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I've homeschooled for 10 years, but back when my son was 8 years old, the experience was miserable, especially when it came time to do math. I felt the way we interacted with each other over school work defined my entire relationship with my son - and not in a nice way. Life slipped into a yucky place until I finally sat my son down and we had a chat. These are some of the thoughts that I shared with him at the time:

  • I don't feel like our family life or our homeschooling is going the way I'd like. I asked him how he felt about things?
  • I apologized, took responsibility for my share f the fiasco and asked for his forgiveness.
  • I emphasized that I want home to be a place where he wanted to be
  • I emphasized that I want home to be a place where I wanted him to be
  • I don't want homeschooling to be the sole definition of our relationship. I am both Mommy and Homeschool Mom.
  • I wanted the best for him. I wanted him to be whole and healthy. This wasn't just about academics. We would make decisions based upon what was best, not as a punishment but if home wasn't the best place for him to learn and grow in maturity, then we certainly wanted to find a different venue.

My final set of questions were:

Do you think it's reasonable to expect to get something done during our school time? Do you feel it is okay for me to have a role in making some of those assignments?

We both worked through the yuck and re-established that yes, we DO love each other and we do need to do things differently. I saw that I was focusing on the outward piece of paper or assignment. What was *really* important to me though should have been what was going on inside his heart. So we agreed to have me set the timer for 15 or 20 minutes for certain assignment. During that time frame his job was to:

  • Work diligently
  • Work cheerfully
  • If he needed help, to take responsibility and ask (he'd gotten to the point of not having a pencil or not understanding something so he'd just not do it - ummmm, what could you do in this instance?! I realized afterward, it was really a power play and a way for him to exert power.

At the same time I agreed:

  • To cheerfully help when asked (I'm embarassed to say I'd gotten to the point of snarling, "What?!" when he asked for me - not pretty nor recommended!)
  • To be encouraging
  • When the timer went off, I wasn't allowed to ask him to just finish these last two or finish reading the rest of the chapter. If he had fullfilled his end of the agreement, then when the timer went off, I agreed to let him stop where ever he happened to be at that time.

In addition, I made a personal point to always focus on the character and heart issues first, when I would notice that our relationship was slipping because of school work. Even if my son did not complete all the work that I thought he could or should, I would try to say, "I saw you were starting to get frustrated but you did a great job of taking a breath and moving forward". Or, "Thanks for asking for help in such a nice way. I really appreciate it". THEN, and not even all the time, did I comment on the actual work he'd accomplished.

In hindsight, I can honestly say that nine times out of ten, my son accomplished more in the 20 minutes than he would have in an hour previous of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. The timer definitely helped him to know math wasn't going to go on for ever. There was a limit and it wasn't about the worksheet, project, reading, coloring, - assignment- it was about him developing good work habits and positive character.

What I carried forward from this experience is that I didn't care if we finished a whole workbook (or fill in whatever you want) if we'd lost his heart and relationship? Refocusing my priorities from academics to family went a long way in mending our relationship and, ultimately, helping my son make positive strides forward in his academics.

You can contact Adele S. at adelenpaul @

April 07, 2020


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