Your kids want to learn and grow
They aren’t deliberating thwarting your plans for them when they don’t apply all the information you thought they already knew. They aren’t skipping words when they read aloud because they are lazy or not trying hard enough. They aren’t being careless or undisciplined when they run out of steam for handwriting.
If you see signs of concentration followed by mistakes, it may be that your child maxed out the mental muscle powering that effort. Kids can’t bring full attention to the tasks adults take for granted for the same amount of time we might commit. They tire more quickly than we do because they are putting in more effort than we are.
Example: Most of us read to the end of the reader’s first page before your reading-aloud child has gotten to the end of the first sentence. When that happens, you will likely feel annoyed, bored, frustrated, and worried if your child skips a word or adds a word or says a word that’s not in that line. In part, your frustration comes from the sheer tedium of listening to a child sound out words! I know how exhausting that is! Imagine, then, how much more fatiguing it is to actually go through the work of sounding out and really seeing what the word is? Imagine how much your child wants to succeed and please you?
Take breaks, go slowly, give chances for your child to work alone, without you right by his or her side.
These principles apply for any subject: addition, remembering to borrow when subtracting, handwriting cursive letters, reading silently, reading aloud, learning phonics, freewriting, copying, filling in workbook pages…
Try not to cast your child’s “slowness to get it” in character-slamming language.
Don’t use words like:
lazy, doesn’t care, won’t work hard, never puts forth a full effort, distracted, willful, defiant, careless, “just how he/she is”…
Don’t ask rhetorical questions like:
Why can’t you….? Why don’t you….?
Can’t you remember one little thing we did from yesterday?
How can you make the same mistake three times?
Didn’t we just talk about this?
Keep the learning sessions short. Do the hard-to-get practice in a burst of devotion and then when tedium hits and you are tempted to clock your heads together, stop. Save the next effort for another day.
Over time, progress happens. Stay alert to your child’s struggles so that you may discover a “block” that you hadn’t noticed in your frustration. Keep going. Don’t give up. Trust the process and your child’s natural goodwill toward you.
Cross-posted on facebook.
Perfect timing for this article! I think we’re hitting this wall with Saxon math. It takes at least an hour to do everything (facts worksheet, mental math, reading through the new lesson, lesson-specific questions and then 30 mixed questions). I like that Saxon is rigorous and I think it will prepare him better than the previous program we tried, but I can’t like the frustration I see in my child. Maybe we need to do math in 2-3 sessions per day, taking a break between to do other, easier things. Thanks!
We took a slightly different approach when Saxon started taking “too long”. Despite the warnings at the front of the books we just didn’t do everything every lesson. For instance, we would do facts practice one lesson and mental math the next. Also, we didn’t do all the problems. Generally I had the kids do even numbered problems on even numbered lessons and the odd nubered problmes if it was an odd numbered lesson, although sometimes I would hand pick the problems I thought would be most useful for each child. And sometimes, if the new material was very easy or if it weas something the child struggled with, all we would do would be to read the lesson and work the problems linked with that new material. We never bothered with the tests either except at the start of each book where teh kids wer able to test out of the first few lessons ie if they passed the test for lesson 1-5 with a score of maybe 95% (I can’t remember now) they could skip those lessons. That helped ease back into the year and let us more easily fit Saxon into our schedule for the year. The world didn’t end and the two who are university have done exceptionally well in their math courses!
Sandra, those are terrific strategies with Saxon. I remember that it was the Saxon math book that made me wish I had a phone number to call “Mr. Saxon” when we got stuck and frustrated. It’s why I try so hard to be accessible to Brave Writer customers. It’s a challenge to implement anyone’s product while tailoring it to your own family. I love your ideas. It’s why we need each other.