Like so many before me, I never officially planned on homeschooling. I had always imagined that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, living in a small city, sending my kids to the closest public school. I wanted to volunteer in their classroom. I wanted to sit down with them and eat an after school snack while we worked on homework. I was going to be June Cleaver, minus the pearls. And the make-up. Aaaaannnnd the perfectly kept home. Okay... so maybe I wouldn't be June Cleaver, but you get the idea.
Things started out really well! My daughter absolutely loved Kindergarten! She had lots of friends to talk to and she adored her teacher. I volunteered in her class twice a week. I stunk at the afternoon snack thing, but we would do her homework together every night. She loved reading practice and spelling words. She loved showing me all of her art and talked about how well she could draw pictures. It was a great year!
And then..... we moved to another town.
Over the summer, I started to notice that my daughter was getting really anxious about starting first grade. She was ahead of her grade in most subjects, yet she was terrified that she would forget all of it and not be "smart enough" for first grade. I tried to comfort her and reassure her that she would have fun in her new school and make new friends. You know, the usual mothering things that I think you're supposed to say when your kids are scared of something. I didn't refer to a parenting article before I attempted to comfort, so maybe I got it wrong.
First grade began and things were ok. She was nervous, but she made a new friend and quickly discovered that she could do her morning math timings really well. It seemed like she was finding new things that would build her confidence.
Instead of being happy, though, she started getting really scared of making mistakes. She would come home and rip up her test papers if she got anything less than 100%. My daughter started telling me that she only wanted her hair done in a ponytail because she didn't want the other kids to look at her and think her hair looked funny. She would come home upset because she wanted to finish drawing her pictures, but they always ran out of time during art.
Doing homework started to be stressful, too. I just blamed it on the fact that she had more responsibilities now than she did in Kindergarten. Who wouldn't get stressed when they had to start doing more work and give up more of their play, right?
Still, my daughter made it through first grade with wonderful grades and a best friend.
And then we moved to another state. To a pretty big city.
The same worries that had plagued my daughter before first grade came up again. I tried the same reasoning as I had tried with her before. Except this year, I was talking to a stressed out post-first-grader, not an enthusiastic post-Kindergartner. She was not easy to convince.
Second grade started out with a high amount of nervousness. New school. New rules. Different culture, even. But I was sure it would get better after a little while. After all, kids are supposed to be resilient, aren't they? Plus, her younger brother would be going to Kindergarten in the same school. I hoped that fact would make her feel a little bit better.
Two months in, things were absolutely miserable in our home. My daughter was crying every night when she got home. Her complaints ranged from not being given enough time to eat her lunch to not understanding what they were trying to teach her in math. We would spend two hours on her homework every night. She was still getting nearly 100% on all of her tests, but that didn't make her feel better. The little girl that loved to read just over a year before, dreaded it now because it just made her homework list longer.
With my son, things weren't much better. I was getting notes from his teacher about how he misbehaved in class. I decided to volunteer in his room so that I could help him behave better for his teacher. What I discovered was a teacher that plainly didn't want to be there. She would cancel recess regularly so that she could go through her entire lesson plan. My son would finish his desk work and was told to sit quietly and read a book in his seat while the rest of the kids were finishing their desk work. Sometimes having to sit for ten minutes.
Where was the excitement that had permeated my daughter's Kindergarten classroom? Where was the chance to make new friends while playing at recess? Would my son ever like school with such a rough start in Kindergarten?
I had a lot of stuff going on in my mind. This wasn't how school was supposed to be, was it? I thought about how happy my daughter used to get when she mastered something new or when she would get a chance to create some new artwork. Now, it seemed like she didn't want to learn. She didn't want to take the risk of getting something wrong. She was afraid of creating art that wasn't pretty. How could I get her enthusiasm for learning back? How could I help her regain her confidence?
I thought about how my son was starting to be labeled as a troublemaker because he couldn't sit still for very long. I thought about how sad he was about not getting to play with friends or having recess. Was that something we would just have to deal with from now on?
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