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Would like input on what to do with 8 year old 4th grader

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I have 2 kids. My oldest went to preschool from age 3 to 4, then asked to stay home. My youngest has never gone to any school (except homeschool of course).

My oldest, who is now 9, just went back to public school (4th grade) about a month ago. She was there the first semester of last school year (3rd grade), and again, asked to be homeschooled again. She is exteremely strong willed, really rebellious, and I just didn't have the mental strength to fight her anymore, so my husband and I agreed that it would be best for all of us for her to go back to public school. While she still doesn't like the learning part there, she does seem to thrive on every other aspect of school life. She has lots of friends, likes her teacher, and gets good grades for the most part.

My youngest (8, also 4th grade), is the one who's always been homeschooled, and wants to be homeschooled. He doesn't fight me the way my daughter always has, but it is often a struggle to get him to do his work, mostly to get him to start in the morning (he'd play with cars and airplanes most of the day if I let him), and he also gets very easily distracted throughout the day.

He's bright, very bright. He ended up doing 2 grades in one year last year, because the 2nd grade material was just plain and simply too easy for him. I let him skip through a lot of the 2nd grade repetitive exercises in his math and language arts curricula, and he loved it! This year I can't do that; he's being challenged, but really not to the point where he can't do it, but he does need more practice. I still let him skip a few pages here and there when it really seems easy for him, but he does need more practice than last year on everything. He is now a full grade ahead!

He's also a gifted little musician; he plays the cello. He loves his cello, plays it at a very advanced level for his age (he recently learned most of the Saint-Saens concerto, mostly on his own, reading the music and listening to a CD, and some help from me - I'm a flutist and violinist, and then lessons, after learning it). Sometimes it's a bit of a struggle to get him to truly practice, although he'd play his cello "for fun" for a very long time if I let him! But true slow practice he needs encouragement to do, but that's a lot less of a battle than getting him to do his school work. He has told me many times that he wishes all he had to do is practice his cello, and didn't have to do any math. He does like to read about things that interest him, such as music, trains, cars, airplanes (the toy versions of those). He does have a great fascination with computers too (his dad is a software engineer, and musician).

 

I'm at a loss as to what to do with him. I have some health issues (I have an autoimmune disease - Crohn's) that really wear me down sometimes, and those nearly daily battles to get him to do his school work have an impact on my health. 

At the end of this week I got the process started of getting him enrolled at Connections Academy (an online school basically, in our state it's free), and he has to do placement tests for math and language arts, because we're trying to get him in at a grade level above his age.

Part of me feels like this really could be the solution, but another part feels guilty about it. I know he'll have a lot less freedom - they said it takes about 5 hours on average a day to do the work in their program, and he does quite a bit less than that each day now. He also gets sick quite frequently, and that worries me too. Initially the fact that that school is going to provide a loaner computer for him to use got him excited, as well as the fact that they now have a music theory program in association with Juillard school of music. But this afternoon he told me he doesn't want to do it, because he doesn't want to have to do 5 hours of school work and have less time and energy for his cello.

 

I don't know what to do anymore. I've been reading about unschooling today, but am not convinced. At this point I'm probably going to have him finish the tests (I think he'll do just fine with those, and be admitted to 4th grade without any problem), and then see. But I don't know. I do know that I don't like the nearly daily battles to get him to start his school day and focus on his work, and that I do want him to get a good education. He's a very smart kid, and can have a very bright future. I want all doors to be open to him when he's older, so he can choose what he wants to do with his life, and not have limitations because of lack of education.

 

Please help!

post #2 of 12

Does he know that you are enrolling him because the battles?  Does he know what he needs to do in order to avoid 5 hour days?  Does he understand that homeschooling is a privilege that can be lost or revoked if it is not working for everyone involved?  

 

I am afraid enrolling your son into a program that requires 5 hours of work a day is not the answer.  I think that will just make things worse for you and him.  What curriculum were you using before now?  What are your minimum expectations in terms of his education? Because you don't necessarily need to replicate school when you are learning/teaching at home. Much of what kids learn in school is not vital and can be done later when the need/desire arises.  You could pick and choose what you think is important.  

 

It sounds like you are unconvinced about the full-on unschooling style so if I were in your shoes, I'd just strip back everything to the basics i.e reading and math and maybe some writing.  For reading, provide books he enjoys.  Maybe schedule a reading time where he can go off with his book somewhere and just read, and that is it.  For math, get a basic, no nonsense curriculum and have short daily bits (20 min a pop.), preferably in the morning while his whole day is ahead of him.  This way, the battles don't infect the rest of yours/his time and I'd wager, if he is left alone to his own devices the rest of the time, these fights will decrease and maybe even disappear.  He will catch on to what he needs to do to get to the rest of his day.  Besides, shorter bits are just not as painful.  Writing, well ... if he reads, he is probably gonna learn how to write.  But if you want to do it formally, then pick a day and do it once a week and go about it in a way he might enjoy.  I'd stop fighting unnecessary battles.  You say he loves his cello.  If he loves it, he'd probably do it and you can just support how he goes about to do it, no?  Breaking the conflict pattern is the most important.  Sometimes, we stay there out of habit.  Once you both break out of it, it is easier to maintain a more peaceful, cooperative approach.  

 

  

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your response and insight.

He does know why I enrolled him in that online program. 

He's ahead for where he should be, on all levels. He reads chapter books (although a lot slower than my daughter, who reads faster than I can read!). His writing is very good in reality; he writes in cursive very well, generally has quite good spelling, and very good grammar for his age. He gets math quite easily, but doesn't seem to like it, much to the chagrin of his dad, who's pretty much a math genius. 

As far as what curriculum I have been using, I've changed some of it every year, trying to find something better, more fun, more in depth, you name it. We've done Singapore math for the last 2 years, with one year of the regular Singapore math, and last year we switched to Math in Focus (which is Singapore math based), which he's doing again this year, for 4th grade. He's really good at math, so I'm not sure why he doesn't at least like it a little bit.

As far as his cello practice goes, he takes lessons from a very good teacher (he really likes the lessons), but this teacher is really demanding. He gives him things to play that most students don't play until high school!!! The kid is 8!!! Amazingly enough, he's doing ok with it, although his teacher always harps on him that he has to play it more cleanly. He's working on another concerto again now, aside from scales, exercises and a really difficult etude. This morning I told him (my son) that he can practice whatever he wants on his cello, for however long he wants to, and he ended up working really hard on that concerto for over an hour straight, learning a whole new part of it, all on his own, with the help of listening to a version of it on youtube, and reading the music. Then he composed for a while, and then he played his composition on his cello for a while. Later he practiced the song he's learning on the piano (he's asked his dad to teach him how to play the piano the last couple of weeks too!). All in all, he was doing music for over 2 hours today! Plus then we all had orchestra rehearsal this evening for 2 hours! LOL

 

I'm still really on the fence about the homeschooling part. His music I'm not too worried about. He loves it, and I think if I relax a bit about it and not worry too much about what his teacher asks him to do, he'll do just fine with that. I cannot help but worry about his general education though.

 

This afternoon he told me he's determined to change my mind about making him do Connections Academy. He said he will cooperate so much that I will let him continue the way we've been doing things. This morning he actually mostly finished both tests (math and language arts) even before breakfast, without being asked. Then this afternoon while I was teaching a music lesson, he finished them and put in his answers on the computer and sent them off! So he's done with that. I gave him the rest of the day off I was so happy with him!

My husband insists that this online program will be a much better way to go about his schooling, just because he will have to do more hours of school work and be more disciplined about it, so there's no backing out now. I have made a compromise with my son, and told him that I want him to try it, and if he really doesn't like it, I'll withdraw him and let him go back to doing what we've been doing. It's a tough one. 

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ewink View Post
 

Thank you for your response and insight.

He does know why I enrolled him in that on-line program. 

He's ahead for where he should be, on all levels. He reads chapter books (although a lot slower than my daughter, who reads faster than I can read!). His writing is very good in reality; he writes in cursive very well, generally has quite good spelling, and very good grammar for his age. He gets math quite easily, but doesn't seem to like it, much to the chagrin of his dad, who's pretty much a math genius. 

As far as what curriculum I have been using, I've changed some of it every year, trying to find something better, more fun, more in depth, you name it. We've done Singapore math for the last 2 years, with one year of the regular Singapore math, and last year we switched to Math in Focus (which is Singapore math based), which he's doing again this year, for 4th grade. He's really good at math, so I'm not sure why he doesn't at least like it a little bit.

As far as his cello practice goes, he takes lessons from a very good teacher (he really likes the lessons), but this teacher is really demanding. He gives him things to play that most students don't play until high school!!! The kid is 8!!! Amazingly enough, he's doing ok with it, although his teacher always harps on him that he has to play it more cleanly. He's working on another concerto again now, aside from scales, exercises and a really difficult etude. This morning I told him (my son) that he can practice whatever he wants on his cello, for however long he wants to, and he ended up working really hard on that concerto for over an hour straight, learning a whole new part of it, all on his own, with the help of listening to a version of it on youtube, and reading the music. Then he composed for a while, and then he played his composition on his cello for a while. Later he practiced the song he's learning on the piano (he's asked his dad to teach him how to play the piano the last couple of weeks too!). All in all, he was doing music for over 2 hours today! Plus then we all had orchestra rehearsal this evening for 2 hours! LOL

 

I'm still really on the fence about the homeschooling part. His music I'm not too worried about. He loves it, and I think if I relax a bit about it and not worry too much about what his teacher asks him to do, he'll do just fine with that. I cannot help but worry about his general education though.

 

This afternoon he told me he's determined to change my mind about making him do Connections Academy. He said he will cooperate so much that I will let him continue the way we've been doing things. This morning he actually mostly finished both tests (math and language arts) even before breakfast, without being asked. Then this afternoon while I was teaching a music lesson, he finished them and put in his answers on the computer and sent them off! So he's done with that. I gave him the rest of the day off I was so happy with him!

My husband insists that this online program will be a much better way to go about his schooling, just because he will have to do more hours of school work and be more disciplined about it, so there's no backing out now. I have made a compromise with my son, and told him that I want him to try it, and if he really doesn't like it, I'll withdraw him and let him go back to doing what we've been doing. It's a tough one. 

 

If you try to read this quoted post as a stranger (as I am), it describes a bright child with a clear passion for music who enjoys reading, has decent writing abilities and keeps up with his math though he may not like it too much.  I think he is doing okay.  Which part of his education are you worried about?  Do you have specific areas of concern or is it just a general anxiety that he is getting a "bad education" somehow?  I think you need to think it out for yourself first.  Right now, it seems he is trying to show you that he can compromise and work with you to avoid the online school.  I think 5 hours of mostly repetitive, useless work for a child like yours is, at best, a waste of his valuable time.  At the worst though, it can really turn him off from things he enjoys (like reading for pleasure...)  For an 8 year old, he sounds fairly disciplined about his music practice and ready for some self -directed learning where he takes control of the wheel.  And I have seen nothing to convince me that schools churn out highly disciplined students.  

 

Have you heard of Project Based Homeschooling?  Maybe that is something that will work for your son?  

 

Besides, who is gonna enforce these 5 hour days?  

post #5 of 12

If I am understanding correctly, he has already completeted this years math and is now asking for a break to play music? Why do you believe allowing him that break is going to result in him receiving an inferior education? Maybe he is burnt out or needs time for his emotional maturity to catch up with his academic abilities.

post #6 of 12

I'm confused about why, if you're having trouble getting him to do a smaller amount of work, you would sign him up for a program with LOTS of work. I don't see how that would help anyone.

 

FWIW, I'm not a huge fan of straight acceleration, and so if my kid had done two grades worth of school work last year, I'd be thrilled to have him fill time with an interest like cello, rather than have him charging ahead in traditional subjects. Acceleration is sometimes the best thing for kids, but it can be challenging to find materials if you have a kid who is far younger than the typical kid learning the subject. Cello is an awesome interest-- it requires discipline and lets him be creative, and ties into other subjects in a million ways. 

post #7 of 12

I have kids similar to yours: who are able to progress quickly despite minimal amounts of work, who don't like to abide by parental structure, and who are passionate about and advanced in music, with demanding teachers. They were all homeschooled until high school. My eldest is now 19 and on a full-ride scholarship in music performance at a highly-sought music college. My middle two are older high schoolers.

 

Since my kids were always way ahead of their schooled age-mates academically, I let them enjoy learning what they wanted to spend their time at, and find challenge where they wanted it. While they often didn't, at a particular moment in time, push to challenge themselves with, say, multiplication speed-drill or writing essays or whatever, over the long term they learned self-discipline, organizational skills and problem-solving ... and they ended up with very strong and surprisingly well-rounded academic skills and knowledge. My mantra has always been that if kids are highly engaged in something (and that was most often in our case music, or else computer programming) they are certainly learning like crazy and in the absence of significant lags I am not about to mess with a good thing. An 8-year-old who is problem-solving his way through the Saint-Saens is learning and growing far more than any 4th grade math curriculum is going to give him. 

 

If I were in your shoes -- and I have been -- I would relax my academic-output expectations dramatically, rather than ramping them up, and trust that passionate engagement with music will look after any of those "commitment and self-discipline" facets. 

 

Miranda


Edited by moominmamma - 10/1/13 at 8:49am
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by fruitfulmomma View Post
 

If I am understanding correctly, he has already completeted this years math and is now asking for a break to play music? Why do you believe allowing him that break is going to result in him receiving an inferior education? Maybe he is burnt out or needs time for his emotional maturity to catch up with his academic abilities.

 

I agree.  Just because he can do a lot of the computation for math doesn't mean that he is developmentally ready for that level of math study.  I know it's exciting that he can work above grade level, but it doesn't sound like he is really ready for the challenge of it.  Perhaps you can distill some of the basic concepts of 4th grade math into some games that you can play together, and he can play alone, and he can have time to get comfortable with it.  

 

It sounds like the pace is too much for him, regardless where he places on tests.  

 

He is offering some good alternatives-- come to an agreement on backing off the math and letting him replace it with cello work.  Music is highly mathematical, after all, and players of the string instruments have one of the best views of it, IMO, far better than a piano player for example because the relationships between the notes are right there for you to *see*.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

I have kids similar to yours: who are able to progress quickly despite minimal amounts of work, who don't like to abide by parental structure, and who are passionate about and advanced in music, with demanding teachers. They were all homeschooled until high school. My eldest is now 19 and on a full-ride scholarship in music performance at a highly-sought music college. My middle two are older high schoolers.

 

Since my kids were always way ahead of their schooled age-mates academically, I let them enjoy learning what they wanted to spend their time at, and find challenge where they wanted it. While they often didn't, at a particular moment in time, push to challenge themselves with, say, multiplication speed-drill or writing essays or whatever, over the long term they learned self-discipline, organizational skills and problem-solving ... and they ended up with very strong and surprisingly well-rounded academic skills and knowledge. My mantra has always been that if kids are highly engaged in something (and that was most often in our case music, or else computer programming) they are certainly learning like crazy and in the absence of significant lags I am not about to mess with a good thing. An 8-year-old who is problem-solving his way through the Saint-Saens is learning and growing far more than any 4th grade math curriculum is going to give him. 

 

If I were in your shoes -- and I have been -- I would relax my academic-output expectations dramatically, rather than ramping them up, and trust that passionate engagement with music will look after any of those "commitment and self-discipline" facets. 

 

Miranda

 

Thank you all so much for your input and advice! I have done just that the last couple of days, relaxing a lot as far as academic expectations go, and he seems to be thriving on that. For what it's worth, he did great on those placement tests, and was accepted into 4th grade without any trouble. I'm probably going to call them tomorrow to cancel the whole thing though, even though he's already enrolled at this point, and I will have to file the affidavit of intent to homeschool all over again with the department of education. I hope they at least haven't shipped out the materials yet. I'm going to call them first thing in the morning. The more I find out about this program, the more I am realizing this is just public school with a fancy name tag. They already sent a bunch of emails with notices of more tests coming up for him, and other silly busy work, which all together would probably take a least a week to get through, if not more.

Poor kid cried when he saw all of those emails (to him), and begged me to get him out of it.

This morning, he actually enjoyed the math and language arts we did. We didn't do much of either: one word problem, although it was a pretty complicated one, with several steps, and big numbers. I also used the same word problem for language arts, since there were several words that had Greek or Latin stems with suffixes. He understood most of them, but I still had him look them up in the children's dictionary, and practice spelling them (plus write down the meaning - in cursive). He didn't fight me at all, and actually really seemed to enjoy the whole thing. We spent about an hour on that, then had to go to a dr's appointment, and I quized him on some multiplication facts; he didn't even fight me on that! He also spent a good couple of hours doing his music. Again, I was able to relax about it, and not get frustrated when he wasn't always as focused on practicing effectively. But, without being asked to do that, he has learned more new sections in 2 of his pieces in the last 2 days than he usually does in a whole week! Yes, it may not be as "clean" and perfect as his teacher likes it to be, but he's really passionate about learning and proud of his achievements. He did work on cleaning up 2 sections today of a part that he learned last week, so I'm happy with that too. Hopefully his cello teacher will appreciate my new approach to things! LOL

We also went to the library, and got a couple of books that tie into what we've been learning in history and science, and he's very fascinated about the science book. He also found a video for kids that explains about how trains and airplanes work, and he watched that while I taught a violin lesson tonight.

 

I still don't really know where we're going with this, but I am very appreciative of the comments here to open my eyes, and appreciate how much my kid has learned. It's often really tempting to get dragged into the whole competitive atmosphere. My husband is also constantly asking if he's keeping up with his 4th grade curriculum, making sure he doesn't get back behind, and is working hard enough. But I guess it is ok if he's not quite a whole grade ahead anymore at some point. We'll see.

 

Thanks again. I will definitely hang out around here more often now!!

post #10 of 12

I am so happy to hear that you decided against enrolling him at Connection Academy.  He sounds like he is doing great.  It also looks like you have turned a corner and you are both cooperating with each other.  

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ewink View Post

 

I still don't really know where we're going with this ...

 

Well, you will be taking the more interesting and scenic back roads on your homeschooling journey.  It is going to be more fun for everyone.  You may get a little lost here and there but you will reach your final destination well rewarded by the experience instead of worn out and drained from the drudgery of it all.  You may even decide to stop at Unschooling Town and stay until you feel the need to move on.  This is what happened to some of us :) 

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am absolutely in awe of what my relaxing a bit has done for my little boy! He did his math with enthusiasm this morning! He did 3 word problems today (thus finishing the chapter), even though I told him it was ok if he only did one!

He also told me first thing in the morning that he wants to start writing his own story, and I really supported him in that. I didn't give him any other grammar or writing. He wrote about 4-5 paragraphs this afternoon of a story! I am so impressed with his writing, spelling and grammar skills, but 1000x more impressed with his amazing imagination! He read a few chapters out loud to me from the chapter book he's reading right now, and I read a few to him, and the joy I felt from him warmed my heart! We did some history, mostly just looking at the pictures from the book I got from the library, which is ok, since we've been reading about the Middle Ages for a couple of weeks now. He finished the day by drawing the Belfry in Bruges, Belgium (my native country, which we visit ever other year, just visited this summer), which was built in the Middle Ages. I was shocked that the child who normally hates art from any formal curriculum I've ever bought with a passion, reacted with great enthusiasm to the suggestion of drawing!

 

As usually, he also spent a couple hours playing his cello, some of it practicing, some of it playing just for fun, some of it composing. We even played a piece together tonight, which was so much fun. His lesson tomorrow should be interesting; he's made a lot of progress in that he's learned a lot of new parts of his 2 pieces, but hasn't worked nearly as much on his scales and exercises. He did finish memorizing his etude (which apparently didn't really take much longer than 5 minutes for him! LOL).

 

I truly cannot thank you all enough for helping me find the right way! He is now officially withdrawn from Connections Academy, even before starting. Good thing too, since I just had received an email this morning stating that he'd have to do all the work from the beginning of 4th grade, in all subjects! And everything they sent was way easier than what he's doing right now! He really would not have done well with that program; his brain always seems to shut down when it gets too easy and repetitive. Lesson learned I guess.

 

Thanks again all.

post #12 of 12

Coming in late to the conversation, with another suggestion for math.  livingmath.net has lists of great math books at every level that are fun reads.  A great way to feed an interest in math, give a taste of fun concepts without the feeling of drill, and perfect for kids who love to read.  My daughter was a big fan of Penrose the Mathematical Cat, and The Number Devil at that age.  

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