the good fight

I’ve written about the Boy Child here and here. He is now in the 5th grade and next year will be in middle school.

He’s never had it easy in school – it just doesn’t come as naturally to him as the Girl Child. It’s always a little bit harder, like it just doesn’t quite click.  The reading part has finally clicked, once he found the Warriors cat series. If I could hug Erin Hunter, I would. He reads for hours now. Without nagging.

He has a special love for cats. He desperately wants a cat, and that has been his motivator when it comes to homework. Considering we have this beast, we are trying to figure out ways to make this happen.

Sometimes, though, the cat is not enough. So we practice extra math online, hoping to increase math fact fluency. I think it is beginning to work, but time before middle school is running out, so we are doing a little tutoring once a week with a friend who is a teacher.  She can give me insight professionally – should I be worried about ADD or a  learning disability? She says it’s probably just a maturity thing, and to keep practicing.

The problem though is the tutoring. He thinks having a tutor makes him “dumb”.  We have gone round and round about this, me trying to explain he is plenty smart and lots of kid have tutors, even kids we know. I think he has come to accept our friend helping him, mostly because he thinks it will help him get a cat, but she can’t go on doing it forever.

So I found this place. It has a great reputation and can help him with writing too – another area he hates and struggles in. I told him about it last night, holding my breath. Explained it’s not like Sylvan or Kumon, which he thinks means you’re REALLY dumb (no, I don’t know why he thinks that).  Then we started his math homework – 10 story problems with fractions. He did great on 9 of them, and then lost it. Said he couldn’t do it, too hard, blah blah. Which was nonsense since it was exactly like the other 9 he did pretty easily. On and on like this for 15 minutes, til he broke his pencil in half. I took his paper and said that was enough and went to cook dinner.

Then the heartbreaker – he brings his “night night” into the kitchen and said he was throwing it in the trash. I said if he did that, it was going in the garbage. He did, and I did. Of course, I stashed it somewhere between the kitchen and the garbage can, but he didn’t know that. A long, bad, sad night. He has had “night night” since he was born and sleeps with it still. He wrote a note to it last night, about it serving him well and it was time to party ways. I cried.

This morning I wrote him a note. Explained that getting a tutor actually means you are smart enough to know you need help and care enough to get it. That all I want is for him to be able to do his best at whatever he chooses, and that means he needs to do extra work now. That getting mad solves nothing.  That I saved his night night and he can earn it back. That I love him very much.

We talked this morning, and he told me tutoring scares him. I know this. I told him he needs to think of the benefits and give it a chance, just like he did with our friend, which turned out to be not scary at all. That I will help him.

Getting over this hump will take hard work. He will need to fight for it, and right now he doesn’t want to.

But I do, and I will. All day. Every single day.

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11 thoughts on “the good fight

  1. 826 is Dave Eggers and Dean should know that is really cool. I say this even though I harbor some latent bitterness towards Mr. Eggers.
    http://826valencia.org/
    If I was a kid I would kill to go to something like that. Also I would probably learn a lot more and have fun.
    Mr. Eggers is also McSweeney’s, (http://www.mcsweeneys.net/) which has its merits but also causes more bitterness. I worked on McSweeney’s one summer as unpaid factory worker. He was kind of cheap, you know, like pay you nothing cheap, like not even your subway fare cheap. :(. However, I think his heart is in the right place when it comes to education. I guess he was saving all his money so he could educate the bright and shiny youth, like Dean.

    Maybe Dean will let me go to 826 with him!

    • 826 Seattle has had John Roderick from The Long Winters teach a class, and some kids got to do Pearl Jam-related stories and read them to Jeff Ament. I want to go!

  2. The Warriors books did the same for Annie, at the same age. I read a lot of them as well, and they are fabulous. We have two sibling cats and Annie still refers to one as the ‘warrior’ whenever he has a successful hunting expedition.

    I think we still have some books, as I gladly ponied up (retail even!) for any and all of them; I am happy to pass them along, assuming they are still in Annie’s room. Interested?

    Other books Annie loved: Skeleton Creek, the author came to GLES for Young Author Day, and his books are “multi-media” in that there’s an intermittent video. I think there are four books in that series. It’s about two misfit teens and scary gold dredge. Dean might like them too, especially as you HAVE to use the computer for a short video at the end of each chapter.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. We are pretty well set now on Warriors books, thanks to the Professors. Funny how they are hard to find at Goodwill – guess people pass them on before they get donated.

  3. I would be happy to share my tutoring stories w. Dean, it started with needing help on fractions in 3rd grade and these “tutors” became a great resource all through school whenever I found I was struggling – I don’t think I would have made it without them. They were honored guests at my HS graduation party! You might be wrapping up night-night for HIS graduation present!

  4. Your kids are amazing people and I really appreciate what great parents you are! Keep up the good fight.

    Yes, counselors aren’t just for crazy people and tutors aren’t just for dummies! What if you try to explain that different people need help with different things and that it is nice to work as a community and help each other. Maybe if you has the chance to tutor someone else he will see the benefits more clearly. Maybe he can tutor me on video games or ninjas or whatever. I am serious! I am always happy to learn something new and I think it could be empowering for him to be the teacher instead of always the student.

    Also, my views on ADHD and learning disabilities and school. I am glad I wasn’t treated for them as a child. I think children with mild cases that are treated end up using it as a crutch all their lives. It made me find ways to adapt and never gave me an excuse. I truly believe that I am much smarter and well adapted than if I had been treated as though I’d had a handicap. I heard a really interesting story on NPR about a woman who did similar for her son who had a more severe learning disability and how he grew up to be very high functioning.

    Check out the “Flipped Classroom” method that is becoming popular (there is a Khan Institute video on the TED talks that I posted to FB). It is a style that has worked for me and I’d recommend for other people. If you can just try to get him to watch 5 minute videos before he goes to learn it in the class it might help. Also, informal/free-choice learning is a good way to teach children to become more interested and active in their education. I have a lot more ideas and opinions about this stuff if you want to chat next time I see you. I’ll probably have a crap-ton more if I get into the education graduate school I’ve applied for!

    Good luck fighting the good fight!

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