For those who know my kids, the title of the Panicky Perfectionist student for Justus may surprise you as much as it does me. From the moment of his birth 10 years ago, he has been a tornado. He plows through life at 100mph with little attention to the wide swath of destruction he leaves behind. He’s the kid most likely to end up in the emergency room and the student most likely to spill the entire contents of his desk on the floor… daily. He never knows where his shoes or pencils are. He trips over things that aren’t there and walks into walls. He pays almost no attention to the location of his own body in space.
But for some reason, school is different for him. He is a fantastic student. He gets stellar grades and is more than willing to step in and help someone else understand a difficult concept. He truly wants to succeed.
This drive is no different with remote school than it was in traditional school. As opposed to his older brother who will settle for done any day of the week, if Justus doesn’t get a 100%, it’s a failure in his eyes. He needs four or five pencils daily because he uses all the erasers to maintain his status as a perfectionist student. He likes explicit instructions so he knows exactly what is required of him.
He’s eager to learn. He loves new information. For fun, he reads books about animals and boats and wars. And if that animal talks, he’s done. Facts upon facts upon facts. He knows more about submarines than anyone who is not a navy recruit. He can have intelligent conversations with adults about why World War I started. He understands how complex machines work.
There are things about school he doesn’t love, but he will do them anyway. The hardest thing for him in the current remote school situation, is not getting feedback. Since there are no grades on this work he is completing at home, he doesn’t get the reinforcement he craves. I can check his assignments, but it’s not the same as getting a big A+ from an authority figure.
He also hates feeling like something is not perfect. If he doesn’t understand the instructions the first time he reads them or a math problem doesn’t work immediately, he gets panicky. He will whine and throw things and threaten to quit. He still sees failure as the enemy instead of a learning tool. We’re working on it, but it’s just not in his nature to accept failure. I have to admit that he comes by that honestly.
When things get hard, he gets tense. As a parent, it’s difficult for me to jump in where a teacher left off. I’ve frequently heard, “But that’s not how we do it!!” The continuity of the classroom and the gradual building of new concepts is perfect for his learning style. He can follow along and feel confident by the time he needs to do independent work.
This is not the case for remote schooling. With no instructional videos or interactions with the teacher, it’s up to us to read the instructions and figure out how to do the work. For a kid who is a kinetic learner, this is not ideal. But he does all the work. Almost without help. His internal motivation is strong, and he loves to learn.
Watching him accomplish this without the oversight of a teacher has been one of the highlights of remote schooling. He has gained independence and a stronger sense of self-direction in learning. He rarely complains about the work, and while I have complained about the amount sent home, I rarely have to remind him to finish.
What the ten year old has learned during remote schooling: He is and can be independent and capable. While it’s not ideal to be home instead of the classroom, he can still learn no matter where he is because he wants to.
What I have learned about the ten year old during remote schooling: I’ve seen such a leap in maturity with him. He’s self-directed and trust-worthy. If I had to (and I don’t want to!), he could still learn at home. In fact, he could probably learn anywhere.