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Day 150: Elation, Frustration, Experimentation.

E rode her two-wheeler by herself today! She’s been gliding along (sort of like one does on a balance bike) for the last week, and once or twice she got her feet onto the pedals, but this was the first time that she propelled herself and while steering and balancing. It lasted long enough for me to notice, cheer, get my phone out of my back pocket, and snap this photo.

She was elated. We both were. After she had parked her bike in the garage, I held her hands and sang the Shehecheyanu (Jewish blessing on doing something for the first time or reaching important milestones.) At bedtime tonight she was full of plans to ride her own bike all the way to the playground tomorrow.

Mr. December and I have learned by now that when we encounter defiance in schoolwork, it’s usually a sign of an underlying skill deficit. I’m often able to break down the problem to a point where the child can be coached through the lesson, but this time I’m stumped.

N is working his way through level 3 of Winning with Writing (great title, I know. It has companion programs called Growing with Grammar and Soaring with Spelling.) He’s now into the lessons about writing specific types of paragraphs. I was so excited to get to this point in the book because it breaks down the writing process to a few very simple, very concrete steps. K has had a much easier time of writing since she did these lessons. But N just won’t do it.

I’ve offered ideas for topics. For one lesson I actually created a rough outline for him (point form) and he wrote it from there. Today and yesterday he wouldn’t even do that. I’ve asked him what’s going on. I’ve levelled with him and told him how I know he’s frustrated and I am too, and that to my mind his refusal to work just looks like rudeness and laziness, but I know it’s not. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to yell, “JUST DO YOUR WORK!”

The book has already broken the assignment down into the smallest possible chunks, so I don’t think I can make it any easier. Do I drop it and find a different way to get him writing, maybe by having him strike up an email correspondence with his grandparents? Do I stop nagging but continue to apply the consequence of not finishing the assigned work? Do I keep on doing what I’m doing, sitting next to him and combining understanding and support with a reminder that he can do hard things and I expect him to keep trying?

At least he’s produced more written work since April than he did from September to March, so I feel just a bit more effective than school. But holy moly, I’m out of my depth here.


Mr. December decided to turn yesterday’s DIY sprinkler into today’s science lesson. He taught the kids about water pressure and discussed how the sprinkler spray should be weaker the higher up we place it, because it takes energy for the water to flow upward. To illustrate, he tied the hose and sprinkler to a rope that I lowered from the attic window; he turned on the tap and I hoisted the sprinkler 25 feet into the air. The spray remained strong the entire way up, denying Mr. December the opportunity to say, “See, kids? The pressure went down as the sprinkler went up!” Instead he exclaimed, “Wow! We’ve got some good water pressure.”

If memorable experiments lead to better understanding, it was a successful science lesson. And if the kids won’t remember or retain it, at least it was a fun way to pass the time. Sometimes that counts as a win.

4 thoughts on “Day 150: Elation, Frustration, Experimentation.

  1. My son struggles with writing too. We spent the summer using a scattershot approach of trying lots of things to lower the barrier and help him be more willing to write. Could you try doing the exercises out loud with him? Even better would be doing it out loud together while on a walk, or swinging, or on the trampoline. Removing the need to write it down was a good way to lower the pressure for my son. We also do lots of writing on the subject of his favorite video games.

    (I discovered your blog from a link randomly this spring and am enjoying your family’s journey!)

  2. Contemplate results if you asked him to write about why he is hating the assignments. And what if he dictated it and you were scribe (could it be the physical side of writing). Ask what would make it more palatable to Just Do It and why if feels so awful and hard and impossible. OR, maybe get dad or grand to ask …. maybe it is rebellion about you (terrible awful no good impossible idea though that is; it can happen in the finest of families on some subject) (maybe easier as a ‘males together activity’. Or it could be something super easy to change and fix ~ a fatter or thinner pen, do it outdoors, do it after physical fun……..
    Or maybe you both just need a break from the subject for a week or two. But not 3 as we are dealing with life skill here…….
    THANK YOU for posting. Not having an easy time of things and you bring me back to reality of this second and not worries about what isn’t sitting in my chair right now.

  3. Thanks! We’ll be trying to figure all this out in the next couple of weeks. Of course we all know that as soon as you get it figured out things change… c’est la vie, right?

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