Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Structure and confidence

Sometimes you know things but you just need a nudge. I know Noah has difficulty creating structure and consistency for himself. I know loses confidence very easily when he falls short of his own expectations -- expectations that can only be reached with some consistent application to the task. And I know that when his confidence ebbs, his motivation bottoms out in ways that begin to affect all areas of his life. When his confidence level is down he tends to sink deeper and deeper into a whole of self-blame and lassitude. He feels stupid and useless and stupid and useless people don't suddenly decide they are going to master arithmetic with fractions. He needs someone to say "you can do this, and I am going to stick with you and make sure that you prove it to yourself."

Nudges from mom are not always welcomed, nor do they come naturally to this mom. However, this fall Noah and I had to work together to come up with some sort of plan for his self-designed homeschool program and in a fit of optimism he said "Yeah, I'd like to get ahead in math. I'd like to work at math almost every day." The nudge was coming from the opportunity the SelfDesign program offered him to create some structure. We looked at where he was at (he's done almost no math in the last three years, moving at glacial speed through Singapore Primary 3) and he decided he'd like to finish Primary 5 this academic year. All fine and good while we're driving in the minivan en route to vacation. I wasn't sure how it would pan out when we got home and he actually had to do the work.

But here we are a couple of weeks later and he's not only begun level 4, but he's a day away from finishing the first workbook (4A part 1, which is nominally "a quarter of a school-year's work"). Not only is this great progress, but he's developing great confidence and pride in where his efforts are getting him. We're monitoring the pace and comparing it with his goal and he's carefully making sure he's "ahead of schedule".

He's eager in other areas too. I see the enthusiasm and confidence beginning to grow over into music, language arts, science and the rest. He's ten in a few hours. It's a great place to be on the cusp of two digits, riding a wave of confidence and accomplishment. Happy birthday, Noah. Let's both of us remember how gentle structure -- nudged into your life by external circumstances, thoughtfully considered and willingly undertaken -- helps you learn and feel good about yourself.

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