As a homeschool parent there are perks to teaching your kids at home. I won’t list them all but one of them is being able to see how your child learns and what motivates him and what he excels at and what his weak spots are. I get to see how he develops and how his mind processes different subjects.
Since we have decided to put Trenton into a Charter school this year I haven’t been able to see first hand the things he is learning or what he enjoys doing. I don’t get to encourage him to explore the subjects he enjoys or to work harder at the subjects he least enjoys. The only feedback I have is in the papers and grades he brings home or chats with his teacher or nagging questions at dinner time about “what did you learn today at school?” which I’m sure every mother knows how that question gets answered.
I know Math is not a strong subject for Trenton. It doesn’t come as easily to him as history does. When he brings home his worksheets and tests each week I usually go through them quickly and pull out the “bad” ones and talk to him about doing better and trying harder and paying more attention in class. Occasionally there will be a paper with a sticker on it that says “nice work” or “good job” and he likes to hang those on the refrigerator. I tell him good job and usually go back to, ….”but this math paper needs work….you need to try harder on this…or if I really feel like lecturing there is the whole “you are going to fail second grade unless you get your ducks in a row” conversation.
I sometimes feel like because I homeschooled Trenton pre-K through 1st grade that I have something to prove to other people, especially his teacher. I feel like I need to prove that I did a good enough job with him and that his skills are equal to those of his classmates. I feel like each paper with the comment “try harder next time” or “almost!” is a personal attack on me. When he brings home papers with a lower grade it makes me feel inadequate and that I perhaps did not teach him well enough. I instantly think that I should have been more thorough last year when I taught him subtraction. Or maybe I should have been more persistent in making him memorize his addition/subtraction facts.
His failure is my failure. I realize my feelings may be misguided and that his performance in school is not a bad reflection on me, but I feel like his teacher is judging me whenever she grades his papers. I imagine her sitting at her desk thinking, wow, Janell really should have done a better job homeschooling Trenton and maybe he wouldn’t be missing all these answers right now. I know she probably doesn’t give it a thought or even remember that I homeschooled him…but then again, maybe she does. I do know she supports homeschooling because she homeschooled her own children for a time. But I can’t help but think that his low performance is a direct reflection on me being a poor teacher and I should have done better myself. I probably should have spent more time on math rather than letting him do reports on Presidents and make books of all the flags of different countries. The boy loves history….I thought I was doing him a favor.
The other day Trenton brought home some average math papers and some that needed to be improved on. His school doesn’t give out letter grades and instead they use 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. So Trenton brings home a lot of math papers with 2.0 or 2.5 which means “the child understands basic skills and processes”. On this particular day he gave me a math worksheet that the teacher gives out and they have 1 minute to do as many problems on it that they can. The idea is that by the end of the year they will be able to do them all. Trenton’s problem is he does not have all his facts memorized so he spends a lot of his 1 minute figuring out the math problem in his head(not such a bad thing in my opinion). He gave me the paper, I looked at it briefly and said something along the lines of “you really need to start getting some of these facts memorized. We are going to spend more time on flashcards during homework time”. To which he replied, “but Mom I got more done then I ever have before.”
Now I know I heard him say that but in my mind all I heard was, “you are a homeschool teacher failure”. He should have had those memorized last year. I should have been on top of that. I ignored his comment and moved on to the other papers and we went on with our night. at the end of the night I threw away the math paper and I thought that was the end of it, until the next day I saw this on the refrigerator.
It was that moment I suddenly realized that I a may be a de-motivator instead of motivator. I may be a discourager instead of an encourager. I may just be a bad Mom. This child went into the trash can to find a wadded up math worksheet and took a marker and wrote excellent on the top. He gave himself the grade of 4.5(which isn’t a real grade it only goes up to 4.0 but you get the idea). He was so proud of his work and the improvements he had made since the last math quiz. He had tried to tell me….he tried to get me to be proud of him but instead I only saw failure. I looked at that refrigerator and cried because I did not encourage him. I did not see what a great job he had done. I cried because he had to take his prized paper out of the trash can. He didn’t see a failure, he saw success!! What kind of Mom am I??!
That seriously broke my heart. He is such a cool kid. He’s funny, he’s tenderhearted, and he is smart. And I just crushed his little spirit when I threw away that paper. If anything, I am reminded that my job is to encourage him and to love him and to help him succeed, not to discourage and badger him and make him feel bad about his progress. I would hate for someone to do that to me. So now I have this “exlent 4.5” reminder tucked away when I can see it and be reminded of the type of mom I should be. I even added a sticker to it that says SUPER! 🙂