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Where to set the bar?

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    Where to set the bar?

    My husband and I feel that our 13yo (no academic challenges; great memory; sensory and focus issues and easily overwhelmed) isn't putting in enough effort in his school work, but I'm not sure where the bar should be for him. When he gets overwhelmed with school, his sensory-seeking gets worse and he starts shutting down when I try to work with him. Here's where he's at:
    • Second Form Latin: taking two weeks to get a handle on a lesson; still messing up adjectives very badly; some recitation items from First Form are still being missed)
    • Literature: understanding the story very well, doing well on vocabulary, but not writing complete sentences despite our discussing that it's necessary
    • Spelling Workout: taking two weeks per lesson; averaging 3-5 wrong on week one, out of 20, despite adding the Colorful Words and syllabication components from Traditional Spelling
    • R&S Math 3: remediation of multiplication tables; he's doing fantastic now. It was recommended that we start VideoText once he's made it through R&S 5 (we'll skip the review lessons in 4 and 5 since we're working straight through). I would love for him to do two lessons worth of exercises a day. He really wants to do higher math and science in high school but he's running out of time for that to be an option for him.
    • Horatius at the Bridge: doing 4 stanzas at a time until mastered then moving on to another 4 stanzas; obviously a much slower pace than normal
    • Famous Men of Greece: supposed to start this week, usually does well except we run into the same problems as in literature
    • English Grammar Recitation III: taking two weeks to memorize the rules and do well with the concept
    • Classical Composition: currently in the assigned review weeks; doing fine but frequently skips a day before writing the paraphrase and/or final draft assignments saying his "brain is tired"; will start Refutation/Confirmation soon
    • Novare Earth Science: I modified our approach this time around. We're doing the readings, selected learning check/chapter exercise questions (chosen by me), and only 5-10 vocabulary words from each chapter; quizzes will be recitation based on the vocabulary with a cumulative one at the end of the year. He's doing well, but starting to lose previous knowledge; he wasn't studying flashcards.
    • American history: he asked if we could wait to add this in the spring

    He's very smart and a solid student, but the overwhelm issues kicked in when he started 6M last year. Is this the most we should expect? Am I being too easy on him?
    Jennifer
    Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

    DS16
    MP: Lit 10, VideoText Algebra
    MPOA: High School Comp. II
    HSC: Spanish I, Conceptual Physics, Modern European History, and electives

    DS15
    MP: Biology, Lit 10, VideoText Algebra, Greek Tragedies
    MPOA: High School Comp. II, Fourth Form Latin
    HSC: Modern European History

    DS12
    7M with:
    Second Form Latin, EGR III, and HSC for US History

    DS11
    SC Level 4

    DD9
    3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

    DD7/8
    Still in SC Level 2

    DD 4/5
    SC Level C

    #2
    Hi, Jennifer.

    I think the key is "my husband and I feel...." BOTH of you are sensing that your son is opting out of putting forth effort, rather than sensing that the work is beyond him.

    The question is, "How to respond compassionately and encouragingly when he is truly overwhelmed without creating a 'learned helplessness' in which he benefits merely by complaining or giving up?"

    Some would answer "consequences." Others would answer "expectations." Still others, "an updated evaluation to rule out anything else."

    Ultimately, many homeschooling dilemmas are magnified parenting dilemmas. I think if anyone had an easy answer to the overarching question of how to motivate a 13yo boy, you might have received a response by now! No easy answer exists.

    I do have a caution from my son's experience: Try to set the expectation based on what you know, rather than on how he responds. You do not want to reward foot-draggjng, sighing, and malingering by caving on your expectations at the first sign of these. You do not want to become a negotiator.

    I've mentioned this many times, but I think it can be very helpful: Pair him with a kind but hard-working adult outside the home whenever you can. Currently my son helps a woman with her landscaping and gardening. She told me with a smile that he said during the recent work session, "This soil is really rocky. This is hard." ("Yes, it is," she said.) "Do you think we should take a break?" ("I'm not going to. I want to finish by noon.") My son paused. Looking at the retired schoolteacher with a touch of gray in her hair, he said, "Well, if you're not going to take a break I won't either."

    We see transfer from these experiences. You're training him, one way or another, so you can train for becoming a hard worker.

    Just watch for signs of true (not manufactured) fatigue. Even then, more times than not you can encourage, "You were tired, but you persevered!" If it helps, include yourself as if on a team, "We didn't feel like finishing today, but we did!" Then take a moment to review all that has been accomplished. "Good for us!" Similarly if an older brother models hard work and knows how to motivate his younger brother, you might create a joint project.

    No matter the scenario you want him to *practice* hard work, not practice dragging his feet.

    Other ideas:
    - Grant a reward for hard work now and then.
    - Watch nagging; it is counterproductive, as it will wear you out too.
    - Set up a visual chart with the one thing you would like to see (strong writing?) and mark whenever you see it. No negotiating or coaxing, just mark. (Be sure you set up the chart realistically so it will not remain blank!)
    - Hasten the pace where you can, but be content where you truly cannot.

    I suspect that underlying all of this is, "If he doesn't hurry up, he will not be ready for xyz" (college, career, job). If so, it might be helpful to partner with his own goals for himself, work backwards, and set daily visible and achievable goals. If this is beyond him right now, you might simply ease your own mind by brainstorming with your husband some Plan A and Plan B career/vocation options based on two alternate pacings. If you have an acceptable safety net, that might ease your concerns.

    I feel for you but have seen great improvements in that area here with maturity, improved physical stamina, and the help of several good adult models over time.





    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
      Hi, Jennifer.

      I think the key is "my husband and I feel...." BOTH of you are sensing that your son is opting out of putting forth effort, rather than sensing that the work is beyond him.
      He has mentioned a couple of times that he really wants to get beyond where he is, so while I try to take things as they come, I know it's bothering him. I think your idea of planning backwards from where he wants to be, with a chart to monitor progress, could work for his personality.

      You're right about the negotiating...I try not to negotiate based on push-back, BUT I do have a habit of "pre-emptive" negotiating (yes, I can see you laughing!) My husband pointed this out to me recently with our 11yo. I know what the push-back will be so I require less from the outset. With the 13yo though, the behavior I'm trying to avoid isn't really feet-dragging. He starts moving a ton, bouncing like a mad man (I had to remove the exercise ball I used to let him sit on), fidgeting, etc. It's like he suddenly doesn't know what to do with himself. If it devolves to obstinate mumbling or something like that, then consequences set in.

      I know the work isn't beyond him ability-wise but because of the type of response he has, I honestly don't know if it's beyond him quantity-wise. Do you have any guidelines for knowing when to push through their anxiety/fatigue and when to call it? Or can these types of responses be a form of feet-dragging?


      Jennifer
      Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

      DS16
      MP: Lit 10, VideoText Algebra
      MPOA: High School Comp. II
      HSC: Spanish I, Conceptual Physics, Modern European History, and electives

      DS15
      MP: Biology, Lit 10, VideoText Algebra, Greek Tragedies
      MPOA: High School Comp. II, Fourth Form Latin
      HSC: Modern European History

      DS12
      7M with:
      Second Form Latin, EGR III, and HSC for US History

      DS11
      SC Level 4

      DD9
      3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

      DD7/8
      Still in SC Level 2

      DD 4/5
      SC Level C

      Comment


        #4
        It's tricky, isn't it? Maybe allowing him to "own" his pacing, as in your first paragraph above, can help.

        Does he have insight into when he truly loses stamina vs. when, if at all, the patterns have become manipulative? Does he know what helps him work? (Chewing gum, regular snacks, headphones, pre-sharpened pencils?) Maybe a heart-to-heart conversation about his goals, the steps to achieve the goals, and plans ahead of time for low-energy moments can be a start.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by cherylswope View Post
          It's tricky, isn't it? Maybe allowing him to "own" his pacing, as in your first paragraph above, can help.

          Does he have insight into when he truly loses stamina vs. when, if at all, the patterns have become manipulative? Does he know what helps him work? (Chewing gum, regular snacks, headphones, pre-sharpened pencils?) Maybe a heart-to-heart conversation about his goals, the steps to achieve the goals, and plans ahead of time for low-energy moments can be a start.
          I don't know if he can distinguish it, but we'll definitely sit down and talk everything through as suggested. Thank you so much for helping me see this more objectively. Some days I feel like I can see a situation clearly and other days I feel like I'm clueless — with the same situation!
          Jennifer
          Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

          DS16
          MP: Lit 10, VideoText Algebra
          MPOA: High School Comp. II
          HSC: Spanish I, Conceptual Physics, Modern European History, and electives

          DS15
          MP: Biology, Lit 10, VideoText Algebra, Greek Tragedies
          MPOA: High School Comp. II, Fourth Form Latin
          HSC: Modern European History

          DS12
          7M with:
          Second Form Latin, EGR III, and HSC for US History

          DS11
          SC Level 4

          DD9
          3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

          DD7/8
          Still in SC Level 2

          DD 4/5
          SC Level C

          Comment


            #6
            You are certainly not alone in that regard, my friend! Have a good evening there --

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by jen1134 View Post
              My husband and I feel that our 13yo (no academic challenges; great memory; sensory and focus issues and easily overwhelmed) isn't putting in enough effort in his school work, but I'm not sure where the bar should be for him. When he gets overwhelmed with school, his sensory-seeking gets worse and he starts shutting down when I try to work with him. Here's where he's at:
              • Second Form Latin: taking two weeks to get a handle on a lesson; still messing up adjectives very badly; some recitation items from First Form are still being missed)
              • Literature: understanding the story very well, doing well on vocabulary, but not writing complete sentences despite our discussing that it's necessary
              • Spelling Workout: taking two weeks per lesson; averaging 3-5 wrong on week one, out of 20, despite adding the Colorful Words and syllabication components from Traditional Spelling
              • R&S Math 3: remediation of multiplication tables; he's doing fantastic now. It was recommended that we start VideoText once he's made it through R&S 5 (we'll skip the review lessons in 4 and 5 since we're working straight through). I would love for him to do two lessons worth of exercises a day. He really wants to do higher math and science in high school but he's running out of time for that to be an option for him.
              • Horatius at the Bridge: doing 4 stanzas at a time until mastered then moving on to another 4 stanzas; obviously a much slower pace than normal
              • Famous Men of Greece: supposed to start this week, usually does well except we run into the same problems as in literature
              • English Grammar Recitation III: taking two weeks to memorize the rules and do well with the concept
              • Classical Composition: currently in the assigned review weeks; doing fine but frequently skips a day before writing the paraphrase and/or final draft assignments saying his "brain is tired"; will start Refutation/Confirmation soon
              • Novare Earth Science: I modified our approach this time around. We're doing the readings, selected learning check/chapter exercise questions (chosen by me), and only 5-10 vocabulary words from each chapter; quizzes will be recitation based on the vocabulary with a cumulative one at the end of the year. He's doing well, but starting to lose previous knowledge; he wasn't studying flashcards.
              • American history: he asked if we could wait to add this in the spring

              He's very smart and a solid student, but the overwhelm issues kicked in when he started 6M last year. Is this the most we should expect? Am I being too easy on him?
              I read your post just as I was leaving for an afternoon and evening of appointments, and I've thought about you and your son all through that. It's a topic very near and dear to my heart since my older three boys are so close in age to yours (12, 14, and 16). First, you know 7th grade boys are hardly known for living up to their potential. :-) But it can be such an amazing year for growth, as I know you already know too. I love the idea of having a backwards looking talk with him, from career/vocation hopes to college plans to high school to middle school. We did the same thing with my oldest when he was in 7th, and 8th, and it really helped. One of my son's worries was that he could not keep up with the MP/HLS plans as written, and that stressed him out about ever being able to fulfill career hopes and dreams. It helped him when I showed him an HLS plan vs normal private school plan vs public school plan vs special ed plan. He could see that he (like your son) was still doing really challenging and good work even if it wasn't "the whole MP 7th grade package." Not sure if that discouragement is a factor in your son's lack of motivation, but it was for mine.

              Another thing is I would drop the American history, and do it in 8th grade. You could consider Horatius part of his Literature study, and shorten those plans by one novel. For my kids, going down to one history class has been a simple way to reduce stress without actually dropping a subject. Catching up in math is a priority for your son, so lightening the expectations in the other subjects a bit might help communicate to him that you want to support him in that. It would also be okay to not even do history for one year, if that would make two math lessons a day possible.

              Can he get more exercise? Since you've got several big boys, can they go running together mid-morning? Do you have a trampoline? Those things help around here.


              Catherine

              2019-20
              DS16, 10th with MPOA
              DS14, 7th
              DS13, 6th
              DD13, 6th
              DS7, 1st
              DD4, JrK
              DS 22 mos

              Homeschooling 4 with MP
              2 in classical school

              Comment


                #8
                I've got nothing to add from a Mama perspective at all, as my kids are way younger so I have no experience or guidance. From a personal perspective, I think the backwards approach helped me a great deal. Good luck Mama.

                Melissa

                DS (MP3) - 9
                DS (MP2) - 7/8
                DS (K) - 6
                DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

                Comment


                  #9
                  Jen,
                  I feel your pain on the motivation of an early teenage boy! My 14yo is causing me angst as well. One thing about MP is that there are many subjects and I find sometimes gets a bit overwhelming. This year we ditched the plans and are covering math, literature/writing, Latin (all with tests and high expectations) along with a Friday morning field Biology class that the local university offers to homeschoolers (no tests, just creating a field notebook) and Book of Ancient Greeks/Iliad/Odessey for reading and discussion through the group that formed instead of Delectare. It is enough for us right now. Does your son really want to memorize Horatius? We read and discussed it, but neither of my older two memorized it. With the focus you want to have on math, I would be tempted to cut back on stuff like science and classical studies - maybe just read and discuss those for now. The earth science book is an interesting read. The Greeks will be covered again next year and middle school science is a bonus in my book. You can’t move any further in science without the math so I would let him focus his energy on fewer subjects.
                  Dorinda

                  For 2019-2020
                  DD 16 - 11th with MPOA(AP Latin), Lukeion (Greek4 & Adv. NT Greek), Thinkwell (Economics and Chemistry), plus Pre-Calculus, American G’ment, Early Church History set, and British Lit
                  DS 14 - 8th with MPOA(Fourth Form), CLRC(Intro Lit and Comp), plus Algebra, Field Biology, Classical Studies 1
                  DS 11 - 6th with Right Start Level G online class
                  DS 6 - 1st with Prima Latina

                  Comment

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