Sunday, September 05, 2010

Late blooming

Something strange is going on with my 13-year-old.   And it's very exciting to watch.

He is my late blooming child.  He is the reason we knew we would homeschool, long before he even reached school age.   He is the one who challenged all my assumptions of the way my children would learn.  I once described him as "my greater homeschooling challenge and thus my greater homeschooling joy."  I wrote that two and a half years ago, and it is still true.

His academic gifts are not of the obvious sort.  He was a late reader. He hated to write.  The physical act of writing hurt his hands; the intellectual act of composition hurt his brain. Math facts elude him.  He's a concept guy: those little details like phonics and multiplication tables are annoyances on the way to the big picture.

Over our homeschooling years, we have argued a lot. About math facts and pencil grips and typing.  We have yelled at each other and cried together and apologized.  We've prayed together (he may have been praying that I'd just get off his back).  We have tried many different methods to help him learn the skills he needs to become independent and take charge of his own education.   Some things worked for a while; nothing has been the answer to our problems.  There has been no magic bullet.

Yet, recently we have been seeing changes.

In the past week he has discovered that writing doesn't hurt anymore.  He can write pretty quickly and, while not beautifully, at least legibly.  He is also enjoying the process.  In the past three days he has willingly, eagerly spent time writing a story.  He has completed science lab sheets, grammar exercises, and spelling tests without complaint.  He spent an hour one evening doing math with Dad and discovered some very cool things about numbers. 

Yes, something's going on.  What is it?  Why is he suddenly seeming to grow and gain abilities he didn't have just a short time ago?  When we think about it, we actually have a pretty good list of reasons:

His involvement in Boy Scouts is absolutely a factor.  He is surrounded by men and boys who provide great examples and incentive to work hard.  It's just different from the environment at home.  His recent move into leadership has helped a lot too.  He has had to deal with a few boys who don't want to work. He doesn't like it!  He sees how much easier it is to deal with people who will do what needs to be done, even if it's not their favorite thing.  
He is the youngest in his robotics club and has the lowest level of math education of all the boys.  Although I don't think it hinders him in the work they do, he sees the differences between them.  He also sees that math beyond arithmetic is interesting.  Do you think we never tried to tell him that?  Of course we did.  He had to see it for himself.
Negative examples help too.  Not too long ago he was in a situation in which he had to work off a list written by a young man (college age), for whom he has great respect.  But the list was practically impossible  to use because of the illegible handwriting and poor spelling.  He had to ask for interpretation of almost every item on the list.  He doesn't want to be like that when he is older. 

Of course prayer helps us.  We have all prayed over this.  And other homeschool moms who have been through the same struggles - and those who haven't - have stood with me in prayer for this boy.  

All that therapy a couple of years ago surely had something to do with it.  That seems so long ago now; how is it possible that we could finally be seeing the effects?  But maybe it's all coming together now as he matures.  

And finally, homeschooling.  We know he would have been beaten down in school.  We know this because of so many other boys we've met, or read about, who were like him and were beaten down.  Who lost their natural curiosity and love of learning.  Through the struggles and the arguments and the slamming doors, he has never lost his desire to learn new things. 

Of course we are not done.  We have a long way to go.  But we (his dad and I) can see the progress.  Most important, he can see it, and that encourages him even more to go on.   To persevere even when it's hard.  Or maybe because it's hard.    Hard isn't so scary any more.  Hard is not so daunting now; it's a challenge but not an insurmountable one.  

And that's what we've wanted all along.


SmallWorld at Home said...

Fantastic! What an encouragement!

wayside wanderer said...

Great news!

Kerri said...

Way to go!

That sounds like Owen. Picking up a pencil for that boy is like trying to get the cat to take a bath. Math is one long hair pulling event. I feel like I am just holding him by the shirt with one hand and his book in the other just to get him to do his math! But he makes theological connections and applications and spouts them off in such an off hand boyish manner. He loves to be read to.

It's so interesting to see what in the world God has planned for these kids..

And so we persevere.