Sunday, October 21, 2012

Resistance to Mom and Homeschooling

How am I supposed to homeschool if my teenage son no longer wants to deal with mom?

According to psychologists teen boys want to separate from their mothers and seek independence. When the kid is a homeschooler I am unsure how this is to happen.

It is getting to a point where my son is just not learning all that he needs to learn due to his resistance to work with me. He is angry about not having certain skills or content in certain areas but he won't learn them from me.

Is this one of the circumstances that leads to formerly happy homeschoolers putting their boys into high school? If it is, they don't share about it too much.

I thought the online math class in grade 9 would be the first step toward answering to an outside authority but it was a bomb. The class was a terrible fit and an alternative math teaching method that did not jive with him. He quit the class and we went to Plan B for Algebra I.

This fall I thought answering to three teachers via online classes and the in-person science class plus doing math with Thinkwell, a website based program would be enough. The online classes are a bust. He is finding a way to cut corners with Thinkwell that are not acceptable. The in person class is difficult and he hates the teacher probably for no reason other than he finds the material challenging. He does not want to ask her for help.

I thought community college classes would be a good idea but my son is resisting taking the required placement test required for admissions. So fall courses were not possible. If he does not change his mind soon then spring 2013 classes will not be an option either.

I feel helpless when I know skills, and when I can teach them, and when my son has a real need to use them - now, and he refuses to let me teach him. If I am not to teach him, then who will? He needs help with study skills for his science live class and for studying for his Thinkwell math to prepare and refresh his memory for the chapter tests. He also still needs to do history, English, and some electives to fulfill basic high school graduation requirements for homeschooled students in our state of residence. My son says he wants to continue to homeschool but he won't let me teach him! He won't teach himself when provided the information that he could ingest and use on his own.

Last week he refused when I offered to hire a chemistry tutor then later that day he agreed when my husband offered it. (Note he accepts things with father that he will not accept with mother.) This week he refused to be proactive to schedule an appointment with the tutor. He left his homework idle for six days and then began the day before it was due only to find he cannot understand it. Now he can't reach the tutor to schedule an appointment before the assignment is due.

My next idea is to hire a tutor to teach study skills. This tutor perhaps could also be the person he reports to to check in with his assignments, to see that he did his work that was assigned.

I am confused and interested in the discussion of typical teenage boy development regarding the role of separating from mom and how that could happen with a homeschooled male. Right now I'm thinking the best outcomes for homeschool academic success in the high school years would be with teen boys who are able to take on either independent learning under their own motivation or those who take on more and more outside classes either online or in community college as a dual credit high school student.

My son and I have had a very close bond over the years and I have allowed him certain freedoms and independence. I have not been a helicopter mom or one who has controlled his every waking moment. I am surprised at the amount of stubbornness that I am experiencing as I thought that only happened after years of dealing with an overbearing mother as a desire to break free of too-tight apron strings. I have worked with my son like a member on the same team, only now he no longer wants to cooperate, even when doing things that get him closer to meet the goal that he has set for HIMSELF.

I hoped my son would have success at doing what he wanted to do rather than fail and have to live with Plan B as there were no other options open to him. At the rate my son is going he is going to wind up doing what I did with my life, when the fact of the matter was that my path in my young adult years was NOT what I wanted to do but what was forced on me by my father. Since before my children were conceived I swore I would do all that I could do in order to help my future children do what THEY wanted to do with their lives. I did not want to stand in the way of their path nor did I want to be responsible for making decisions that would negatively impact their ability to do what THEY wanted to do. I thought homeschooling was superior to public school so we chose to homeschool.

I could not do my Plan A and I had a very different life with my Plan B. My son has a Plan A that he has defined for himself but he is refusing to do the steps to make that happen. I am befuddled to put it plainly. I am sitting here trying to be both a guide and a cheerleader showing him the path and saying he can do it if he chooses to do the work and he is choosing not to do the work. I feel like I am watching a slow motion depiction of a train about to derail while being unable to stop it from happening.

I can't understand the mindset; as a teen I would have loved it if my parents were supportive of my educational goals and if they were my cheerleaders, instead I was all on my own and trying to navigate the waters by myself. The school staff didn't do much to help steer me in the direction that I needed to go and I found out that some doors were closed to me due to not having the correct pre-requisistes and/or good enough grades. If I had only known what the right thing to do was I would have done it. A couple of times I was steered toward easier courses when I should not have, if I had more involved parents they would have advocated on my behalf.

Someone just asked me what would happen if we just let him fail? My response was he failed in some goals last year and it seems to have no impact on what he is doing this year. How many years do we watch the failures in progress and just let it unfold like that?

How much is a homeschooling mother supposed to let go?

As the homeschooling mother I need to decide what our minimum standards are and if he won't meet those then he will have to enroll in public school. I am not opposed to that at this point but my concern is if he won't do the work for the science teacher right now (an outside teacher) then why would he do the work for the school teachers? What is he doing now that shows that he would suddenly have success if he enrolled in school? He doesn't want to go there so why would he succeed?

At what point should I just throw my hands up in the air and declare that I have given up?


dstb said...

Hi Christine,

I can feel your frustration. It makes me wonder where I would be if my son had not chosen to go back to school for high school. His decision not mine, but it has worked out for the best.

I'm not sure I can offer any advice. I can feel how frustrated you are and to be honest, I think my reaction would be to make life miserable for him until he got his act together - no video games, tv, etc. until he started toeing the line. Of course, that would probably make life miserable for you, too.

There were adjustments for my son when he went to high school. I was not there to make sure he handed things in on time (but he certainly heard from us when we found out he didn't). Something finally clicked and he started taking more control - maybe he finally realized it was all up to him now.

There are some things that we have let go of that I am not sure about. We wanted my son to take honors in math and science and both his freshmen teachers recommended it for 10th grade, but he refused. We tried to explain that colleges are going to look at that, but he wouldn't change his mind. It is hard, but we have decided to take the advice in Race to Nowhere to heart. Science and math are not where his interest is. He is taking honors and AP just in the areas of his interests. Will this limit his college choices? Probably, but I do believe there will be a college for him.

We'll see what happens next year. My youngest is in 8th grade and it sounds like he may continue to stay home. Several of his friends are doing community college classes and online classes, so that may be the way he goes. I'll be watching to see what you do.

Good luck and I hope someone will see the light soon!


ChristineMM said...

Fwiw, I agree your son should only take honors in his area of interest. Colleges care most about ap in grade 11 and 12 and in area of interest. Ap in grade 10 is not required unless maybe trying for an elite or Ivy League school.

I am calling the high school tomorrow for a shadow day. A local told me yesterday that they freely give shadow days to homeschoolers as the love the idea of possibly hooking another student to enroll, so they can get more money from the state.

Deborah said...

Hi Christine,

I am firmly not in the "The beatings will continue until morale improves" camp. In my area (at least), the local papers print pictures of the top ten high school graduates of the towns in my area, and one thing is striking. The top scholars are almost all girls...generally about 7 girls out of 10 students. The girls get most of the scholarships too. There's a really good biological reason that kids in their mid teens have a lot of trouble with impulse control and making their actions match their intent: their brains are undergoing major reorganization (there are some good books on the subject)...and girls, who tend to leave puberty earlier than boys, are nicely positioned to be able to focus on academics in ways that pubertal boys may not. (Regarding the girls: I remember my surprise in my daughters' scout night I watched the 4-6th graders sit quietly working on their craft, while the 8th graders were standing on chairs making monkey sounds.) I was told by a teacher in our last town that the junior high (grades 6-8) was known by teachers as "the holding pen", and another teacher told me that the school was successful with 20 percent of the students (mostly girls), and 80% "fell through the cracks"...which I think means falling far short of potential, including dropping out. (The last time I saw figures on this, roughly 1 in 5 students in the US do not graduate from high school.) I think academic success requires "buy in" from the student. In our case, when we decided that our kids did NOT need to remain in academic lockstep with their peers, the stress in our household disappeared. If a student is not ready for a selective college when college time rolls around, that doesn't mean that the student will not be able to attend that college: it means that the student may have to go to a community college or a college with less strict entrance requirements at first. It's quite common for students to transfer to a more challenging environment in a year or two when the student is ready. In my experience, the things that my children like to do and pursue on their own are the things that they say they want to do in the future. If your son says he wants pursue a certain career goal but won't do anything that's required to get there, it could be a red flag that he's picked a goal that is incompatible with his interests and aptitudes.


My name is Tiffany said...

No advice from me my boys are still very young. However I find this topic very interesting. One hs mom from my co-op had a similar problem with her oldest son. They tried a variety of things before she and her husband decided to enroll him into public school. She said she needed to save her relationship with her son and the mother/teacher role was doing more harm so she dropped teacher and is now just mom. Her son is still himself but has made the adjustment to public school. She always said at home he would just do the minimum to get by, his character did not change but the mother son relationship has been preserved and she is at peace.

Deborah said...

I've enjoyed following this homeschooling family over the years:

The kids seem to be getting a "well rounded" education (including science) too:


ChristineMM said...

Hi Deborah,
Re "The beatings will continue until morale improves" camp"

I was not in that camp before but feel like I am now, out of desperation. As of last week it is working, finally, with 7th grader but it has made 10th grader dig his heels in deeper.

Re "sign his goal is incompatible" I was starting to wonder if that is it but fact is when he tries he scores high on tests and learns and/or wins competitions. When he does not try he fails or gets a D. Not doing anything and failing is not the same as trying and being just incapable. To put it plainly I am not ready yet To say my son is too dim witted for engineering. However at this rate the doors to a selective college are closing simply bc there are too many highly qualified students fom USA and abroard who ARE willing to study hard all through high school and are well prepped for success at those schools!

And anyway we still have the issue of some basic high school work not being done at all. Like no English right now, no foreign language, no electives. You cannot just opt out off half the courseload. That is basic --a problem -- not even going near the goal of
Wanting to attend engineering school. If he won't study for High school chem test how will he be ready to study for college chem or college physics or college anything?

Deborah said...

Hi Christine,

I think he will be ready to do the work when it matters to him. We adults can be impatient to get the train onto a main track when all it needs is to spend a little more time on the siding, building up steam and otherwise getting ready for its run?

There are lots and lots of good engineering schools that will always consider a transfer student from a lower level college, regardless of age. In Texas it is quite possible to transfer from a community college or lower tier state college to UT Austin (a "public ivy", Texas Tech, or Texas A & M. If I were an art or theater or biology student, I'd go to Sul Ross...a small state school with minimal admission requirements, the feel of a small liberal arts college, and perfect weather!