Teachers need to “assess students’ work,” which basically means just finding out if (what) the kid is learning.
Parents need to “keep their sanity,” which basically means getting the kid(s) out of your hair.
I get how these two goals are met with traditional education: the parents send the kid the hell off to school, breathing a sign of relief; the teachers send the kids home at the end of the day, doing likewise; and both sets of adults collaborate to force the kid to “do their work” during the school day and afterwards in the form of “homework,” which the teacher looks at in her “off hours” WITHOUT THE KIDS HASSLING HER EVERY FIVE MINUTES, marks, and sends back home where diligent parents hopefully “check it” and thereby know more or less how the kid is doing. And so on.
This whole process was a big problem for us when PK was in school. He loathed homework, there were lots of fights about making him do it, and lots of passive-aggressive notes between me and his teacher about making him “show his work” in math. The enormity of this struggle was a major part of the anxiety and stress that eventually led to us homeschooling.
Which means that now I have to figure out a better way ALL ON MY OWN.
The pieces of the puzzle are as follows.
- PK’s writing is very slow for his age.
- However, he freely draws diagrams and such of ideas he has, so he can/will write if he wants to. Not essay-style stuff, generally, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to write a paragraph on his own if he has an idea. He’s been known to make little books, etc.
- That said, he “doesn’t like writing,” by which I mean if you tell him to write something he will complain, dawdle and avoid. (As indeed will I, and most writers I know.)
- He’s done powerpoints in the past, and generally preferred them as school-based assessment methods. But there’s still, of course, the “you have to do this” issue and the complaining/dawdling/avoiding.
- What he DOES like is talking. A lot. He will ask questions and then interrupt your answers to answer them himself, or to argue with what he thinks you are (going to) say(ing). He is CONSTANTLY coming to me and saying “Mama, can I tell you [about my idea for a new video game/what I think the worst possible movie-theater food is/about this cool thing I built in Minecraft/why Superman is such an annoying cartoon character/etc.?”]
- It DRIVES ME CRAZY when he does that.
So basically, it’s like the homework problem that most parents deal with. The preferred assessment method (yammering about whatever pops into his mind) requires Mama to drop everything and focus her attention on the kid. The up side is that I don’t have to “make” him do it and it doesn’t end in tears; the down side is that it requires me to grit my teeth, feign interest (I truly can’t actually get myself interested–not least because if I am interested, then I try to contribute to the “discussion,” which ironically ends in raised voices, if not shouting, as he tries to talk over me), and Be Very Patient about setting aside my own thoughts and activities.
When he was in school, this same talking preference, of course, was a major problem in the classroom. I usually told his teachers they had all my sympathy and I would not, myself, want him for a student. And yet HERE I AM. Most of his good teachers would establish with him, early on, some kind of ground rule whereby there was an agreed-upon signal that meant “not now,” which he would obey, and then he could come to them later (at recess, during a break in activity, etc) to ask his question/share his idea. He and I have a similar system–but whereas at school, there were all sorts of other people (friends, other adults, etc) to share the burden of listening to his non-stop thought stream, now there is JUST ME.
And as is surely clear by now, it drives me batshit. And honestly, I don’t listen all that much; I do a fair bit of nodding and saying “hmm,” and a fair bit of just flat-out saying NOT NOW or THAT’S ENOUGH or YOU TOLD ME THAT YESTERDAY. In my defense, I am not just being an asshole parent; I write (and use online social media a lot) for a number of reasons, one of which is that too much talking or noise overwhelms me. I like social events just fine, but if I’m trying to think, I prefer to do it in silence. (Though come to think of it, I am quite happy to “think out loud,” too, if I have an audience.)
Even so, shutting the kid up because he’s driving me nuts is, of course, Terrible. Doubtless I am making him feel rejected and adding to his anxiety and squelching his love of learning. But I am only human, and seriously, this kid is one of those classic geek types that will go on and on about something while those around listen politely and try to slowly edge away….
(I also want to teach him some damn social skills so that he doesn’t do that to people.)
We’ve tried the dictation software on the Apple OS; learning to work with it will be a long process of slowing down, checking its transcription, adjusting his enunciation, learning to punctuate as he goes along, etc. A good tool, eventually, but not yet–and of course YET ANOTHER THING he “has” to learn (thereby putting me in the taskmasker role and him in the dawdle/avoid/argue role).
He knows that typing software exists; it too is in that category of things I’d need to “make” him do. (I will, because typing is an invaluable skill.)
I’ve suggested to him that perhaps he would like to write a blog (no)? Make YouTube videos about his various interests (maybe)? I could have him simply record himself talking, I suppose, as well (would I have to later listen to it??).
It’s clear that one of the major things we need as “gifted homeschoolers” is to figure out how to balance the flood of information both ways. I have stuff I want to share with him (teach him, make sure he learns); he has stuff he wants to share with me (things he’s learning). Frankly we both kind of suck at listening to each other, because we each value our own thoughts over the other person’s.
I feel certain that I am not alone in needing to figure all of this out. If anyone knows the answer, please tell me. (As I type this, PK is interrupting me–for the third time!–to tell me about some kind of Minecraft shit. HELP. Bonus incentive: if he’d stop interrupting, I’d blog more often…)