It was the homework that did it. Each night became a challenge in exactly how I was going to get my kid to understand and do his school work. I attempted a heart-to-heart, kind understanding, and simple explanations, all to no avail. I would reteach lessons to him that he should have already learned during school, again to no avail. I then went on to bribery, ultimatums, disappointment, anger…yet still no success. Finally, I tried parent-teacher conferences, but that didn't work out either; the only thing I got out of that was a heavy suggestion of allowing corporal punishment for him – also known as paddling – for when he doesn't do his work.
At the end of my rope, I finally understood it was time for a change. And not any old change. Not a change like “these pants don't fit right so I'm going to get another pair” kind of change. Or buy another pair and let that be problem solved.
More like “something is seriously going on with my beautiful first-born and it's up to me to find the solution…and the problem.”
I want to share our homeschool experience with you so that you know all first year homeschooling varies from family to family…and that everyone has their own, unique reasons for homeschooling in the first place.
Plus it's good to get it off my chest!
The Back Story
My son's always been a bright kid. Soft-hearted and impressively intuitive, he can read things quite clear. The only issue is his confidence about what he believes he reads. But he was always that way.
In kindergarten, he loved playing and doing things in the classroom. He was one of those kids, the kind that made every day an adventure. In fact, he got granted the Johnny Appleseed Certificate at the end of the school year of kindergarten for making every day an adventure. Not that he was the disruptive kid; he was just inquisitive by nature, as most kids are, and enjoyed any activity he was doing.
And it didn't hurt that his Kindergarten teacher worked with him well, and all the students, especially when a student didn't understand a concept. She was already right there to help them along, instead of leaving them behind to fend for themselves.
Entering first grade, that was a drastic change. His picture-perfect daily learning environment wasn't like that – at all. Instead of having a teacher who would work with each individual student to progressing through the grade and concepts, this teacher was more like a one-and-done type. A one-size-fits-all type. A follow-along-or-be-left-behind type.
My once confident outgoing, always smiling little boy turned more inward, introverted, and questioned himself and everything around him more seriously.
He didn't understand a lot of the things learned in school and he eventually stopped asking the teacher for help and just stopped doing his work altogether.
When the school year started, I told the teacher he is going to the ear doctor for his hearing and his vision is not great so he wears glasses, so if she could make sure his desk is in the front of the class to hear her better and see the board clearly, that would be best. But did she do that? No.
So when parent-teacher conference came, her sole solution was to do corporal punishment. So basically, just hit him hard over and over again to get him to learn things. I was floored. I go to inspect his desk area, and not only his is desk turned around so he cannot access the books inside, it's in the back. Presumably so he doesn't distract the other kids. Or keep meddling inside the desk. I get it.
But it isn't helping my child learn. Instead, it's practically pushing him aside to focus on those other kids who can keep up.
I am a believe in spankings. Spare the rod, spoil the child. but I'm also a believer in kneeling down to their level, and understanding them on their level. What they're thinking, what they're seeing, and how they are using their logic skills to understand the world around them and how that applies to them.
We can't force kids in our world. We must go down to their world.
Back to Daniel, my kid changed. And I didn't know how or how to fix it. Yet.
Well, what happened next?
I tried to work with him at night, as I said, to do his school work. And for a while, it seem to work ‘enough'. But then, he started to not know anything.
And then eventually, even I quit doing the homework teaching. Because by the time I got off work, picked them up and went home, cooked then cleaned dinner, it was late. I had zero quality time to spend with my kids, plus I was a single mom at the time. Add teaching homework to it, and then they're late for their baths and on to bed, just to do it all over again the next day.
My teaching – or reteaching – him seemed to take longer and longer. And I didn't see it going anywhere or moving forward at all.
We did this the rest of the school year, sadly. I had to work. I was a single parent at the time.
I went to the school quite a few times that year because Daniel “got in trouble” and wouldn't do his work. He didn't need to be in a special education setting, that's not what it was. He just needed someone to look him in the eye, one on one, and teach directly to him the new concepts. And if he didn't quite understand, do it a different way.
All kids learn in different ways. Heck, all people learn differently. However, it's especially important to recognize that kids have different learning styles because of their schooling. Each day has his or her own learning style and once you know what it is, you can teach them accordingly. And when you do that, stress is eliminated, time is reduced, and kids are happily learning along, the way they are naturally able to.
I started to think my son had a learning disability. But as I witnessed him learning in other areas, outside of school, I dismissed that thought. I mean, if he can learn how to play Minecraft like a beast, or Zelda, or build a magnificent tower of K'Nex, that I heavily doubted his had a learning disability.
How It All Changed: Beginning of Our Homeschool Experience
I ended up reconnecting with an old school friend and we fell in love and the rest is said and done. Because Daniel's father (and Zoey's) was not involved in his life, Aaron became the dad they never had.
God placed a wonderful man in my life and the kids' lives that particular trying year. God is so good. I had no idea what our future would look like, I was a struggling single mom after all, and I had absolutely zero intentions (and zero time) to date and remarry and all that good stuff. I was utterly and completely focused on my children and making ends meet and making them as happy as I could.
Fast forward a few months and our lives changed. And it was because of Aaron that we were able to pull the kids out of public school and homeschool them, something I was deeply debating about all year long anyway. Because my mama instinct just knew that if I taught my son, I could teach him how he needs to be taught and on a one on one basis.
So, I quit my job, pulled the kids out of school and put them in homeschool following that summer, and we began traveling with Aaron. And we also welcomed Scout into the world as well!
Our Homeschool Experience
When I started homeschooling the kids, Daniel had a real problem learning math. Everything else was great and on track, but math was the culprit. I thought he needed to learn math via manipulatives so we worked all year on regrouping…all the carrying and borrowing.
I had all the mom guilt that first year homeschooling. I had all the feels, not to mention I was pregnant with Scout during that first year homeschooling (and traveling).
But as we were homeschooling that first year, I got to witness my son find himself again. I saw him laughing a lot more, and even talking a lot more. He turned inward during that final year in public school so he became a quiet, silent observer instead of that sweet outgoing kid. So I was so happy to see Daniel liven back up again, become more sure of himself again. And feel okay with himself actually speaking up and giving his opinion.
It is amazing how that year in public school in first grade seemed to drastically change him. But it's been such an honor watching him grow into the young man God intended him to be throughout these years homeschooling him.
And what do you know, that first year came and gone and we were now facing our second year homeschooling. And during that second year, when Daniel and I started back working on regrouping (yes, still) he literally flew through the problems! It was like something clicked in his brain and he understood. How? Because ii got rid of the manipulatives and just gave him a worksheet. Apparently he learns best (and loves) math worksheets more than using objects and his hands to understand math concepts.
And since then, I'm so happy to say that math is is favorite subject and he is literally so good and quick thinking in math.
What's kind of funny is that when I went to give Zoey math worksheets, who is one year younger than Daniel, she struggled! Oh no, not again! But experience is so good to have because I quickly knew that her way of learning math must be different than Daniel's way. So she thrives on those darn math manipulatives that weren't a good fit for Daniel!
It was during this time when I truly learned and realized that each child really does learn differently, and the curriculum should most definitely match the way the child learns!
Why would I buy a math curriculum that is predominantly using manipulatives for a kid who doesn't learn that way? Know what I mean? Or a workbook/printables worksheets for a child who needs manipulatives to understand math?
Reflecting on my behavior back in that last year before our lives beautifully, blessedly changed, I can see just how I had changed from a calm, motivating parent into a demanding, controlling slave driver. This was a real wake-up call; I couldn't believe I had become the actual thing I despised to see in others.
Nowadays, our homeschool experience is ongoing. It is a neverending journey. And homeschooling is undoubtedly a learning experience even for the most seasoned of homeschoolers.
I listen to their point of view. I put myself in their shoes more times than I can count. I strive to see the world through their eyes. I speak and I genuinely listen to them and what they have to say.
You must comprehend what makes them tick. Try to find the differences between you and them and then learn more regarding them. Love and embrace them for what they are. Distinguish them as an individual and their mannerisms. Acknowledge their existence. Look for what they do and verbalize your appreciation. Value what they don't do in addition to what they do.
Also, give them some space and time to let things sink in. Kids do require time to think just like us adults need time to mull things over and to determine the best outcomes to things, not just
Had I listened to the teacher and just hit my kid every time he didn't do his work, Daniel would not be where he is today. And me neither. I knew that wasn't the answer. Instead of hitting the kid thinking he is misbehaving, try understanding why he's doing that in the first place, like I did. Kids aren't expert communicator; they aren't adults. They're still trying to find their way around this world and trying to still understand it. They learning more and more about themselves each day. And it is the parent and other authority figures who influence their perceptions and perspectives.
So be sure you are setting a GOOD example for your kids. Make sure you do listen to them and you try to solve the problem instead of just beating it them hell out of them. Your kids will have relationships based on their relationships with their parents, so ensure you have a quality relationship with your child. Spend time with them. Get to know them, truly. And above all else, enjoy their unique personalities.
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
As Father loves us, we should love our kids.
I hope this personal story helps you see how seasons do change in your homeschool. How kids do improve. And experiences (and even mistakes) do matter and serves to only help you next time.
Comment below if you “get it” and share a summary of your own personal experience with your first year homeschooling (and year(s) leading up to it).