though he agrees with our basic philosophy of delaying formal academic work longer than most he gets itchy and insecure until they can read but once they can he relaxes about the whole thing. Perhaps your son's Dad will as well.

Then again, my best friend has been in a similar situation and she had great success with writing up their activities as a formal learning plan of sorts. She didn't change anything about their unschooling life, but wrote things up in academic terms to pacify his fears about their son "not learning anything". Baking would turn into 'exploring measurements, adding fractions and observing chemical reactions', our hiking trips were 'nature walks' and 'physical education' etc.
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Old 08-05-2014, 11:48 AM
 
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I am a stepmom. Raising kids with my husband's ex-wife was THE worst experience in my life. I can only imagine how hard the experience was on the kids (they're in their 20s now.)

My biggest advice to two household families is, unless there is true abuse, to accept and support whatever the other family is doing. My favorite sound bite is, "Just because I am right and we disagree does not mean you are wrong." When your son is grown it will be better for him to say, "My parents raised me in different ways and I really learned about diversity and trust," than "You would not believe how much they fought over flashcards. I don't even remember the flashcards but I remember the nitpick remarks and the bad feelings."

This is his child too (and the stepmom's as well.) They love your son and want what is best for him just as much as you do. And, though I'm sure you find it hurtful, I'll say it again, your son is now the stepmom's son. And be grateful for that. Be grateful she's getting thrown up on with her only response being concern for your son. Be grateful she is concerned about your son's education and general well-being. Stepmoms love children in ways biological moms can't understand. As a biological and adoptive mom I know how much harder it is to raise a child with a non-supportive, jealous biological mother in the background. So, send her a card and some flowers telling her how much you appreciate her and stop worrying about the flashcards. They are so not-important compared to the bigger issues here.

Also, it might help if you address the dad's worries in a supportive way. I like Stormborn's ideas of writing up the things they did. Let your ex- know you hear his concerns and are incorporating them into what you do and that you are supportive of however he chooses to address it himself. You may find that if you support him he is more likely to hear your perspective. More importantly, if you let the stepmom know you hear her concerns and support her actions, you may find that they feel relieved (remember, the stepmom is often the driving force in their parenting team just like legal moms married to legal dads are often the driving force.) Maybe share some of your favorite homeschooling books and articles with the stepmom. Make her your partner, "I've really found this works for me, maybe it'll work for you, too."

Trust me, when your son is in his 20s you will realize (if you haven't before) that the tiny details of HOW you each parented are insignificant compared to the general emotional level and support your son felt. In an ideal family situation flashcards matter, in a divorce situation they are almost irrelevant. It's a hard fact. We raised kids under horrible circumstances. We never got to make a good decision, just "least bad" decisions.

One idea on how you can support your ex's ideas is if it seems that menu items are important to him, you could create menus for your dinners. Hand your son a homemade menu with tonight's dinner written on it. Make a game of deciphering it. Tell your ex and his wife that you've started doing that. They may find it a great idea and do it as well. If they don't, that's ok.

They love your son and want what is best for him. Always remember that.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 08-05-2014, 10:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Bad news, stepmom walked out on X. Quite honestly I liked her more and trusted her more with DS than I do with X. But the newness was also part of the reason I was resistant of her taking a bigger role. X had been out of state for a year and a half and recently came back with a new wife. A few months later and she's gone. X can be quite controlling and has anger issues.

We're also going to check out a part time Montessori program that might be a good fit for DS and take a lot of pressure off of me.

Stormborn. Yes it does make me feel better to realize that if I had a DH I would still go through similar issues. I really like the idea of writing up daily activities in academic terms for myself and Xs benefit. This would also help X know more about what level of intensity DS can take. Today on a computer game DS was reading the last 3 words of every sentence with some help. He could maybe have read the whole thing if I pushed hard but it was enjoyable.

Baby's up more later...
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Old 08-06-2014, 01:26 AM
 
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Aw, I didn't mean it like that, I hope I didn't offend! Just that it seems like a "guy thing" to me, and maybe your situation will resolve itself the same way. The first time it was a bigger problem because my main goal at that age is to impress upon them that learning is a joy, not a boring chore to get through. Now at least I can look back and say that while dd (now 12) certainly hated flashcards and copywork with Dad at 6, it didn't scar her forever , she just accepted that Mama and Papa teach differently.
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Old 08-06-2014, 08:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh no offence stormborn! Somehow I was seeing it as an X issue. Your understanding of your DH in this matter made me able to see it as something that could happen with a X or a DH. I was the only parent for a year and a half. Still readjusting to hearing a second parenting opinion.

SundayCrepes I really appreciate your views as a stepmom on this. I can really resonate with the "least bad" decisions. I also think that X could probably do work with DS with flashcards that momma wouldn't ever be able to do. I hope they can. My concern is that X feels DS's education is so neglected that he needs to resort to flash cards. I have never said anything to X about flash cards. I just really want to ease X's fears for everyone's sake.
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:06 PM
 
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How sad for your son that his stepmom left. This could be really hard for him. (Or not, depending on how attached he'd become.)

I think it's good to address your x's concerns in a supportive fashion. Unfortunately too often in divorce cases what seems like support to one party can feel like an attack to the other. I wonder if your x's desire for flashcards is an example of this. Maybe it feels like an attack to you where for him it's the only way he knows how to teach. I'm not saying that's the case, I'm just using it as an example.

We are now on the second batch of kids. These are only being raised by me and my husband. It is a totally different experience. We do get to make what we feel are good decisions. The first batch of kids is grown now. It is nice to be able to have the focus of our decisions be what is best for the kids and not what is the least damaging. Unfortunately, it may be that the best you can do for your son is what is the least damaging.

I wonder if either of these resources would be helpful:
http://www.fun-books.com/books/livin...ing_guides.htm

Amazon Amazon

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 08-08-2014, 12:54 PM
 
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Can I start this post with a big SIGH? I have the kids 60% of the time, ex has them 40% (apart for 4.5 years now). Ds has "giftedness", ADHD, 3 learning disabilities. Dd seems like a typical bright learner. I do my best with homeschooling but get major criticism from dh and X. Stepmom just broke up with X so I guess she's out of the picture. None of them have really taken the time to understand the children as individual learners and have a very anxiety-based and "schooly" view of education. What has helped:

1. X and I have legal agreements specify that we have to AGREE on educational choices. if the kids are in an educational program, then we follow the PROGRAM

2. we are in a "schooly" homelearning program that has real teachers and is part of the public school system (8 hours per week). this is working for us because a real teacher oversees the kids' education and can speak to their progress in a schooly context. ironically, usually the teacher backs up my point of view with X because she has a realistic understanding of what will and will not work with my ds - modern education has a much more sophisticated approach to learning compared with the schools of my childhood. because of our agreements, dh cannot bully me to go beyond the programs expectations (even though he tries, constantly). The kids are actually thriving in the program (parents do most of the academics, program does more "fun" stuff).

3. X and I share a google spreadsheet where that has a column for date, parent's initial, child's initial, subject abbreviation (including physical exercise, project-based homeschooling), and description. Five minutes a day is what it takes for me to translate how we spent our day into "schooly" language. I can prove to X, to dh, to the program, to myself, and to a judge (if it ever came to that), that I am putting a lot of effort into educating my children. This involves NO communication with X, which works for me.

4. I refuse to argue with X about homeschooling. I listen to his points but if he starts bullying I boundary then walk away - I limit in-person communication because it doesn't work for me. Generally we discuss things by email and my replies are always neutral and to the point.

5. I do not comment on or try to control how X homeschools the kids even though I disagree with it. I hope that my kids learn from me that it's most effective to work within your own circle of influence and let go of what you can't control.

Now is a good time to set up structures that will work for all of you.

To be honest, I am not convinced that I would have toughed out homeschooling after divorce if my ds didn't have "issues". It has been really hard in many ways. If my kids had been attending school, it would have provided them with the continuity in their educational and social lives that their home lives don't provide them with. And with Stepmom about to move out, and an upcoming X home move, there will be even more chaos and drama on that end.

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Old 08-08-2014, 01:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post
Also, it might help if you address the dad's worries in a supportive way. I like Stormborn's ideas of writing up the things they did. Let your ex- know you hear his concerns and are incorporating them into what you do and that you are supportive of however he chooses to address it himself. You may find that if you support him he is more likely to hear your perspective. More importantly, if you let the stepmom know you hear her concerns and support her actions, you may find that they feel relieved (remember, the stepmom is often the driving force in their parenting team just like legal moms married to legal dads are often the driving force.) Maybe share some of your favorite homeschooling books and articles with the stepmom. Make her your partner, "I've really found this works for me, maybe it'll work for you, too."
My perspective:
Yes to accepting what is happening in the other household (except abuse). Yes to respectful sharing of opinion and information. Yes to respectful listening. Yes to general goodwill. But be careful about "support". When parents get divorced they need to have firm boundaries because they are no longer partners. Beware of overcompensating for an ex who needs/wants/expects hand-holding and support from both a girlfriend AND ex-wife. My X ditched me but doesn't always understand that his problems are no longer my problems. You can direct your X to sources of support without being one yourself.

sharing life with | 10 yo ds | 8 yo dd | dh (since 2012)
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Old 08-14-2014, 01:07 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flowmom View Post

3. X and I share a google spreadsheet where that has a column for date, parent's initial, child's initial, subject abbreviation (including physical exercise, project-based homeschooling), and description. Five minutes a day is what it takes for me to translate how we spent our day into "schooly" language. I can prove to X, to dh, to the program, to myself, and to a judge (if it ever came to that), that I am putting a lot of effort into educating my children. This involves NO communication with X, which works for me.
I'm a single mom homeschooler as well-I have the kids majority of the time and do all of the homeschooling. Ex mostly leaves it alone, except to occasionally chime in about his concerns. Dd7 is reading not quite at great level, so some of them are valid, but he is prone to wanting to "fix" the situation quickly and feeling like I'm ignoring the problem if I don't jump on whatever solution he is offering.

I set up a spreadsheet as well to share with him that details what we do-I only update it weekly, but I'm 99% positive that ex has never even looked at it, and certainly never adds anything to it. It's mostly CYA so that he can't go back later (worse case scenario, in court) and say that I wasn't doing anything and/or that he wasn't kept aware of what was going on. Plus it's a good planning/tracking habit for me anyway

I wouldn't worry about the flashcards unless your son is getting really upset about them. While I'm not a fan of flashcards either, I also don't think doing them a few minutes a week is going to hurt anything necessarily. For a while, I would send a worksheet or two with dd when she went to her dad's as "homework"-perhaps you could try that so at least he has something to do with your ds that you know he will do/enjoy and then dad can be more involved? Or ask dad to pick a specific unit study to work on that can be 100% his to teach? If he really wants to be involved, hopefuly he will be more open to other ideas than just flashcard drills!

Single mama namaste.gif to dd dust.gifand ds fencing.gif, loving my dsd always reading.gif .
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Old 08-17-2014, 04:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the responses. I'm not ready to tackle back into the subject. Babe has been sick and there's child support court tomorrow. I do appreciate the feedback. I will respond specifically when I can get back into a pleasanter head space ;-/
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