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#1 of 9 Old 09-19-2013, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Having a break down here... First off we are homeschooling/unschooling, which means I'm very lax with curriculums, try to stay away from grade levels and let the kids decide what and when they want to learn something. We use work books for math and some spelling stuff. My daughter would be in 7th grade according to public standards and her public schooled friends have all started middle school. Last year she expressed a desire to "keep up" with her public schooled friends. I agreed to order a full 6th grade curriculum under the agreement that she would have to keep up with the schedule, which she wasn't used to. She tried and came close to finishing everything other than math. Under these terms I allowed her to have the summer off, same as her school friends, and we'd start 7th with everyone else.  She never finished her 6th grade math so this fall I started her where she left off... and that's where the breakdowns have started. It's a very compounding problem. She is wanting to start Algebra, which is where she feels she should be, but is having a difficult time understanding and reviewing her long division and fractions. She has just plum forgot how to work the problems because she took the summer off, which we'd never done before, and is now having to relearn everything. I won't allow her to move ahead until she understands and can complete the stuff she was supposed to master last year. 

This is where the fits are starting, full blown, tearing, yelling, freaking out fits. Big ones, from a girl who has never really thrown them ever, small ones maybe over stupid stuff but never like this. I feel she's trying to rush through the work she was supposed to do last year so she can move ahead, which is why she's having such a hard time relearning the stuff. She feels that she's getting behind and won't be able to catch up now. So she rushes, gets the answers wrong and then throws a major fit, bordering on anxiety attack because, in her words " I'll never catch up again".

It is disrupting everything in the house, making it impossible to  help her little brother with his work and leaving everyone feeling wiped out and foul at the end. I don't know where this pressure to keep up with grade levels came from nor do I feel it's okay that she's putting such pressure on herself. I'm at a loss. I can't help her learn the skills to move on because she freaks out if she gets anything wrong, which wastes time, which makes her feel more behind, which makes her freak out more and I'm feeling insane at this point. She yells at me that she's failing because I'm a bad teacher so I've offered a tutor, offered online courses, anything to help, which she is refusing. At this point I know that I'm easily frustrated at the first sign of a fit so I have to walk away. I take her work away from her at that point and tell her to relax, take a walk, do her chores and when she is feeling calmer, come back and try again, which seems to make her more upset cause of the falling behind thing. I think too that the hardest thing for me is that I don't care when she starts algebra, I just want her to be ready for it and am way more concerned about the mental health of these fits and what I've seen to be full blown anxiety attacks. If it was up to me I would burn the math books right now and start over in a few months but every morning she pulls them out and then it's nightmare central... 

Advice anybody? 

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#2 of 9 Old 09-19-2013, 04:51 PM
 
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I'm sorry that you are going through this. It sounds hard on everybody.

 

My DD gets frustrated sometimes because, like your daughter, she rushes through it, won't listen carefully to explanations, and guesses at the answer and then gets frustrated when she is wrong. In her case, she would be happy never to do any math, however! I did this for a few reasons, one of which was that she was developing a fear and resistance towards math when she used to love it as a young child and happily learned algebra (Hands On Equations) and multiplication by choice. Somewhere in between I pushed a bit too hard, she didn't know how best she learns, and it spiralled downwards. 

 

I have found that giving her an online loose curriculum is really helping. We have used Dreambox Learning in the past, and DS still does, but she was finding it "babyish" (I believe "derpy" was the word she used!). This year we started with Khan Academy and what I'm liking so far is she can choose from any math subject, in any order. Through the pre-testing she learned that she likes graphing problems, and so has been chosing to work on that sort of thing. She actually learned about linear equations yesterday and how manipulating slope and y-intercept changes the position of the line. She doesn't even know how to do division yet! I am seeing already that she is sparking an interest again (though she won't come out and fully admit it just yet) and seeing that math can be fun and interesting. 

 

Also, if she is stuck there are several levels of hints she can ask for and then a video tutorial as well. For some reason this seems to work better for her than having me just try to teach it to her. 

 

All this is to say that perhaps your DD would be better with a more independent program. I might even tell her that I am unwilling to continue helping her because it is so disruptive, unless she is willing to discuss solutions (i.e. not rushing into problems, guessing, etc). Clearly this is her desire to catch up on all this, not yours, so I don't see why you and the rest of the family should be made miserable by it. I say this with the full expectation that, because it is her goal, she will be willing to work on solutions with you. 


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#3 of 9 Old 09-20-2013, 01:44 AM
 
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Your dd sounds a LOT like mine. "Letting It GO" and stepping back for awhile have been impossible for her lately, ditto on the keeping up with her friends both home and public schooled. Your dd is 11 or 12, I take it? wink1.gif

What would you think of letting her go ahead with Algebra now, maybe on a trial basis? We've done math so far in a roundabout fashion (as in not in the traditional order) and both dds have done some algebra sucessfully without having mastered all of the skills that are supposed to be prerequisites. She might pick it right up, but even if she doesn't she'll probably gain some understanding of why she needs to do more work on the basics, besides "because Mom is making me". If nothing else it might tone down the power struggle aspect of the freakouts.
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#4 of 9 Old 09-20-2013, 09:51 PM
 
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I would totally let her move ahead into algebra. Math is not nearly as linear as traditional curricula make you think. You could either leap into it at whatever level her curriculum introduces it, or you could do something targeted at kids who maybe don't have that lock-step mastery of K-6 math. I'm thinking here of Key to Algebra or (at an even more accessible level) Hands-On Equations which is fine from 3rd grade on up. Khan Academy is another great suggestion, in that it allows her to hop around, but the background information is all there, accessible with a few mouse-clicks if you end up stumped. But I would very highly recommend leaping forward to whatever level and whatever topic she is motivated to learn about. 

 

If (and this is a surprisingly big if) it turns out that in order to become competent at more advanced math she needs to long division, she'll learn it at that point, because she sees how it will help her do the math that is enjoyable and engaging to her. If (and this is a not-so-big if) she discovers she needs to be able to manipulate fractions easily to solve algebraic equations, she may very well benefit from the deeper understanding of fractions that algebra has given her (i.e. a fraction is a statement about division).

 

Schools don't often do this very well: allow children to discover the delightful playground of mathematics even while they're still fuzzy about the arithmetic. Homeschooling can open up flexibility on this, and it's one of the great benefits of homeschooling, IMO: kids are not held hostage by their weakest skills. They can move ahead to what interests and motivates them, leaving their weaker skills to be swept along towards mastery by enthusiasm for the exciting stuff. The two people intimately involved in their education (they and their facilitating parent) won't be unaware that there are some lingering parts of the skill-set: those issues can be left to linger and revisited from time to time. Homeschooled kids don't fall through any cracks if issues are knowingly left to linger.

 

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#5 of 9 Old 09-20-2013, 11:24 PM
 
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Why does she want to move ahead to algebra? Is it that she wants a feeling of progression, or is it that she is actually interested in algebra?

 

If the latter, I'd consider that but using an algebra textbook that assumes little prior knowledge. The kind of thing mathmammoth might have? (not that familiar with mathmammoth but I mean a single unit study of one concept. My guess is that there are a lot of these books out there)

 

I am one of those rare people who uses algebra daily, as a science student. Right now I'm doing third year physical chemistry and there are a lot of equations. I think if I were using this professionally in any capacity except as a professor, I doubt I'd have equations to do, though I'd have to be able to do them, to understand the underlying relationships, but hey. I never, never have to do long division. Actually, I can never remember how to do it and have to look it up from time to time. That's fine because I know where and how to refresh my memory. Fractions-well, they are a bit more important and more fundamental. I'd say she might need those. But she can also, surely, go off on a tangent when she does? I'd say fractions are pretty important for algebra but it doesn't mean that not understanding them now is a reason not to do it. Fractions are really important as an expression of division (which is all a fraction is-an intention to divide). So if she can get that concept she'd probably be fine. 

 

I like algebra a lot, and, unless you are a real geometry whizz, its fundamental to the spirit of mathematical inquiry. Long division just isn't. As long as you know it can be done, that 's about all you need, IMO.

 

What I do feel, and quite strongly, with my own kids, is that they don't get a free pass to antisocial behaviour because what they are doing has some educational value. If she is making everyone else's life a misery with this, that's not on. It sounds like she's really concerned about grade levels? You don't say how old she is-has she hit an age where she's worried about falling behind? Does she have another goal she wants to meet? Is she trying to get school finished for life? 

 

Also, my kids tend to go through fits and starts of math work (they are basically ahead of their ages, I think because they do what interests them and that counts for a lot). I'm sometimes absolutely amazed at how much they have forgotten!  But it comes back fast. Also, I think playing around with a lot of real life examples helps a lot.  


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#6 of 9 Old 09-21-2013, 09:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

 

Schools don't often do this very well: allow children to discover the delightful playground of mathematics even while they're still fuzzy about the arithmetic. Homeschooling can open up flexibility on this, and it's one of the great benefits of homeschooling, IMO: kids are not held hostage by their weakest skills. They can move ahead to what interests and motivates them, leaving their weaker skills to be swept along towards mastery by enthusiasm for the exciting stuff. The two people intimately involved in their education (they and their facilitating parent) won't be unaware that there are some lingering parts of the skill-set: those issues can be left to linger and revisited from time to time. Homeschooled kids don't fall through any cracks if issues are knowingly left to linger.

 

Miranda

:twothumbs  We are in the younger range, but I find this to be very true.  We have a lot of blanks to fill in, even as we charge ahead.  I agree that beginning algebra can actually help illuminate those other problems, like fractions (in a similar way that learning a foreign language can help us understand English grammar.  Aside: is she musical?  I never had much difficulty with the basics of fractions because of an early musical education).

 

Also, I would revisit her expressed desire to keep up with her classmates, and especially how you two have chosen to pursue that.  She has a taste of how limiting and frustrating a school-like curriculum can be.  Perhaps you and she can help brainstorm ways that she can get closer to her goal without being shackled to a curriculum?  She is judging herself like it is her fault, not the fault of a curriculum not tailored to her.  Like others have said, the flexibility of hsing could change this.

 

Also, is this curriculum truly reflective of what the kids are learning?  I know you've invested a lot in this, but if it means so much hair pulling and frustration, I hope you two can still look some other resources, like have been suggested.  

 

Mainly I wanted to post in response to the above quote.


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#7 of 9 Old 09-23-2013, 11:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Good call Stormborn... She's 12 1/2  and very concerned about keeping up with her peers.  I wanted her to finish her prior work, not to keep her from moving on, but to encourage her to finish what she started. That being said, I've agreed to let her start her Algebra books if she will come back and finish the books she's almost finished with. I loved the saying from Miranda "Homeschool kids don't fall through the cracks if issues are knowingly left to linger" That reminder helps alot. I have always let her lead in what we learn which is why we went the grade route last year. She expressed a great desire to keep on step, going so far as to research the curriculum standards for our state, which at the time I found funny and was happy that she was researching. 

 

 Math is not her strong suit and has always been the one and only subject she's had to work hard at. We have tried numerous workbooks and web sites in hopes of finding a system that she'd benefit most from and so far the Singapore Math worked great. She's awesome at word problems and problem solving equations... it's the straight up number problems that she has a hard time with. I hadn't heard of Dreambox learning and am planning on looking at it tomorrow with her. I would love for her to find the "playground of mathematics" again which is why I'm at such a loss with how to approach this. She has zero interest in learning Algebra, it's just what she thinks every 7th grade kid has to do. It's beyond important to her to keep up with the public school standards but she's struggling with the work and is losing the fun in learning, which is breaking my homeschooling heart. It's like all the ideals that I've brought into learning at home have been thrown out her bedroom window. 

 

We did take a long hike together and talked about the fitting part of this problem and we've come up with a solution for now. I will walk away, she will take a break and if her frustration is too great she can express it in her "pity papers" which is part of her private journal where she normally vents about her brother,   or whatever else that will help her regain her calm. Then she can continue once her head is clear.  After the last blow out she realized for herself that the afternoon was wasted, her throat hurt and we were all disgruntled. 3 days in the making and so far so good. 

 

As I've said though, it's the pressure she's putting on herself to " keep up" that has me worried. Who told her she was behind? Where'd it come from?  How do I help her overcome this new insecurity? Is this the start to the teenage years? Oh wait, now I'm rambling about my own insecurities :)

Seriously though,we have numerous friends who homeschool and none of the moms have had to deal with this. Her homeschool friends of the same age are all at different levels in their math skills so I don't know where her ideas are coming from. I'm hoping that this is just another growth phase in a long line of them, another way of exerting her independence. Another hike with her is needed to get down to the bottom of this.

 

Thanks for responding and all the positive tid bits of advice. It is so very appreciated!

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#8 of 9 Old 09-25-2013, 07:11 AM
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 She expressed a great desire to keep on step, going so far as to research the curriculum standards for our state, which at the time I found funny and was happy that she was researching. 

 

She has zero interest in learning Algebra, it's just what she thinks every 7th grade kid has to do. It's beyond important to her to keep up with the public school standards 

 

I think she misunderstood what she researched.  I have never heard of Algebra being the standard math course until 9th grade.  In our district, the mathematically inclined get to take it in 8th.  However, if you were looking at the "frameworks", "standards", or "learning goals" for our state, you would see a lot of algebra listed at much lower grade levels.  They might even have a category for "algebra concepts".  I mention this because I think that she may have misunderstood what she researched?  At least in WA state, high school graduates typically have Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Pre-Calculus as their four years of high school math.  Pre-Calc is the only "choice"--they could choose a different math (or skip it if they didn't want to attend a 4 year university right off the bat).  

 

Perhaps ask a public school friend if she would bring over her math book.  I know that lots of 7th graders will do Pre-Algebra if they are on track for 8th grade algebra.  Most likely though, it is just a book that says Mathematics --grade 7 or whatever.  

 

Of course, I would let my child try algebra (in your situation), but since she really has no desire to learn algebra I think perhaps finding out if Algebra is really expected for grade 7 would be a good idea.  

 

Amy


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#9 of 9 Old 09-25-2013, 07:22 PM
 
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Yeah, it's really not common for 7th graders to be doing algebra in most US schools.  In my area, it has up until now been a class for 9th graders, with some advanced 8th graders (and the occasional 7th grader) being allowed to take it.  This year they're switching to making it standard for 8th graders.  (I believe this is in line with the new Common Core standards.)  At a recent school board meeting, the middle school principal said that most of the current 8th graders aren't really ready for it.

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