Exercise+, Day 17: Hard Decisions Made Harder!

February 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm


Today was the sort of day that I cannot describe without swearing.   Since I am not, as it happens, a great fan of swearing, hopefully this underscores just how horrible the day was.  Nothing I attempted to do seemed to go as I hoped, and by the end of the day the only member of our family who hadn’t spent an inordinate amount of time in tears was Andy.  What a mess.

While once again, I realize that this entry will have little to do with the diet and exercise regimen for which my blog has become so famous, it nonetheless follows up on yesterday’s entry…so I must beg the patience of my vast audience as I once again dedicate a blog entry to the wrong things.  Please feel free to skip.

There are a couple of common nightmares that groups of people tend to have.  Amy and I chatted briefly on Sunday and somehow determined that we both have the dream where we suddenly realize that we’ve been enrolled in a certain college class and that we’ve forgotten to attend all semester.  Usually the dream involves some kind of crucial test that we’ll be expected to take, but for which we’ve obviously not prepared.

I would imagine everyone is to some degree prone to these dreams, and that perhaps there is a common thread of dreams unique to members of a given profession.  I still, to this day, have a regularly occuring ‘teacher dream’ that leaves me waking up in a cold sweat now and then.  In the dream, I’m back in my classroom in South Beloit, and my class is talking.  They’re not being horrible in any other way; no one is throwing things or hurting anyone.  They’re just talking and talking and talking and, in the process, ignoring me and my efforts to get their attention.   My efforts to get them to stop and listen to me start with raising my voice to call them to order and then escalate as I get more frustrated and feel more impotent because they are clearly doing it on purpose.  Eventually I end up taking it too far and doing something really horrible to one of them.  What I do isn’t exactly clear, or the same thing every time.   But it involves shoving or otherwise sort of manhandling a student, which is a serious crisis because in the Real World of Teaching, that sort of thing is effectively professional suicide.

I have been feeling this same SORT of thing with Zack and Noah lately when it comes to school.  Moreso Zack than Noah; Noah is unfortunately dependent upon me to help him with his lessons, and if I’m not able to sit with him, THAT is why they don’t get done.  But Zack can actually do much of his work without me, as his curriculum is set up for self-guided learning, and while he still needs guidance and explanations a lot of the time, he can still make serious headway into his daily work without me most of the time.   Unfortunately, lately he has become increasingly resistant, pouty, whiny and stubborn about schoolwork, which is probably why I started pondering sending him back to Zion in the first place.

And it has been gradually escalating.  The higher the Overdue Lessons tally goes, the more he moans, groans, complains, fidgets, sneaks away, etc.  As of yesterday I had already made good on a threat to take away his video games, television, etc. if he didn’t devote some serious time into catching himself back up, but it hasn’t done much good.  Whenever he reaches a point where he has a question about something and I’m not immediately available to ask, he assumes this means it’s break time and wanders off to do something else.  The next thing I know, I return to the kitchen and Zack’s books sit there, abandoned, while Zack is off in some distant corner of the house.  By the time I get him called back and back on task, he’s grumbling and surly and it takes him that much longer to buckle down again.  Before either of us knows it, half the day is gone, and Zack has yet to check off a single assignment.

And today, around midday, I had them both sitting at the kitchen counter working on math work, and Noah was cheerfully entertaining Zack and trying to make him laugh.  And Zack was only too happy to cooperate, too, of course, so they sat there, laughing and laughing and laughing, while I stood staring at the two of them, feeling that familiar sense of impotence and outrage from the dream.   I was struggling against tears, which made them laugh even harder when they looked at me.  I think Noah thought, honestly, that my quivering lips were due to me trying not to laugh too.

I left the room.   I know how the scene ends in my dreams, and I obviously didn’t want to go that far here.  If spankings are in order, I hope to be self-controlled enough to do them right.  As I sat down at my computer, I found myself thinking that this must be it… this was the breaking point.  When homeschooling is going well, I really enjoy it… I love having my kids home, I love knowing exactly what they’re learning about, I love taking field trips and hopping on those ‘teachable moments’ that come up.   Given a choice with no other considerations at play, I’d deal with the frustration and just keep doing this….  But maybe this is God’s way of making me see that the MoVIP thing isn’t working, no matter how badly I might want it to.  Maybe it was time to just decide to send them back to Zion and be done with it.

Noah came cheerfully after me with a water-bottle as these thoughts were resolving themselves in my brain.  He was still hopped up on his perceived comedic prowess, still convinced on some level that I was just as amused by him as he was, and  he shot water at me.  I roared at him so violently that he recoiled in shock.   He was instantly sorry — Noah always is — and he apologized and ran immediately back to attend to his schoolwork.  I watched him go, knowing I’d over-reacted and feeling bad about it.

I would like to point out here that if anyone had asked me prior to today whether my boys enjoyed MoVIP, or preferred it, I would have said that they probably have mixed feelings about it, but that I thought they’d probably opt to go back to Zion if we could afford it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I HAVE said that to people, and it’s the honest truth.   The fact that we can’t afford it has rendered the question pretty moot, but for whatever it IS worth, I have long suffered under the impression that my kids put up with MoVIP because I haven’t really given them any choice.  I have always thought they would, given the choice, be pleased to return and be with their friends and do whatever is done at school all day.   All other things being equal, the grass just plain tends to always be greener, especially when you’re 6 and 8, so it just seemed to me to be the likeliest thing.

So as I watched Noah walk away, cowed and apologetic in the wake of my roar of fury, I thought, “I should tell them.  It will make it up to them.”    As I had clearly screwed up, at least I could make it better by giving them good news.  I was that convinced that the news would be good.

Well, I was wrong.  Wow.  When I announced to them that I was more or less planning to send them back to Zion, Zack flew off his stool and ran at me in a storm of tears and gnashing of teeth, begging me not to send him back, swearing he’d stop being bad about schoolwork and promising he’d stay on task from now on, just pleasepleaseplease don’t send him back to school.

This was startling enough, but NOAH was instantly in tears too.  I think in his case it was just riding the tide of Zack’s distress; Noah’s logic often seems to stop with Zack, so if Zack is upset, Noah assumes there must be something to be upset about.  He, too, apologized profusely and swore he’d do his work and on and on.  This was ironic, since as I noted previously, the only reason Noah is behind at all is because of ME, not him.  But anyway…

Suffice it to say, this was not the reaction I had been expecting.  And because of that I scarcely knew how to react to it when it happened.  I comforted Zack and asked him why he was so distressed about the idea of going back; he said ‘the kids are mean to me at Boy Scouts; they’ll be even meaner to me at school!’  Further questioning on this point failed to provide me with much additional information, which leads me to think that Zack really doesn’t have any actual instances of ‘meanness’ on behalf of his fellow Cub Scouts to speak of, but rather it’s just sort of an assumption he’s making based on one or two snide remarks one kid made to him a long time ago.   When Nick hurt his feelings back then, I must have tried to explain that Nick may treat Zack that way because HE gets treated that way by other boys at school…. and so now apparently I’ve given Zack the impression that all boys at school abuse each other regularly.

Sadly, this isn’t too far from how I really feel, but I know it’s not as bad as all that.  I just think a lot of the ‘socialization’ that goes on in schools isn’t healthy.  But that’s a diatribe for another day.  Bottom line: Zack is not actually suffering active abuse at Cub Scouts, which is good, but he clearly does NOT want to go back to school.. which is…not so good.

At least, not so good in terms of ‘sending the kids back to school would enable Jen to work on PCG more’.

I didn’t even tell Andy about any of this when he came home.  I think I was just still so bewildered as to what to think about it all that I didn’t know what to say to him about it.  However, it didn’t much matter, because Zack apparently went to Andy and tried to enlist his help in talking me out of this Send The Boys Back To Zion plan.   Andy came down while I was on the treadmill to ask about it, and I explained how the day had gone.  This led to a renewal of Andy’s frustration with me for being adamantly against sending them to PUBLIC school, since he is, himself, a public school teacher… and a frustrated, tearful response from me in which I detailed, for perhaps the hundredth time, my reasons for being so against sending my kids to Francis Howell.

The usual arguments rehashed, we tabled the discussion regarding what to do next year for now, deciding to focus instead on how to survive the rest of this school year.  To that end, Andy has loaded ies4osx on his Macbook so that he can check in on the kids’ progress from school and call home if it doesn’t look like things are getting done on time.  He’s also told Zack that Zack won’t go on the Overnight next week unless he finishes his work and gets caught up.  Zack meekly accepted both of these arrangements, and seems genuinely determined to do better.  That’s good.  Of course, how long that will last is anyone’s guess.

So there it is.  I have no idea at this point what next year will hold, but for now we’re apparently going to keep limping along and see where we end up.

Naturally, this stuff happens on a Down Day.  Did I mention that I worked really hard to make a good beef stew for the family for dinner, and my stupid crock-pot’s thermostat is screwed up, so even though I set it for ‘6 hours’, it was overdone and horrid by the time it was time to eat?  And that I tried to make two loaves of whole wheat bread, but neither one would rise?  And that I cleaned the kitchen no less than three times, and yet it still looks like a bomb went off in it?  UGH.  I hated today.  I did my walking, and that’s good.. but now I’m going to bed so I can forget today happened.


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Exercise+, Day 16: Life Changes Exercise+, Day 18: Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day…

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