Need Help Balancing My Ideals with DD's Wants - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 02-25-2010, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I really could use some help balancing my ideals with what my dd1 seems to be seeking/requiring/wanting/craving (don't know what the right word is).

My dd1 is a pretty serious, intense kid. For example, she loves swimming. So I signed her up for the homeschool section of lessons. The lesson is an hour long with 40-45 minutes of serious lap swimming and new stroke development, and the rest of the time free play. During the time that all the other kids are playing, she is still swimming laps. She wants to be perfect.

At home, she CONSTANTLY wants to know "what are we going to do next?" My mom bought her some workbooks. She completed them in a couple of weeks. She is always writing letters to friends, asking for math challenges, etc. etc.

So, the problem: I have two other children who also need my attention and direction. I have these ideas about unschooling that don't involve my oldest sitting at the table for a couple of hours a day doing mindless, easy worksheets. BUT, I feel like my oldest is spending too much of her time during the day just bored and wandering because I'm caring for the other two, doing know the drill.

How can I balance my desire for more free-form, play-based learning for her with her desire to do more, more, more?

Just for added info: We do have a wonderful hs group we meet with for several hours once a week. When she is with this group of friends, she is able to play no problem. But it's at home where she feels compelled or something to sit and do what she calls "table work" constantly. Play dough and Rush Hour and playing with her siblings don't hold the appeal to her that a workbook does. Do I just let her gorge herself on them until she's tired of them?

Okay, I'm rambling. I hope someone understands what I'm trying to say.

"We think we're gliding down the highway when in fact we're slip sliding away." Paul Simon
DD-7 & B-G twins, 5
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#2 of 12 Old 02-25-2010, 06:31 PM
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She sounds like a highly motivated, focus person who seeks mastery -- that is what gives her satisfaction. She also sounds highly self-motivated, the type of person who, if you give her the materials she needs, is not going to constantly demand your attention while she works, or get easily frustrated if she's not "perfect" right away, but keep practicing until she gets it. So why not respect her need for challenge and structure? Isn't unschooling about letting the learner decide what she needs for herself?

Don't give her "mindless, easy" workbooks -- honor her request and get her some books of math puzzles and challenges. There are all kinds of mathematical diversions, including lots that are HARD, and others that are much easier. Martin Gardner is a good place to start -- there are also many free mathematical Web sites, including lots that have a "challenge of the week" kind of thing. Get her a chess tutorial computer program and let her see how stong she can get her skills, or a book of logic problems or Sudoku. Let her keep a journal. Get her a book of writing prompts or poetry exercises, which combine her "I want an academic challenge" and "I love to write letters to friends" interests.

Maybe give her projects that she can't exhaust quickly (so she's out of your hair for a while!), that offer room for advancement so she can see herself acquiring a new skill. Cooking would be good for this, or teach her cross-stitch -- that takes FOREVER, even when you're good at it. Or music lessons.

Working and working and gaining mastery IS a great human pleasure -- maybe one of the greatest. There really are people out there who solve, I don't know, differential equations or something for fun, and people who really WANT to just keep swimming until they're the very best they can be. Those people often go on to do very interesting things with their lives.
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#3 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 02:51 AM
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She sounds like she is ready for more than you are able to give at this time. If you are adverse to traditional schooling, what about setting her up with a tutor? She is certainly showing you that she wants/needs more than "free-form, play based learning".
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#4 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 03:16 AM
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Have you looked into Work Boxes? You don't really need the book, from what I've heard. There's also a Yahoo group for support/questions.

Your DD might like seeing what is available to do during the day, then the satisfaction of checking things off as they're completed. She can also help fill the boxes depending on her age and interest.
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#5 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input so far.

I do agree that us'ing is about a child-led education at heart. And she is motivated. But she's not so independent about it. I don't think I made that totally clear. She wants me to sit with her while she solves a problem or puzzle. If she's ready to read, she wants me to sit next to her so we can read silently together.

I have her involved in a Reader Theater that meets once a month and a geography group. She does art lessons once a week. She does swimming once a week.

And she loves all of those activities, asked for them, thrives at them. But she still wants more. Great. But between finances and time, how do I fit in the other activities she seems to crave (she has been asking for over a year to learn violin and another language), and still tend to my other two and their growing interests and needs?

How do I find quality resources that she really can do independently? And how do I help her balance her time at home? Her classes are fine. It's the time at home we're both feeling frustrated about.

Thanks for listening again.

"We think we're gliding down the highway when in fact we're slip sliding away." Paul Simon
DD-7 & B-G twins, 5
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#6 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 12:57 PM
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Have you talked to her about it? What does she think? Does she have any ideas about how you can work this out?
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#7 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 04:11 PM
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It could have been presented differently, but it is a point. Maybe one way to fit in those other activities is to outsource some of them. If the OP has not ever seriously considered school, this might be an opportunity to look around and just see what's out there.

I second the idea of asking the child herself, too. She may just be a good personality fit for something more structured.
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#8 of 12 Old 02-26-2010, 05:18 PM
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#9 of 12 Old 02-27-2010, 01:43 AM
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Okay, the ideas below I think would be fantabulous if she were older, so I'm leaving them here because she will be 10 or 12 eventually, but ETA bit is more on topic to your actual situation:

My vote is to direct her to some open-ended design-based projects. Help her brain storm something to make and then let her work out how to do it.

I'm speaking as a person who pretty much breezed through nearly all of a degree in technology and then died in the final project class because I didn't know what to do without instruction.

I LOVED worksheets as a kid. And trivia questions. Things where the question is obvious and all you have to do is write a short answer.

Ooh, there's another good idea, get her to write a paper. You can send her to help allay worries she has that she's doing it wrong. Okay, she might not feel like she's doing it wrong, but it sounds like she's got at least a bit of the sort of perfectionist tendencies that will result in her not caring that you said anything is okay and that she should just write enough to share what she has learned.

Oooo, she wants to learn another language? With the caveat that if she's using only that program she should first learn the alphabet for the language she wants to learn. I tried learning Hindi with it, and got stuck in Lesson one because I couldn't do the reading outloud section.

I asked to go to school as a kid because I knew my mom would make me actually work to learn things, by saying stuff like "oh that sounds interesting, do you need a ride to the library?," while school would let me just get my time in and get credit. Being told what to do was soooo much easier.

If you figure out how to help your dd get over this, be sure to share it so I can fix myself? Thank you!

ETA: oh, she's 6, not 16. Well, I wasn't quite 5 when I decided to go to school because I knew it'd be easier. But a 6 year old wanting mama right there as she does stuff is less odd. Is she getting plenty of alone time with you? Can you set up some activities that appeal to all 3 children? Or when you do stuff for her, make them things that'd appeal to your 4 year olds as well?
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#10 of 12 Old 02-27-2010, 01:47 AM
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Does giving your DD specific, undivided attention (that you draw her attention to - THIS 30 minutes I am going to do X with you) help? My DD is younger, but I find that if I give her the reigns for a solid chunk of time (even 15-20 min), then when I am clear that I am doing Y next, she is much more accepting of me needing to do other specific things. Especially when those other things are tangible tasks that she can see me working on (and join in if she likes). So then DD is more able to occupy herself happily... does that make sense?


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#11 of 12 Old 02-27-2010, 01:24 PM
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I think my oldest (5 year old ds) is somewat similar, in that he has a vast, unfillable well of need for attention. He does like to read on his own, but beyond that he would monopolize my attention all the time if he could. He too is onstantly asking what we're going to do next.

I've had to make my peace with the fact that he will be bored and sad sometimes. I provide suggestions on activities he could do, but if he rejects those ideas I expect him to fill some time on his own. Sometimes he'll end up moping on the sofa, but he needs that time before his imagination opens up and helps him go off and play.
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#12 of 12 Old 02-27-2010, 03:20 PM
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I have one child that has that constant hunger for interaction. I think the trick is to just keep in eyeshot of them as much as practical. Brainstorm projects for her to do and set her up at the kitchen table (or workspace that is the center of what you are doing) so that she can get the feedback she is wanting.

You might consider some virtual school curriculum or online educational games that are her level (brainpop, things like that) where there are more structured activities that she can do as she wants. Also look around for homeschool or play groups that have classes she can participate in if you aren't wanting to actually put her in school.

Another approach would be to have her work side by side with you on the housework, then you have more time to work side by side with the stuff she wants to do.

I would also commit to more library time. She can find everything from new projects ideas, to experiments, and the obvious books that delve deeper into subjects. Have her hang out on the couch and read to herself, but where she can relay new discoveries to you as you work.

Mom to 10yo Autistic Wonder Boy and 6yo Inquisitive Fireball Girl . December birthdays.

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