What is the probability that my son, Braeden, will finish his all of his schoolwork before 1:30 in the afternoon?
Very high, in actuality. He is incentivized by the opportunity to play a half-hour of video games, if his work is finished before the clock chimes 1:30.
This week I finally succeeded in establishing a suitable assignment schedule for Braeden and Shane. (The previous ones just weren’t the right format.) This one has the week’s work on it. It’s nothing fancy; it simply lists the various subjects and extracurricular (why are they considered extra, anyway?) activities, like karate, piano, or other lessons, for each day. Braeden likes to cross off each subject when he’s done it for that day. He is also further incentivized to finish because he won’t get karate or basketball if he hasn’t completed his assignments in time for us be on time for class, and those classes are later in the afternoon. I have placed the power in their hands.
Shane still struggles with this. (I think Shane is just to young for this approach, so I’m more hands-on with him.) For Braeden, though, my plan seems to be a hit. One day this week, he got up early, started his spelling at just after eight, and finished all of his work by 11:15.
This presents me with an interesting conundrum. “Wow! Good for him!” is accompanied by me doubting myself as a teacher. It is great that he is enthusiastic enough to rush through his work, to attack it and complete it, and learn the sense of accomplishment of getting a job done. My son is a consummate procrastinator. Anything that teaches him the better choice is certainly what he needs, so I’m happy to see it working. The more often he finishes early, the easier it becomes for him to do his work timely.
But my self-doubt still wheedles its way in, making me nervous. Am I not giving him enough work? Is he doing a good enough job on it? Why don’t I just send him to school and let them agonize over whether he is being well educated or not?
The answer to the first two questions is easy enough. Yes, and yes. He is learning. I check his papers daily (or at least every other day,) to make sure that he is actually doing the work, instead of rushing through it sloppily. And, I could always give him more, but as we were easing into this new paradigm, I didn’t want to overwhelm him too much. I will start now putting a little more on his plate, so we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, he is performing well and improving, for certain, so I must content myself with that knowledge.
As for the third question, well, who’s to say that whoever he might be assigned for a teacher at our local school would be as concerned as I am with his education? We hear almost daily about how teachers are over-taxed with too many students and not enough resources. I’ve experienced both good teachers, mediocre, and bad, and I have decided not to spend my time helping them or fighting with them, or even volunteering at the bake sale. I prefer to spend my time making absolutely certain that my boy receives an education we can both be proud of, even if it is at my hands.
That does not placate my fears of inadequacy, unfortunately. What does calm my anxiety is seeing him blossom, watching his growth in language and writing, and experiencing an improved relationship with him. (I also enjoy other’s positive comments about his behavior and attitude. My friends have seen improvement, too.)
This year, I’ve started to insist my children employ “ma’am” and “sir.” This seemed extreme to me, at first – after all, I don’t live in the South – but I was determined. “Please” and “thank you” seemed so easily forgotten that I figured the kids needed some stronger language to make the rule stick. I reasoned that if it became more of an issue, there was a better chance they would remember it. It worked.
Now I simply wait an extra beat before answering their requests, until I get a quick “Please, Ma’am?” with a smile tacked onto the end. Better than that, when we are out, I hear that politesse used with other people, who look at me and raise their eyebrows, impressed. What’s the likelihood they will remember their manners now? Very, very likely.
I’m playing this game of probabilities with schooling, too. There was a chance that if I sent Braeden to public school this year he would have gotten a fantastic teacher and he would have learned a great deal more than I could ever teach him in third grade. But that most likely wouldn’t have been the case. I probably would be doing just as much work with him, during after-school hours. And an 11:15 AM finish would be off the table for good.
It’s probably better this way.