Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stepmothering your baggage away...

...my ADHD stepdaughter and I survived homework together this evening. It was a fruitful, productive chunk of time spent.

It was extra challenging today because she was very tired, and it was later than usual for homework. It was also a rather disrupted day: Sonny did something random and awful to his back and is basically immobile, so I did all of the parenting duties solo today for the most part. The kids seemed to enjoy it, but any change of routine is a little jarring for wee ones.

And...and...she's in the third grade. Most of it was math homework. I remember third grade...the year I went to the nice math tutor, because math was very hard for me and it made me feel very embarrassed. One day I punched a boy in class because he starting yelling in front of the whole class that I had only finished two of my math problems, when everyone else was finished. My teacher did NOT punish me for this, other than confirming that it was not a great choice...HE got punished for being a snitch.

The math tutor had suspenders and looked like a grampy. We kids all liked him, and the kids who didn't need a tutor were a little jealous of those of us who did, who got to spend time with this nice man. I still have a hard time with the math that challenged me then. I had a really nice teacher that year too, who would come to my desk to help me refocus, but couldn't seem to pinpoint why I was totally unable to focus on my work. She guessed that I might just be a bright student who was bored. Close...that was part of the problem!

The homework this evening involved story problems, which were the ultimate in terrifying for me, so much so that they still burden me with the same terror. And...they weren't just any story problems, they were "Guess and Check" problems. An exercise that, to me, is simply child torture. Fuck that, it's ME torture.

But...I had to be the bigger person here, so we stuck with it, came up with a system...and I worked to help her focus.

Here's what worked really well...reviewing clear steps for each problem and using the same steps from problem to problem. Making her a special seltzer drink to perk things up. Being really patient, because her ADHD brain was REALLY tired. Lots of encouragement was good. But I think the best tactic of all was rotating through assignments to keep her interest rolling. We would do a chunk of one assignment, get to a logical stopping point, and then switch, until we finished. Yes, children with ADHD should be encouraged to push themselves, so they can learn what they are capable of...but not after a terribly long day, when they have an exhausted brain. We just needed to get through this pile of homework before bedtime, and we succeeded.

I was not able to completely extinguish my own math terror, but I think I did a good job of hiding it. Feeling it again after so many years was fairly surprising and unwelcome!

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