How’s the homeschooling going anyway?

Today we were visited by the Department of Education Homeschooling Division. A lovely lady came to assess my curriculum programme and my son’s work area to see whether we would be eligible to be registered for homeschooling for a year.

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday night first researching then typing up a programme based on the current NSW key learning areas for primary children. I made note of why he is being homeschooled, and what our goals were for the next year. I then held my breath and hoped that we would pass. It would seem that there must be some quite shoddy homeschool programmes out there because she read through my document, looked up and then said, “You’ve put a lot of work into this. Thank you for making my job so easy today. You should have the certificate of registration by January!”

She did say more than that of course, and gave me some useful leads for good home readers and homeschool social groups and iPad apps, but basically that was it! 2 or 3 hours of work and I had enough stuff written down to convince someone I was going to give my son exactly what he needed education wise for the next 12 months!

This was despite the best efforts of my son to sabotage the appointment by hissing at the lady and jumping all over the furniture and then finally going bonkers and running outside. I calmly reeled him back in from his mania and asked him what had made him behave like that all of a sudden. I assured him that this appointment was all positive and that no one was going to say anything bad about him. I told him that we weren’t discussing whether he did his work well or not. He looked at me and then said,

“I don’t want her to give you the certificate!”

Me: “Oh! Ok, well you can tell her that if you like. You are allowed to tell her your feelings about all this. You don’t need to hiss and run away and jump around.”

Him: (hanging off the back of the stool the lady was sitting on)”OK. Don’t give her the certificate please. I don’t want her to teach me. She is just mean and makes me do my work EVERY day!”

Me: “Please don’t hang off her chair. Just sit next to her instead”

Him: “Shoosh!” (changes position to hanging off the treadmill which is also forbidden)

Me: “Are you allowed to hang on the treadmill?”

Him: “Arggghhh!”

Me: mouthing and signing “ONE”

Him: “See!! She’s so mean! She’s counting again!”

Fortunately the lady had seen it all before and ignored him for the most part.

In the end, I sat him elsewhere with an episode of Air Crash Investigations while we completed our meeting.

As to the more specific information my Mother requested about homeschooling…well, it’s going quite well. We are averaging 1.5 to 2 hours of work about 4 days a week, which is the recommended amount for his age group. He has nearly completed a whole year one spelling and reading workbook, a whole maths for kindergarten level, handwriting for year one, half of a science for year one and all of his phonics readers in under a term. Considering that in two years at school he basically did about 4 pages of written work the entire time, I’d say we were very successful so far!

We do still struggle every time I announce it’s time to start doing some work. Every single day he will tell me that he doesn’t want to do any school work. Every single time I convince him to sit at the table, he then starts saying that work is stupid, he is stupid, I am stupid and he isn’t going to do it and I can’t make him. Every single time he starts his work and either I interject with a helpful hint if he’s struggling, or he makes a mistake, he puts the pencil down (or throws it away, whatever..) and proceeds to remind me again that he told me he was no good at it and didn’t want to do it anyway. So, getting the work done is more of a psychology session than any actual teaching at this stage.

Every now and then though, we’ll have an amazing day where he’s just right into it and will sit for 1 hour solid and work through each exercise I give him. There are also times when I can set him a task and leave the room to go and wash dishes or something and he will not only get it done, but he will do it quickly, and properly. Those moments really make it worthwhile. It’s also great that we no longer use any reward system since they just don’t work. They only externalise any positive behaviour rather than internalising and making him feel good inside for what he’s done well, and understanding that that is a reward in itself.

I never have to bribe him with toys or sweets to do things any more. I don’t offer him any reward after a successful lesson except for my love and my time. I give him a big smile, a high five and say to him, “Wow! You must feel so proud of yourself for getting all that done so well!” Then he’ll smile back at me and confirm that he is actually very proud. 12 months ago, he would have said, “No! I’m not proud. It sucked! But since I did such a good job, can I have…..(insert treat)” How can that possibly be good? It can’t, that’s how! I would issue are warning here though that if you have been using the seemingly endlessly praised and apparently ‘proven’ method of reward charts etc for a while, and are finding yourself drowning in a sea of ever increasing debt or stickers or stressed out trying to find something interesting enough to your child to reward them with and want to change…(breath! Punctuation is needed here!). Don’t drop your current system until you have the time, patience and energy to deal with the tantrums and emotions that come with a loss of material rewards. Kids who have been used to that system find it quite confronting when suddenly told they will not get a toy or sweet or sticker for doing good stuff. My son argued endlessly, cried, told me I was very mean, told me that everyone else has all this stuff and he doesn’t have anything. I had to patiently emotion coach him back around. I did it, it really worked and now, like I said, he’s really starting to feel what it’s like to simply be pleased with himself for doing something good.

The other amazing thing is that he also seems to really care what I think now. Previously if I said I was disappointed or frustrated with something he did, he didn’t give a hoot. He just wanted what he wanted and that was that. Now though, there is a marked difference in the way he looks at my face, holds my hand and even complies with something I’ve asked him to do just because I frowned at his arguing and said it made me feel frustrated to have to ask him so many times. He has ODD, so remember those moments are few and far between as he just needs to argue!

He’s still really full on with the “play with me” business. He would have me playing on the floor with him all day if I could do it. He also doesn’t count school time as time I spend with him, which makes it pretty hard. He only counts HIS kind of playing, which is basically with some vehicle or other and me doing voices, and doing exactly what he tells me to! I can also endure a plane taking off from the floor or kitchen bench in what looks like the same way to me at least 10 times before I have finally had enough and I have to say, “Sweetie, it’s great that you are so interested in how that plane is taking off, but it’s not that interesting to me now that I’ve seen it so many times. Please stop asking me to “LOOK AT THIS MUMMY!!!!!” because it’s not much fun for Mummy!” Yeah that may be harsh, but hey I’m not a saint!

Anyway, I still think homeschooling is the way to go for this little man, and now I’m registered and legally allowed to do it! Woo hoo! Thank goodness it’s nearly Christmas holidays though! Although, when someone mentioned that to my son today, he simply said,

“Yeah… so what? I hang out at home all day anyway!”

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7 Responses to How’s the homeschooling going anyway?

  1. Andrea Lee says:

    Its odd to read this here today because just yesterday I was advised (by the school) to do the same as you have done – help him feel the reward internally rather than giving him the reward that had been working so far but starting to lose effect. I have tried the reward internally before but it does not work. However it may be time to try again. Thanks Kathryn. Glad that things are finally looking bright ….

    • KL says:

      How funny that my post came at the same time as their advice! I bet they didn’t tell you though that it takes a very long time, patience and a whole heap of emotion coaching before you start to see the internal reward system working. It’s great for them to advise that, but they need to also teach parents how and warn them that it’s hard and takes a long time. Good luck with it though if you try! We had to stop taking him anywhere near a shop for about three months before we could take him in without major tantrums if he didn’t get a little reward.

  2. Ali says:

    Hi there it was so good to read your blog…we are just in the process of starting homeschooling ourselves. I have a 12 year old boy with
    ADHD behaviours plus oppositional behaviours plus some panic. The school has tried so hard over the years but we all needed a break…he is so much happier now. Still it is taking some getting use to and we have not got our approval yet. We need to make contact with others and was wondering whether you knew of supportive social groups in the Sydney area.? Thanks Ali.

    • KL says:

      Hi Ali,

      Thanks for reading my blog! Yes, it’s hard to start off with, but so much less stress than sending them to school! There are many great social and support groups in Sydney with a wide range of ages in them. We attend one in the North of Sydney called Cosmos Kids. You can find them on Yahoo Groups. There is also another group that meets in various places around the North and North West of Sydney. They can also be found on Yahoo Groups Hotchpotch Homeschoolers. Then there is also a group called SHEN who meet in the Inner West of Sydney. Many of the groups can be found on Facebook and you just need to send a request to join the group before you can see the discussions and find out the meeting days and times. Good luck, and have fun. The Homeschooling community is generally welcoming and supportive I have found. There are many different types of people from all sorts of backgrounds who homeschool for many different reasons, so there has always been a group I can relate to.
      Don’t stress too much about your registration, it’s not as scary as they make it sound. As long as you’ve read the guidelines and outcomes from the board of studies and you can show that you have a plan in place for keeping records and keeping him on the general track you should be fine!

  3. Ali says:

    Thanks so much for your response Kathryn. Yes I totally agree it is such a relief that we are now not dealing with school. I use to constantly wonder when I went to collect him at the end of the day whether he had got himself into some kind of trouble….and now we don’t have to do that, such a good thing to keep reminding myself about. We have been planning an outing each week, last week the NSW art Gallery and this week the Australian Museum. On both occasions we saw groups of school kids running around laughing and having fun. When I looked at my boy he seemed a bit sad but later when we talked about it he said he was fine….maybe it was just me feeling the loss of what I had wanted for him.
    Anyway thanks for the suggestions for groups. We have just got our appointment with the Department for next week so here goes!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was wondering which workbooks you are using for science?

  5. KL says:

    Hi, thanks for reading!

    We use, ‘Succeeding in Science’ series, published by Jim Coroneos Publication. That’s what we use just for the basic ‘workbook’ stuff, which we do so that we can date the pages to provide record of learning for the Board of Studies. We also do a whole heap of other stuff though, like use ‘Experimental Cubes’, of various kinds (I think they have them at Australian Geographic, but we get them online). We watch a lot of documentaries because my son is a very visual and aural learner. We also get out in the world and talk about how ‘stuff’ works in nature etc and then look it up together if we don’t know something. Occasionally we come across something exciting like the Water Board doing testing in our area one day, and there was a real life scientist in the back of a van with all sorts of equipment doing testing. She was very happy to let my son in and show him what she was doing and explained all the equipment.

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