homeschooling through the hiccups

A few things came up in the last few days that I wanted to address.  They’re important questions and I often don’t remember to talk about  them.  I suppose I’ve been dealing with the same challenges for so long that I feel discouraged when I talk about them again and again (“I still haven’t solved this?  Still same ol’ issues?”). And I do worry that I’m boring you to tears here at the blog.  I probably sensor far more from my blog than I ought because I think you must be tired of _______ (knitting, homeschooling, running…)

A few days ago, Ann wrote:

What’s stumping me? The same thing that has been stumping me for several years now–how can I help my nearly 11 yo son learn? He reads okay, mostly on grade level after a year of vision therapy last year, but still writes like a kindergartner, with absolutely no interest in improving. Forget spelling, forget writing sentences independently. Copywork is all he can manage and that is daily hell.

Yeah. I totally get that.  Pencil = Kryptonite is an equation that is all too familiar here.  I’ve learned to just let go.  We tried typing as a substitute, but that wasn’t the breakthrough I’d hoped for.  I backed off.  Way off.  I just asked him to do a (short) sentence or two of copywork most days, and I started that only 2 years ago when he was 9.  And for the rest: I decided that an allergy to pencils wasn’t going to hold back his learning.  We do most of our processing of information through discussion. I will often act as his secretary when I want him to see his thoughts written out.

Readiness can’t be rushed.  We can lay a groundwork.  But nothing we do can take an unready human and make them ready.  There are many components of readiness, too.  There’s the obvious physiological readiness, but don’t forget emotional or intellectual readiness.

How often have I walked right into this wall?  Too often.  I’ve probably got a permanent flat spot on my forehead.  But I’m getting smarter; I’m remembering it more often.

Readiness is what it is.  It’s got it’s own timetable, hidden from view.  Matthias has hit some special stage in the last 12 months.  It seems that on every level – emotional, physical, intellectual, interpersonal – there’s been an unfolding and unkinking.  I can’t take credit for it, because it’s not about me and what I did.  All I can take credit for is being patient and not adding an emotional mess by forcing things.

My friend Christy has a great analogy for homeschooling.  She says it’s like gardening, but where we don’t know what kind of seed we’ve been given.  Have we got a shrub?  A climbing vine?  A shade plant? A sun-lover?  Only by trying different methods of tending the plant and then noticing where and when it flourishes will we get things right.

The good news is that not everyone needs to be equally good at all things.  (Outside the confines of the classroom and the report card.) My son and Ann’s son will probably never do a lot of writing by hand.  But how many professions does that rule out?  Not so many these days.

Homeschooling Today

Then San wrote:

Education is not a one size fits all philosophy, I know that, but with regards to kids struggling and learning, do you plan a curriculum and if it’s not taken up, leave them to follow their own path?

Sometimes I teach the material some other way – through a game or through a quick example/lecture.  But I’ve also let more curricula lie useless on shelves that I can list.  My goal is focused on the learning, not on jumping through any one particular hoop.  So sometimes we try another approach.  Or we just go ahead and leave it for a few years.  Sometimes we pick that program up, even years later.    It’s amazing what a confidence-booster a program that’s much too easy can be.

One of the best gifts that homeschooling discussion boards gave me was this nugget:

The program is your tool. Don’t let it turn you into its tool.

If it’s not working, put it down.  Learn it a different way or at a different time.  Don’t let it become something that teaches your kids to hate that subject.  Or that teaches your kids that they’re dumb.  Or that ruins your relationship.


I don’t have a lot of answers.  I can just tell you that patience is more important than programs.  That creativity is more important than a scope and sequence chart.  That there are so many ways to be a person that discovering which kind your kid will be is one of the best adventures of this life.


7 thoughts on “homeschooling through the hiccups

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m so glad you posted this today, I really needed it! Pencil totally equals kryptonite around here, too. My son was in hysterical tears about writing today. It is so frustrating to me to try and understand how a boy who can read so well and has marvelous fine motor skills is so totally resistant to writing.

  2. San says:

    Bless you! Bless you! this post was just what I needed to hear and I’m slowly learning to trust in both mine and Benedict’s instincts.

    Hugs San

  3. says:

    I never, ever thought for a moment that I had a poet in my home. I would have bet the farm on him never, ever enjoying reading. Then, when faced with nothing else, at an emotional wall too high too scale, my son channeled it all into poetry and devoured books that year. I don’t say this as a brag–I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Rather to give you encouragement that Tias will “get there.” As friends have had to remind me it’s not a moral failing to hate to read or not to be interested in writing–they are all consuming acts. Some brains are consumed instead by fantasy or by building or by (fill in the blank). I can only think of the horrific time he’d have had with parents committed to public schools–the endless testing, labeling, etc. What a blessing he is allowed to do this all in HIS time and not according to some state standard or “expert”-created exam.

  4. bstrouse says:

    I so needed to read your blog today. I have been having trouble w/ my own son and his writing. It is like I relaxed on his reading and he is slowly coming around and catching up. I seemed to have replaced my own worry about his reading with worry about his writing. I need to relax with it all. He will get it all at his own speed. Thanks for your blog post.

    Lil’ Momma
    Living with a hard working husband, 1 toddler, 1 preschooler and 1 middle schooler who are Five in Training for HIM

  5. Diana says:

    may/can I tell you my personal trouble with “pencils”! This story has lots of “I” in it because it is my personal experience. YMMV.

    As a kid, I held the pencil tight enough to crush it. I now have a knuckle lump on my right index finger to show for it.

    As a kid, I held the pencil so tight my wrist hurt and writing was painful [I have tiny wrists]. I now have carpal tunnel pain.

    As a kid, I was fearful that what I put on paper wouldn’t measure up. I think it was the high expectations I had for my own work that held me back. People told me how smart I was but I didn’t Feel it. Time felt like a huge weight. The pressure in my mind was like a “hot humid close summerday in a hayfeild with not a breeze and the sun beating on my head”

    I think it may be like eating the main meal before dessert; this is a rule and a tradition and Everyone does ti this way. With a child who is hungry it’s ok for him to eat dessert first or as one of a series of bites, all the food gets eaten. The sweetness helps all the other bites go down. The tension is relieved.

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