Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When Home Education and Attachment Collide,

sometimes, the results are less than ideal.

What began as a honeymoon some 7 months ago ends today, with my Haitian Sensations attending public school, starting tomorrow.

For the past few months, the uphill task of educating my trauma twins has been icing up.

It started with little things, like leaving out letters in their names, or insisting that they never learned that 4 comes after 3.

For a long time, I'd say, "Uh oh, looks like Keenan is too tired to remember how to spell his name. Better go up and take a breather on your bed until you feel stronger and can remember how many "e's" you have."

At first, he'd be up there, pitching a fit for 2 or 3 hours. Then, he'd stomp up and sit on his bed sullenly for 60 minutes. It slowly dropped down to 30 minutes, then 10. For a while, he'd go up, plunk his butt down, hop back up and have it fixed within 30 seconds.

But then, suddenly, it escalated into a flat-out refusal to do work. Each day became: "Good. I don't want to do this anyways. I'd rather sit on my bed/do a chore/etc."

He'd sit there smugly, knowing there's nothing I could do about it.

Miles wasn't much different. He would do math fine for the first few problems, but then before we got to the end of the page, he'd freeze up. Circular discussions always ensued. "Why aren't you doing your math nicely?"

"Because I don't like math and I want to play."
"How many problems do you have to go until you play?"
"So why don't you do you math nicely and then play?"
"Because I'm mad I have to do math."

Over and over. Rinse and repeat. Always coming back to: "I don't want to do math/reading/school because I'm angry that I have to do math/reading school."

Insert second smug-faced child into bedroom.

The counselor would tell me, "He's smug like that because in his mind he just won."

Not sh#t, sherlock.

But the bottom line is that this is a 7-year old child who does not know what he wants or what he needs to survive in this world. If he thinks that sitting on his bed, bored and learning nothing is winning, he's clearly losing, and it's my job as Mama to intervene.

What can I do?

I can't force him to do his math worksheets.
I can't force a child to learn to read.

I can, and have, incentivized, candy-vized, stickers, cartwheels, extra boob tube time, extra outside time, all for nada. I have issued chores, lectured, allowed children to be really, really bored.

I'm amazed by the people who can't figure out just why I can't make them do their work. Y'all think a little spanking's gonna work? I could promise you that I if I beat the kid until they were black and blue and in the hospital, and he'd just come home tomorrow and not do his math.

These boys of mine spent 4 years in a Haitian orphanage-- you really think a sticker, sucker, spanking or grounding is really gonna make them do math for me? Any amount of boredom, any chore, any sort of unhappy feeling here in America is a million times better than what they had in Haiti.


So that's half of it. The other half is that I can't spend over half my day, day in, day out, trying to constantly disengage from the boys' games with their schoolwork. It's not fair to any of the other kids who are working hard each day to try and figure out a tough math problem when Keenan's upstairs kicking his feet against the wall, screaming, "Ow! My Feet!"

I can't use up all of our energy and oxygen on trying to keep a "normal" feeling in the house for those kids maintaining.

I've done it before and I will not do it again. I will give the greatest energy/oxygen to those who are "using their powers for good" or "playing in the boundaries" or what have you.

I will give everything I can to helping pull my boys through, but I will not let their crazy come at the expense of their sibling's education.

I know that sounds harsh, or mean, or unfair, but it's the way it is. I have tried every trick, plot, therapeutic parenting technique in the book, but I will not let their issues run the show in our house.

I do not tie my own pride or value into this. I am a person, and I am a mother. I try my best with all my kids.

But, I will not breath oxygen into the fire of their manipulative games.

I will do everything I can to equip them with everything they need: I employ a great therapist, I constantly read and try to learn more and do better, and I am committed to their education and recognize that if they aren't learning from me, then I best send them to someone from whom they can learn.

I have one child who is 30 reading lessons behind, and that's padding it with the "trauma factor," alotting 2 days/lesson instead of expecting a completed lesson each day. I have two who move at a snail's pace through math, all in the name of "it makes me mad to have to do math." Ugh.

I homeschool for a multitude of reasons, but the first and foremost is a serious education.

So, off they go.

I have worked far too hard---my boys have worked far too hard-- on attachment and building a family love and understanding to let homeschool undermine it.

I was really hoping that teaching them to read would come across as a loving, bonding activity as it had with the other children.

Yet, it hasn't. And that's okay.

My role with them is Mommy who Loves them and Cares for them.

Not Mommy who Educates them.

Does it make me sad? Yes. I've grieved over this. It seems so unfair that Trauma can take this away from us.

But, I'm okay with it, too. I love those boys, and I'll meet them where they're at.

And starting tomorrow, that will be by the monkey bars every day at 2:55 p.m.


katrina said...

hi sarah - i've been reading the blog for over a year! i don't think i've ever commented. but, i definitely wish you the best with regards to the transition to public school. i hope it goes as smoothly as possible! i am continuously impressed with your disposition towards the boys as well as your incredible, encouraging honesty. it is so, so clear how much you love them and how committed you are to their growth and health, but also the growth and health of your whole family!!

also, i was wondering if you would be open to me sending you a message in more private quarters in regards to a trauma book i've been reading that i thought i might mention to you just in case it would be of use (i can give you more details about the context of my reading it, etc - but i'd rather not do it on a public comment!). i have been on a long, long search to find a text that is more than just tangentially useful to my own purposes in understanding complex trauma disorders and i found an intriguing one recently that i am thus far quite happy to be reading. if you are interested in hearing a bit more, let me know!

anyways, if you'd rather not post your email but are interested in hearing more please feel free to email me at kbrown1@gm.slc.edu.

i hope you have a really, really good day!!

Last Mom said...

Sounds like the right decision, but a difficult one. Now you get to see how happy their little faces will be when you pick them up after school! Now that my girl is comfortable letting me see she misses me, it's the best part of the day!

happytraveler said...

You don't know me from Adam but I happened on your blog through Next Blog :) I just wanted to let you know that you have a stranger praying for you and your family. I don't feel all your pain but I know what it is like to realize that no matter how much I love my child, I cannot be his (school) teacher. I homeschooled my son for two years in elementary. At that point he actually REQUESTED to go back to school!

I felt like a failure, I mean I'm a certified teacher! I should be able to teach this child. But in the end it was the best thing I did. He is currently on scholarship at college and still argues with me weekly. LOL!

They need you to love them and care for them and that can be a full time job itself!

Corey said...

I love you... and I admire the strength it takes to make this kind of decision, trying to do what is right for ALL members of the family. This is a beautifully explained post. Can't wait to see you in SIX! WEEKS!

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you for not letting your pride, your feelings, or your beliefs get in the way of assessing and choosing what is best for the boys at this time. We chose homeschooling for our oldest because that was what was best for her. It was also what we tried after giving both public and private school a try.

You've given that same sort of unselfish effort toward the rest of our children. Allowing the boys to return to public school after trying homeschool is not a loss. It is an act of love to say that, after all of the success we've had with three other children in homeschooling, what is important is to adapt to our boys' needs. And that is, in the end, a more loving thing than to force them to mold to our desires.

-Mr. Always Amazed

ManyBlessings said...

"I have worked far too hard---my boys have worked far too hard-- on attachment and building a family love and understanding to let homeschool undermine it."


Been there.

Best decision we ever made.


Amy said...

I still believe that I'm a better parent because J goes to public school. We are so blessed that he gets all the help he needs and has a great support system at school. I don't know how he'll do in high school but for now it's working for us.

He does "disengage" sometimes about schoolwork. I don't understand why they think they shouldn't have to do it when everyone else is doing it. But I get what you mean about "playing dumb" and just flat out refusing to do the work. J still does that occasionally. He still cries awfully easily for a 14yo too. Ah, this adoptive parenting is so much fun, isn't it?

Hang in there. I think this is a good decision for your family.