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My 13 yr old wants me to force him to do his math...

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I feel that I mostly unschool my kids although I struggle with the three R's.  I feel like they absolutely must have a good foundation in these so that they can better learn all the other things they have an interest in.  I've read some of John Holt's books, and often read old articles from Growing Without Schooling, but I still have a hard time letting go of control when it comes to the basics.  Well, I told my 13 yr old son that it is his choice how far he wants to go in math, but that he needs to keep in mind that most of his dream jobs require a lot of math.  He sees the importance but he struggles with making himself do it.  He says I need to make him do it, so I try but it feels so contrary to what I really want schooling to be like.  I feel like a task master!  Plus, even though he says he wants me to make him, he still puts up resistance and goofs around a lot, which makes his math lesson take forever and I get grouchy.  I like him to do as much of his math independently as possible because if I sit there with him he always finds a way to get me to help him too much and then he doesn't have to do the thinking.  I don't know if I should just tell him that he is on his own (unless he has a specific question) and if it is important enough for him he will learn it eventually (he is doing saxon pre-algebra), or if I should make him do it, which really sucks for both of us.  And what experience have other unschoolers on this board had with their kids learning basic reading, writing, and arithmetic without making them do it?

post #2 of 7

There was a really long thread here about a month ago concerning exactly this topic. Here was the crux of the scenario:





The 12-year-old reacted to that by asking his dad "Why don't you make me do math? I told you I want to do it, but I just don't always feel like it. You should make me anyway, so I don't get down on myself for leaving it."



His dad responded by saying that "making" a child do schoolwork is what led him to hate learning as a child, so he wasn't going to do that to his own children. He said "I want your learning to be motivated by you."


Which really got me thinking. Clearly that dad and I have different interpretations of the idea of self-motivated learning. We both want our kids' learning to be self-motivated. But I consider it to be self-motivated if my child says "I would like you to hold me accountable so that I actually follow through on these goals I have for myself. " I consider structuring and initiating what my child has asked for (and admits she still wants, in the long-term scheme of things, if not necessarily while she's in the midst of watching a sitcom episode on the computer) to be supporting her self-motivated desires. The other kid's dad considers what I do to be over-riding the child's self-motivated desires. 


I think you'll likely find lots of useful discussion in that thread. Feel free to resurrect it, or to post more in this thread that you feel is topical and specific to your situation. My own feeling is that you and your child need to work together to find ways that you can provide the structure and accountability he wants without making you feel miserable or jeopardizing your relationship with him. It make some repeated and ongoing discussion and problem-solving to find that balance. 



post #3 of 7

You asked about helping kids learn the 3R's without "making them do it." 


I have four kids, all primarily unschooled, and with reading and writing my kids have come along just fine with absolutely no externally-guided structure. The one exception is ds16's handwriting. He has proven to be moderately dysgraphic. He was formally assessed and diagnosed around the time he entered high school for 10th grade (a year and a half ago) and easily received minimal but appropriate accommodations. He uses a laptop easily and is very literate with that tool. My kids were all natural early readers, and later writers. Writing kicked in somewhere between ages 8 and 11 or so -- once they have reasons of their own to want to write.


As for math, we're a pretty 'mathy' family naturally, and a lot of it has looked after itself. I made available to my kids both Miquon Math and Singapore Primary Math programs. My three girls enjoyed using both these in spurts with nothing more than occasional suggestions from me that "maybe you'd like to do some math this afternoon?" My ds didn't gravitate to the workbooks naturally, got demoralized by his lack of math skills relative to his younger sister and at age almost-10 asked me to push him through Singapore Primary. Within a month he was really thriving with the program and feeling pleased with himself, all resistance having vanished, and within six months he'd finished the entire program. So with the four kids that was the only bit of externally-imposed structure that I ever used prior to high school level.


Once they got to high school level math, all had university aspiration and they seemed to want more structure and accountability on the math front. They either chose to do high school courses through on-line or paper-based independent study, or to attend school. Dd10 is doing a pre-algebra/algebra course now as a home-based learner, but although I'm her primary facilitator we have a liaison teacher who provides her with the external accountability she wants in order to keep plugging away on a steady schedule. 



post #4 of 7

Yes that was a really good thread Miranda, I remember it!


I haven't got much to add especially as mine are younger, my oldest is only 9. However I think I get you on the wanting them to have covered the basics so as to be able to take proper advantage of their then self-directed education. I can say that so far this approach works really well with my son-but, like I say, he's 9 so ymmv here. He is highly self directed though and I see that as being partly the result of him having those skills and so on.


The two big things I've done with him are first to basically let him choose the math program. He liked Singapore after Miquon, he's now finished Singapore and is doing some physics and astronomy (we're just using  adult self teaching books that we initially found in the library, tbh, and crashing every physics and astronomy event at the university that we can) and a book called Challenge Math. That's what works for him. He's able to do those things though because of his solid primary math and he's highly aware of that. I'm not explaining myself well at all-really what I mean is that he's had a fairly quick success feedback on this one and that's worked really well. Its a little easier in many ways because, like Miranda's family, we are highly math/science orientated.


The other thing I have found helps is to carve out a set period each day to do math, music, whatever. They don't have to do math in this time but it means that for a hour, maybe, I'm around, I'll make sure their pencils are sharpened or whatever and that their books are where they want them to be and usually I'll be doing my own work really but the deal is that I will stop and help whenever they want. My son doesn't tend to use this so much, he prefers to do math with his dad (math phd) but my daughters do. I do find that for my kids, just having a habit of making a particular time to do a particular thing makes a huge difference and opens up that time to other great things, exploring and chatting and so on. 


Really I crashed this to get advice for myself for the future though so I will shut up now!

post #5 of 7
Now my kid is only 5.5 so I may not be terribly helpful....

I wonder if there is an online program that might be more engaging and do more of the explaining. Ds loves math and loves spending time on dreambox (which I think goes through "6th grade"). I'm sure there must be an equivalent pre-algebra program (haven't researched that far yet). That way he can work on it and get feedback without you. You could still remind him he wanted to do it but then you could do something else while he works on it and just come help if he wants/needs you.
post #6 of 7

www.khanacademy.org would be an obvious on-line program to investigate. I have a lot of sympathy for resistance to Saxon pre-algebra.



post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you, I will definitely look up that thread.  By the way, my name is Miranda too.  :)

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