In a couple of months, I will have been homeschooling for officially ten years. Youâ€™d think I would feel like I had a handle on it by now. Youâ€™d think I would feel like I know what Iâ€™m doing.
And on a good day, a good week, I do. I even, dare I say it, feel like I have all the answers and then some. But there are bad days along with the good, like anything else. In the quest to find out not only more about homeschooling, but about my own ADD and how it affects that in particular, I have discovered this is to be expected.
There are things I have fought with over the years, mostly in my own mind, that I have discovered is just the nature of who I am. By bringing it out the light of rational thought, speaking it out loud and knowing it has a name, the big uglies and worries turn to dust. There are also things that Iâ€™ve been trying to change, ineffectively, because now I know it is just the way things are. I can try a different approach or I can live with it.
We started out our homeschooling journey by bringing home the private Christian school curriculum Addison had started with. Some other parents had done the same as we did, and we were our own support. All we had to do is reproduce the school environment at home, according to the manuals and training books, and all would be well.
Oh, how wrong we were, how wrong it was for our family from the very start, and how much time I have wasted worrying about that choice and feeling guilty over it. It was very school-like, something that made me bristle just on principle. It was also full of fill-in-the-blank questions and multiple choice. Many options were to pick the right answer when the other choices were spelled incorrectly. We finally got to the point where Addison could easily pass the test (a pass being an impressive-sounding 70%) without reading the material. Retention was about two weeks. If we had problems controlling the children or understanding the work, or even questioning the content, the manuals, the support staff and the people involved all insisted it was basically our fault. If there are problems, I remember the manual saying, it was because the program was not being implemented correctly.
If there is one thing an attention deficit person hears often, it is that we just arenâ€™t trying hard enough.
And here I stop in my writing to tell myself to control that impulse to go down the road of guilt saying â€œWhy didnâ€™t we see it sooner?â€ We forced ourselves to stick to that program for five years, because I felt in part that I just wasnâ€™t trying hard enough to make it work, when the reality was, it just wasnâ€™t working for us. I have such a vile reaction to the mere mention of it now, that if someone asks me what I think, I almost refuse to talk about it lest I start sounding like a raving lunatic. I heartily do not recommended it. I donâ€™t even recommend people use it at all, even in a private school setting. I feel it is an education only suitable enough for someone who wants to work for their organization, or who only wants to do missionary work. (Not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with missionary work 😉 )
Part of an ADD mind set, is when I want to learn about something new, I feel the need to immerse myself in it. To hyper-focus on it. To pour over books and drink in the words, amassing the knowledge and tasting it over and over again. Then comes the part where I erase all of what we have done before, which has slid into nothingness anyway for I often fail to follow through, and we start up something new, some new method that is bound to work this time. Because it is so right! It is so true!
I am often like the newly converted when I find out some new thing. I want to share my discovery with everyone. I want to open the publicâ€™s eyes so they can see , too.
Now, I have to stop myself. Remind myself to stop and think. Control the automatic impulse to possibly change something that is working quite well. Stop rearranging some things on the kids because Iâ€™m the one bored with it. I have started to learn to calm down, to take what I can realistically use and apply in my own life.
I have to admit, and be content to live with, the fact that there are some things, no matter how much I think are right, no matter how great they are, that just donâ€™t work in our household. There is also the realization that there are some things I abhor just on principle that may be the very thing to save me.
For instance, I love the principles of unschooling. I love the philosophies involved. I love especially the counter-culture challenges it brings to the forefront. I also know now, that the person I am is one who has an automatic distrust of bureaucratic institutions, and that this is part of the why.
I also know if I fell into it wholeheartedly, especially at this point in time, it would unleash chaos in the household. I know because I have tried for a while. I know now that the best approach for us, is to have an unschooling bend in our mind set.
But I hate schedules. The first time I saw Managers of our Homes I just about had a conniption. I balked automatically on the mere principle of having a whole household accounted for at any given minute. I have learned the hardest way, that I need to, the children need to, have at least a loose schedule, something we can rely on during the brain-scattered days when it is all I can do to tie my shoes. So I know if the clock says 9, that maybe we should be doing some schoolwork. When 12 rolls around, that is lunchtime. When Dr. Phil shows up on the tube, I had better drop what Iâ€™m doing and think about supper instead.
So it is an effort to stay somewhere in the middle of two extremes. Especially when I can see benefits of both. There are days, too, when I have to be aware enough to know that ADD-induced genius and creativity needs to come bursting through, and schedule can wait until tomorrow.
Another part, which I touched on briefly above, is the tendency to not follow through. I really have to write everything down, even mundane things. Then I have to remember to look at what I wrote. Like a small dull child, I have to write things out step by step for myself. I have to schedule in a reminder to do the things I need to do, like mark some tests or check over some work. Then I have to make myself do them. Indeed, by looking over the list I made for myself and Addison on Monday, I discovered I wrote the same thing down twice, in the span of about twenty minutes.
By being so newly self-aware, and indeed it started this time last year, before I got that book, I have discovered I have something like a half-life with my attention to homeschooling. Iâ€™m good for so many weeks, and then things slide. Iâ€™m too busy, too distracted, too bored to pay attention. Now, to head that off, I have written down when our next break is, and I have even given us two full weeks. The past has already shown that a one week break is not enough for us.
Now I know what some readers may be thinking. The above sounds pretty difficult, so why donâ€™t I just send the kids to school? Well, we did send Addison to school for a couple of years. It didnâ€™t solve any of what was ultimately my ADD problems, and exacerbated a lot of his. Plus there were a whole new set of problems. I guess it depends on your perception. For particulars, sending him to school meant I had to remember when the bus left, and to pack a lunch and sign all those papers etc.. It was also very hard on him in many ways that arenâ€™t applicable to this article. In short, public school didnâ€™t work for us either.
Here, at home, I can work on things in our time. I can accommodate more easily the childrenâ€™s ADD tendencies, because they do have them. I can juggle the children better in the privacy of my home, without people overlooking.
You see, our mission is simple. We just want our children to retain their love of learning, and to know enough to lead a full and enjoyable life. Some days, it is a struggle even for me to do with myself. But it is like that PSA they showed in the eighties, between cartoons, â€œBecause knowing is half the battle!â€
And that is a shining example of what a lot of people are told when they begin the homeschooling journey. The parents themselves seem to be the ones who do a lot of learning too.