I just wrapped up four and a half grueling hours of schoolwork with my son, and now I’m hiding in my office doing all I can to shut out the world. Doors closed, shades down, phone off…I just want quiet and solitude and no more drama.
School is all about drama this year, complete with moaning, tears, and incessant declarations of “It’s too hard!!!” And that’s just me. The kids aren’t handling it well, either.
This year is the worst yet, but school has never been a comfortable endeavor for our family. Even though we’ve been at it for six years, I’m only now coming to grips with the fact that my kids struggle with traditional academics.
I began to feel the weight of that reality last spring, as my eldest prepared for middle school, my second-born approached the “learn to read/read to learn” crossover, and my youngest underwent Kindergarten screening. Milestones and thresholds make me nervous.
My kids are smart, creative, and resourceful, but for reasons as diverse as their personalities, school has a way of making them feel the opposite. As a mom, that hurts. As a former honor student, it’s hard to understand.
School was relatively easy for me. Apart from Mr. Whalen’s tenth-grade history class, I enjoyed my academic career. Even now, one of my favorite parts of writing is the research. Read a dozen books to understand the geopolitical context of my story? Yes, please! Reading = learning = fun, right?
Except, not for everyone. I have a kinesthetic learner who can blow your mind with three-dimensional concepts. A visual learner with an imagination that puts Hollywood to shame. A social learner with more innate compassion and people-reading skills than any masters course could hope to teach. But how often are these the measures of success in academia?
We’ve experimented with methodology. Homeschool, traditional 5-day, University Model, they all have perks and challenges. We’ve placed each of our kids where we believe they’ll do best, so what happens when their best isn’t what’s measured?
I’ll admit it often feels like everyone else’s kids are pirouetting through the school hallways blowing grammatically perfect essays out their back ends, but surely many of you relate. Surely you’ve had to look your child in the tearful eye when she feels overwhelmed and alone and inferior and declare to her the TRUTH.
You are smart, beautiful, talented, and unique. The fact that this is hard for you says nothing—NOTHING—about your worth.
Who you are and how you respond to the hard stuff matters far more than red ink on paper.
You are not alone. We’re in this together. I will help you and support you and teach you, but I love you too much to do it for you.
We try to reinforce to our kids that godly character is the ultimate measure of success, but it’s hard when the world at large and school in particular elevate other systems of measurement. Even our kids’ school, which is faith-based and strongly committed to character development, must, by default, grade them based on academic performance.
How do you encourage your struggling kids when their “performance” doesn’t reflect their strengths? How do you teach them to value academics without undervaluing themselves?