Any ideas on how to teach organization and focusing skills at home for homework? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 03-07-2012, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So dd1 (11, 5th grade) is my quirky kid. She's had a lot of quirks since birth and at this point has some inattentive and anxiety behaviors. She's in a new school this year (public elementary after private school) and is doing very well except for in math. As background, DH and I both had a pretty easy time in school although he did have some test anxiety (didn't affect his performance, he excelled and was at the top of his class, but remembers it as hellish) and we're both fairly disorganized, but it doesn't interfere with our day to day living. 

 

Unfortunately, dd1's anxiety tendencies and her disorganization and lack of focus do seem to be affecting her school performance in math this year. She's doing well in all her other classes, though, so it's not across the board and many other parents have expressed to me that they are not happy with this math teacher. However, I can't place all the blame on the teacher. I think dd1 is making some careless errors on tests and that kind of thing. 50% of the grade is based on test performance. We sit with her and check over her math homework every night and a lot of times have to keep her focused on her work as her attention will drift. Homework can drag out 5 times longer than it should.

 

She also has disorganization problems at home. Her room looks like a bomb went off in it right now and frequently can't find her shoes for school, etc, but we've implemented systems for that and can pick out clothes and gather shoes the night before, etc. I'd like to help her implement some kind of system for staying focused on school work, too.

 

I'd like to help her to organize her thoughts and her focus. I have thought about having her evaluated, but even if she got an ADHD diagnosis I wouldn't want her on meds, especially since it's just math that's causing a problem at school this year. Her homeroom/science teacher was really surprised she was having any trouble since she does so well in his classes (science and reading) and is also doing well in writing and social studies. It may be that with a different math teacher she would be doing better, but who knows what kind of math teacher she will have next year?!

 

So, any tips for teaching organization and focusing skills?

 

thanks,

 

 


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#2 of 14 Old 03-07-2012, 09:48 AM
 
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Have you bumped into the book called Smart but Scattered?  You might want to start there.

 

ADHD has to cross multiple areas of her life.  You see some aspects of it at home (though it sounds like maybe not enough), and in math class.  It's not crossing into the rest of her school day, so there's something about the math class that's taxing her executive skills.

 

That being said, we're seeing a lot of the same issues with DD's math this year.  She's in an odd arrangement (working on her own in the back of the classroom), and she's making a lot of errors that look to be errors of inattention.  The school psychologist thinks this is ADHD, but it looks more traceable to newly diagnosed dysgraphia, which affects her ability to get information onto the page accurately.

 

DD has also been diagnosed with anxiety.  She starts Cognitive Behavioral Therapy today.  I'm looking forward to see how receptive she'll be to this kind of approach of using her mind to beat her mind.

 

On the anxiety, is she aware of it?  My DD isn't, surprisingly enough.  This is also playing into her accuracy issues as well as her receptiveness to outside input.  Anxiety can also arise from ADHD, where the child can no longer trust themselves to act appropriately.  It might be worthwhile to get an evaluation to tease apart the issues.  And while you're at it, get the book, as it will help give you a language and context for helping her.

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#3 of 14 Old 03-07-2012, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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She's had the anxiety issues since birth and I don't think she's always aware of it, but she is becoming more self-aware. I think her anxiety definitely came first and may have precipitated some ADHD behaviors as in she's anxious about the work so she can't focus and might fidget, etc. She's also easily overwhelmed. Many things seem like insurmountable tasks. I try to help her break it down into small bites, but it's hard for her. 

 

Thanks for the book rec. I will look into it. I have heard of it before, but not read it.

 

I do think there is something about math class (and maybe the teacher) and also math in general that is taxing her executive skills. 

 

She definitely has organizational problems at home, but she doesn't have a lot of chores so it's a little hard to pinpoint examples like in school. She definitely needs reminders to stay focused at times (getting ready for school, getting ready for bed) and will misplace things and not be able to find them, but it's just not the big problem like math is. We remind her and she gets back on track and it's all okay.

 

We did have an eval when she was in 3rd grade, but while I liked the psychologist I didn't feel like dd1 was able to cooperate as much as she needed to so that we could get an accurate picture. For example on one portion of the eval dealing with money/coins she just shut down and refused to attempt the test. She knows money and knew it at the time, but perhaps felt anxious about it and just wouldn't do it. 

 

I told the psych that I thought she had anxiety issues, and she looked for those, but dd1 did not self-identify feeling anxious so she didn't meet the criteria. She doesn't carry the anxiety around with her all the time. Lots of times she's very happy go lucky, but she's super cautious about a lot of new things (not a risk taker at all) and unfortunately sometimes the new things include new topics at school. I think math introduces more new concepts and procedures than other areas of study and so she feels more anxious about them. However, I do think she has some sequencing/executive functioning issues that are more apparent in math. These may be due to the anxiety and a learned pattern of behavior. I do know that the anxious/panicky tendencies have definitely always been there. 

 

She's always melted down/freaked out easily, though it's mostly crying and not really an angry tantrum. She's rarely violent beside the occasional swipe at her sister. She has a little bit of low muscle tone and I thought she had some sensory issues when she was younger, but that mostly seems better now.

 

She definitely does have trouble with sequencing and being on the beat in dance class too. She's not exceptionally anxious there (been taking dance there since she was 3), but is often a beat or two behind the other girls. Drives me crazy. She has always loved to be last in line, though, and I think that's an anxiety response (likes to observe before joining in).

 

Anyway I'm writing a book. She definitely has some issues and is doing pretty well, but we're seeing this impact in math and I would like to help her focus and organize. I'll look into the book!

 

thanks


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#4 of 14 Old 03-07-2012, 12:24 PM
 
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I don't have any words of wisdom, but I'll be watching this thread as she sounds a lot like my 7yo dd.

 


Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#5 of 14 Old 03-07-2012, 01:16 PM
 
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Sometimes I wonder how much control we actually have in this area. My DD 15 was born with her ducks in a row... like seriously, she used to organize her toys before she could walk. All through elementary and middle, she was just on top of everything at all times. I did nothing... seriously. I didn't give her reminders, didn't have to check her work, didn't have to help her find things... she had it all under control. Then came 13, her first period and high school. Now her room is a wreck, she looses everything, she's missing assignments, making careless mistakes, she's not informing those around her of conflicts and changes in schedule (like me, like her boss, like her directors.) She flat out doesn't remember. We're doing what we can with reminders, planners, family scheduling meetings anything we can think of to help but in the end, I think she will get through this when she gets through it.

 

On the other hand, we have had to sit on DS 11 most of his life. He always WANTED to do well. He never complained about doing homework or practicing or cleaning but without a reminder, it would never occur to him to do those things. He'd go to school will all this completed work but if the teacher didn't ASK for it, he wouldn't even think to put it in the homework basket. He was losing everything. I can't tell you how many lunch boxes we had to buy before just giving up and moving to paper sacks. Then, one day, shortly after his 11th birthday, it all snapped into place. Now he's golden child with the perfect room, straight "A's", never a missing assignment, quality work, no reminders needed for practicing. It's literally ASTOUNDED me. I can only hope that it sticks.

 

I know, not very helpful. I'm not saying not to give her tools. A planner is helpful. Routine, routine and more routine is helpful. I find saying things like "OK, what do we need to do now that school is over" can jump start their memory without my having to actually say "do your homework, put it in your backpack."  For DS, I find that nothing "required" should be done in long blocks of time. For DS, the most focus of any session is the first 20 minutes and so we never did anything for more than 20 minutes without a break. Even now that his act is together, I still find him breaking up any sort of work into pieces.

 


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#6 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 09:14 AM
 
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What kind of math problems bother her the most?  Is it any type of math, or are there some types that cause this anxiety more than others?

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#7 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 06:43 PM
 
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If your kid is a very visually oriented person, part of the organization challenge might be that she doesn't know where stuff is if she can't see it.  This leads to leaving things out, which leads to a huge mess.  I'm very much like this; it's a real struggle for me to put stuff back where it belongs, especially if where it belongs is behind a closed door.  It does look nicer to have doors and the lack of visual clutter is nice tho too.  My solution has been to use cubbies where ever possible.  I have a paper organizer http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70198031/ and shelves that I got at IKEA http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40047675/; they both let me organize things while keeping them in sight.  I have a curtain that I can pull over them if I want to hide the whole thing from company or something, but I rarely use it. 

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#8 of 14 Old 03-10-2012, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, she came home on Friday and told us that she made a 100 on her math test! Go figure! This test was on their measurement unit, so lots of things like converting from cm to inches and from quarts to liters, etc.

 

She seems to have a lot of careless errors to me and I asked her to be sure to double check her work when she did the test. She reported that she did do that this time, but didn't catch any errors. I think she has some trouble with sequencing events so things like long division can be tricky where you have to Divide, Multiply, Subtract, and Bring Down. She knows the mnemonic for this (Dead Monkeys Smell Bad), but at times still struggles with it. Word problems can be tricky, too.

 

As far as organization at home, we do have cubbies. I'm a big cubby fan and love our IKEA Expedits. I think what her real issue with that is maintenance. She lets it go and drops stuff and doesn't pick it up or makes a mess searching for something and then before you know it the whole room is trashed and she's completely overwhelmed by the mess and can't deal with it. I actually have a hard time dealing with it, too, when it gets that bad. Makes me want to tear my hair out!

 

Thanks for all the advice so far. I sent her math teacher an email asking for a conference, but haven't heard back from her and now she's gotten this great math test score. We'll see what she says.


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#9 of 14 Old 03-11-2012, 08:04 AM
 
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Yay for 100%!   When she double checks her work, does she use a different method or work from the answer back to double check?  sometimes that is more helpful to find errors than going over the same thing 2x. 

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#10 of 14 Old 03-11-2012, 08:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure she usually double checks her work at all! I have been trying to get her to at least estimate the answer so she knows if she's in the right ball park. For example if the problem is 21 x 428 she can do 20 x 400 and know that her answer needs to be around 80,000, but more than that. It's not going to be 800,000, however.

 

I still haven't heard back from her math teacher. I will have to buttonhole her on Monday I guess. 


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#11 of 14 Old 03-11-2012, 09:39 AM
 
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If she's having trouble with sequencing, maybe some organizational cheat sheets would help.  If she had a list of what she was supposed to do such as:

read questions

answer all the questions you think are easy

go back and work on the ones you don't know

ask for help if you're stuck or don't know what a question means

double check your work by estimating or using a different method to get the same answer

make sure name etc. is on all pages & hand in

 

would that be helpful?  You can make similar ones for doing homework as well, and laminate them so she can use a dry erase marker to check off the done things. 

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#12 of 14 Old 03-12-2012, 07:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That might be helpful Jen. She really likes us to be with her when she does her math so I usually just give her verbal reminders, but maybe a list would be better because it would give her more ownership of her work and she wouldn't be expecting us to remind her "what's next". I'm not really a list person, but not sure about her. Sometimes I think no and sometimes I think maybe. 

 

I'm really happy for the good math result. She'll be in middle school next year and if her grades are not good enough she'll have to have extra math help instead of one of her electives. 


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#13 of 14 Old 03-12-2012, 07:29 AM
 
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joy.gifon the test.  Individual successes build to greater confidence and greater buy in when it comes to dealing with suggestions and coaching.

Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma View Post. I'm not really a list person, but not sure about her. \


I'm not a list person either.  I become blind to them very quickly.  So does my DD.  I'm currently fishing for any and all strategies for helping kids with these organizational issues without using lists.

 

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#14 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 08:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just coming back to update. I talked to her math teacher and she apologized for not getting back to me on conferencing. She said that dd1 is doing much better now and had done well on her last two tests. She was giving me the vibe that conferencing was not necessary in her opinion and there was a classmate of dd1's right there so I didn't want to get into it too much. I guess that's good, but at the same time I'm a little leery we're not addressing issues we need to, but maybe she's maturing and growing out of some of her problem areas like whatsnextmom's ds. At any rate I'm happy for her to be doing better in math. She's still doing well in her other subject areas and I can tell that her homeroom/science/reading teacher really gets a kick out of her. She's a unique kid. Super artistic temperament and very creative thinker.


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