How to Completely Lose It Over Your Struggling Learner

... From an expert flipper-outter!

Photo Credit, CC via Compfight.com

When my son was in the second grade at a local public school district, we had just started entertaining the idea of home educating. We had prayed, researched and planned ...  

You see, the teachers, at this particular school, were baring down on us and had given repeated requests for us to medicate our son.  Even after our doctor intervened with a letter to the school explaining there was no need to medicate, we continued to feel a bit bullied by those "in charge" of our son's education.  We also believed that if there was a problem that the institution had the ability, nay the responsibility, to help us to find a solution.

We were wrong.  They were not interested in any solution, nor in pin-pointing the actual problem.  They just wanted medication.

Then enter a few additional learning struggles from our daughter, also in the second grade, and you had two completely desperate parents just about at the end of their proverbial rope.

What happened next was the last straw.  The, "Okay, I am like done with this thing." kind-of moment.  You know the one??? The stick a fork in me, I'm done kind-of done!

My son's second grade teacher proudly proclaimed to me during a conference, loosely translated, that teaching my son was not her job.

Say what???!!!???

Then, in that split second, God gave me a clear revelation.

You know what? She is absolutely correct.
It's not her job to teach your children.
It is your job.
I gave you the responsibility.
Now, go and do it.

Well, when God gives me direct marching orders, I run with it.
We began home educating our two elementary aged children that next week.

Alright God, now what?

I insured we were meeting all the required state mandates and enlisted the help of my mother, a then 20 year plus veteran teacher. (now she is almost at her 30 year teaching mark, just wow)  I also had a good friend who was homeschooling her children, and she was affirming and encouraging.  She pointed me to the best resources and introduced me around our local homeschooling community.  (Love you Sonya!)

Our transition to home educating life was not optimal, yet was completely necessary.  We survived and did the best we could with what we were given. 

What soon followed this type of transition is well known to many home educators. 
  • Enthusiasm. 
  • Excitement. 
  • Unrealistic Expectations. 
  • Confusion. 
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt. 
  • Shame.  
Almost in that exact order.
To say that we did well with home educating the first year would be stretching it.  We did much better the second and third year, with a few learning struggles along the way, but nothing completely earth shattering.

The earth shattering experiences were what followed during our next four years of home educating.  The large and small obstacles equally threatened to overshadowed our daily family life.  

I quickly sought refuge in a homeschool cooperative that runs more like a private school, three days per week, with a small classroom setting.  Trusting a friend that was involved with the school, over really seeking and searching any other options.  I guess I have typically been the desperate times, desperate measures kind-of gal.

The proceeding four years in that small classroom environment were good for our family in many respects, and not so good to our family learning vision.  We were able to find help for our daughter's dyslexia, which was one of the driving factors in staying at co-op.  The greatest change, however; was the staunch magnification that a small classroom brought to several learning struggles that we had long endured with our son, but unfortunately we had all "adapted to" inside the home.  After two years we began seeking help through neuro-specialists of all shapes and sizes.  The final diagnosis shook my world.  Autisim Spectrum.  Asperger's. OCD.

None of these labels were particularly a surprise to the rest of my family and friends, even my son seemed relatively resigned to these labels.  Mommy's reaction to these new revelations where ... um, let's just say, extreme

Let the absolute mommy mental & spiritual breakdown commence!!!

Don't speak those labels over my child. This is the stage of complete and utter denial. Put on the blinders and just keep moving.

Perhaps if I ignore everyone completely this will all go away. Ah, more from the denial stage.

What did I do wrong to cause this in my son? Let me try a full sized order of fear, and I would like side orders of blame, guilt and shame please.

If you say the "A" word around me, you're going to be sorry.  Seriously, I will bust a cap. This is me jumping back ON the denial bandwagon. 

Alright, so we are dealing with Asperger's.  I'm tougher.  I've seen worse. This attitude was, I believe, a direct result of being raised, in part, by a football coach. You know, suck it up. Walk it off. Put some ice on it. Yeah, that.

I think I will just shield my son completely, then no one will hurt him.  Enter huge imaginary bubble. This little nugget comes from my "over compensation" bag-of-tricks. I stayed here for like years!

Let's try every supplement, every naturopathic remedy, oil, tea, and diet in any book, anywhere.  Yep, that'll fix it. That would be more over compensation for those of us following along! 

Break down completed. Let me add, the entire process described above took OVER 5 YEARS, from start to finish! (Thank you to all those who personally stuck-in-there with me over those years.)

Here is the good news. 

God can work with brokenness! In fact, in my life at least, it is one of His preferred vehicles.

Broken woman, at her complete wits end, can now look to God, walk in faith and ALLOW Him to be the faithful, grace-filled, loving Deliverer that He was poised, and waiting to be the.entire.time.

Sound familiar???

Then there is hope for you.
There is also hope AND purpose for your struggling learner. 
I promise!

Beyond the denial, fear and over compensation that accompanies the beginning journey with educating struggling learners at home ... There is peace. There is hope.  There is joy. 

The key to getting all of these treasures depends upon change.

Not you changing the circumstances.

Not you trying to change that which is unchangeable.
Changing instead, the one thing we can change ... ourselves.
Changing our position on how we view, not just our struggling learners ... 
But also changing how we view the struggles in our own journey.

Paul E. Little uses this descriptive illustration in his work, "Know What You Believe"

"Consider the man who walks east into a strong wind and then turns around and walks west. He mistakenly says, 'The wind was on my face, but now it is on my back.' There has actually been no change in the wind. It was his direction that changed, and this change brought him into a new relationship with the wind."

We must change our own direction, our own attitude and approach to our struggling learners in order to gain a better relationship first with Christ, and then with our struggling learners.

We must accept and change ourselves in order to grow from the struggle. 

One of my favorite lines from the Serenity prayer says:

"...accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;"

There is hope. There is joy in the journey.

We must be ready to change the way we approach these struggles.   Let us  start with dropping the denial, fear and over-compensation.  Let us embrace acceptance, and find the joy again.

Coming out of the struggling learner wilderness with joy is possible, and necessary.

Please journey along with me in the coming weeks:

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The Joyful Socks Mom 

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