exploring life and love with pictures and words

Lessons . . .


He is a bright boy, articulate and creative. He has a natural curiosity and  a variety of interests. He loves to learn new things, but not in the traditional school setting. There he feels anxious and inadequate. In the classroom his attention wanes, his mind filled with worried about his ability to do a task before it has even been explained. He counts the days until Friday and on Sunday evenings his belly hurts. He wonders aloud if he’ll be well enough to go to school the next day. Negotiating and bargaining his school attendance are a part of his bedtime routine. 

He is eight and a half and doesn’t care for school, I can’t say he ever has. Having his parents and his Nonna act as his teachers during this pandemic has only made him dislike school more. Online learning has proven challenging to say the least. As soon as the screen displays the list of the day’s assignments he panics, “It’s too much. I can’t do it.”

He is my grandson and I am a retired educator. I spend time breaking it down for him, explaining that we’ll do it chunks and he can take breaks when he needs them. I have experienced my share of students like him, kids who feel unsuccessful in school, or as he says, “I’m not smart like the other kids Nonna. Everyone is smarter than me.” 

I tell him all the ways he is smart and he tells me all the ways he is not.  We make a deal. He is not allowed to say bad things about himself. He goes silent. While he isn’t as difficult with me as he is with his mom, teaching him is still quite a challenge.  Frustrated he is teary-eyed and cries, “I don’t get it!”

And I ask him, because I really want to know, “Do you cry at school when you don’t understand your teacher?” 

His response surprises me, “Yes. But I cry into my hand so nobody can see me.” 

He puts his head down and pulls in his shoulders. Making himself small he cups his hand over his eyes and demonstrates the way in which he hides his emotions.  I want to cry, but I don’t. “I’m so sorry pal.“

He swallows hard and gives a little nod, relieved to have his feelings validated. I put my arms around him and we start again. I think to myself, that was a hard secret to tell. Took me until middle age to be that brave, that vulnerable.  

Step by step, day by day, we work together. He reluctantly completes the work, and I give him the latitude to demonstrate his learning in less conventional ways. He absorbs the lessons and his confidence improves. He smiles now and then at his success and even expresses pride. I’m not naive, still I want to believe that our time together will prepare him for a successful return to the school setting. I want him to love school, to feel safe and happy there. I want this for all kids. It’s why I became an educator. The hard lesson of those twenty years in education was that I didn’t have that kind of power, no one does. It may be the reason I left that career. I had given it my whole heart and often felt like I failed the very kids I had hoped to save.  And now I try to save my grandson.

Admittedly it is sometimes difficult to keep my patience in check as I work through morning lessons with him. Still I love our time together and consider myself fortunate to help him and to hopefully ease the stress on his family.

Tomorrow I’ll be sitting with my little guy at my dining room table, my laptop open to google classroom. He will fidget and squirm. He’ll ask me when we will be finished before we even begin. I’ll make my best guess, take a deep breath and we’ll do the hard work together. I’ll be thinking of all the parents doing the same thing, perhaps while trying to work from home, or manage a toddler and siblings in multiple grade levels, or support a child with learning disabilities. You are not alone.

Remember this . . . your relationship with your child is more important than any school lesson. Protect it. Even if it means putting the work aside, taking a breath and showing your children that their well-being comes first. 


21 Responses to “Lessons . . .”

  1. Evelyn Evett

    I love this post. Very encouraging to all those parents out there balancing work, home, and now educating their children. As hard as this sounds, you are doing the right thing for our Luca. He’s so smart, gentle, and kind. I would love to have a grandson like him and wait patiently for that day. Thanks for sharing your experiences!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stephanie

    How fortunate is he to have a loving, understanding, patient Nonna on his side. As a mother and retired speech therapist, my heart breaks for children (our babies!) who struggle with “conventional” learning/education. The stomachaches and bargaining not to go to school…so hard on him and his parents. And grandmother! I will remember him in my prayers; that his interests, successes and accomplishments outside the classroom will give him confidence to deal with the difficulties of school.🙏
    “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rom 8:31

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindaberesford

    Beautifully written and heartbreaking too. As a mom of a daughter with lots of learning challenges I cant imagine what this would have been like for her. He’s a lucky little boy to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lindaberesford

    Beautifully written and heartbreaking too. As a mom of a daughter with lots of learning issues, I can’t even imagine what this would’ve been like for her. He is a lucky little boy to have you and vice versa😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynda

    This one really touched my heart. It rings true on so many levels. It took me decades to realize how wise what you conclude is. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Irma Jensen

    Christine, This is so touching, I cried when I was reading this emotional piece.  I felt the emotions, that poor little guy, it breaks my heart, I am so glad he has you. I worry about all 

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lori Fernandez

    This made me cry! What you described was me in school. I so feel for him. He may not know it now, but he’s so lucky to have you! XO

    Liked by 1 person

  8. pierside

    Wrote you a reply, but I wasn’t logged in. Just know how much I enjoyed this post. Educating one’s loved ones is challenging…no matter! Educator to educator…great job! Jerri

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lisa Mehaffey

    I feel so badly for my kids that are having to home school their kids. The days I am with my grandbabies and work with them on their virtual classes, homework, etc. are often difficult (especially for one in special education). I am lucky enough to be able to focus on just them when they are with me, and yet it is still challenging to “traditional” school them. Hour long zoom classes-when they can’t focus on a computer screen for that long, and yet they have multiple of these in any given day.

    I am not my kids that are; juggling teaching, working, or not working and stressing over how to pay their bills, cleaning house, navigating relationships, or the loneliness of without a partner. These are definitely trying times for all.

    I remind my kids when their frustration is high-step away from the school work, go outside, go for a walk, take them to the beach. And I like you, believe their relationship with their children is much more important than any school lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Virginia

    I wholeheartedly felt this piece! I’m struggling with my eldest in 4th and middle in 1st while keeping my toddler son entertained and out of the way when I’m home from work. It’s so hard. Each learning differently. We do our best, I try to stay calm and not feed off the energy my eldest radiates when trying to get out of doing her assignments. We go out for jogs and scooter rides to get that energy out. Today is their last day and hoping fall quarter is smoother. Luca is so lucky to have the best Nonna and mommy!

    Liked by 1 person


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