Sunday, October 14, 2012

Now I Have Two Slackers

As if the move in August was not enough, August also brought about another stressor: my twelve year old son started slacking with academics. This perhaps would not be as big a deal for a  "school at home" homeschooling family but in August we enrolled him in a thing that is not a co-op and not a school. The closest thing is a term Texans use called "university style school" where homeschoolers meet one or more days a week but still have significant independent work to do at home (assigned by the "school"). Now my son is doing work assigned by someone else and I can't lighten the load if it is too heavy, or change books or materials. He has to answer to his teachers for work not done or done poorly.

I am at my wit's end. For weeks my husband didn't really have an idea what was going on and I think he thought I was exaggerating and being dramatic. However finally my husband witnessed me working with my son and his blood pressure soon escalated. Day after day my husband saw my interactions and he finally "got it". A couple of nights ago, I asked my husband to oversee an assignment that should have taken about thirty minutes but was dragged out to over two hours with all kinds of deliberations, complaining, whining, excuse-making, and anything else you can imagine.

My husband gets it now.

I have been struggling to figure out what to do.

One is that my grade 7 son struggles to read the classic literature assignment, which rates at a grade 10.5 independent reading level. The work is above his age-ability for an independent read. When he read it the book it went in one ear and out the other. Nothing was learned. So what does that mean? It mean's it's a read aloud now taking up hours and hours of my time each week.

Another problem though is that my son is not paying attention when listening. Thus after I read or after we listen to the audio book he can't report what happened. We have had to go back and re-listen to hours of material so he won't be lost.

There are parent discussion questions which have no answer key so I must read the book also in order to discuss and assess his reading comprehension. This is how I know he is not getting it, because he can't answer the questions correctly and because he doesn't recall chunks of information that were integral to the story.

I really want my son to learn.

Other types of assignments are problematic also.

The work that should be done independently is sometimes open ended and left to his own devices he does not do it, or he struggles. For example "go to the Internet and find a reputable source and learn about the Transcontinental Railroad". Well trusting a twelve year old to discern which source is reputable or to sift through volumes of information to what is the good stuff or what the vital points are is asking a lot. It also can't really be defined by a number of minutes such as being told by the school that this activity should take 30 minutes. A kid could spent 1, 2, 3, 4 or more hours doing that one task. Since my son is being apathetic giving him such work to do alone means it does not get done. I have to stand over him to see that it gets done by him, or I have to do the work myself and say, "Here read this website I found." I want my son to become an independent and self-guided student so I am not happy hand feeding him like this.

My son has entered full rebellion mode and it has caused the entire family to go into a tailspin. I only have so much patience for his arguments and complaints. I start to yell. This is not like me, I'm not a yeller, and it's not my preferred way of parenting or homeschooling. Lately the yelling does nothing anyway so why bother? Then when my husband is around he gets ticked off and then he's yelling and screaming. Even the more calm back and forth banter is too much for my older son to handle. He apparently can't take hearing the squabble and the stupid crap talk, it knocks him into a bad funk of a mood which impairs his general temperament and hinders his ability to get HIS homeschool work done. Then the next thing is I am riding him for not doing his work and while I'm busy handling that the younger son is acting up goofing off and not doing what he is supposed to be doing.

I remind you that due to both of my son's sneaking around and cheating and not getting their work done we have to homeschool all in one room so I can keep an eagle eye on them. So now this is like a pressure cooker state in our house in one room all day long.

The procrastination of both sons means they are doing school work nights and weekends. All boundaries have been broken and invaded which means the only time I am off-duty is when they are at sports practice.

In an attempt to find a punishment that they actually care about, we just decided to take sports practice away from them if they don't get their school work done. So now my few hours of peace and quiet which wind up being used by errands, exercise, house cleaning and making dinner may be invaded as well.

The diagnosis received last week about my problem is gastritis which is caused by stress. My kids are literally making me sick. Yes I said it. I blame my kids, they are doing this to me. I need to reduce stress not to increase it.

If my kids would just do their work it would be done and over with. They argue about doing it for longer than the assignment takes. Then when they start about 15 minutes in they ask for a break and they want an hour break, at that.

If we are to continue homeschooling we feel we should keep our younger son in this thing since we already invested about $3000 into tuition, books, and materials. If he quit, we'd choose between homeschooling all with me or enrolling him into public school.

However stopping homeschooling to use public school will not erase these problems. The slacking and bad attitude that both sons are displaying will not disappear if they enroll to school. They still will be told to do X amount of school work of Y type and they will have daily deadlines for homework. And guess what? I will still have to oversee their homework and push them to get it done. So where is the stress relief for me? I can see it now: I will know less of what the content in the class is so I will be less equipped to try to help them if they need help. If they don't care to do assignments by due dates for what they are enrolled in now how will that change if they enrolled into full-time school? I bet it won't. Despite my sons not liking it, they will still have to be graded so dealing with trying to do better next time to up the average grade will still exist.

Yeah, so quitting homeschooling to try to alleviate some of my stress probably won't work after all.

Meanwhile my older son is also rebelling and slacking, which I have blogged about recently.

I think this apathy about learning is a heart issue with my sons. I think the rebellion has roots in anger.

We had many great years of homeschooling with fantastic memories. Last year, the first year after the big move sucked, it was the worst ever year of homeschooling, but I did the best I could given the stressful situation we were in. I tried to make the best of a "make do" situation. We did what we had to do by moving long distance so we could have an income. But as bad as last year was, it is nothing compared to what we are experiencing this year. Apparently, we are still dealing with stress from leaving all of our old friends and leaving our family behind. I thought the stress of the move was over; it's been 14 months. I blame the move on the hurt and anger my son's feel and I think it is the cause of the apathy which led to the start of our homeschool turning sour.

The changes I made this year were to try to make things better and different since what we did last year (doing all our lessons at home with me as teacher) did not work out so well. However the changes are not working and the reason is my kids are being lazy, they are slacking, they are pulling power struggle games with my husband  while they act out in rebellion. They seem to have almost no internal desire to succeed and to learn.

I cannot believe this is happening to our family after so many years of quality learning with alternative methods of education with homeschooling. I don't know what I can do to try to fix this or if it is a thing that I, the mother, cannot fix. Maybe this is all up to my kids to deal with and to fix, but they don't want to fix it.

So now what?

The only way I can explain our current homeschooling year is like I have a stubborn mule that I've roped around the neck and am pulling and straining to try to get it to move in the direction I want it to go (a simple direction that every other kid in America is moving towards: high school graduation). The mule won't move and the mule is not doing what it needs to do. So where are my kids going?

My younger son is getting a lot of work done but it is not all the work required by this school which is about 50 hours of direct instruction a week (breaks, eating, and procrastination is to be added onto that 50 hours). I think this work load is huge and I didn't know it would be this much when we enrolled. However I also knew my son used to be a list lover who like to work with autonomy and this year he is no longer that person. So I am involved in his homeschooling more now than I have been in years.

My older son is not doing a full load of grade 10 work. He did not do a full load in grade 9 due to medical problems. Truth be told we probably will have to hold him back a grade. As of this month he is not doing the base load of what Texas requires for high school graduation if you average it out over four years. The only way he can catch up for last year and for this already-slacking fall is by increasing his load later this school year and also by taking courses over the summer. That will not happen unless my son buys into this and accepts responsibility for actively participating in his learning. I can't push or pull him to learn, he has to want to learn. He has to take responsibility.

So now what?

I'm at a loss here.


AA96726 said...

Yikes, I hope you make it through this phase soon. My son is only 10, so I don't have experience as a parent with these issues. I have literally walked a horse to water and there is nothing to be done if they are not thirsty. Have you considered letting them fail? They seem, from this distance to be using and abusing you. When I read how much you do for them I get tired! If you have already considered holding your son back, maybe you should step back and let him prove to himself that his way does not work.
When my brother and I were in school, every fall my mom gave us the option of going to school. We always chose to, not because we really liked school, but because we knew it was easier than staying home and working! It worked wonders for the whole year, because we knew we'd made our choice.
Good luck, that may be the only valid thing I have to say, but I've never read you ask for help before, and I have learned so much from you I felt compelled to say something.

Deborah said...

We can become so focused on the future that we forget how important Now is. (Even with two insulin dependent kids I can forget this.) Knowing what I know now, if I were in your position, I would take the rest of the year off. I would let the kids do their sports, Scouts, video games. I would take them on road trips...I'd go to Schlitterbahn and float the San Marcos river and go to Caverns of Sonora and then some overnighters to Monahans State Park (sand dune ecosystem), go to Big Bend, to Guadalupe National Park and climb Guadalupe Peak one day and then drive fifty odd miles to hike down and up Carlsbad Caverns (and maybe send the boys on one of the special guided trips...there's one of those at Sonora too), go to Fort Davis for the Coolest Fourth, visit the fort and camp at the state park and visit the observatory, or go up to the panhandle and camp in Camprock Canyon or Palo Duro, go to UT Austin and visit the museum or to a big concert in the Erwin Center, visit the Meteor Crater and Petroleum Museum in Midland/Odessa, take Amtrak to Dallas or El Paso, go rock climbing (all levels) at Hueco Tanks State Park, attend Scout camp at Bear Creek or Buffalo Trail...those are just off the top of my head. And send them back "home" together or separately for a couple of weeks this winter, to spend Spring Break or do a Scout Klondike event with old will refresh old connections and also remind them what it's like to live in a place that's so cold for so much of the year. (Maybe it's not so bad in CT...we moved from ME to TX five years ago and that little reminder of Months and Months of Winter has helped with the homesickness and adjustment. We also sent our middle child in the summer, because she was at crucial point when we moved where she was very strongly bonded with what had been "home".) That $3000 would have covered a lot of these activities. (In any case, 3K or 30K, the school's expectations for your son are based on some made up fantasy, with no knowledge of Real boys or their needs/abilities at all.) Then...if there was no flourishing and flowering and unfolding by the beginning of the next school year, I'd send them to public school, where the choice to sink or swim would be theirs. And if they went, I would not interfere, other than to ask if they needed reminders or scheduling or transportation or other general logistical help. The educational process should not be interfering with family harmony, and if it does, it's time to disengage, step back, take a deep breath, and change the paradigm.

Stealth Jew said...

My oldest is only six, but some days it feels like dragging a bag of bricks through an ocean of molasses.

Maybe I need a tattoo on my forehead: whining isn't making this go any faster.

entertainingchildren said...

I came across your blog by searching for Ken Robinson. Maybe another look at his videos may help. I think this happens when kids are doing a lot of things that they are not passionate about. It is so easy to fall into the trap of conventional education! We have been homeschooling for 15 years and I find when I try to have the kids do a lot of things they are not interested in then a little bit of rebellion can happen. This year I scrapped a dry english course for my 8th grader because she really loves writing that is her language arts course along with spelling and dictation. When the kids become teens it gets tricky because of the hormone thing. And for me it's teen hormonse along with my menopausal hormones! And...I know when I get angry then I start losing them. Maybe start with what the kids are passionate about. Don't consider it failure if your kids don't do all of these requirements. What are they anyway? We could teach kids to learn how to survive in a classroom environment in 1 year. Hang in there. I cringe to see how many kids are going back to school after homeschooling and I have witnessed the worst rebellion when they are put in school. If you think I am being biased..well I am! I am disenchanted with conventional education and the funny thing is I was one of those kids who loved academics at school and was passionate about the University track. All the best to you and your family!