Three Things I’m Struggling With

It turns out that homeschooling and parenting have brought out three things that I really struggle with and are forcing me to confront them head on for the sake of my kids.

  1. Math — I really struggled with math as a child and well into college. My father is a math genius and lost patience easily when I didn’t grasp the concepts that I was being taught. I find myself panicking about Ben’s math education all the time. I can’t tell what is normal development and whether he needs a different way to learn. I’ve switched math programs twice now, but I’m convinced that I have to stay the course with what we’re doing and just be patient. I don’t want him to be afraid of math or dislike math the way that I did and do. And it’s so hard not to convey my fears about it to him when I’m trying to teach him. It’s not that I don’t understand first grade math. I do. But I’m afraid of what comes in the future. I just need to breathe deeply and try not to worry so much about it. And I need to know that he’s going to be fine even if he’s still counting on his fingers for some of the things that should eventually be mental math. He’s five. It’s okay.
  2. Art — There are two reasons that art education is so incredibly hard for me. First, my parents were not art people. Crayons were available, but we rarely had paints or chalk or any other art implements in the house. I remember having a stamp pad when I was four or maybe five. We had just had wallpaper put in the hall that ran from my room to the living room. I was wanting to show my parents something that I’d done, but I dropped the stamp and pad getting the ink on the carpet and on the wallpaper. What I remember is how upset everyone was and how much I didn’t want that kind of upset again. Then, when I was in second or third grade, we were doing art and the teacher informed me that left-handed people are not meant to be artists and that I was not good at it and I never would be good at it. I have not voluntarily drawn something again, but now Ben wants to learn to draw and learn how to do art and it’s so incredibly painful for me to do it. I literally ache inside when I pull out the paints. I wanted to use MaryAnn Kohl’s books to guide our art program, but I’m not equipped to do that. I don’t understand how to do the things she says. So, we switched to Artistic Pursuits. I believe I can do this with him as long as we stay focused on the process, not the product. In the meantime, I’m heading back to Ed Emberley and I’m going to use Mark Kistler and I’m going to learn how to draw — finally. I’m doing it for me because I just don’t believe a left handed person can’t do it. I don’t. What I believe is that the art teacher who said that to me didn’t know how to teach a left handed person and took the easy way out rather than trying to figure out how to do it.
  3. Dance — Katie loves to dance. She LOVES it. She wants to dance all the time and she wants to learn more about it, so we’ve decided to sign her up for classes starting at the end of August. I started dance classes when I was five. I did it because I was pigeon-toed and wore corrective shoes. My doctors told my parents dance classes or braces. Thank God they chose the dance classes, honestly. At five or six I was in a tap class and a ballet class. But then we moved and the only dance offered where we moved was ballet, so I took ballet until I was in eighth grade. At that point I was told, not too politely, that I was never going to be able to progress any further and that I needed to stop. And I did. Not only have I not danced since then, it’s a struggle for me to dance in any kind of class setting. Zumba, step classes, they fill me with terror because, in my heart, I believe I can’t dance. It makes me so nervous to put Katie in classes. I have to wonder if we’re doing the right thing. I mean it’s no pressure. If she doesn’t like it or doesn’t want to do it, she can stop. I don’t expect her to become a great dancer or anything, but I’m so afraid that someone is going to tell her she can’t do something and she’ll believe it like I did.

They say that children make you confront your fears, and I guess mine are doing just that. I just hope that they have better experiences and better memories than I do of these things. I hope that they soar, find things they love, and learn to face down their fears instead of getting locked up in them the way that I did. I guess that’s what I’m struggling with the most: showing my kids that they can do whatever they want to do means I have to do the things I want to do even as I’m hearing the voices from the past telling me that I can’t.

12 thoughts on “Three Things I’m Struggling With

  1. Oh my gosh…Math terrifies me. Last year, J started with pre algebra– and I swear my blood ran cold. But, I muddled through, and she did a perfect score on her FCAT (well it’s not FCAT here, but you know what I mean). Anyway, I think that she is just smarter than me, and I’ll let her be!

    I totally get the fear bit. Homeschooling is scary! I’m constantly afraid that I’m messing them up forever! The good thing is that you see this, and you’re not going to let it get you.

    Besides, you have friends on your side any time you need! xxoxo

    • I do have friends who are helping or laughing along with me. Case in point, yesterday a friend who is a course designer had me proofing a course he’d worked on. We determined there was a math problem. It took us 20 minutes, 2 pieces of paper, and a FIVE YEAR OLD to figure out what we were doing wrong. Ben walked in, looked at the math I was doing and said, clear as a bell, Mom you’re doing that wrong. Do it like this. Sigh.

  2. Did you know M.C. Escher was left handed?

    How about LeRoy Neiman? Leonardo da Vinci? Who knows who else, considering that a left-hand dominance was considered unlucky or possessed & “greatly discouraged.” Today’s view of 10% of the population has improved slightly.

    My husband & daughter got a lot of use out of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Seeing you tackle this will be an excellent example for your kids.

    I don’t understand why adults tell kids they CAN’T do something. Just let them see if they can.

    • I do *now* but in second or third grade a left-handed student was something of an oddity. My mother was the first generation in our family not to be trained out of her left handedness. I was the second.

      I really think her feeling was that she couldn’t teach me to do it “right” and so there was no point to the exercise. People really piss me off sometimes. Also might be why I homeschool 🙂

  3. Jones motto #1: Act like good things are going to happen.
    Jones motto #2: The first thousand times are the hardest.

    Neither Jim nor I grew up in dancing families (mine was religiously opposed for generations). The closest I came to dancing in high school was mosh pits (thank heavens for local punk bands).

    We’ve taken classes together quite a few times during the last couple decades- mostly continuing education stuff at local universities but also community dance classes ( We’re never going to be considered graceful in anyone’s book, but it took the edge off dancing (as have music-driven exercise classes like Body Pump) in private and in public.

    We’ve been known to have a weekly family dance party in our living room on Saturday nights and can sometimes be spotted dancing in grocery store aisles in the wee hours. It’s a blast- and, thanks to YouTube and Napolean Dynamite, even silly dances are appreciated these days.

    In Steve Martin’s under-rated “L.A. Story,” he says (& wrote): “Free your mind and your body will follow.”

    Do something ridiculously fun at home (let me suggest this for a start: because you can and because naysayers should not take such pleasure from the rest of us.

    • I’m working on that. I’m working on a lot of things actually. Katie is signed up for a “tiny dancer” class which is supposed to be fun and light. Mostly just a way for us to validate that she’s important, too, and that she doesn’t have to spend every waking second following her brother from activity to activity.

  4. Try doing art outside. Seriously – take a sketch book or paints or whatever right outside with you (not a lot – a few things to be managable) and do art together as part of being outside. Paint a tree or the shapes in the clouds or whatever. There is no way to do it wrong. There is no mess or messing up worries.

    Math and art are just language, packaged differently. Honest and for true: when you get into more complicated math, it’s all about discerning exactly what story the problem wants to tell. Galileo said that mathematics was the language that God used to write the universe, and although I probably aren’t in alignment with him on much else faith-wise, I certainly agree with that.

    I think the main thing that is of value here is not the specific instruction but the positive affirmation you’re giving the kids that they can do it, that they can do anything and everything. That was taken from you and I think that’s why it is hard now – but you can do it for the kids 🙂

  5. art.. i agree with cindy and go outside.. start small, colored paper, find something in nature that matches the paper…. try and draw it…. take cotton outside, look at clouds, make the cotton match the clouds… make up your own clouds…..

    math – math was ALWAYS easy..(memorizing math not so much) everything is math, music, knitting, quilting, its all math and that makes it all easy… i got the math gene somewhere…. and i was the kid who COULD NOT for the life of me remember the times tables, it was april of 4th grade, eVERYONE else on earth knew them but me… yeah, and i beat them all when we got to algebra and calculus….. some folks like tables some can do formulas, let it all ebb and flow and it will all work out….

    • Sounds interesting. I’m game. Oh, hey, we’re looking at moving #hschat to Thursdays is that going to interfere w/#hsmath? We’re looking at twice a month, so maybe we could work something out with that.

  6. Hello there, I hope you don’t mind this out of the blue comment, but I was so moved reading your blog. My left-handed ten year old daughter wants to be an artist (or, as it happens, a construction worker). She would absolutely tell you—one left-hander to another—just do it.

    Two things that have encouraged her in this: art galleries and art supply shops. That’s where we started, because I can’t draw to save my life (it’s a hand eye thing, I think), so we had to start by looking outward together for some clues as to how she might become An Artist. So I got to look at paintings through her eyes, and we’ve been to art shops together, and that’s been a real joy.

    • oh yeah, Mark Kistler has given me a totally new belief in myself (I am using his kid’s book, but still). I feel a lot better about it. I’m never going to be famous, but I can at least draw things that look like what I’m trying to draw. I consider that a win 🙂

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