Too Much Pressure?


I screwed up.  Seriously people, I did.  I made the mistake of posting a sample of the Engineer’s work on a homeschooling page.  I meant it as a positive post: making the point that hey, you don’t have to do worksheets, curriculum, and tons of workbooks for your kid to learn.  Look at this worksheet!  It took us an HOUR of tantrum hell to complete, and I’m so glad we homeschool so that we can avoid these fights. 


I bet you can guess the responses that I got.

Some of them were positive – other parents of 2e kids agreeing that yes, worksheets suck big time.  There was much commiserating and many ideas for school without worksheets.  So that was good.

But a lot of them were not as positive – your kid does THAT for school?  You’re putting too much pressure on him He needs to play.  And my favorite: his tantrum is telling you that he’s not developmentally ready.

Never mind that I clearly posted that we do this same work on the chalkboard, in this same crowded format.  Because he gets bored if we only do the same kind of problem.  He wants variety – interest – challenges.

The worksheet was a start-of-the-year sample for his upcoming evaluation.  Now that’s he’s officially in first grade, we have to provide “proof of progress” to the state in the form of a standardized test or an evaluation by a qualified individual.  It’s difficult to prove progress if you have no samples, and the chalkboard photographs funny.  As you can see.  So, worksheet.

One, tiny worksheet of math problems that I knew he had mastered.  Granted, it was a crowded, visually confusing worksheet that in hindsight wasn’t the best idea.  So I blocked problems off, used my hands to focus in on the one problem we were working on, and I forced the Engineer to finish.  Because I – having experience with this – knew that the Engineer was pulling that whole gifted “this-is-too-hard-I-refuse-to-do-it” thing over on me.

It wasn’t even difficult stuff.  Adding and subtracting without regrouping, skip counting, and a few early equations and fractions.  Nothing too crazy.  Nothing like this picture of the chalkboard.


I forget sometimes that what we’re doing is not “normal.”  I forget that my 4-year-old is doing kindergarten level stuff, while my 6-year-old is doing third and fourth grade level math.  Or higher.  I have no idea where pre-algebra starts.  It’s our normal.  Isn’t everyone else’s 6-year-old doing fractions?  Division?  Apparently not.

Some people were offended.  Some were upset – I gave them a complex about their kid’s progress.  Some were supportive and wowed by his work.  I like the support, but the wowed part I actually responded too – this is the way his brain works.  It’s really not a big deal for him, so I don’t make a big deal about how good he is at it.  Because he’s not trying.  He’s not really working for it.  If it comes easily to him, then it’s not an accomplishment, it’s just normal.


I’m not putting too much pressure on him: I’m challenging him.  I’m not forcing him to work above his level: I’m trying to keep up with him.  And he’s developmentally ready if he’s capable of doing the work.  Anything else is letting him be lazy, letting him skip out on school work.  


After today’s math problems, I actually had to ask Mr. Genius to give me a refresher on solving equations.  I need to get the process and the steps correct so that when the Engineer moves on to more difficult equations where the parentheses matter, he’ll do it correctly.  I’m in over my head people, send help!    Math …. it doesn’t come easily to me, let’s leave it at that.


I feel like I need to hide his work.  To not share it in amongst all the myriad posts of what the other homeschool kids are doing.  I have to keep my mouth shut when a homeschool mom tells me about how her kid is struggling with numbers and asks me what curriculum we’re using.  Because I don’t want to look like I’m showing off.

I don’t want the Engineer to start getting a big head about it either.  He doesn’t realize that he’s doing higher level work.  He made a new friend the other day, and she asked him what grade he was.  He couldn’t even remember, so I reminded him that he’s now in first grade.  She, the same age, told him that she was doing third grade math and a whole mix of grades in other subjects.  I could tell that he felt a little defeated: this friend was doing better than he was, he was only in first grade!


Oh well.  I’ll know better next time.  Keep those posts to the gifted groups only, or risk alienating everyone else.  It’s sad that I still feel that way.

It’s even more sad that I don’t want the Engineer to feel that way.  Shine and be who you are, kiddo – and don’t worry about what grade you’re in.


Some of the handwriting is mine, as I scribed for him.  He orally completed all of the work except the part where I demonstrated how the answer can be written as percent or fraction. The shapes are my way of asking him to demonstrate that he understands the answer.




  1. I had a rough day today, and your story helped me to know that this is normal, in our own special way. My son, 1st grade, is working on 3/4th math. He can do it. I showed him once how to multiply double and triple digits, and he then proceeded to do them in his head! But when I asked him to do just a couple more problems, so I could check to see if he was getting one specific detail, he went into “I forgot how to do it, you have to help me” crying- mode. Aaaaarrrgghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!
    In the end, he got them all right, and told me that his tantrum was purely because he didn’t want to do it, not because he couldn’t.


  2. 6th grade is when I started pre-algebra and I was in AP math. But, that was years ago! And I totally understand needing to push him to work. I myself would get lazy sometimes if I just didn’t want to that day. Or if I didn’t understand something immediately I would get frustrated and try to refuse to even try it. I needed that push. So, I don’t think you’re pushing him too hard. You know your child and you know what he is capable of more than any bystander would.


  3. <3. Been there. When this stuff happens, I just remember that comments like this are more a reflection of other people's hang ups and not a reflection of anything I have done. (My son loved math workbooks when he was 3-5 years old. He did them by himself or hassled me until I sat and worked through them too. I lost count of the 'just let him be a kid' comments. He was being a kid – just not a neurotypical one!)


    • You’re so right! My 4yo is at the “workbooks are fun!” stage and it’s so foreign to me that I find myself getting stuck on it. We humans tend to assume everyone is like us. Not that simple!


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