We’re 4 weeks into our homeschooling year and basically thriving. Basically. My older’s course load is fairly demanding but, and he agrees, not out of line for his grade (8th) or beyond his intellectual ability (um, elsewhere). However, he’s feeling underwater, and it took me several days to figure out what the problem has been. It’s all organizational.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the first year he hasn’t had all his course work coming from me, with a weekly (and often daily) list of work to be accomplished, written and assigned by Mom. With three online classes this semester, he needs to gather assignments from other sources than me. So, instead of Monday having a list of all to be done by Friday, as in previous years, he’s still receiving new assignments through Thursday, when his last online class of the week meets. His first approach was to ignore any work from a class once the class had met for the week, but this led to anasty trio of Mondays, with a daunting backlog of assignments. Over the past week, he’s understanding that the Scarlett O’Hara approach to homework makes for really dreadful days and seems willing to make changes.
I’m trying to help, but as a naturally rather organized person, I don’t know how. I grew up in the pre-planner-in-kindergarten days, had a strong desire to perform well in school, and didn’t want to disappoint my teachers (Okay, so the last two carried a price tag. I know. That’s a different post.). My job, back when I worked out of the home more than a few days a month, didn’t require planning. The list of patients came to my desk each morning, throughout the day the schedule was updated, and any meetings were blocked on my schedule by the staff. No need for a planner when I don’t have any say in the events of the day. Parenting requires a good deal of planning, and while I’ll jot a list on occasion, I generally don’t need to do so.
So here I am with an organizationally challenged child, and I’m stumped. I provide him with room for a weekly plan, filling out the assignments I give and letting him add the multitude of assignments from his online classes, and I’ve given him a grid to use to plan each subject for each day. It’s almost always empty. He has an I-pod Touch, and I’ve encouraged him to look for planner apps that might appeal more, but unless Angry Birds or The Annoying Orange are involved and minimal time inputting data is required, I’m probably wasting my breath.
I’m tempted to just let him work it out on his own. After all, one of the reasons he’s taking online courses is to put the onus of his education more squarely on his rather narrow shoulders. Okay, that and to offer him a chance to learn Latin with someone who actually knows it. I’ve injected myself minimally into these courses. Aside from writing the checks and assuring we’re set with passwords and the like, I’ve left the classes to him. Admittedly, I ask him daily about one or another of them, reminding him homework is best done in smaller chunks and not an hour before the class. He’s trying to pace himself and keep on top of the new assignments that roll in each day, but his executive functioning skills are a bit overwhelmed. Mostly I’m patient with this opportunity for growth (sounds better than incredibly frustrating process of watching my child dig himself into a homework hole day after day). But sometimes my eyes roll (generally when I’m facing away from him) and my voice takes on an aggrieved tone. And it’s downright painful to see him discouraged, not at the difficulty of the work, as that’s not yet been remotely a concern, but at his own failure to plan.
As I’ve posted, my older son has what I fondly call a healthy dose of ADD. Yeah, he takes medication for it. (No rotten fruit throwing, please. Each family needs to make its own choice. This choice works for us for now.) And the medication works for basic concentration and impulse control. With it, he can complete an essay, work a set of math problems, attend an hour-long piano lesson, and squelch most of his impulses to purposely annoy his brother. He feels more able to get through the day with it, and his self-esteem has risen with his ability to focus for more than 30 seconds at a time. But it does nothing for organization and planning.
I feel for the kid. He’s quite honestly unsure of where his time goes. Yes, we’ve done time studies. You try to get a dysgraphic kid with ADD to fill in a chart of what he’s doing all day. Go ahead. Try. Crazy yet? I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. Breaking down complex tasks is also tricky for him, since it requires being able to figure out the parts to the whole, prioritizing of the smaller parts, not feeling overwhelmed along the way, and not losing all those parts he does manage to complete. Tears are common. Comments of being stupid are not rare, although nothing could be less true. These last four weeks, he’s felt continually stressed, not by the difficulty of his work but by the not-so-simple job of figuring out what to do when, where to keep it when it’s done, and whoa! Did the cat just come by? I’ll be back in a minute…
Next week, we’ll try again. He’s requested bigger squares on his daily planner, since writing small is very difficult for him, and I’m searching for solutions that don’t require that meeting-sized chart paper. I’ve played around with some other scheduling forms, software, and apps, none that really fit his needs. Well, none of them write and prioritize his schedule, prompt him to do each item, tap his shoulder when he goes after that cat again, or find his notes from last Thursday. And, joking aside, I have compassion for him. It’s hard to watch your child struggle and even harder to discern when to step in and when to stay out. At 13 and homeschooling, I’m certain a fair amount of loving support and scaffolding is in order while he builds organizational skills. And patience. Yeah, that would help. But, ala Scarlett, ” I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”