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?”
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!”