My major complaint about my Dad was that he was the worst teacher in the world. I think this was because of two things:
1) He was too smart to ever understand how/why I didn’t understand something.
2) He had absolutely NO patience.
Spoiler Alert: Those traits were evidently genetic. And those genetics were passed on to me.
I learned early on with E that I was AWFUL at helping with homework because I was just like my Dad. Because, I had been on the receiving end of that “help” I remembered how awful it was and basically, E and I parted ways early on when it came to homework help. He became incredibly self-sufficient because I was very openly not good at helping him. I didn’t want him to have fear/anxiety like I did, so I helped when I could, but I mainly encouraged him to use resources at his school. Or I’d offer to pay tutors. I didn’t want to torment him, so I just avoided it at all.
When he got to high school I tried to help again because I earned money in college tutoring high school kids in math. That I can teach. I don’t know why, but I learned to be very good at explaining math concepts at the high school level. It took me awhile to convince him to trust me, but eventually he did and I did actually sometimes help him. YAY!
But for 12 years of education – that’s kinda the only successes I have in terms of teaching him. A few sessions with high school math. And that’s it.
I’m trying my best to do things differently with Nikki and Wes. I’m banking on my old age equating with more wisdom. (HA!) I’m trying to harness a greater power. I’m trying to take what I know from experience – that being taught by someone like me is AWFUL – and I’m trying to use that as motivation to be better.
And many days it works.
But man, when it doesn’t? It fails EXTRAORDINARILY.
My teaching the kids is basically like dealing with an addiction. I have to be aware and focused every moment on not giving in to my natural tendencies to lose patience and get frustrated. If I’m not entirely focused on being patient, then I’ll lose my shit and tears get shed and then I do the best part ever:
I yell at them for crying.
Isn’t that the best? When you yell, “STOP CRYING!”
If there’s a moment you feel the most shitty as a parent? It’s that moment right there. Screaming at your beautiful child – who you made cry – to STOP CRYING ALREADY!
And in those ugly moments, there’s the part of me that’s the crazy parent with the patience deficiency yelling about how the kids, “SHOULD GET THIS ALREADY! WE GO OVER THIS EVERY DAY! OH MY GOD!” – that’s the genetics screaming. Then, there’s the part of me that was the receiving end of it as a child, and she’s cowering inside of me, remembering what it was like to be yelled at when I couldn’t understand something. But she’s terrified and won’t shut the loud and yelling me up before it’s too late.
SO. I have to really be focused. Homework time has to be designated and sectioned out. It has to be monitored and I really can’t try to do a million things while they do their homework because – if I’m distracted – the horrible teacher who yells and screams in me? She comes out in a moment’s notice. And once she’s out? There’s no pulling her back in.
And the child in me that was terrified of my Dad in those moments? HATES ME GREATLY for becoming him so easily.
It’s all about the focus.
And lately, aside for a bad moment Monday night, I’ve been doing a really good job. We get home, the kids have snack, and then I focus on them for an hour or so. The most I’ll do is write my Lenten letters, or do some organizing. I used to try to keep my laptop out and work some but my job is too much of a distraction. I can’t be in MOM MODE and WEB DEV MODE at the same time. It’s too easy to get frustrated as a Mom. So, I stopped keeping my laptop at the homework table and I bring something easier for me to work on. Letters. Calendar. Etc. If there’s something for work that needs my attention? The homework time waits. Last night we didn’t do homework until closer to 5pm for that reason. I learned the hard way that the part of my brain required to look at code is the same part I need to maintain patience helping with homework.
I really try to only think about what they’re working on. I focus on ways I can help or perspectives to take to understand their frustrations. I’ve downloaded a lot of worksheets and stuff because I’m just not good at teaching, so I pull resources from elsewhere for reinforcement. I know my limits and instead of just saying the same thing over and over, I try to find things online that take a different angle.
Focus. That’s the key. AND IT IS EXHAUSTING. I can only do it for an hour a day. I can only watch Wesley write his “b” and his “d” backwards for the millionth time one hour a day. I can only help Nikki find the adverb for one hour a day. I can only listen to Wes struggle reading books with 19 occurrences of the word “little” for one hour a day. ONE HOUR. And it wears me the hell out.
There is no world where I could do it for longer. I couldn’t teach. I couldn’t homeschool. Not and still have any mental energy left for anything else…EVER. An hour of focusing on being the best me I can be, and to not slip into the angry frustration that sits there waiting, and hour of holding that off KILLS ME.
So…if you homeschool? If you’re a teacher? I need you to truly know that there is NO WAY I could do that. At least not and still function the rest of the day. I’d have to go catatonic as soon as the teaching was over, just to emotionally recover for the next day.
We still haven’t done the science fair yet, for this very reason. That’s too much. I’m not ready yet. Wesley did the above project on Neil deGrasse Tyson two weeks ago and that was simple and spread out over a week and it STILL nearly killed me. I was proud because I let him do tons of it himself. It looks like a Kindergarten project. But MAN it killed me because I wanted it to look better. I wanted it to be done on a computer, and maybe have more academic details, and maybe some citations and maybe…
You see where I’m going.
But I stayed focused, I kept him enjoying it (mostly), and other than me looking up the four “facts” he needed to have, he did it all. I printed the facts up but he had to write them. I proofed it, but he had to make the corrections. He chose the pictures. He did the gluing and the writing and even some of the mess-ups that left holes in the cardboard.
But there was NO yelling. NO frustrations. And I’m still more proud of that than I am with my recent 12-hour run.
Being patient and curbing those instincts to LOSE YOUR SHIT is exhausting. Seriously. Keeping that calm voice, taking that deep breath when you’re about to correct something for the 14th time, it is harder building a web page, or running a marathon, or baking a cake. It is the hardest part of parenting to me. The homework.
Anyone else? Anyone else thing Homework Time is the hardest time in the world to be a parent? Or is it just me and those in my genetic line with the tendency to go BATSHIT INSANE if the kid doesn’t understand something after the first time.
Just me? Please tell me it’s not just me.