Emily Parnell — Outside the box, perhaps a superhero awaits

08/20/2013 5:32 PM

08/20/2013 5:34 PM

“You saved our lives,” I told the college freshman in her Avengers superhero shirt.

She grinned and nodded, earnest and perky.

“Like, I’m not even kidding,” I said, unintentionally slipping into old school Valley Girl talk, the speak I might have used my own freshman year of college.

She smiled again as she penciled us in on her calendar. We’ve contracted more superhero appointments with her — more tutoring sessions for our son.

Homework is a struggle for many parents. And here in Johnson County, the kids come home with homework a-plenty. Making sure our kids are keeping up — receiving the education they need — is a huge concern for many parents. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to supplement so our kids can keep up in the classroom.

For our son, the difficulty extended beyond the evening grind. The kid is smart enough, but there are areas where he lacks — well, he lacks one of two things. Or sometimes both. He does perfectly fine as long as he has plenty of a) interest and b) confidence. If either of those is missing from the equation, then we have a problem.

As we approached the beginning of the school year, he told me he was worried about the academics. I know that he is perfectly capable of succeeding — possibly even excelling — if he would just put forth the time and effort into memorizing certain things that he needs to know. Math facts, spelling, that sort of thing. I am perfectly willing to work with him. That is, until we’ve spent three-fourths of the evening with him procrastinating and complaining and balking at our study efforts, then the birdies squawk for their dinner, and then it’s bedtime, and I end up a basket case, and virtually no actual studying gets done. At that point, I’m exhausted and I begin to lose hope.

So this year, we’re trying something new. It’s hardly a cutting-edge technique, but it’s a different approach than our usual kicking and screaming routine. Our college-age neighbor has agreed to spend time with him several times a week to tutor him. She’s responsible and gung-ho to work with him, and as a bonus, her home-schooling mother is full of tricks and ideas for teaching. So the potential for success with this setup is great, especially since my son adores this girl and is more than happy to cooperate.

I think he also finally understands that if he can get these building blocks down pat, he’ll be able to rock out on the higher concepts — the ones he enjoys more. We’re only a couple sessions in, but just to see him excited is a huge leap in the right direction. The next stride (I pray) will be to see him gain confidence, and with any luck, that will lead to his being able to tackle new concepts and facts without all the hullabaloo. Because the hullabaloo is nothing but a waste of time and energy.

I know other parents are trying new things. On the extreme end, a friend has decided to take her son out of traditional school and send him to virtual school. He’s struggled for years — not with the smarts, but with the organization skills required to succeed. She hopes that with individualized attention from her and freed from the difficulty of having to get from Point A to Point B with all his homework he’ll be able to focus on learning. I admire her for making this commitment and being willing to restructure her daily life to get her child through school. In fact, I think the lady deserves a superhero cape.

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