Thursday, December 27, 2012

on homeschool tantrums

I started writing this as a comment to a blog post i saw today, and it got so long I decided to make it into its own post.

I was once interviewed about homeschooling, and was asked about the negatives.  I said: it's little known that there are many more tantrums in homeschool.

It's a combination of a bunch of factors.  They aren't peer pressured to keep it together. They are used to having a say in the work that they do.  There is no superego of the teacher expecting them to behave in a civilized manner.  There is emotional safety in being home with the parent, so that when there are all sorts of emotional issues being activated with this particular assignment, there is the luxury of letting loose.

Despite all that, I have certainly wondered many a time if this was normal, and if a child this old ought to be behaving that way.  (And I vaguely remembered a friend of mine who homeschooled 5-10 yrs before me talking about how HER student also was prone to these emotional outbursts regularly.)  So although I accept these tantrums as part of homeschooling, I also have to walk a fine line between two possibilities:

On one hand, as a homeschooler, I do have the luxury of stopping what we are doing, changing the curriculum when there is a tremendous amount of complaining and tantrumming, setting aside schoolwork and helping my children through deep emotional upheavals and issues.

On the other hand, there is a concept of discipline, of perseverance, of being capable of sticking with something through to its completion, of not giving up when things are a little tough, of doing things we sometimes dislike or find difficult. 

In my personal experience, I have been finding that there are AMPLE opportunities for perseverance or for not giving up and for realizing that they have to do things they dislike.  I'm not so sure that schoolwork is my favorite forum for that lesson.

However.  I often go based on my gut on this one.  Sometimes I simply feel the work IS within their reach and it truly is not as torturous as they are shrieking it is.  Sometimes I simply feel it is good for them to do this.  Sometimes I feel like it's important for them to listen to me.  Sometimes I feel like it is worthwhile for them to complete this task.  Sometimes I feel like this is what is standing between them being a responsible and productive human being and them being an obnoxious, spoiled brat.

So usually I do what I feel.  And there have been times I've chosen wrong.  And there are probably times where I chose correctly, but doubted myself.  And probably times where I don't even realize I chose wrong.  My relationship with them is thousands upon thousands of these interactions, and as long as I remain thoughtful and flexible about it, I think it turns out okay.

Not to mention that if it really is too much for them, the tantrums go on day after day after day. 

Listen to your children.  Listen to your gut.  Look at the factors you are aware of.  Make a choice.  Either way doesn't matter much.  You can always choose differently next time.  You'll get more tries.  And both aspects are valuable in your child's education.

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