Please Help Me.... I am losing my mind! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 01-08-2010, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need help. I have 4 kids. My oldest son is doing 2nd grade work. None of the other children are "doing" school yet. DS takes FOREVER to do his work. A typical scenario might be that I tell him to do his math pages 102 and 103, if he has any questions or doesn't understand, ask me and I will be happy to help. He is very bright. I send him to another room because with the baby and his two younger brothers he would never be able to concentrate (we have tried that). After he asks to read/play/etc... he goes upstairs. Then comes down to get a pencil. Tries to get in on brothers game. I tell him to get upstairs and do work. Comes down to get drink. Goes up. When I take some clothes up to be folded I find him on the stairs examining a hole in the wall. When I ask what he is doing he says mom, I just discovered this hole in the wall. We together walk up the stairs. Instead of going back to his seat, he jumps on my bed and rolls around. I tell him to get back in his seat. Now he has lost his pencil. Goes down stairs to get another one. Tries to get in on a game with brothers hoping I won't notice... which I do when I finish putting away clothes. Now he has to go to the bathroom. Blah blah blah. I think you get the picture. When he does show me his math he has skipped 5 problems in the middle of one of the pages. When I ask why, he says oops I forgot. Do I just suck at this? Did I mention that I have three younger children. Do I need to do school differently for him? We have a classical curriculum. When he was younger we did more unschooling which worked very well but didn't work so well logistically as the family grew. PLEASE PLEASE HELP. Thanks. Malissa

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#2 of 23 Old 01-08-2010, 04:41 PM
 
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It sounds like he's upset that he's missing out on all the fun. (Yeah, even if you're just folding laundry... with his mom and 3 sibs are is obviously where the action is!). Maybe you could do "school" for everyone at the same time? I don't know how old the other kids are, but designate some of their toys as "schoolwork" and when it's time to do school your 2nd grader goes off to do math, the 4 year old does a coloring worksheet, the 2 year old plays with fridge magnet letters, and the baby studies his little gym carefully. (I don't know how old your other kids are, I was just making that up... but you get the general idea).

Then maybe your oldest wouldn't feel like everyone else is "playing" while he's "working." Make the rule that no one gets back to playing until everyone's work is done.

Trying to live a simple life in a messy house in a complicated world with : DH, DD (b. 07/07), DS (b. 02/09), and DD (b. 10/10)
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#3 of 23 Old 01-08-2010, 05:01 PM
 
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My 6 1/2 yo is similar. He sits at the table while the littler ones do quiet activities. (I only have a 3yo, but I babysit, too.) He needs alot of redirecting and it is easier to do with him in the same room. Then I can redirect immediately rather than have him out of sight an not know what he is doing - which is usually not his work!

Like the pp, I don't know the ages of your other children, but activities like coloring, magnets, dominoes, foam shapes, playdough, balance with different objects, etc are some things that were reserved for use only during lessons. It works for us as then noone feels left out.

Good Luck!

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#4 of 23 Old 01-08-2010, 05:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK...this is good. I always preferred having more of a "kitchen table" classroom but it seemed this would not work for us because he is soo distracted, but you make a good point about being able to redirect immediately instead of daydreaming upstairs for .... too long. And if the boys are not racing cars past him, he wouldn't be as distracted. BTW my kids are Simeon (7) James (5) Amos (2 1/2) and Annie (5 months) We do have a lot of "school type" activities .... games, activity books, magnets, dominoes, etc. I guess I will have to be a bit more organized but anything is better than the daily battles. I am really starting to get frazzled... especially when our school days stretch out almost to supper time. He doesn't have that much work (2 maybe 3 hours tops) but he just drags it out (see first message).

Any thoughts on the random skipping of material? Do you think that is a manifestation of the same problem? He does it when he is writing a lot also. The answer is : The duck in the pond at the park was quacking at the little brown dog. He writes : The duck in pond at park quacking the little brown dog.
I know he comprehends the story. You can tell by his answer but I also start out going over the questions orally before we write. I tell him to really think about what he is writing to make sure he doesn't leave out words. I have asked him to read what he has written aloud so he can hear what he has skipped. When I have him read it to me, he knows what he left out.

Is it just distraction? Should I do something to help in this particular situation or just fix schooltime as suggested and it should improve? What do you think? Thank you for your feedback this really helps. I feel like I should be able to figure this out on my own but sometimes you just have to go to someone who is more objective.

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#5 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 11:55 AM
 
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my dd is 8 & in grade 2. for most subjects, i still am in the same room with her. for a couple of subjects, i still sit right next to her and we go through the lessons together. she doesn't need this, but she really prefers it. she likes to talk and work, so i don't mind. i know you have little ones and this probably isn't feasible. i don't have any advice really. i'm sorry. i just wanted to say your ds is not unusual & you're not alone hugs.

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#6 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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Can he do work after the others are in bed?

Alternately, can you put on a baby show (i.e one he is not interested in) for the younger kids for 1/2 hour each day so he can have some undivided attention?

The not answerring in complete sentences is probably because complete sentences are long and boring, lol. I was tutoring a girl yesterday who needed to answer in complete sentences but was trying to make the shortest complete sentence she could. I have seen numerous kids do this. Even if our intentions (such as child will practice writing) are otherwise, kids can smell busy work a mile off.

My 2 cents is I think 2-3 hours is a fair bit of work for an 7 year old, but even more, 2-3 hours is a fair bit of work for a mother with a baby, toddler, and 5 year old. I do not think one iota of harm will occur in the long run back scaling back a bit. Perhaps even scaling it back a bit while you work on work habits - working independantly if that is the goal, and finnishing in a reasonable amount of time - and then increasing the work load once his work habits are a bit more solid.

That being said, if you disagree with me about scaling back, how about having a really fun activity schedueled for most afternoons? One he can only do once he is finnished his work. It may help the day not drag so much.
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#7 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by campbellsoup View Post

Any thoughts on the random skipping of material? Do you think that is a manifestation of the same problem? He does it when he is writing a lot also. The answer is : The duck in the pond at the park was quacking at the little brown dog. He writes : The duck in pond at park quacking the little brown dog.
This sounds totally normal for his age. I would just work on improving school time for now. We just switched to a more Charlotte Mason style approach- and I shortened our lessons to each only being 15 minutes, I even set a kitchen timer for the ones like Math that drag. I tell dd to give me her best effort for 15 minutes, and before she starts I go over the directions, even if I think she should be able to do it without me telling her how. I then stay present and let my 2 year old color his "lesson" while she works and I wear the baby in a carrier. She can generally do 2 pages in her math book in 15 minutes now, instead of it taking all day, and she says she's much happier having the directions spelled out for her more clearly before she starts. For the toddler I got Carol's affordable curriculum, because I didn't have time to put something together for him, and we've been happy with it- its basically one simple activity a day, some days involve more than others, we also do calendar time as a group first thing in the morning at the start of lessons, which puts us in mind that "school time is starting"- and I like how it orients us to the date.

Peace,

Laura, Mama to Mya 7/02, Ian 6/07 and Anna 8/09
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#8 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 03:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Seriously ladies, I am taking notes. I appreciate hearing what works for you and the moral support!

I get caught up in a struggle between teaching school and teaching discipline. I want my son to be able to complete the task at hand even if it is not his cup of tea. I suppose I could be expecting too much from a seven year old. You think? Expecting focus during a 15 minute lesson seems more reasonable and appropriate. I always liked Charlotte Mason!

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#9 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 04:35 PM
 
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Focus and seven year old boys rarely happen in the same sentence I don't have little ones to distract him, but my seven year old needs short lessons (15 minutes) and then be allowed to go do something else.

Being right is not always fair, but being fair is always right
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#10 of 23 Old 01-09-2010, 05:40 PM
 
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I am on my second 2nd grader. This can be a difficult age to homeschool. There can be hours of dwadling if you let them.

I've found that being near and directing them back to work has given me the best results in the long term and gotten us past this hurdle.

You may want to think about schooling during naptime and/or having a quiet activity for the other children to do while your oldest is working on schoolwork. When my oldest was this age, I would give my preschooler various math manipulatives (couting bears and such) and a balance scale or cups and let her create her own activities. This is also a good time for the little ones to work with playdough (good for small motor skills they will need later on).

Hope this helps.
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#11 of 23 Old 01-10-2010, 02:39 AM
 
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My seven year old won't do any work unless I am sitting right next to her. If I so much as get up to use the bathroom, her work stops until I sit back down. Your son is not misbehaving, he is being seven. (either that, or my daughter is also misbehaving. )

Your five-year-old is old enough to have some quiet activities at the table with his brother, and to participate in read alouds. I would combine them as much as I could. Surely the younger two are taking a two-hour nap or so, right? I would make their naptime school time for the older ones. If the five-year-old does not want to sit quietly and do his work (could be coloring books, letter tracing, counting activities, or playdough on a tray) then he can also take a nap. A two-hour nap will provide enough time to get through some reading activities, handwriting and spelling, and a math page or two. History and science books can be read aloud while the younger ones climb around or play with toys. One day a week, I would do a special science activity or history project with the older two and put their daily work away for that day.

Best of luck. The beauty of homeschooling is that whatever your oldest child does not learn this year, he can make up when his siblings are a little older.

My four-year-old goes to preschool in the mornings. You might consider that for next year for your toddler!
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#12 of 23 Old 01-10-2010, 03:15 AM
 
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I've had this exact same conversation more than once with other homeschooling moms of boys, because my son is the same! And he's 11 now! He's always been sooooooooOO easily distracted during schooling. I'll give him a set of instructions & then find him rolling around under the kitchen table 90 seconds later.

My dh has suggested on many occasions that I send my ds upstairs to do his schoolwork since he's so easily distracted by his younger brothers (who are 4, 2, & newborn). But I know my son, & I know he'd end up examining holes in the wall for an hour instead of doing one iota of schoolwork, like your son! I have to be hovering over or nearby my son to remind him to "focus". I joke with him about how many times per day I say that word- "Focus! Hey, are you focusing? Sooo, ya focusing much??" lol

And he too will take the entire day to get his school work done. And he skips problems, not intentionally but just because his brain is somewhere else. And he fidgets & drops and/or loses his pencil 9984736365758.3 times per day.

But still, he's learning! He's done just fine each school year. I don't feel he's "behind" in any subject & he actually excels in math & science. So I don't let myself stress too much. I think, from my own experience & from hearing from other moms of both genders, that boys generally tend to be way more fidgety.

One great piece of advice I heard years ago is to let boys get up & spazz out several times per school day. Like, spend 30mins (or whatever) on a subject, then get up & do some silly aerobics, or jumping jacks, sing a silly song really loud, or just call it "wrestle with your little brother time!". Maybe your son needs to get some energy out of his system several times per day. Mine sure does.

Another thing we do is not allow him to do the fun things he wants til his school work's done. Like, we allow him 2 hours of of screen time 2 days per week, but not til his work's done. On those days it's so much easier to get him to focus! lol

North Idaho rural living  mama to: 23 yo DD, 16 yo DS, 8 yo DS, 6 yo DS, 4 yr old DS, 2 yo DD, and 1 yo DS. And someone new coming this Christmas!
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#13 of 23 Old 01-10-2010, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And he fidgets & drops and/or loses his pencil 9984736365758.3 times per day.


Wow.... do I hear that!! Dropping the pencil CONSTANTLY. I want to superglue it to his hand!!!

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#14 of 23 Old 01-10-2010, 08:03 PM
 
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I use pens...they still lose them, but they do not break or need sharpenning regularly. They also cut down on erasing stuff over and over agian (which can be time wasting or perfectionism)
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#15 of 23 Old 01-10-2010, 08:32 PM
 
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I want my son to be able to complete the task at hand even if it is not his cup of tea.
For my oldest, I still need to be present for him to complete a task that he doesn't really want to do. Even with the little ones making noise, I have him work at the dining room table until the bookwork is done.

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14yo ds   11yo dd  9yo ds and 7yo ds and 2yo ds  
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#16 of 23 Old 01-11-2010, 04:06 PM
 
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I have a 6-year-old, a busy 3-year-old and an infant. My ds6 (who I'm homeschooling) does not do anything independently. The baby is either asleep or in my lap. The 3-year-old plays independently in the same room we're in, though he's sometimes loud while I'm trying to read. And I do everything with ds6. We do short, CM style lessons (10 to 15 minutes) and do 2 1/2 to 3 hours of school every day. In that time, we cover the following subjects: Bible (Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament), literature (2 different works), Poetry, Phonics, Reading (oral), spelling, handwriting, music - we stop here for a snack - math, history, science, and then alternating so we do one per day, composer study, artist study, art, and nature study.

It took us a year to get to this point.

I started out last January doing school with ds while then-ds2 took his nap. We started with a read-aloud (my hook to get him to come do school) and some phonics, then added Bob books. Then we added handwriting. By March we had added math. In April and May I introduced history, then science. We added subjects, one at a time, fitting them into the routine we had already established. Over the summer then-ds2 quit taking naps. We do school in the morning when it's cold and in the afternoon during the summer so we can enjoy the nicest part of the day, whenever that is. In September we added a baby. We went back to school in October and were very consistent about doing school four days a week.

The key to our success, I think, is that we started out slow. When I added things, I added them in a way that fit into what we were currently doing. Our Bible/literature/poetry are mainly read-alouds with very little interaction. By the time we finish those, he's getting ants in his pants so we do very interactive things - phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting and music (singing). We take a snack to refresh our blood sugar and get some wiggles out, then do math (interactive again). Math is ds's favorite subject, so I did it last to "bribe" him through the other stuff (though it's not really an issue any more). By then he was getting tired, so we went back to mainly read-aloud stuff like history and science. Then we do the "honey" for the day which is our four rotating subjects.

My 3-year-old plays with his toys and occasionally joins in. He loved studying animals for science in the fall and always participated in that. I imagine he'll get into studying plants when we do that in the spring. He joins us for music and our snack. By simply being there, he listens to the stories we do. I do keep books around that are just for him, and I make it a point every day to read him a book that is just for him. It makes him feel VERY IMPORTANT and GROWN UP (very amusing, to say the least, because he takes it so seriously, LOL!), and then often he'll get a puzzle or something that he'll do next to me with occasional help from me.

For the record, we are doing Ambleside Year 1 along with WTM style history (SOTW) and science (using the four-year rotation). Ambleside is very challenging, but we've eased into it and it is working very well for us.

So my advice is to start out easy, take it slow, and be deliberate. I think our results speak for themselves.

Tana, wife to Steve (5/02), mom to Ben (7/03), Joey (10/06) and Caroline (9/09)
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#17 of 23 Old 01-11-2010, 07:34 PM
 
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Would it help him if you posted a schedule of individual tasks/work that he could check off as he completes them? One of my dc's is definitely a "plan" person (and so am I.) Knowing what the "plan" is definitely helps us all keep our focus on what we want to accomplish.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#18 of 23 Old 01-12-2010, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK. The last couple of days have been kind of like a test drive for me. Trying to keep the lessons shorter and being present the entire time. DH is on vacation so he can keep the siblings busy for me until I can get their "school" time put together. Now it seems I am dealing with a different issue.

He has been playing dumb. Constantly.

We were doing his reading together. I had him read me the questions and then he read the story aloud. He started answering questions.... I was there to prod him along and I could stop him pretty quickly as he left out words (a lot easier to correct that as it is happening). Just as I was thinking to myself, "Self, this is much much easier. Why didn't I think of this." He started the dumb game. I don't know why. Did he miss the drama of the school battle?
He was at the table staring at his work, this time not because he was daydreaming but because he was pretending not to know the answer. We read the question again and again. I told him what three sentence paragraph the answer was in. He read that paragraph out loud to me numerous times. He knew. You could see it in his eyes. This has replayed itself a few times.
Does my son want to spend all day doing school work just to drive me insane? I feel like we have this battle scenario set up and we can't break free.
Any more thoughts?

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#19 of 23 Old 01-12-2010, 07:55 PM
 
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Does my son want to spend all day doing school work just to drive me insane? I feel like we have this battle scenario set up and we can't break free.
Any more thoughts?
The issue of a child "playing dumb" in that way has come up several times in this forum, and the consensus has been that if you know the child knows the answer or how to do whatever it is, there's no real reason to be asking the question or asking him to do it again - and that the child probably is automatically avoiding the tedium of being asked to repeat things everyone already knows he knows. I'd suggest just rapidly moving on and not asking him to show once again that he knows those things. There's really no reason for him to spend a lot of time doing "school work" when he already has the knowledge... Lillian
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#20 of 23 Old 01-13-2010, 10:33 AM
 
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He has been playing dumb. Constantly.
...
Any more thoughts?
The beauty of homeschooling is that if something isn't working, you can change. It sounds like what you're doing is very similar to what I had to do in a classroom when I was a kid. It's an easy way for the teacher to verify comprehension with a large group of students. But you are a homeschooler, so you aren't tied to that method.

My son was doing the blank stare when it came to simply reading. Drove. me. insane. The solution that worked? Back off.

I had him read less. I had him decide what books we were going to read. I let him decide how much of it we were going to read on any one day. At the end I ask him, What was the story about? Anything he tells me about the story is great. (This is a form of narration.)

Now, he doesn't always "know" much right after he reads the story, but I've been building the habit of talking what it was about afterwards, and many times this happens much after the story. Sometimes I'll overhear him telling his little brother the story later on. Sometimes the next day he'll recite what we read the day before prior to reading the new selection. Sometimes I do the narration so he gets a feel of what I'm looking for. And step by step, he is catching on. The focus is not on the resistance, it's on the behavior that I'm looking for.

Note that we do a Charlotte Mason style of narration that does not include my grilling him with questions. They simply need to recount the story as they remember it. And they don't necessarily realize which points are pivotal to the story line. They just need to know various parts of the story and their understanding will grow as they get older and practice their comprehension skills.

For reading selections, I use Honey for a Child's Heart to find some good ones at the library. I don't know what level your son is at or I would give more specific suggestions.

Tana, wife to Steve (5/02), mom to Ben (7/03), Joey (10/06) and Caroline (9/09)
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#21 of 23 Old 01-13-2010, 11:11 AM
 
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We were doing his reading together. I had him read me the questions and then he read the story aloud. He started answering questions.... I was there to prod him along and I could stop him pretty quickly as he left out words (a lot easier to correct that as it is happening).
my dd would have shut down too if i stopped her and kept correcting her. maybe your ds dislikes it too? just a thought. hugs.

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#22 of 23 Old 01-13-2010, 01:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The ironic thing is that when first introduced to homeschooling, I was really drawn to unschooling. Read many Holt books. Loved his philosophy. And in terms of learning, it was working so beautifully. No fighting to do schoolwork and he was absorbing knowledge like a sponge. So why did I change? Good question.

My household was getting chaotic. I felt I didn't have the time I once had to properly facilitate his child led learning. I wanted to be able to calm things down by saying, "OK, go do your math now." Before the classical curriculum, he would zip through a project/reading/whatever and be wrestling around with his brothers... which is fine in smaller doses. He is very physical/athletic. I admit it, I was looking for some way to make homeschooling easier for me. Simeon is so bright, I needed something to keep him busy. It seems that has backfired on me. He is battling the "busywork."

Maybe Charlotte Mason is the compromise. I loved her philosophy as well. We already have a century book we don't use nearly enough. Her focus on outdoor time would be great for him to drain that abounding energy. Shorter lessons seem to be a must. He loves to read so we could go far with living books.

I need to do a major overhaul.

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#23 of 23 Old 01-13-2010, 07:22 PM
 
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he he he...love the pencil dropping comment!

There are so many awesome replies and ideas, that I don't have much to add except that it will get better. I have four children and went through the same thing with my oldest. Mine are 9,7,4,and 2 1/2. I became very upset and frustrated sooooo many times during that time--what am I saying, it still happens!!! But, my oldest has really improved. She is very easily distracted and I still have to work with her on focusing. Some days she does awesome and gets her work done super quick. Other days it takes her an hour just to finish one tiny page!!! Talk about frustrating!

I just wanted to drop a line of encouragement for you. What you are doing is so fantastic and wonderful. Home schooling, like so many other things, just keeps changing. I am slowly learning how to not get upset when we run into a rough patch. My husband always tells me "when I get frustrated to not blame myself or feel bad, that my frustration/desire to fix the problem is because I care and am trying to do the right thing."! You will find a solution to your problems and you will both learn how to work with each other. AND what works with your oldest might not be what works with the next child!! All in all, give yourself a big hug, read as much as you can about all of the different ways to teach/interact with your children, and try a little of this and a little of that. Every thing will work out in the end!

Hugs and well wishes!

Leia

Leia
Homeschooling mommy to 5 girls with number 6 on the way! joy.gifhomeschool.gifbfinfant.gifgoorganic.jpg
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