I am not a professional educator, therapist, or psychologist, but I have diagnosed Mace all by myself as a Reluctant Learner. If this condition actually exists, it is characterized by:
1) An inability to learn anything while sitting right-side up in a chair.
2) An uncanny knack for being able to remember Mythbuster’s precise mixing formula for the most efficient combustibility of thermite but not being able to remember that 8+3=11 even after having painstakingly written it out himself twenty times, singing a song about it, lining up the Math-U-See bars multiple times to steal 2 from the 3 and giving it to 8 to make 10 and then adding the leftover 1 to make 11.
3) Being the only child in the house about whom Grandma says, “He wouldn’t do that if he was in school.”
You wanna bet?
Unless he gets a diagnosis for being a six year old boy who would rather be outside shooting his bow and arrow, he really doesn’t have a diagnosis.
But honestly, there are days when I need for him to try harder.
Today was one of those days.
He did not want to read, so we did pretty much everything else first today and the post-lunch-attorney workday (2 to 4 pm are my office hours — I’m like a college professor that way) found us sitting at the homeschool table in the laundry room looking at the book Mace was supposed to be reading to me. It was taking him 5 minutes to read each word — and by “read” I don’t mean struggling with the letter sounds and trying to put them together — I mean Mace staring off in the distance to see how long I would actually sit there while he did not try at all.
And I got fed up.
But I was not going to let him off the hook. He was just trying to outlast me. If he had met and conferred with his brother before attempting this stall tactic he would have known that his efforts were futile.
So as I was pretending to fold clothes like a calm and rational home-educating mother while patiently waiting for him to just read the next cotton-picking word for the love my mind was racing to come up with some scenario in which I could force him to try harder and work faster.
For some reason, I felt in my heart that he needed . . . danger. He’s a boy — don’t they work better under dangerous conditions? Several possibilities raced through my mind, though I quickly dismissed them due to those pesky child welfare laws. My favorite scenario involved him walking across an alligator-infested creek (well, we have one itsy weensy teeny gator out there right now) on a very narrow board — he could take one step closer to shore with each word he read. Another scenario involved hoisting him high up into the trees with a rope and lowering him a few inches with each word he read.
Aside from the possibility that DCF would come knocking if word got out about what the crazy homeschooling family down the street was doing, Flamingo Joe was not around to rig up anything complicated for me.
So I settled for taking Mace out to the treehouse stairs.
The treehouse stairs are decidedly tame compared to walking across the creek on a narrow board, but Mace was so shocked at this new approach that he started participating. For every word he read, he got to step down a step.
Unfortunately, I ran out of steps before he ran out of words in the story. So I had to make him turn around and head back up.
But here’s the best part — on his second trip back down the stairs, thunder clapped and rain started falling. These Florida children have a very healthy fear of thunderstorms, so when it thundered Mace’s eyes got real wide and he looked over at me to see if I was going to let him stop. When I said, “Keep going — but you’d better hurry” he progressed suddenly to a fourth grade reading level.
So don’t you think if I use some type of regulation safety harness, hoisting him up into the trees would be okay?
Just kidding, just kidding. I don’t have trees high enough for that plan to work anyway so don’t go calling DCF . . .