Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Lately - I've been feeling sort of angry about unschooling.

Jonah has been, for lack of a better term, bratty.

I don't mean to be a jerk about it, but his back-talk, angry outbursts, inappropriate affection with strangers, hyperactivity, and general not wanting to do anything is really getting to me.

I am trying.

I know that he is a person.  I know that he is his own person and that I need to be supportive, but I've been thinking that maybe Jonah needs something else.  He wanted to read a book with me today, so we started off.  He said that he would read the first sentence on each page and then I would read the rest, which was totally great for this book.  But when he got to a word he didn't know, he had a complete breakdown.  I told him we would stop reading but he didn't. want. to. stop.  He wanted to keep going and he didn't want me to tell him the word.  So I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He cried - big tears rolled down his cheeks.  He smacked himself on the forehead and said "I don't know it!"  I told him we could stop, "I do NOT want to stop!"  After about five full minutes of total breakdown, he would just say the word and go on.  When he would finish a sentence I would say "that was really good, Jonah!"  and he would FREAK OUT.

"Do NOT tell me 'good'.  Just go on with reading."  I tried not to, but I still slipped a couple of times.  Why didn't he want me to tell him he did a good job?

When we finished the book he wanted to do it again, but he wanted to read the last sentence this time.  I was worried.  I sat him down on my bed and I asked him if he thought he could read.  He has been going around saying "I can't read" for the last few months, even while reading the word "sanitize" on the dishwasher.  He said, "No."  I took him by the shoulders and looked into his face, "You CAN read, Jonah.  You just read all of those sentences in this book."

"But I made some mistakes, Moma."  He looked away.

I moved to look into his eyes, "Jonah, you DID it.  You CAN read.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I make tons of mistakes.  Just because you have to think about it or you make a mistake doesn't mean you can't read.  You CAN read."  He looked away.

"Can you read?"  I asked.

"Kind of."

"CAN you READ?"


"Say:  I can read."

He laughed.

"Just say it one time."

"I can read."  he mumbled in a baby voice.

"Say it again."

"I can read."

"One more time!"

"I can read!"

"Okay, now let's read this book."

The first several pages were amazing.  Truly.  He read every sentence fluently.  Then, about ten pages in, he started stumbling over words he had already read several times.  Reading words like "surprise" and then stumbling over "that" or "and".

"Do you want to stop?"  I asked.

"NO!"  He burst into tears.  I didn't know what to do.  I just gave him a big hug and rubbed his back.  He tried again and again on the word "what", getting it wrong, saying "went" time and time again.

"Jonah.  What is that word?"

"Wh....wh...wend.  Went..I don't know it."  Tears.

"You DO know it.  It's not 'went'.  What is the word?"


"It's not went.  Try it again."


"If you say 'went' again I'm going to stick your head in the toilet."

He cracked up laughing.  "What."


He screamed.  "I don't want you to say that!"

"I'm sorry.  I was excited that you got it."

"I don't want you to say it, Moma."

It took us two hours to read the book twice.  I am completely drained.

When we finally finished, Jonah came downstairs and got some oatmeal for himself and asked me if I would put the water in.  I did so, and then put the oatmeal in the microwave to cook.  He freaked.


"I was helping..."

"I ONLY wanted you to put the water in!"  ARGGGGHHH!"

"I'm sorry."

"I have to do everything myself because you always help more than I ask you to help."

I didn't say anything.  I went upstairs and got some laundry together.

A few minutes later...


"Yes, Jonah."

"I need your help."

I put my hands on my hips, I couldn't help it, "I thought you didn't want me to help you anymore - I thought you were going to do everything yourself."

"Sorry, Moma, I was just being a little bit  crazy."

I laughed, "I guess we're both a little bit crazy sometimes."  Hugs.  Laughter.

Some moments have worked out better than others.

Other times I'm just stumped.

Today at the library he was acting like a maniac - running around, jumping off of things, screaming.  I tried to talk to him about the library.  He KNOWS how to act at the library.

He's just SO overexcited.  SO emotional.

And the meanness - nothing I make for dinner is good enough.  He's been resorting to violence with his sister when he doesn't get his way.  Very demanding - "do this for me", "I want this"  "I wish this wasn't so..."

I don't know if I'm describing it very well.

He was in trouble with his coach twice at swim team practice this week.  He climbed all over a friend of mine when she came to our house for a meeting.  He barely knows her.  We talked about expectations.  He still adopts complete stranger moms at the playground or the library and asks them to "watch me!" or "look at me!"  I feel like he needs more attention - that's what the behavior says to me, but I am giving him attention what feels like all. the. time.

I talked to my mom on the phone about it today and she said that maybe he needs more structure.  Maybe he needs to go back to school.  Maybe he's not ready for all the freedom we're giving him.  Maybe he's bored.

I don't know what to think.  I thought this whole unschooling thing was for the best, but lately, I'm not sure.  I want to do the best thing for Jonah.  I want his health and happiness.  I'm so tired.  And so confused.


Heather Bartlett said...


I think your instinct is saying that this isn't working for him right now. So listen to it. The nice thing is, if putting him in school isn't working either, you can take him out.

He sounds like he only wants your help when he asks for it. That's going to come back again when he's a teenager, too. :)

The hitting himself does worry me a little. And the negative self talk.

Some kids work well in the regular school system. It's not a bad model for all of them.

I think you're a great mom. Really, just great - look how much you love your babies and do for them. (((hugs)))

dawn said...


Every decision you will ever make as a parent, you will question at some point in time. I am told, by people who claim to know, that at some time in the future, this amazing person will be developed from all these trying times.

You are both wonderful parents and I am sure that this is a difficult process finding a way of developing a teaching relationship that is seperate from your parenting. Maybe he does need the structure of school, maybe he was just having a bad day (we all do), maybe he misses the interaction of all the other students. I know you give him lots of opportunities to be with other kids, but it isn't the same as 8 hours a day, and can be an adjustment for him.

It is a good thing that you are evaluating the effectiveness of homeschooling. Some people cling to a decision, regardless, once it has been made. I think this blog is also a good thing for you to express your feelings and to talk with other people who have been there. Reach out to other homeschool Moms and Dads. I think the bad stories are just as important to learn from as the success stories. Obviously, they got past that point, and how they did, would be nice to know.

I was comforted most by parents who struggled, not the ones who had "perfect angels". I can remember expressing my frustration with a friend, who clearly felt the issue was with me as a mother, and couldn't be my child. That was not helpful.

Laughter is always helpful. I have a child with a significant learning disability. Blessedly, we are growing past most of the effects. Keeping learning light and fun, short lessons, and no pressure were all important in his progression. He also hates not to get something right, and was very self critical. No one thing worked for him. I had to change depending on his mood and needs. Acting comes in handy.

I am sure your teaching experience is standing you in good stead. You are doing a great job, it is just really hard sometimes. I'll keep sending prayers your way. Dawn

Heather MacQ said...

I feel for you, and I understand your frustrations. Here's my bit of encouragement, hopefully...just because you are running into some challenges with Jonah (and Mareyn) doesn't mean that he needs to go back to school. You are not alone in running into challenges. The hard thing with homeschooling, I have found, is that some of the challenges we face with our children would be happening whether we homeschooled or not, I just see more of it because they are home with me all day. It may very well be that some of Jonah's struggles are just about growing up and dealing with that inevitable phase of coming into the age of reason. He wants the independence, but he really can't handle all of it quite yet. Be encouraged...you may need to provide a little more structure at home for him, so that he is not overwhelmed by his internal changes. You may be able to revert back to less structure as he adjusts. Try to pinpoint what exactly he is struggling with, give him as much love and postitive attention, mixed with humor as you are already doing, and know that there will be times like this periodically as he grows and matures.
And if it makes you feel better, there have been many days where I would have liked to send my oldest off to the local military academy, but then a new day dawns, I talk things over with Dennis, get some perspective from prayer and Scripture, and know that it is just part of my job to usher my children through their struggles with growing up.

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