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"When You Hit a Stubborn Streak" - June 19, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

Reluctancy. What homeschooler has not experienced it? And, if you've got more than one child, I know you have one that is so reluctant that you might be tempted also to label him "stubborn." For me, this was child number three. My daily dilemma from the time he was about three minutes old was this: How could I train his will without breaking his spirit?

This character quality followed him into preschool and through kindergarten. Looking back now, it wasn't so much that he was stubborn as that he had his own way of looking at the world and doing things. He talked in his own time–at about three, which worried my husband for awhile. It shouldn't have. Once that child got going he talked day and night, night and day! He interacted so much with other kids that his teachers began to see this as a "little" problem. Had we not pulled him out of school when we did, he would have been labeled the same as any other active, tactile, engaged young learner. I won't give you the whole title, but its initials are AD. I knew our son was lots of things, but he wasn't AD. Some kids are, and it's okay and necessary to assess that. I wouldn't have minded if our son was AD, it's just that I knew he wasn't. He was simply a young lad still wiggling from birth, who needed to talk about and touch the world he was in– and not from a desk chair.

Therefore, when we began in first grade to homeschool him, I expected him to run around the table or the house every fourth math problem, which was exactly what he did–for the next five years! I was also expecting him to be excited about learning to read, and I was prepared for the challenges of the odd places this might occur– in the tree fort, perhaps. Teaching reading was a privilege I did not have with our daughters because they were already sixth and third grade reading savvy when we brought them home. So, I could hardly wait to dive into the National Catholic Reader with our son. Consequently, I jumped right in and found that the pool was empty. He wasn't going to read, and yet I was certain he could. He had all the signs of it. "Oh, oh," I thought, "maybe he does have a stubborn streak."

I tried again in a few months. Nope. He wasn't going to read. He liked it okay if I read, but he didn't want to. So, I waited for a few more months. Nothing. In second grade, he had begun to humor me with reading from silly little books that were way below his actual reading level. Still, he did not want to exert any effort to read something which would edify not only his reading skills but also his soul, not to mention his mother. So second grade, too, was a rather dry year at the pool of books. Oh, oh again.

Then that summer, I set up his crate for third grade. In it were eight of the Mary Fabyan Windeatt stories about saints. He asked if he could read one. My Type A personality wanted to say, "No, those are for third grade." Instead the Holy Spirit inspired me to say, "Sure." He came back in about three hours. May I read another one? Sure. Before the end of June, that little reluctant reader had devoured all of his literature books which I had slated for third grade! Not only had he read them, he knew intimately what each was about. At tenth grade, he can still recall some of the oddest details about those saints, while the other three non-reluctant readers in the house have gone on to forget them.

The point is that the next time you bump into your more stubborn child, don't lose heart. Keep your cool. The breakthrough is just around the corner. You might just have on your hands a child who knows where he's going and how to accomplish it. In his own way and in his own time, just like God made him. My little reluctant reader, a.k.a. the child with the stubborn streak, is at 16 one of the easiest going and peaceful young men I have ever seen, a real joy, and he still loves to read!

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer