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# For the thousandth time: It's not pushing if they're begging for it, right?

OK, coming out of a long MDC hiatus because my mind has just been blown and I need some BTDT reassurance.

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DS1, who will be 4 in a few weeks, has been on a math kick. I learned today about a fun new math tool that lets you build custom online quizzes, and over the course of figuring out how to use it in my classroom, I created a few for him. Things I know he can do... adding, subtracting, shape names, etc.Â I took my computer home and logged him on, and he breezed through them (as I kind of guessed he would). His interest didn't wane, though, and he begged for more. We did basic fractions, basic inequalities (a simple addition problem on either side of a missing <, >, or = sign, and started on perimeter before he got bored. All told, he sat there for well over an hour (after a full day of preschool), getting little mini-lessons from me in crayon on the back of some old bills and junk mail, then begging for "more math problems" (I tried not to use the word test) on the computer.Â If I had to bet money I'd guess that tomorrow he'll retain his understanding of fractions and inequalities and not remember much about perimeter due to waning interest and focus at the end.Â

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So... now I have a three year-old (OK, an old three year-old, but still technically three) who has a basic understanding of fractions and inequalities. Not spectacular by some measures, to be sure, but also enough to raise eyebrows. I'm not as worried about what other people think as I am about "EEEEEEK, WHAT IF THEY'RE RIGHT?!"

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I mean, as soon as he was clearly not interested or having fun, we stopped. In fact, I tried to get him to stop sooner, but he wanted to keep going.

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So, back to my post title: It's not pushing if they're begging for it, right?

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Also: Good math resources for a mathematically inclined/interested four year-old? Again, I'm not wanting to push, but as long as he loves it so, and as long as we've likely got at least the next year with me or the husband as a SAHP (moving back to WI! Taking leave of absence from teaching! Exclamation points!), we'll have the time and energy to do this kind of thing. He can read, but isn't fluent just yet. He, with a few exceptions, enjoys being read to far too much to bother with the whole "reading on his own" thing. His reading is more at the "Go, Dog, Go" level, though he successfully sounds out more difficult words and sentences. Many of the math curricula and resources I can think of require a lot more reading.

My kid was a math enthusiast but not an early reader, and maybe not quite as gifted as yours. On the other hand, I have no insight at all into math education and I could never have provided him with quizzes! He sought out the PBS show Cyberchase on Youtube when he was four, and watched every episode in the summer before kindergarten--that was how he learned to manipulate fractions. He also did a lot of things with the clocks in the house, but that wasn't anything I showed him how to do. I'm actually not totally sure how he picked up some of the things he did, though I tried to learn by observation how he was doing it.Â

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I think I built a little on his interest in fractions by having him help me measure when I was cooking, had him add up prices when we went to the market, taught him to figure a tip, and did some birthdate math. Oh, and we did origami and read books about math, too. I mean, he just wasn't quite as far ahead of the curve as your child, he hit the stuff you're describing a year later--but that made me less shy about teaching him anything he might like.Â

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Which I think you should do. The advantage to teaching him things at this age is, he doesn't really need to know them now, so you can just have fun. If he wants to learn something you think is just outrageous for a kid his age, let him. It's not like it's going to hurt him. You aren't putting him in toe shoes or making him sing opera, it's just a little math. (I also think that teaching things in a particular order is overrated, and you should just offer what you think he might find interesting.) My experience was that my son would have those bursts of passion and learn a lot about something and then put it aside for some time and come back to it later. Â

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I really liked the Mitsumasa Anno books, because they are beautiful and teach whatever the child is ready to learn. I think my son was four or five when I first read him The Number Devil, and that was a gas--we reread it many times. Since your kid is actually reading (wow, what a blessing that is!) you can leave books out for him to discover. If they are at too high a level, he might still be able to figure out what they are to ask you to read them to him. If you let him use the computer (and I can see with a child pushing four that you might not yet!) there are a lot of great math enrichment videos and resources out there.Â

There is a huge distance between hot housing and feeding the monster.

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We've done:

Lots of games with dice and strategy

Lots of cooking, including doubling and halving recipes

Reading math books of a variety of quality (513 in the library)

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And just plain work books.Â  My sitter had been printing DS worksheets when he was begging for math homework to do while his sister was doing hers.Â  I finally decided that math books were a lot cheaper than paper & ink, so I bought Singapore books.Â  We would do the reading and scribing for him, but also slowly encouraged him to learn to write the numbers.Â

Personally, I found there are ways to maybe not "push" but to "lead" a child without meaning to. That's not to say that YOU are doing this... only that I found myself doing that in the early years and know it's possible. When my eldest was a toddler, I'd drop anything if she wanted to write, be read to or do anything "intellectual." I felt it was my duty to support this interest. I didn't always do this for a tea party or to build a race track. Before long, DD only came to me with academic pursuits and began to do so almost constantly. When I realized this, I did a little experiment. I changed my behavior. When presented academics, sometimes I would say "let me finish this project and I'll be right there" as I'd been doing sometimes with play. Sometimes I'd say "would you like to write a letter to grandma or would you like to kick the ball together outside?" Sure enough, once play and academics had more equal footing in the home... once play could offer her as much attention and parental time as academics, play started to win out. She still loved learning but it turned more into wanting to read stories of ancient cultures, go to the art museum to look and discuss paintings... not so much with letters and numbers. She still started school very advanced and continues to be years ahead even in high school but I like to think I helped her develop her strong sense of balance by making that change early on.

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Obviously, I can't say this is your situation. I'm just answering yout questions that you can lead a child and develop a home where they may feel academics are the priority without actually requiring they do academic work. It's a far cry from a hot-houser certainly but something to experiment with just to make sure your kids aren't shaping their childhood solely on what gets them the most attention.

Pushing implies there is resistance.Â  If you introduce a new topic and the kid takes off with it, that is not pushing.Â  If they seem frustrated, but stick with it anyway, I still don't think that's pushing.Â  Where I struggle with pushing or not is when I get a "I can't do it"Â  On one hand I want to encourage working through a challenging situation, on the other hand, I don't want to push and have DS lose interest.Â  An "I can't do it" usually get a response from me of "some things take practice"Â  or "I can help if you want to try", or "Do you want to watch me do it?"

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I actually have to push when it comes to physical things, or DS just won't try.Â  Like feeding himself andÂ walking up stairs instead of crawling up them at the age of 3.Â  Pushing is not always a bad thing.

I do agree with whatsnextmom and actually went through a simialr kind of "experiment" myself with fairly similar results. That said, nothing you're doing sounds like a problem, but I would just be sure not to invest more positivity, excitement and energy in these games than in others, YKWIM?

Interesting points, whatnextmom & loraxc.Â  We have been in the opposite position, where we jump on requests to play outside, but we tend to resist the math work, particularly when we were doing the scribing.Â  That's why why we call facilitating math for DS feeding the monster.

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I will say that while parents are encouraged to keep a house rich in literature and words, we keep a house rich in mathematics.Â  It's just part of our conversation; part of our family culture, and a result of how DH and I think.Â  I remember when we were potty training DS shortly after he was two, I made a graph for him to see his progress (# pees / day).Â  A friend came over to our house while we were in the midst of this and asked why on earth we were trying to teach graphing to our 2 year old.Â  For me, it was just simply the way I think about things, that it was natural for me to set it up that way.Â  So a lot of the mathematics have just been in the fabric of how our household is run.

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Did we create the monster because of how we run things?Â  Or did the way we run things simply allow the monster to come out?

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Blizzardbabe, a few other points:Â  Fractions aren't taught in school until late in the second grade.Â  I think that's because some kids just aren't ready for those concepts before then, but my observations last year in pre-K was that most kids did have a sense of 1/2 and 1/3, etc.Â  Your child may have an extraordinary talent, and may not.Â  The computer quiz thing is also novel, so it could have been the computer quiz bit that was enticing more than the math.Â  Or it could have been the other way around.Â  Play it by ear -- it sounds like you already are.Â
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Thanks, everyone. I'll try the same experiment. I'm interested to see the results. Yesterday really just started out as "Hey, DS1, I made something for my students on the computer, you want to try it out for me to see if it works?" and grew from there. Guess that's what I get for making the three year-old my assistant. ;-)

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I mean, I don't want him to feel pressured to be "academic" all the time, but I also don't want to push him in the OTHER direction.

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Parenting, Y U NO BE EASY?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by blizzard_babeÂ

I mean, I don't want him to feel pressured to be "academic" all the time, but I also don't want to push him in the OTHER direction.

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I actually have pushed my kids in the "other" direction, with what I think has been a fair degree of success. We are a pretty intellectual couple of parents. We saw our eldest two children becoming drawn into "living in their heads" very young. So we tried to lead them into more creative, active pursuits by putting more of our energy into active, outdoor, artistic and musical things, responding with more enthusiasm and immediacy if they expressed interests in these directions. I think they've grown up very balanced as a result. My 15yo geek is also into mountain-biking and choral music, my 18yo hyper-literate intellectual is passionate about the violin and is a distance runner.

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Miranda

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pranavaÂ

I actually have to push when it comes to physical things, or DS just won't try.Â  Like feeding himself andÂ walking up stairs instead of crawling up them at the age of 3.Â  Pushing is not always a bad thing.

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I had to push my son to learn to swim. He was furious with me for it but we live in an area where many people have pools and live at the beach. Not being able to swim wasn't keeping him OUT of the water and so, he had to learn. I fully admit to pushing him in that regard but I don't regret it!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmammaÂ

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I actually have pushed my kids in the "other" direction, with what I think has been a fair degree of success. We are a pretty intellectual couple of parents. We saw our eldest two children becoming drawn into "living in their heads" very young. So we tried to lead them into more creative, active pursuits by putting more of our energy into active, outdoor, artistic and musical things, responding with more enthusiasm and immediacy if they expressed interests in these directions. I think they've grown up very balanced as a result. My 15yo geek is also into mountain-biking and choral music, my 18yo hyper-literate intellectual is passionate about the violin and is a distance runner.

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Miranda

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We're a pretty mixed bag, as a family. FIL is probably one of the most intelligent people I know, and he makes his living as a metal machinist. A really, really talented metal machinist. You talk to him about what you need, he thinks about it and comes back to you with three different options and detailed explanations of the pros and cons of each one. He has no shortage of intellectual challenge... and I think he's a great role model in that sense, not to mention a darn useful person to have around. He has found something he's great at, nas worked hard to become really, really good at it (without the assistance of some professor/teacher telling him the right answers). Down the road, If DS1 wanted to follow in his footsteps and pursue a trade/craft, or if he wanted to pursue a doctorate in Choose-Your-Esoteric-Academic-Field, we'd be completely supportive.Finding the balance NOW, when he's still very much at the age where, like it or not, we make most of his decisions, is more difficult. And, really, (and this is I think where my stress all rests) to what degree are the things we're doing now (OK, maybe not now, but in his elementary school-aged years) prescribing what path he takes as a young adult?

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Maybe this speaks to the bigger issue/conflict in my brain. I want to provide my kids with opportunities that I didn't have (not "YOU MUST DO XYZ BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET TO! LIVE MY LIFE FOR ME!" but more like "I now know what's out there; the world is a buffet of awesome things to learn and do... and you've got some pretty awesome skills with which to learn and do them").

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OK, I'm over-thinking up here. My students are taking their computerized MAP tests and it leaves me with nothing to do but stare at them over the top of my computer... and apparently type out long, navel-gazing parenting posts.Â

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Quote:
Originally Posted by blizzard_babeÂ

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Maybe this speaks to the bigger issue/conflict in my brain. I want to provide my kids with opportunities that I didn't have (not "YOU MUST DO XYZ BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET TO! LIVE MY LIFE FOR ME!" but more like "I now know what's out there; the world is a buffet of awesome things to learn and do... and you've got some pretty awesome skills with which to learn and do them").

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I feel this same way.Â  I was quite sheltered and naive.Â  There are so many life directions and things out there that I wish I knew about before I finished college.Â

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pranavaÂ

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I feel this same way.Â  I was quite sheltered and naive.Â  There are so many life directions and things out there that I wish I knew about before I finished college.Â

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This is a good way of putting it. I kept taking choir because... I just never quit. Even when I got seriously jacked in an audition process and had to spend a year in the "developmental" choir (while also in the equivalent of honors small-group choir; it was very awkward), it never occurred to me to quit and try something new. I went to a huge high school with a ton of options. Things I wish I had tried:

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• Auto shop
• horticulture
• AP economics
• More advanced English classes, possibly a PSEO class at the local college.

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And thats just school. There's an even longer list of non-school and co-curricular activities I wish I'd tried.

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I don't want to push, but my parents never presented options to me, never mind pushed me. They were just kind of clueless; it wasn't any failing or malevolence on their part.

You have to believe that things will work out or you will lose your mind. That applies as much to good things, like your child's abilities and interests and potential, as it does to difficult things.Â

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This is going to be fun. It is a blast to hang out with a math-oriented kid. I have learned so much! I can't even believe how my world has been opened by his interests. Don't worry that you're pushing. You know what you're doing. Trust yourself.Â

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Quote:
Originally Posted by blizzard_babeÂ

And, really, (and this is I think where my stress all rests) to what degree are the things we're doing now (OK, maybe not now, but in his elementary school-aged years) prescribing what path he takes as a young adult?

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My ds is 15 and at this point neither he nor I could say with any certainty what general trajectory he'll end up taking in the future. I love that there are so many possibilities still open to him ... because he is only really beginning to firm up his adult sense of who he is and what he believes in and what his passions really are. He is good at many things, and enjoys many things, and I see no rush to narrow things down. He is beginning to think about how to shape his future, how he might narrow down ... and this is the time, IMO, in the mid-teens. Certainly during the elementary-school-aged years my main aim was to give him opportunities to learn and grow in a balanced range of areas so that he didn't develop a self-concept that was narrow ("I'm the kid who is good at computers," vs. "I'm the musician" vs. "I'm an athlete"). I wanted him to see all those things as possibilities, as part of what makes him up.Â

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I really think our job as parents is to give our kids opportunities to grow and excel in areas where they have natural aptitudes, but also to "round them out" so that their precocity in specific areas doesn't end up defining them as people -- so that they have the chance to excel in areas that they weren't necessarily naturally drawn to at age 3, or 6, or 10. Part of that is just modelled for them. Dh and I both have post-graduate degrees and are quite cerebral by nature. Yet his main at-home activity is blacksmithing, and I put a dozen hours or more a week into music and endurance running. We do these things partly to show our kids that we value physical and creative pursuits, and partly to show them that it is possible to excel at and enjoy things you come to later in life and which didn't necessarily come easily.

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Miranda

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Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmammaÂ

We do these things partly to show our kids that we value physical and creative pursuits, and partly to show them that it is possible to excel at and enjoy things you come to later in life and which didn't necessarily come easily.

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Kind of off-topic, but I'm just getting started playing roller derby, so he'll have PLENTY of chances to watch me do something that comes about as far from naturally to me as possible, which is to say I'm pretty anti-gifted at the whole thing.Â

I started Math U See homeschooling curriculum with my four year old last August. He is turning five this wee and is breezing through it and he loves it. But I have no issues with teaching him what he wants to learn. *shrug*

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Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmomÂ

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I had to push my son to learn to swim. He was furious with me for it but we live in an area where many people have pools and live at the beach. Not being able to swim wasn't keeping him OUT of the water and so, he had to learn. I fully admit to pushing him in that regard but I don't regret it!

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same here, only it is lots of rivers and lakes around. I told DS that he was free to choose any sport or exercise once he was older (just not NO sport or exercise) but swimming was non-negotiable and had to happen now. he occasionally resists but has mostly submitted. He's the kind of kid who has to be pushed to go anywhere but usually enjoys himself once he is there. It is sometimes hardÂ to know how much pushing is right but at least with swimming, other than with math, you know it can be a life-and-death-issue.

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For me, the balance atm is with feeding the monster as far as his obsessions (non-fiction, building, drawing, dinosaurs...) go, but with pushing other stuff he'd otherwiseÂ neglect (outdoor stuff, exercise, music, fiction). I do keep wondering whether this will end up ina well-rounded person or whether this will backfire on us, but some stuff you can't just pick up once you happen to develop an interest without parents facilitating early exposure.

As a side note when my kiddo was younger he LOVED anything by 'Greg Tang'.Â

http://www.amazon.com/Greg-Tang/e/B001ILFO4W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1335343985&sr=8-1

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Quote:
Originally Posted by zebra15Â

As a side note when my kiddo was younger he LOVED anything by 'Greg Tang'.Â

http://www.amazon.com/Greg-Tang/e/B001ILFO4W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1335343985&sr=8-1

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Ooh. His birthday is May 6. Hello, mathybooks. I will order you now.

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