I Cry Uncle and Back Off (Yet Again)

So our routine of working with workbook sheets to learn/reinforce basic addition and subtraction, telling time, counting money, and language arts worked…for all of three weeks.

After which it was made quite clear to me that this was not a permanent solution.

There would be no capitulation from the wayward child intent on NOT learning how to read. And I was kind of hating the “do this or else” message I was sending out. Well, I guess I had better clarify that.

In all honesty, as long as she didn’t argue or complain, I could pretend that all was well with the world. I was doing my job, carefully picking out the workbook pages for her to work on each day and she was doing her job, by quietly and obediently following the instructions without complaint. No, or very little, whining meant that things were successful…right?!


There are things that I am simply and completely blind to – the prostitutes on Independence Avenue? Never even noticed them until my husband pointed them out. A man or woman (happened to me once in SF) flirting with me? I rarely notice – I just smile and move on – happy and secure in a relationship, never imagining anything different.

But one thing I am not blind to is my child and that feeling you get that something is not quite right. Due to past situations with my eldest, I’m much more attuned these days, much more eager to delve into WHY my child is not happy, not comfortable. So when my kiddo is unhappy, and shows it in a small little way, it rubs me like a grain of sand bothers an oyster. I can’t just close my eyes and ignore it, no matter how much I want to.

So our month-long foray into workbook work was successful in some ways – it improved her writing skills and encouraged more use of lowercase letters, where she was writing almost exclusively with uppercase prior to that. It also improved her recognition of lowercase letters. At this time only ‘b’ and ‘d’ seem to get mixed up. She also became familiar with more sight words, as well as more experienced in sounding words out.

That was all language arts. When it came to math, she firmly GOT counting by tens and fives in relation to money. And very clearly can differentiate between pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters and easily identify their worth. She also clearly grasped time-telling to the nearest hour, became nearly proficient at recognizing what time it is on a digital display, and learned addition and subtraction up to fifteen. She picked all of these up quickly, showing a clear proficiency at math. I even showed her double-digit addition a few times and she seemed to get it, although we didn’t practice it much.

Despite this progress, I could sense her unhappiness. She was able to sit and complete these tasks far better than she had been able to a year ago, but there was still a great deal of resistance and dissatisfaction.

Now sure, life will hand us dissatisfying work in our lives. We may find ourselves in careers or entry-level positions we truly despise. And yes, we all must learn to deal with adversity.

But when it comes to learning? At the age of six? I’m telling you my heart is simply not in it. I cannot justify forcing my child to learn something she does not wish to learn.

I want her to read. I truly believe it will change her world. I dream of her being able to read, sucking those words in like soda through a straw, and flying off in adventures through the pages of the hundreds of books at her fingertips.

I have always felt such joy, watching the words race before my eyes, teaching me, energizing me, distracting me.

But wanting it for her isn’t enough. And I so fear the opposite reaction occurring – an abhorrence of reading the written word, of never enjoying the act of reading, that I nearly panic at the thought of forcing this on her.

So I’m crying “uncle” and backing off, yet again.

I will return to reading to her. To asking for her to help me remember things by writing down notes as we drive in the car (she loves to do it, and I don’t have to try to write and drive at the same time).

Meanwhile, I’ve got a backup plan in place. I’m encouraging the two neighbor boys to come over more and spend time in the homeschool room. A microscope here, a science experiment there, and lots of time playing outside. I’m allowing Emily (and the boys) to drive her learning for now. Everything I read tells me that children learn to read when they are ready. As much as I want it to be now, I have to be patient.

Did I mention that a co-worker once nicknamed me Miss Patience? Yeah. He was being ironic.

i can do this. And so, for that matter, can Emily.

Now if they only manufactured patience in spray on form. Or perhaps a tincture?!

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One Response to I Cry Uncle and Back Off (Yet Again)

  1. Tom says:

    It’s very easy to get impatient with the learning “progress”. I’m constantly wishing I could have more time with just me and her to do school work (sneaky and/or explicit). I KNOW it’s working out, and I KNOW she’s doing fine, and I KNOW she’ll get everything eventually, but still, I worry too much about it!