Teacher’s Pest

The long weekend is over, and that means time to head back to homeschooling. So much fun.  I don’t mind spending time with my kids but the horror that has become school work in this house is a reoccurring nightmare (or in this case daymare) I get to relive every Monday through Friday.  If I’m being totally truthful, they usually have work to finish on Saturday because the battle to get them to do more than one or two things a day has me pulling out so much hair that I usually give up.  Ok being really, really honest, I typically send them to their dad’s Saturday night with work to complete on Sunday. 

So…. I was grateful that there were no assignments yesterday.  They spent a lot of time playing outside and watching Minecraft videos.  I spent a lot of time doing work outside (I put up a new gate!) and household chores and all around we had a great day.  But now, the clock is looming over me, a big and significant 9:05 AM and I know the terror is soon to begin.  They haven’t come out of their room yet, so I am going to hold my breath and wait, why bother a resting dragon?  I know as soon as I hear that door crack my spirits will temporarily sink and the chaos of creating the balance between their desired fun time and schoolwork will begin. 

What makes it so bad you may ask?  Well to start with my younger one has ADHD.  It’s severe.  I think the only time he is fully stopped in motion is when he’s fast asleep.  However, he’s been having night terrors again, so even in sleep, of late, he can’t fully rest.  Trying to get him to focus on a tiny laptop screen and pay attention to a disembodied voice as it goes over the slide it’s showing is near to impossible.  I’ve tried having him wear earphones, and that works to some degree, as long as he doesn’t forget they are on and walk away.  Which he does.  Often.  In addition to the ADHD he has anxiety, like me and his older brother, and while his manifests in a different way than his brother’s he seems to have this intense fear of getting the answer wrong.  When he’s not sure he just says “I don’t knoooooooow” or makes up a ridiculous answer that he’s knows for sure is incorrect and starts playing with a toy nearby, or doing somersaults (literally, he loves gymnastics), or just rolling like a log across the floor.  The question could be “Name and animal the book said lives in the water.”  And he will reply “I don’t know, a monkey.”  Not cute kid, not cute.  So, I will either replay the segment or read it myself and over annunciate every word.  “Some. Animals. That. Live. In. The. Water. Include. Frogs. Snails. Crayfish. AND. ALLIGATORS.”  He’ll look at me and say “I said a monkey.”  I reach a fevered pitch and say “Just pick one of the animals I just said!”  and I’ll get “Ohhhhhhh that’s easy, frog.”  A question he could have probably answered before even reading the book since his brother is a budding Herpetologist and plans to move to Orlando and work for Dinsey’s Animal Kingdom.  I am not in the slightest joking; it has been his goal since he was 3.  We have a subscription to Reptile magazine that makes me cringe every time I flip through its pages. 

Animal Kingdom, 2016
Photo by Tiago Pereira on Pexels.com

The new phrase for the expression “If I had a dollar every time you said (blank) is “Am I done now?”  It is asked after every single question answered or math problem solved.  I have done my best to break their work up throughout the day.  An assignment here, then a break, then another assignment, then a break.  Problem is, they want to break constantly.  They want to live in a world of perpetual breaks.  And, amazingly as soon as I say it is time to work, everybody is miraculously hungry and needs a snack right now.  This literally just happened as I was editing, so I came back to add the dialogue.  It was currently 11 AM.  My kids got up around 9:30. I offered breakfast to both.  One ate, one did not, although he told me what he wanted.  I prepped his bowl of dry cereal, then he told me he wasn’t hungry.  Ok cool, it’s dry cereal, it’s not going anywhere.  At 11, I call down to the basement, “We are starting schoolwork in 5 minutes” and on cue “I HAVEN’T EVEN EATEN BREAKFAST YET MOM!”  Sigh. Eat, then work.

This would be my older one, and he is a whole different ball game. I think he might even be another sport. If there were a prize for whining and complaining, he would destroy all the competitors. I didn’t even know it was possible for a child to whine as much as he does about schoolwork. His usual proclamations are “This is sooooo hard”, “This is going to take forever!”, “I don’t understand this, it makes NO sense”, and my ultimate favorite “Can you do it for me?” No child, I will not do it for you. I went through second grade once, and that was enough for me. What I can do is sit with you, help explain things and I don’t even mind typing if it is a lengthy answer, since at 9 it is not his strong suit. But I will not simply do your work for you. I do my best to encourage him to at least read the directions and make an attempt before I jump in. His teacher and I have had many conversations about his sloppy mistakes because he rushes through to be finished. This is a boy fast tracked for the gifted program next year, but his anxiety and laziness jump in and everything becomes jumbled. Most of the time, when I attempt to help him, he doesn’t like my answer, or the way I am explaining it and then the fireworks start. He is very much like me in temperament. We both want to be perfect, we both embarrass easily, we crave our private time but at the same time want the people we most rely on close and at our disposal and we both cry at the drop of a hat. When I have tried to teach him anything over the years it usually ends badly, this is no exception. He gets mad says I’m so mean and don’t help him with anything and I snark back that I am not going to help someone who is being ungrateful and won’t listen. Lovely, I know, these are not my proudest moments as a parent. This will usually happen two or three times throughout the course one assignment. Then once the dust settles, we get to move onto the next one. Wash. Rinse Repeat.

I think it has been this crazy stress of homeschooling that has depleted my energy these last few weeks. I am a teacher, I tell myself should have been able to handle this, yet I haven’t; at least not the way I wanted to. But me being a teacher doesn’t separate the fact that I am still a mom, like all the other moms and dads out there, struggling to figure this out.

I made a promise to myself yesterday after we had so much fun putting a tent up in the backyard.  I am going to turn my engagement back on.  I will struggle through the muddy waters of schoolwork as required, but also make sure I am participating in fun things with my kids too.  I have let the stress of work take over the fun we used to have.  Summer is almost upon us, and with that the end of homeschooling, but it is still unknown what life will be like moving forward.  Will my son’s summer camps (that are all pre-paid!) go forward or will he be here with me?  Three of those weeks are camp learning about animals and reptiles and snakes (his favorite!).  He has already lost his baseball season, is he also going to lose his first time at sleep away camp?  What about the week of magic camp or baseball camp?  Will schools even open in the fall and if so, in what capacity?  We are heading, as Elsa so eloquently put it, Into the Unknown.  I can’t control the schoolwork that needs to be done right now, or the cancelled vacations and camps that may arise, but I can control how we handle our time here.  So, for today at least, I am going to create some fun, hopefully lessen everyone’s stress and then try again tomorrow.  As another one of favorite heroines said, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

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