I have a reluctant learner. By all definitions, he’s reluctant. You could say lazy, you could say learning disabilities are involved, and you could say defiant, opinionated, and angry. All of those are true to some extent. All of those reasons make teaching him difficult – impossible!
I would love to be a complete unschooler and let him follow his interests as far as they take him. I would love to sit his butt down at the table and have him actually do some work. My goals are incompatible, because neither of those work for him.
For now, we’re in-between. We’re not very structured, but we’re not strict either. We don’t do a lot of book work, but we do some. Enough.
When we first started homeschooling the Engineer absorbed knowledge. He wanted to know all about everything there was to know! He still loves learning, especially about things he’s highly interested in, but he’s reached some sort of educational plateau and dug his heels in. Anything resembling school is torture.
It’s frustrating. By our early-start schedule, he’s almost 2nd grade now. He’s almost to the point that I need to start pushing curriculum a bit harder – because he’s old enough for more formal learning. He’s not ready. He might be almost old enough, but he’s not ready.
The other day I asked him to do his handwriting practice worksheet: one of my goals for the next few months is for him to do at least 3 sheets a week to practice reading and handwriting. It’s a very basic, trace-the-letters kind of worksheet, with a short sentence to read. Very easy. He still balks. “Why do I have to do this?” I hear every single time. Sometimes he throws the sheet on the floor and stomps away. Sometimes he throws the markers. Sometimes, he plops himself down in the chair and sulks, refusing to do anything.
So that day, I got frustrated. He’s had some serious attitude issues lately, and I have no idea what’s going on. When I heard the sulky “why do I have to do this?” I lost it. “Because it’s your job, son! It’s your job to learn and grow. Just like your dad goes to work every day to provide for you, just like I do chores and laundry, because that’s our job!” He got really quiet and thoughtful, and I walked away to deal with the toddler who was trying to murder his sister.
When I came back, he had finished tracing his sentence and started trying to read all on his own. He was motivated.
It didn’t last long. In the next few days his attitude came roaring back with a vengeance. When told to clean up the toys on the floor, he started giving me attitude again. Unwisely, close enough to his dad’s office for Mr. Genius to hear it. His dad told him off, and then backed me up about doing the clean up. The Engineer sat on the floor and sulked, and flung his words towards me in the kitchen: “why don’t YOU do it!? It’s your job to clean up after us anyway!”
I went on strike the next day, to the Engineer’s chagrin. “Why isn’t my breakfast downstairs dad?” “But mom, I don’t WANT to fold my own laundry!” Tough luck kiddo, that’s not my job. Have fun! (He generally puts his shirts on hangers and folds underwear, but he struggles with folding pants and putting things away.)
I love the unschooling model, but my child isn’t self-motivated enough to go learn about fractions all on his own. I want him to do bookwork, but he isn’t self-disciplined enough to sit still and behave. I want him to listen to the tour guide on a field trip, but his impulse control issues cause him to act out and be crazy kid. I want my child to behave. To learn.
I’m constantly smacking into the disability dilemma: do I accept that he cannot do better, or do I push him to learn to cope? Is this truly a disability issue, or is this laziness or defiance? What’s really going on here, and what do I do to counteract it? I don’t know. All I know is I’m tired of the attitude. I’m tired of the defiance. I’m tired of feeling like nothing I try works for this child.
Time to try something new, I guess.