Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - November/December 1995

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

Questions and Answers

"Restoring Motivation"

Q. I have just finished my first year of homeschooling and read your book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, for the second time. The first time I read your book was last summer before I started homeschooling, and I was encouraged at how wonderful our year was going to be and how motivated my ten-year-old would become. Let me say, our first year was less than successful.

Originally, I had bought into society's trap of "what was good for a six-year-old to learn was even better if taught to a four-year-old" and started him in a pre-K program in a Christian school at just barely 4 years old. At the end of the school year the teacher said he was immature for his age and should repeat pre-K. Of course, we did as the teacher said; she was the expert! He plodded through pre-K, K, and first grade, losing more and more of his curiosity with each year. I commented to his first grade teacher that he seemed lost with the material and she assured me he was fine and "it would all click for him soon." In second grade, he became depressed and hated school. The school assured me all was fine and why worry since he was getting all A's! I didn't know at the time that he was being kept in from recess to finish his math problems because he was so slow. My breaking point was when my husband had to carry him, screaming and crying, to the car to take him to school.

We had him evaluated and tested by a psychologist and were told he was depressed and had strong learning disabilities, but that his high IQ had helped him cope up to this point. After a meeting with his teacher and principal, where they still contended that all was fine and no changes in his program would be made, we put him in public school the next year where they claim to have special classes and special teachers to help my son. His attitude improved, school was easier and he made lots of friends but I didn't see much improvement. He still complained of stomach aches and headaches. He still hated anything that remotely reminded him of school, including reading, and he continued to fall behind in math. He said he just couldn't write and again I found him questioning his intelligence. His tutor said that Andrew was very bright and if he could get through school with his self-concept intact, he would be successful "in the real world." I truly wondered if that was possible. Could he fight the system for nine more years? Would he be so burned out he wouldn't want to go to college? My prayers led me to explore an alternative, and that led us to homeschooling.

I know you have heard these stories all too often and that they sound alike, but I did want you to know where my son and I started. Please, give me some direction at this point. We are going to homeschool again next year (Andrew's 5th grade) but I would like the experience to be more positive for both of us. I feel I began prepared, reading Ruth Beechick's books, evaluating curriculum, attending our state conference, joining a support group, getting input from experienced homeschoolers and trying to back off from our son's stress. He is a happier boy. His aches and pains are gone and he can sleep again. But nothing seemed to excite him; he balked at everything I tried. I went through three math programs until I found one suited to his style and still he can't get past addition and subtraction.

As long as I read to him or we verbally tackled something he was fine. He still "hates to read" and would have preferred to watch TV if I had allowed it. Then I decided to wait until he got bored, to let him find something he wants to explore, and I am still waiting. His end-of-the-year tests were a disaster. He didn't even finish enough of the math section for it to be graded. His grammar skills were at the first and second grade level. He did shine in the social studies section. My friends say don't do anything. Let him detox and he will come around. Is that true? Can he really catch back up? Do I need to turn his teaching over to an experienced teacher? How should I proceed? J.S., NC

A. Yes, let him "detox" (We like that word!). Be sure, though, that it's not in front of the "boob tube!" We call what he has been through "child abuse," (Send a SASE and ask for JOSH, Dr. Moore's article on this for THE JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH), but we do believe he can recover in time. Obviously, he is making progress by sleeping better and being a happier person with no more aches and pains. The best way to help him to restore creativity is to put away the workbooks and center his education on his interests and his own small home business and service opportunities. For the business he would need to deal with money and keeping accounts.

Have you asked him what he would like to study about if he could choose anything he wanted to? Does he have an interest in race cars, guns, motorcycles, the Civil War, or airplanes? Center his skills and content subjects around that interest as much as possible airplanes, for example, for several months. Help him learn to do research on the history of airplanes (have him read or read to him The Wright Brothers from our catalog), the science of how planes fly and how that relates to the science of how a bird flies (See Usborne books, Flight and Floating and Jets in the catalog), the mathematics of flying, the craft of actually making some balsa wood airplanes, (making model airplanes seems to set the stage for a number of related skills as adults) and the description of what was learned (creative writing and let him dictate it if he has a real struggle writing it out). He can even find Bible texts that relate to the flight of birds and insects, and stories of missionaries who use the airplane to take the gospel to remote areas. This type of education will help your son recover creativity and a zest for learning.

He does not need an experienced teacher; he needs the experience of self-initiated learning. Yes, he will catch up when he learns to think, to reason from cause to effect, to solve his own problems, to take the reins for his own educational effort. But, that will only happen when he sees that education is something other than textbooks, drills and frustration!