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My son has taken on a big challenge, probably the biggest one in his 8 years. He’s decided to participate in a pilot math enrichment program at his school, which is conducted by one of the local universities.

When we first heard about the program and that my son was being invited to participate, I was apprehensive. I knew there would be a lot of extra work involved. Like most 8 year old boys, my son values his play time much more than his homework time, and when he is doing homework, I’ve observed that he does the bare minimum necessary to get it done so he can get back to the more important things in his life.

My challenge with my son this year is how to get him to want to be his best self as it relates to his school work. How do I get him to want to work to the level of his potential, rather than just get by?

And then, in comes the enrichment program.

When I read the details of the program to my son, we noticed that the course required 2-5 hours of homework per week. Up until now, he was probably only averaging about 1 – 1.5 hours per week, so this is quite a big change in his routine.

When I asked him what he thought, I was fully prepared to hear a “2-5 hours of homework? Per week?! No, thank you!!” Instead, he looked up at me and said, “Mom, I want to do it.” Honestly, I was stunned¸ but also really pleased with his answer.

So now we are at the start of the course, and I can certainly vouch for the 2-5 hours per week of work – in fact, in our case it is probably closer to double that amount of time. Why? Mainly because of the resistance and fear he is dealing with regarding the work requirements.

You see, this program is 100% online; something my son is totally unfamiliar with. He is required to post on discussion forums, navigate websites looking for information he needs to complete his work, submit homework via email, and so on. This is work that is completely outside his comfort zone.

So, we spent an incredibly painful weekend, me by his side through it all, as he navigated his way through his first week of work. After many tears and much frustration, he finally completed all of his initial assignments.

Through it all, I was questioning whether or not he is mature enough for this level of work. I was seriously considering pulling him out of the program. It was that painful to see him struggle against the work to such a degree (not to mention how my nerves would fare through 9 more weeks of this).

When I went to tuck him in that night and he was thanking God for all that he was grateful for from the day (a regular routine in our home), he said something that brought me to the lesson in this message. He said “Thank you for giving me such fun homework to do.”

My body physically shook a little when I heard that.  Fun homework? Are you kidding me??? That was painful and had me almost pulling him out of the program. But he perceived it as fun, once he had finally gotten through the process and had achieved his goal for the day.

My son grew that day. He would be a little better from now on than he was the day before, all because he did something outside his comfort zone and persevered until he achieved his goal. Yes it was painful. Yes he cried, threw himself on the ground, lost his pencil, and hit his head on the side of the desk. But he got through it and to him, in retrospect, he would decide to see it as fun.

So, what I took away from this experience is that to get the best from our kids, we need to challenge them, hold them accountable, push them through the uncomfortable experience, all while supporting them along the way. This sounds really obvious, even as I write it, but it made me realize that while my son was taking the easy way out with his homework by doing the bare minimum required, I was also taking the easy way out by accepting that from him.

I now remember that one cannot grow if one does not go through the uncomfortable, and I commit to pushing both myself and my son lovingly through the uncomfortable in our lives in pursuit of our higher goals.