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Why we never sought a label
by Beverley Paine
I am always working hard at telling our youngest son how intelligent he is, and that the way he thinks is unique, and sometimes very different to the way I think, but so similar in other ways. I talk to him about my own thinking style and learning performance a lot, the ups and downs of it, where I can improve, how great I am at some things, not so good at others. I think it is important to take me off the 'pedestal' and show him my 'failings' and where I am trying to do better. Kids see us as experts in so much, and my kids have a lot of trouble coping with the high standard his father and I naturally set for ourselves. So we have to point out where it all doesn't work. This makes us human; shows that we, too, are learners. Children need to know this as they grow.
I let him know the sorts of things that affect my mental ability, mood and attitude, which are so many, especially things like food, things in the air, and weather. Stressful situations (any kind of trauma or excitement) really affect me, and does him too... I also talk about the restrictions placed on my ability by my own schooling and the way I adopted and firmly entrenched false beliefs about learning. I let him know how that has made it difficult for me to achieve in many areas, and the benefit he has, knowing that he has the freedom to develop his own learning style rather than having a particular one imposed.
He finds such knowledge a real tool in understanding why he isn't doing the sorts of things the majority of other kids his age can do. I find that our little chats, and the daily round of positive comments about his uniqueness, keep him in balance and happy, and yes, his self esteem grows.
It is very hard for a kid who is only learning to read, and who has minimal mathematical ability (on paper only - his mental mathematical concepts are developing nicely), as he approaches age twelve to maintain a self esteem around the traditional concept of learning - which is why we have mostly abandoned contact with traditional educational styles.
Our son feels that he is too young to be dealing with a lot of abstract problem solving (reading, writing, maths on paper), and is willing to review the situation in two or three years. He concedes that remedial work may actually need to be an option then, but wants to wait and see.
What I love about this is the way he deals with it all in a very responsible manner, aware that he is responsible for the direction and pace of his learning, knowing his limitations, abilities and innate drives and working with them, not against them. He seldom works to satisfy or please other people as his primary reason for doing anything. I love his rock solid steadiness on this. Not selfishness, but self-centred-ness.
However, learning in a non-traditional way is very scary for me, and requires an enormous amount of faith and trust, and leaves me open to being vulnerable. For a control freak like me, this is really hard to take! And to top it off, his father and I were 'A' grade students, and do okay at most things we tackle. Making comparisons is all to easy, although never a good or sound idea.
My youngest fits some of the descriptions of a 'learning disabled' child, and I find I can certainly tick some of the descriptors and I suspect that if he'd gone to school his teachers would have been ticking many more boxes... I believe I protected him from the abuse of the school system (and it would have been abuse for him), and he is a well behaved, happy child. I make no apologies for protecting him - it is my role as a parent.
So often now I meet parents who have taken their boys out of school at around age nine or ten, and see in them the boy that my son may have become. These boys are frustrated, confused, unhappy, their self esteems in tatters, and totally lacking in confidence. They are unable to keep up with school work due to poor reading ability, and their love for learning has all but disappeared. Parents often think remedial school work is the answer, delivered in a loving environment. Sometimes this works, but what all these boys need is time to find themselves again, to learn to love and respect themselves, to rekindle the enthusiasm for learning that school stole from them.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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