This was not my finest hour

Looking back through the blog I realized that we have not been diligent about posting the trials and tribulations of sending the children to public/private school. As I suspect is true in most families, we have one child who is soaring academically and the other who is struggling just to hang on. Needless to say, most of the drama surrounds the latter.
I go back and forth. On one hand, he's a boy with only 3 years in the States, thrown into the pit of 8th grade. His reading is low so 8th grade curriculum is going to be tough and we should cut him some slack. On the other hand, I feel there are skills he should have and that certain things should be sinking in by now that haven't. The most infuriating example is when he says, "But Dad, this is the first time I've ever seen this. You want me to remember it on the first try?" Everything inside me wants to scream "YES! That's called learning! Sometimes you only get one chance to learn things, and part of your education is to figure out how to do that!" And yet, I get it. Friction is a completely foreign concept. VietNam is a dot on the globe. Algebra is algebra no matter how old you are.
Unfortunately, conversations like the following are not terribly uncommon:

H: Dad, Can you print off the Amandments for me?
Me: What? It's bed time.
H: I know. I need to memorize the Amandments tomorrow.
Me: The Amandments?
H: Yes. The 10 Amandments.
Me: Commandments?
H: Yes. That's what I said. The first 10 commandments.
Me: Sigh... you could just look them up in your Bible.
H: It's hard to read that way.
Me: (Can't argue that...) Fine. I'll put them on your backpack for the morning.

Wife: Are you actually going to print them? He should have done that himself hours ago.
Me: Eh, no big deal.
Wife: Chump.

(Next day, dinner time)

H: Oh, Dad... you did it wrong.
Me: What are you talking about?
H: The thing you printed for me. It was wrong. I needed the 10 Amandments. (He holds up a sheet of paper)
Me: The Amendments? To the Constitution? Yeah... those are different.
H: That's what I said the first time. The ten amendments. I need to memorize them.
Wife: Chump.

(Note to readers, this is not an accent thing. This often happens with words longer than three syllables. This child feels, or has learned, that if he can get part of the word, that's usually close enough for native English speakers to fill in the blanks. He also gets really frustrated if you point it out, because you obviously know what he meant if you can correct him.)

So he hands me the list of 15 amendments... Then we go through each one and I explain what they mean. I try to make them interesting and understandable, but to me, it doesn't feel like anything is sticking.

Me: Ok, now it's your turn. Read the list to me.
H: Ok, I'll read the list.
Me: Please read the list to me.
H: Why? I'm reading to myself.
Me: Because I want to hear you and it'll help you learn.
H: I can't pronounce some of these words.
Me: Exactly. That's why I'm here. I'll help you when you get stuck.
H: I can read it myself! (goes silent and stares at the paper again)
Me: Listen... you won't learn what you can't pronounce. That's why you need to learn how to say the words as well as what they look like.
H: Fine. Dad. Take the list and read the whole thing to me about 3 times.
Me: What? Why?
H: Then I'll learn what the words sound like.
Me: What? No, that's not how this is going to work.

(Big argument ensues...)

I start rhyming.
Me: Four. Warrant. Five. Silent.
H: Why are you doing that?
Me: It will help you remember them.
H: (genuinely baffled) No it won't.
Me: It can. If you can remember the most important word, then you can remember the rest.
H: No I can't. I don't need to know one word, I need to know the whole thing.
Me: You don't get it at all do you? You can't remember it because you're trying to remember the whole thing. There's about 6 words in each amendment you don't know. Work on the most important word. Amendment Fiiiive. Siiiiilent. Right to stay silent.
H: But then I'll get it wrong on the test because I won't have it memorized!!!

(Bigger argument ensues involving multiple family members)

H: You think I'm stupid!
Me: No, I think you don't have the skill to learn this quickly. Staring at that paper and calling it 'studying' isn't effective. I'm trying to teach you that blah blah daddy's character building speech blah blah life skills blah blah education blah blah
H: (silently stares at the list of amendments...)

Evening ends with yelling, door slamming, crying, and a child pounding on his bed with the covers pulled over his head. I calm down and go up to his bedroom.

Me: Rough one tonight, huh?
H: Leave me alone!
Me: Tomorrow will be better.
Me: Yeah, I heard you. I still love you. I'll see you tomorrow.
Me: Well you're in luck! In America, you can! The second amendment states that you have the right to bear arms! I remembered that because I have two arms. Get it? Second? Two? Arms? Good night! I loooooove yooou!

Sorry folks... all I had left at that point was sarcasm.

Now before the internet calls DCFS, my son does not usually threaten to hurt himself. I 'joked it off' because that was not the time to have any kind of serious conversation. Tempers were still too high. But seriously, something's been bugging him this week and it's interesting (though that's not quite the word I'm looking for) that he still reverts to some of the behaviors we saw very early on. He hasn't told us what the root of the problem is yet, and we just end up fighting about the symptoms. Hopefully he'll open up, but he is growing up... Guess we'll see.


KLT said...

Oh, man. We are just in Grade 3, but this sounds VERY familiar. Keep us posted on how to deal, okay?

Jenn Hahn said...

Keep up the good work, Lee and Chris. You guys are doing a great job, and this sounds like very hard work!

LisaC. said...

sounds like some homework arguments we have had in our house...I know you know this but it bears repeating, everyone learns a different way. some visually, some by doing, others by listening...and for some of us, algebra seems just impossible (moi). memorizing via rhyming works for me, but maybe he needs flashcards to see the words. also, some folks are more personal and less academic. :) Parenting isn't easy...period. p.s. had a very nice time visiting with your mom at the fashion show a couple of weeks ago. Lisa