Teaching the Fidgety Child (Without Using Duct Tape)
- Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I harbored in my mind such beautiful images of motherhood ... long before I was a mother, of course. It involved a calm, fresh-faced child nestled sweetly against my side, looking up with wide-eyed wonder and obvious appreciation for the seventh lovely little story I'd just read to her (or was that our eighth?). Why ... she might even feel compelled to tell me yet again, "You da bestest mommy in da hoe wood!" She would sleep long and peacefully from the moment I'd lay her down. She'd awaken cheerfully and be eager to please me. My love for my children would so permeate our home that all those problems I'd seen in other children would be just that . . . problems in other children. Well, God must have been watching that little picket-fence-fiction movie I'd created in my mind, and He decided to nip that puppy in the bud right off the bat. (That last statement, by the way, is a classic mixed metaphor. Feel free to use this in today's grammar lesson on how not to write.)
So after God chuckled, my first much-anticipated child came whirling into my life and plunged me into the world of an extremely active, even hyperactive, child who was eventually diagnosed with ADHD. Kathunk. Thus fell my lovely set of motherhood images. They were replaced with a gritty reality. The fresh-faced child of my vision was most often a constantly whirling face covered in something: dirt, charcoal, Daddy's shaving cream, or permanent markers.
But I loved him with a fierceness of a mother lion. And like all of you, I invested—deeply invested—in this child's academic and life successes. So when I began homeschooling, I did what any typical person would d I taught him with all the traditional methods that had been used in teaching me. The problem, however, was that I had just pulled my son out of a kindergarten that had been unsuccessful for him. Then I promptly went home and duplicated in every detail the very same traditional classroom methods that had just failed him.
You would think that it would have been obvious to me that new methods were needed. But I was slow to waken to this truth. After about six dreadful months of trying to force traditional methods into a very untraditional mind, I basically gave up and threw in the towel. I ditched standard methods and adopted a new statement of purpose: "We'll just see what works." And that's exactly what we did. By trying many things, things outside of my expectations, things that would never have been useful in teaching me, we began to accumulate a wealth of methods that were successful with the distractible child. We found things that worked. Not only was this child able to learn, but he was able to thrive. And homeschooling began to surge with energy and learning.
I learned many helpful and useful things, such as a daily to-do list is golden. This poor kid felt that even if he gathered up all his internal focusing abilities and put them to work with studied intensity on the task I'd given him, it simply wouldn't matter, because I'd happily chirp, "Great job! Here's your next task." The day seemed endless. He couldn't mentally prepare himself for the day's tasks because he had no idea just how many tasks he was preparing for. So we created the concrete specific list. With a clear set of objectives, he could gather his resources for the day.
I also learned that if I expected my son to actually learn anything, he simply must be moving. When I first began teaching him, I had bought into the idea that a child cannot really absorb what is being said unless he is sitting up straight, arms quiet, face forward, and eyes on the teacher—reverently, respectfully, with great focus and dare I say it . . . admiration. (Cue violins.) And while occasionally I was able to get him to mimic the required components of "the learning stance," it never seemed to result in actual learning.
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