Friday, March 9, 2007

Letting Go and Learning to Trust

I homeschooled Declan from his earliest years until this year. He went to public school this year, and the transition has been positive. The reasons for making this change were myriad but one of the main ones was that I have never found a way to effectively motivate him so any responsibility he had was a source of struggle. Making the responsibility a normal part of life doesn't do it. Rewards don't do it. Removing privileges doesn't do it. I will say that he does take responsibility for chores better than many or most kids his age. It's "school" work that we have struggled with for so long.
Homeschooling had caused his world to be too small, too narrow. The 24/7 of "All Mom, All the Time!" of homeschooling was about 8/5 too much. He was needing to bounce himself off more adults than just his parents and he needed a larger pool of potential friends from which to choose. I recently described him as a fish who outgrew his tank and needed to be dumped in a pond; he needed room to grow.
So, he now goes to the school we're zoned for. It's not one of the better schools in our city but the transition has been good; I'm glad we did it. He's been accepted to attend the arts magnate school for next year and is really looking forward to being around people who's fashion sense includes clothes that don't have a rebel flag on them.
He's glad he's going to school but he's not terribly motivated by the academics of school. He's enrolled as a 9th grader but is taking 2 10th courses: Geometry and AP English. He's still doing alright in Geometry but the English is a source of frustration for his teachers, Hammy and I. English is his best subject (that and history). He's always been a voracious reader, has a fabulous vocabulary and writes poetry. So why did he flunk English last semester? He didn't turn in his assignments-things like reading logs. His teacher really liked him and said he understood everything; he just didn't do what he didn't feel like doing: That old motivation issue. We switched him to 10th grade standard English at the beginning of the semester and yesterday we got an email from his teacher saying that he's currently got a 67 grade point average because (don't hold your breath) he hasn't turned in his notes for a paper.
I've been trying to talk to him about motivation. I've asked him what he can do to motivate himself. He turns it around and blames his lack of motivation on everything we, as his parents, have ever done wrong when it comes to responsibility and discipline. He says that he wants us to leave him to motivate himself, to let him succeed or fail without any interference from us. I think I understand where he's coming from and I respect him, but I also do not see him taking much responsibility for his work. I'm really struggling with this. He's almost 16. That means that he's in the last years of us having much of any influence on him. It also means that his current actions could have a profound impact on his future options. I'm not concerned about 'grade level' or even grades so much as committing to the path he is on, owning the experience and getting as much as possible out of it. So what if he passes gym with a D. I didn't really care that he flunked his English last semester because he teacher was a really good teacher who encouraged him to stretch himself and he really learned from her. But...what about him learning to follow through? If he flunks anything at the school for the arts, he's out. But I guess that's his path, too.
I think we have to trust him. I think he needs to learn his own lesson. Hammy and I are going out this evening to discuss this. Hammy and I take turns being the 'authoritarian' parent. Last night he was and I was trying to engage D in conversation. I drove D to his drum lessons (which he decided to quit and gave his notice last night) and we discussed (argued) what's best for him all the way there. I dropped him off and walked to a coffee shop where I sat with my chai and held Declan in God's light. I feel directed to trust Dec to find his own way. Obviously, what we've been doing has not really worked so we may as well try it his way.
Letting go is so hard. Trusting is hard.
I was reading the Queries from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting and these spoke to me:
Are you as children learning to be accountable for your own actions? (or, as I am thinking today: Are you allowing your children to learn to be accountable for their own actions)
Do you as parents help your children to grow in independence and responsibility?
I will sit with these questions today.

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