Advice needed - Mothering Forums
Learning at Home and Beyond > Advice needed
merryberry's Avatar merryberry 04:58 AM 02-13-2014

I have two children who have never been to school and I have always home educated ( we are in the UK ). Over the years we have tried several different approaches, Waldorf, unschooling, curriculum, unit topics, projects and none of them sit well with myself or my children.

My eldest now 10 fears math and believes herself to be awful at it, this isn't true when she stops flapping and stops to think she can work out the problem.

My question is how would you approach this fear? Would you find a curriculum online or otherwise, back off and leave the issue to resolve itself, find a tutor who can support her?

I have never forced her to sit and work until the problem is completed. I try to help and if she is getting worked up we leave the problem alone. The last year we left the math problems alone and instead played lots of games, going back to curriculum this year I can see that she hasn't progressed at all.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions/advice.

Red Pajama's Avatar Red Pajama 06:00 AM 02-13-2014

If one of my children were unwilling to work for me, yes, I would seek out a tutor to help with the subject. One of the conditions of our homeschooling has been willingness to work for mom. 

AAK's Avatar AAK 07:51 AM 02-13-2014

Certain aspects of math will take my middle child an incredibly long time.  If she sees a page of problems looming ahead, it can get very discouraging.  On those days, we agree on an amount of time and set a timer.  I would say, you need to work on this for 20 minutes OR until the page gets done--whichever is first.  She hasn't ever just messed around while the timer is running, this method wouldn't work well if she did.  It does keep her spirits up because there is a definite end to the struggle.  Often, the timer will beep and she will tell me that she only has one or two left and she is just going to finish them.  



SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:57 AM 02-13-2014

This is what I would do, though I haven't come up to this yet:  back off any math "work" for a bit and focus on the earlier skills for a while again, first through games like Monopoly, Yahtzee, Battleship, anything remotely connected to math or math concepts.  Then I'd introduce any work back at a level so easy that her attitude of fear changes to confidence, at least at the level she is starting back at.  Work back up from there. Repeat as necessary.


At 10 unless she is gifted in math, I can't imagine anything beyond basic math concepts being necessary.  And I think it is wise to linger there until the girls have a rock solid base (unless, again, there is a child-led drive to move beyond that.)  This early part of math education, IMO, is so important to how math will go in the future, whether it is learned and mastered at 6 or at 12.

Daffodil's Avatar Daffodil 09:11 AM 02-13-2014

How would I approach this fear?  I would start asking my child to do math on a regular basis, if not every day at least a few days a week, and I would start her out with very, very easy work that I knew she already knew how to do.  Very gradually I would introduce some new concepts, in baby steps.  I wouldn't ask her to spend a lot of time independently trying to work out problems without help, at least not at first.  I would sit right there with her and let her ask for help whenever she felt she needed it, and I would help her.  Even if all she did every time was just look at the problem and automatically say, "I don't understand this," I would try hard to refrain from asking her to at least think about it, and I would walk her through it, over and over again until it finally felt easy to her.

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 09:21 AM 02-13-2014

I was just coming back on to add the "less math more often" thought as well.


It doesn't matter that she is understanding a concept.  What's important is that she is afraid and not realizing that she understands it.  When you work from a place of fear, oftentimes it's best to back off a little to a place where you can work with ease.  


I spent years studying Aikido, and the fear when working at a higher level manifested itself physically.  You could feel yourself becoming ungrounded and tight and the techniques would become forced, even though you have the basic moves of the new technique memorized.  No, I would have to back off and review the very basics, time and time again.  Returning to master the basics would eventually give me the ease to approach this new and scary skill.  It was constant, not a one-time thing.  Moving from a place of fear, even when you "understand" what should be happening, never worked.  (ETA: I will say, though that it made the previous skills seem calm and easy by comparison!)


Mathematically, she might be coming to understand what is being taught to her, but she is having to fight for it.  A time and place for everything, to be sure, but I don't think that here is the place to sustain that kind of learning, not when retreating to a more comfortable place for awhile might help her find her footing.

sleepypeanutsmom's Avatar sleepypeanutsmom 10:20 AM 02-13-2014

I agree with focusing on games and the fun in math...whatever that means for your daughter.  Maybe asking her what her favorite math subjects are and focus on those for awhile.


We use the "Life of Fred" math curriculum.  I just check it out from the library.  If you haven't heard of it you might want to see if your library has it.  There is a website as well.    It is a silly storyline that my kids enjoy.  At the end of each chapter there is a section called "Your Turn to Play" with 1-6 questions relating to that chapter or previous chapters.  It is good to start from the first book, regardless of age.  We started it about a year ago when my oldest was 11.  She found the first few books very easy for her and is now working on things that are a little challenging, about 7 books in.  My oldest (12 years now) reads the chapters and does the work independently, asking me if she needs clarification on something.  I read the chapters to my 7 year olds and sit with them while they do the questions.  The chapters are fairly short.  I sit down with my 7 year olds (who are in separate books) and we do 1-2 chapters at a time, 2 times per week.  My oldest does 2-4 chapters, 2 times per week.  I just let her decide how many chapters.  She is enjoying it.


Focusing on what is fun and useful about math I think is really important.  Baking, sewing, shopping, paper crafts that require measurement, etc.  Finding math in everyday life and pointing out to her where you use math in your everyday life might be helpful. 

AAK's Avatar AAK 09:47 PM 02-13-2014

I have also used the "back off" method.  I have also just left a subtopic and did a different one for a while.  (ie:  left long division and had fun with perimeters/areas or graphs).  However, sometimes my child fears a topic because of the time.  This is where my 20 minute thing comes in.  Kayla doesn't have her math facts down.  I refuse to push this as she has some learning issues that make this difficult.  We play games to reinforce them, and use visual aids, etc.  She hates long division the most.  We are recently revisiting it through dividing with decimals.  The part that makes it hard and long for her is the math fact knowledge.  However, armed with a multiplication chart and a set time limit, she knows that she won't be there all day simply because she can't do it quickly.  Last year she also struggled with long division, but the steps were also just as hard as the math fact part.  We showed her a different method (partial sums--I think it is called) and she was set.  Now, that doesn't work as well with going out three decimal places, but this year the process is easier for her. 



merryberry's Avatar merryberry 12:27 AM 02-14-2014

Thank you for all the great replies, its nice to have somewhere to air out my worries and seek non judgemental advice. I think we will retreat back to playing games and slowly adding in a couple of short math sessions a week at a lower level until her confidence grows.

I will also have a look at the life of Fred books, thank you for the suggestion.

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:17 AM 02-14-2014

I looked and our library also has LOF, so I reserved some.  I've heard the format can be a big question mark for some kids, so I'm glad not to spend money to investigate it.  I know my girls do like math embedded in stories sometimes.

Tags: Homeschooling