Homeschooling High School Woes

I can find countless resources for and about homeschooling little ones.  I have a much harder time finding the same for older kids.  I think this is generally appropriate as there's an emotional difference between a 2-year-old's grocery store melt down and a 14-year-old's curfew melt down.  As they grow, there's a need to respect their privacy more.

So I've not shared as much of the worry and struggle we've been experiencing at our house as sometimes I want to . . . out of respect for my kids.

However, I've been pondering and praying a whole lot about my oldest girl, and I keep feeling led to write carefully about our homeschooling struggles.

We had E14 tested for a bunch of stuff when she was 4 or 5.  The reasons for those tests will remain private, but one of the results was an IQ test.  According to the test she's really, really bright.  Really bright.  She showed a significant small motor skills delay.  She also showed some other difficulties.  The tester recommended we start researching some "parenting the gifted child" resources.  We did.  We started to follow some of the advice we read, but our girl fell apart.

Horribly so.

We tried 9 different math programs; she grew convinced she was "stupid at math."
We tried 7 different reading programs; she decided she wasn't as smart as her friends.
We tried unschooling/delight-directed/child-led learning; she acted uninterested in everything.
We cut out anything that used small motor skills and encouraged her to develop her talents.
I read aloud for hours every day.
We got outside as much as humanly possible.
We tried games/therapies/lots of love and encouragement.

Eventually she simply grew into her brain and she could suddenly read, understand a math lesson, and hold a pencil for longer than 30 seconds.

But by this time she was 9 or 10 and she was very, very, very aware of what her peers could do compared to what she could do.  She's 14 years old now, and she has been comparing herself to others and coming up short for so long that she hurts.

It does not matter how encouraging we have been or try to be.
It does not matter what inspiring reading materials we provide.
It does not matter what movies/documentaries/youtube clips about people who change the world we watch.
Her only goal is to be like everyone else.

(And by "everyone else," she means mainstream American kids.  She is repulsed by alternative thinkers.)

She has realized that "successful" kids graduate from high school at age 18 and then go off to college.  She has set that as her goal. 

In the mean time, she is still learning how to spell, still working her way through elementary math, still working on penmanship, still working on so many basic skills that the writing and math she has to do to get into the highly competitive school of her dreams is terribly, terribly hard.

And her abilities to focus on doing schoolwork, organize herself, and stay motivated are less developed than those of her 7-year-old sister.

Though I counseled with her before and all during the organizing of her current curriculum and 4-year high school plan she procrastinates and complains as if I'm forcing the work on her.  She takes 12-14 hours to do 3.5-4 hours of work.  If I leave the house to run an errand or try to take the little guys to a park, I come home to find her doing anything other than school work.  Unless I'm redirecting her every moment she's off wandering.  She's exhausted.  I'm exhausted.  The whole family is suffering. 

More than once, we've both considered enrolling her in public school, but in prayer we've both realized that is not a good plan for her . . . for a whole lot of reasons.

Her dad and I have both talked to her at various times about how there are so many different kinds of success.  There are so many ways to achieve joyful, fulfilling adulthood.  She remains adamant in her goal of graduating at 18 and going to a certain university. 

We finally had an hour long pow-wow yesterday morning.  I told her she had to either take responsibility for her own goals or change them to something she could joyfully achieve.  I told her again that I love her and think she's remarkable!  I reminded her that she has all kinds of wonderful talents and I'm simply happy when she's happy.  We tried some brief visualization exercises to help her imagine her future.  She reaffirmed that she wants what she's been saying she wants for the past  year.  Her dad joined us to encourage her to think outside the box and to add his support to her doing anything that would bring her joy.  She held firm to graduation in 4 years followed by a 4-year college experience.

"Then what are we going to do so that you'll do the work to reach that goal?" I cried.

"I don't know.  It's just so boring, and I'm so tired," she answered.

"Let's find something not boring!"

"But this is what I want to do."

And so we were stuck.

Eventually, quite by accident (or by divine blessing . . . probably by divine blessing because I've been praying and pondering this issue for quite some time) I made up a detailed schedule for her as a sample for her to make up her own schedule.  All of the advice I can find about helping teens is to micro-manage less and give them more freedom to choose.

But my girl brightened up.  She both sat up straighter and sagged with relief (odd as that seems) as she looked over the schedule. 

"I can do this, Mom!  I like this!  I remember when we used to have schedules like this a few years ago, and it was so much easier than trying to do it on my own.  Can you print this for me?" she exclaimed.

I was flabbergasted.  But I accepted the miracle for what it was.  It doesn't matter that other teens need fewer external walls; my girl needs me to create a safe, highly structured place in which she can work.  I've spent her whole life trying to allow her to grow at her own pace, and she still needs that privilege. 

I did give her the assignment of creating a dream list--a list of reasons for working hard and getting her school work done well in a reasonable amount of time each day.  She did it yesterday.  She's to post it above her desk and look at it when she's tempted to get up and wander away.

I've made her a schedule that includes several "wandering" breaks.  She likes it.  I like it.  She's now responsible to follow it with little or no intervention from me.

And that's where we are.  I'm trying to both support her and encourage her to fly.  She's accepting support and working toward greater independence . . . regardless of what other parents and kids her age are doing. 


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