Thoughts on Working Independently
Something that I used to struggle with on almost a daily basis was the expectation of what my child ‘should’ be able to do. One of the main reasons we decided to homeschool was because LittleBoyBlue was not able to complete his work independently in a classroom setting. He’s not learning disabled (though the school system and his pedi really tried to stick that label on him); what he needs is for someone to be right there with him to help him stay focused on his task.
Looking back, I think that I was laboring under the impression that homeschooling would ‘solve’ the problem of his inability to work independently at this stage. For months I was struggling and trying to get him to work independently on a worksheet or reading assignment only to com back 20 or 30 minutes later to find that he’d done nothing. This was a completely unrealistic expectation on my part because no matter what the school system’s policy and procedure is, the fact remains that some children just do not fit that model. I knew this, and yet for a while there I was making both of us miserable as I kept attempting to stuff him into this mold and concept of what I needed him to do.
Obviously, I don’t advocate following in my footsteps. Once I examined why homeschooling seemed to be so very challenging on some days, I realized that the problem in the equation was me. The first thing that needed to happen was an adjustment in my thinking. We’re homeschooling, not to fit my needs, but his. Attempting to homeschool in a similar format that wasn’t working in class wasn’t going to work. Even though our feel was different enough that I told myself it was different enough for him, it wasn’t.
Over the months that we’ve been homeschooling, we’ve made some changes that really should have been made in the beginning. Sure, we could go the whole unschooling route, but that’s just not right for us (at least not right now), so there is some desk work, and I do want him to be able to work independently at least some of the time so that I can work one-on-one with PeaGreen. But not all day, not for every assignment, and even now, it’s a struggle some days to shift gears mid-stream when it’s not working. But sometimes, in order for the day to be successful, we need to make a change quickly even if that throws me off. I’m getting better at being adaptable on very short notice.
These days, we’re doing a lot more of his work together (with him at my desk unless I’m working with my other son at my desk), working orally instead of long periods of time where he was expected to write a lot, working on the chalkboard (we have a large one on the wall in our school room) so he can stand and move instead of sitting at a desk, working on the computer – just trying different things for him that meet his needs better than trying to fit him into a mold that he clearly has broken.
It’s really hard to let go of the thought that homeschooling will solve whatever problem our kids have. Well, it can, and does, but not without a learning curve and some adjustment in our thinking as well. Though I am no expert, I’ve learned that what I see or think of as ‘a problem’ probably isn’t – it’s only a problem when I tried to apply the ‘classroom model’ to my child. But realizing that the classroom model didn’t work for my kid is the reason we’re homeschooling. It’s a weird loop and it took me a while to realize that’s where I was.
Since we’ve implemented creative strategies to help meet him where he is, things have been much better. Every day isn’t perfect (today is a case in point reminder of that), but in general his ability to complete assignments and overall enthusiasm for learning has improved, as has his cooperation and attitude. Taking that into consideration, even though we’ve had a few blips and bumps along the way as we settle in, I am thankful that I came to this realization earlier rather than later because seeing him enjoy school again has really made me a happy mama.