“I don’t want to be good.” (The Great Homeschool Experiment: Weeks 4 & 5)

If you’ve been watching closely, you’ll notice that there was no The Great Homeschool Experiment: Week 4 post. That’s because we only had a half week of school last week. My sister got married and we had an absolute blast getting her ready, getting her married, and then enjoying some family time post wedding. That’s one of the joys of homeschooling: you can pause your studies a little to celebrate life events. An auntie getting married and the addition of a new uncle seem like a pretty important life event!

This meant, however, that The Waters Institute for Hilarious Girls was barely in session. We had two full days on Monday and Tuesday, a half day on Wednesday, a quarter day on Thursday, and nothing on Friday. I’ve always said I’m not afraid of “falling behind,” so the only thing I was truly concerned about for the next week was just how difficult it would be to readjust to the schedule. I should’ve been concerned about more.

By Monday, my children forgot how to read.

I don’t know how it’s possible. My oldest, who was plugging along on Lesson 17 of Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, completely forgot how to sound words out. My youngest found herself crying over a book literally entitled “Handwriting Without Tears.” All ability to sit still during Morning Meeting seem to have been used up at Friday’s wedding. My children had reverted to utter hooligans.

Monday barely felt like Monday, with my husband home for Yom Kippour. Public school may not be in session, but The Waters Institute seldom takes off. At first, I thought one of my daughters was doing poorly in her school work because she was trying to do things quickly and show off for Daddy. This I understood, as I too was trying to put on my best teacher face and show how I’m a real teacher too (ridiculous, as he already knows this). I wrote Monday off as a semi-lost cause, accepted the results of the shift in schedule, and moved on.

Tuesday was fractionally brighter. Although they both had good attitudes and put in a fair amount of work, neither of them were particularly excellent, resulting in a row of small star stickers for the day and the Good Attitude Frozen Sticker (for clarification, I wrote about my grading system, rewards, and the sticker chart HERE).

We finally hit our stride on Wednesday. Wednesday is the favourite day of the week. It’s dance class day. Bible study day. The kids are on their BEST behaviour, excited for ballet and to see their friends at church. (I feel I should note here that my children are the only children who attend midweek Bible study. They, however, consider all the older adults who attend their friends and always ask about them. Highlands Adults, you’re heroes to my children and they love you so much. Thank you for putting up with all their crazy!) There were excellent sticker rewards and even huge leaps of progress for the youngest, who finally grasped the concept of sounding words out and started finding words and sounds she knew from her reading lesson in other books. But my oldest was being stubborn. She still refused to do Lesson 17 in her reading book. Perhaps a little too dismissively, I brushed aside the stubborn behaviour as just not understanding, said we’d return to the work tomorrow, and praised her for the two things she had done well. Over all, the attitudes were good and I doled our Frozen stickers are the end of the day, despite a few empty boxes for specific subjects.

Enter Thursday. Thursday mornings are always rough. We don’t get home from Bible study until after normal bedtime, so the girls generally wake up grumpy the next day. And oh man… They didn’t just wake up grumpy, they became the extremes of their personalities. They did their night and day twins on Thursday. One has a fabulous day, answering every question asked of her with ease, flying through her math and handwriting, sounding out her words, just 100% a model kindergarten student.

And the other was still on Lesson 17.

“Okay, stop,” I said after she continued to do things the wrong way. “You know how to sound words out the right way.” She had just sounded two words out very well and I knew then that her stubbornness was not just a matter of not knowing the material.

“Yes, I know how.”

“Okay, great! I’m really happy about that! Why aren’t you doing that then?”

“Because I’m not listening. I’m not doing it the right way.”

“That’s right. You’re doing it the wrong way, but you know the right way! So let’s do that!”

She looked at me with those big, beautiful, and oh so defiant eyes. “Because I don’t want to be good. I don’t want to learn.”

Don’t…. want…. to be…. good?? I was flabbergasted. I tried to push through. She kept doing it wrong.

“You are very very smart girl and I know you know this. You just need to work hard and do it the right way.”

“I don’t want to do it the right way. I want to be done.” It wasn’t an emotional sigh of defeat. It was a fact, accompanied by an angry look because I wasn’t letting her play. “I want to give up.”

It was my turn to feel angry. I had to swallow this anger and give her a talk about giving up, telling her that she is a Waters girl. Waters girls are fighters. We are smart, we are brave, and we absolutely do not give up, even when things are hard. And it’s very hard to give a pep talk while you’re angry, but clearly I wasn’t giving up!

After an hour that should have been twenty minutes, I put the book aside and said we would return to the lesson tomorrow. Again. As she went to finish the rest of her work, it became obvious that she really had given up on doing right. Everything she did was sloppy. Even math, a subject where she goes above and beyond, was done with a poor attitude and a desire to wrap it up so she could go play.

And now I’m on the couch, writing my weekly wrap up before Friday because I’m fed up with this week. How do you teach a child who wants to be so unteachable? How do you reach a child who has mastered the ability to throw up walls at five years old? How do I show her that I love her, but I am her authority and expect the right thing from her? How do I push her to do the things she knows how to do, let alone the things that are foreign to her and hard? How do I cope with the pressures of raising and teaching daughters who should grow into strong women who do the right thing and don’t give up?

There are some days on which home education is so rewarding and makes me feel like a competent (and even good) teacher and mother. And there are other days, like today, on which I feel totally drained and incapable. I know education isn’t all about results, but I can’t help but feel frustration over this new stagnation in reading and the resistance in attitude.

Do note that this is not a pity party post. I am absolutely not looking for people tell me to keep my head up and keep moving forward. I have a tremendous example of my mother to look towards when it comes to homeschooling. She managed to educate five extremely stubborn and diffident children who turned into five very smart, rather successful adults. So I know that if Lori Maynard could do it, Emily Waters can. Besides, Waters girls don’t give up

But they do take breaks. They do sit down, write blog posts, and then dive into some theology study to remind themselves that God is in control of everything, including their stubborn daughters. This was a rough way to start October, but the week isn’t over, the month still looms ahead, and God isn’t finished with me or my children. Tomorrow is Friday. Tomorrow we will try again. For now, I drink tea and pray.

4 thoughts on ““I don’t want to be good.” (The Great Homeschool Experiment: Weeks 4 & 5)

  1. I’m sorry you had such a rough week. You’re doing a fantastic job- Keep it up. And congrats on your sister’s wedding!
    One thought- For your daughter to be aware that she is choosing not to listen because she does not want to be good, and because she wants to give up, sounds rather acute. I’d ask her more about why it is that she does not want to do these things. I remember my sister was very mad about God’s sovereignty at age nine! LOL
    Sounds like a great opportunity to connect over our common brokenness and how Christ meets us even when we don’t WANT to be good. ❤

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  2. I will defer on advice. I just want to encourage you to feed their passions. Build on the things they are curious about. Feed the wonder of those girls. Those passions evolve and become adult legacies. I love watching this young family grow. Much love to the four of you.

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  3. I must defer to others on teaching. I just encourage you to feed their passions. When they are curious, take them on the journey. Seize the advantage of wonder in those precious girls. Those passions will mature into adult legacies.

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  4. Reading this through I was struck by your ability to solve your own problem, which you did when you said, “I know education isn’t all about results, but I can’t help but feel frustration over this new stagnation in reading and the resistance in attitude.” The thing is, this IS their education right now. While it might feel like you are attempting to teach reading, writing and math, the most important thing you are teaching is perseverance, self discipline and obedience to what is right and good. So, keep persevering, mom! God is with you in this great endeavor!

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