Sunday, June 10, 2012


Everyone's reactions to that whole post-before-last, "Too Soft"  was quite helpful, honestly.

For one thing, though I added a few more details in the comments, in the post I didn't let anyone know enough about the situation for it to really make sense.  And, what I realized from thinking over your comments, was that I was embarrassingly oblivious to actual situation myself.

The truth of it all lies in the child:  

  • A child who is presently trying to cope with an ENORMOUS boatload of shame (to be clarified in new blog....just trust me for now).
  • A child who already struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a need to be perfect....particularly in written work.
  • A child who was a first-rate, self-motivated student until her school world (through no fault of her own) fell apart in the middle of sixth grade.  Then her emotional stability collapsed, preventing her from going to school.  It has been a long time since she did schoolwork and she is a much more fragile person now.

The truth of it lies in the school situation:  

  • FINALLY, only a couple of months ago, I got a home-based teacher set-up through our school district.  Anastasia's emotional stability is so fragile that being in a group of peers is not possible for her at the moment.
  • The teacher does not, as I would have presumed, assess the child and give assignments.  No; she goes to the teachers in the large middle school that Anastasia presumably "attends" and brings the assignments that the students who are attending class are given.
  • NOTE:  Anastasia has not had ANY of the instruction related to said assignments.  She has not has any instruction so far this year in those subjects.  
  • Craig or I sit in (or nearby) on the lessons; no instruction has been given by the home-teacher in any subject other than math.  Anastasia's understanding of the math is better than the home-teacher's.  (And mine.)
  • The only thing Anastasia got was the assignment to write a research paper, using at least five sources, only two can be internet, on Mad Cow Disease.  Include a Bibliography and footnotes.
  • Anastasia has never written a paper like this; she has not had an opportunity to practice any of the steps for doing this.
  • I can see how it seems to just make sense for her to get a "bad grade" on the thing....but how can she be expected to do something that she hasn't been taught? (Frankly, I didn't emphasize that in my post, because I wasn't really recognizing it, myself.  I was just blindly accepting what the home-teacher gave her to do without thinking about it at all!  Stupid. 
  • The entire situation is bizarre:  a few weeks ago I got a form in the mail from her school (a school she has never entered, mind you).  There were "comments" from each teacher.  The oddity here is that all of the teachers (none of whom have ever seen or taught her) wrote comments - even comments such as:  Anastasia shows creativity and initiative.  Really?  Only one of them wrote:  Anastasia has missed too much class to judge. Yeah, I guess she has!  The other five included comments that would lead anyone to believe they actually knew who she was. Including:  Anastasia is very attentive in class.  So, these people are going to give her a grade?  That ought to be interesting.

The truth of it lies in my connection to the whole school thing:
  • As is obvious from my not even considering that she didn't know how to do the assignment - I have not paid much attention to it.
  • My only desire was for her to "finish it up", get it "over with". 
  • I was somehow attributing to her my own ability to throw something like this together in an afternoon. 
  • I was forgetting that she had not the faintest idea how to begin, let alone how to carry on. 
  • Honestly, though I said I'd help, I was not available to help due to end of the year work burdens.  I was barely home, except to make dinner and take people to classes/appointments etc.
So, she shouldn't have been rude.  I need to teach her how to wake me up to things, if I'm unaware, by sharing her thoughts and feelings about something in words, (not by tearing up mail.)

And,  my little idea to give her a "reward" for doing the thing was STUPID.  First of all, I know the child.  Anastasia does not need rewards; she is one of those people who finds the reward in the completion.  Secondly, the headphones are one of the  strategies she uses to regulate herself - quietly listening to music, and retreating from the household noise.  

I was simultaneously laying stress on her while telling her she couldn't have her stress-reliever.

As regards school - I am not going to expect her to do a paper, when no one has given her any instruction in how to do it.  I have no problem telling the home-teacher that.  

As regards communication - We do need to talk about how to talk to mama when mama is overwhelmed.  Undoubtedly she thought I was too oblivious to be talked to but learning how to get through to someone who is "not getting it" is an important tool.  

Parenting trauma is hard. Being my daughter is no picnic sometimes either.


Molly said...

if you want help teaching her to write a paper, let me know!!!!

kate said...

Ahh...there's the rest of the story.

I have been trying to remember what Anastasia's school situation was right now ever since I commented. I thought home-based teachers were supposed to do more TEACHING than that. That is ridiculous.

No wonder she was overwhelmed.

schnitzelbank said...

I'm just going to throw this out there, I am an ESL teacher with an MA-TESOL. I teach developmental writing, reading skills, grammar, academic listening/speaking skills (like, how to listen to a lecture, take notes, and give a presentation). I've taught everyone from high school, through adult ed and community college. I'm currently a stay-at-home mom, so I have time to skype or chat with Anastasia and help her through these assignments. I know it's not a long-term solution to the problem that the school is having, but it's an honest offer for her and you. I'm the gal that used to live and teach in Livonia (I live in Los Angeles now).
Can I give you a heads-up on those stupid comments? Every district has different grading software, but sometimes it defaults to a dumb comment, like, "So and So is Very Attentive in Class," and you have to go in and manually switch around comments for 150+ students.... with four comments apiece... sometimes one or two falls through the cracks. Especially when the school gives you the directive that the window for comments will be open for the next three hours, and you have a staff meeting, a stack of essays to grade, and return 3 parents' phone calls, all before 5pm... I know it's no excuse, but sometimes that's how these mistakes happen. My email is (all one word) frau jooli e [at] g ma il [dot] c0m

Nora Sailor said...

That poor girl!!!!! :( And, since I'm well acquainted with the school district - how shameful they are not the professionals they are paid to be!!!!! Because truly, I know it's a tough district to work in, I use to do work for it, BUT if you are not going to do you job as a teacher - GET OUT!!! Find something else to do. They have failed Anastasia. Totally failed her. If I was her, I'd be overly stressed myself and throwing mail, and I'm 51 and should "know better." That poor sweetie, and poor you too!!!!

ko said...

Homeschool teachers are worthless. I hate to say it, but I had one in 5th grade because of medical reasons and all they did was bring the stuff and taught me how to needlepoint. They are not for teaching. Can you apply to have her home schooled another way? I know here in GA all I have to do is write a letter and send that she worked 4 hrs a day for 180 days. Just wondering. There are online things too. Just wondering. I hope I can read your new blog! I love your writing and always get such great ideas.

NoMatterWhatMom said...

We pulled our middle-schoolers with RAD out of their brick-and-mortar school and began schooling them at home near the end of the third quarter this year. Because we needed to hit the ground running, we went with an online virtual academy that is licensed as a tuition-free public charter school in our state. They supplied everything from books to microscopes to art supplies.

This worked out very well for us, since the curriculum was strong and was designed for schooling at home. We had teachers and the availability of online virtual classroom help, if needed, including drop-in virtual tutoring by real people. It may be too late to choose something like this for the remainder of this schoolyear, but could be an alternative for next year.

We had planned to homeschool, but the online school has supplied all of the grading criteria, which, with my RADish kids, helps remove the power struggle over grading or determining whether they have learned enough to move on. If they disagree, I just show them the criteria and ask them to show me how many points they earned. If they don't master the lesson, there's no shame. We just go back over it and work on it until it's mastered. Then we move on. I didn't know how I'd like it, but the online school turned out to be a huge help and my kids liked it and were far more successful at learning than they had been in regular middle school. Just my experience, in case it's helpful to you.

Hevel Cohen said...

Ugh, home bound teachers are awful. Personal experience makes me say that. But I, too, was surprised she didn't get more teaching from the you know, teachers. :(

Therepautic parenting is hard. I hope things will improve for you.

Ciska said...

Anastasia really had a crazy year regarding school. I can't believe her home-based teacher doesn't do more than that! How is she coping with the rest of her school work? Is that working out? When will she finish for the summer? School work can be very stressful for perfectionists, if you add the total lack of coaching from the teacher, all the school changes from this year and Anastasia's background, it's so understandable that it became too much.