Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Those Who Have Been There

What do I do?

I can't make him do math.

He won't.

I can't make him do any school work, period.

And I am going to go up in smoke trying.

He hums along for a few minutes and then he suddenly shuts off.  The problem is nothing new. He could do it three seconds ago. And then NOW he won't put the pencil to the paper.

So, after talking to a teacher yesterday, I thought maybe there was something wrong with my methods. I tried to use the manipulative more than ever, if that is possible.

The problem that set him off today was this:

Which is greater 42 or 31.

He answered 31 while diverting his eyes, which was hint that he knew he was giving me the wrong answer.

I asked, "Are you sure?"

and he said, "42".

and I said, "are you sure?"

and he said, "31"

and I said, "hmmmm... which is it, 31or 42?"


so it appeared he wasn't sure. I thought he knew, but I would take it as a teaching moment to make sure he understood.

I brought out the cubes that link together.

I asked him to give me 42 cubes. They stack in tens or as pieces - whichever you want.

He gave me 42 cubes as 4 tens and 2 cubes.

Then I asked him to give me 31 cubes.... and then he knew that I was going to show him that 42 was greater and he wasn't about to be shown.... so suddenly he didn't know how to count cubes. He gave me 4 stacks of ten.

Okay, so lets pretend he doesn't know how to count.

Let's start at the beginning. Let's count a stack of ten. We counted and counted and counted and he had no trouble giving me 28 or 45 or 15 but if I asked him to give me 31...... HE COULDN'T!

I broke it down and tricked him into giving me 31 as ten and ten and ten and then I asked for three...

We were nowhere as he blew a fuse.

It went downhill from there until I had steam coming out of my ears and eyes ... my husband called just then and I bawled my eyes out over the phone. The girls gathered around and prayed for me...

James is carrying wood and will carry wood for a living all the rest of his days.

What do I do? This is every stinkin day. I'm wasting my time. I don't think I can survive this.

The only one good thing that has happened is that while running the wheelbarrow up and down the hill he actually came in and asked to use the bathroom. Normally under such circumstances he would have just peed his pants for spite (how that works for him I haven't figured out).


La Tea Dah said...

The solution may be to throw out the school curriculum/textbooks/manipulatives and use an approach that completely uses life situations to teach concepts. Essentially, the Moore Formula combined with unschooling. The trouble is, this could take a lot of it might not be the solution at all. * I think I might have dropped the math question and done another instead and not confronted the issue. But only you know your child and if that would be the best thing for him. My dealings with stubbornness are to circumvent the issue and come at it from another way. I do understand that you don't want James to think he's getting away with things, but I also think it is important to save your battles. * I'm not sure if this is much help, but I feel your frustration and so am brainstorming in response to your question posted. Hang in there!

Mama in Uganda said...

If I can survive two plus years, you can too!

Do not loose heart, for in due season you will reap a harvest.

Boy is this "farmer" weary of planting.

But still hanging onto hope.

Email me sometime.

With callouses hands,

Acceptance with Joy said...

Hi LaDonna,

I could throw everything out...
but he does this in every area of life.

Suddenly he can't do buttons or zippers, or he'll not know how to make his bed right, or you name it!! He uses this for control.

If I had gone on to the next question wouldn't he just do the same thing all over again?

Okay... you gave me an idea... if I can get myself together ( and that's a big if) we'll try this again and I will skip each thing he chooses to have a problem with and save that for later. I'll give it a whirl.

Acceptance with Joy said...


If you have been doing this for two years. Does that mean he is never going to learn??? Wahhhhhhhhhhh!

Maybe school work isn't all that it is cracked up to be...

Of course, I know it's the character problem we're after. He could learn math from someone else and he would not fight them. He's proved that already. I am not his problem, however....

It just sooooo frustrating.

GB's Mom said...

That is why I don't home school. The control issues are always there when she comes home. I have six hours a day to accomplish what needs to get done and Hope learns in a situation less wrapped in her trauma.

momof4boys said...

With Ian I only had one good year of homeschooling and that was the last one I did. Art wouldn't let me do it anymore after that, he said to focus on the other kids. But I discovered that before, he would shut down on me everyday, and everyday became a fight. I was emotionally exhausted! Anyway, the year that did finally go well was the year that I put his books in my room where he was not allowed to go, or see. On a special shelf I had his books lined up. I cut off the binding of each book with an exacto knife so that each page was loose, I bought for him a binder and a three ring hole punch. I had discovered that anything more then "Two" was too much for him and too overwhelming. So we started school everyday with just two pages of whatever subject. He was always very pleased with himself because two or one page always looked so easy and simple and he would do it. Then I would send him out for wood, run around the house, feed the dog or whatever and then present him with the next subject. He loved having "easy" school and he loved seeing his binder of work grow bigger and bigger and would proudly show it off to people. But, immediately I showed him the whole book, not yet finished, or several pages, the battle was lost. Even if I cut up ONE page that made lots of pieces, all of a sudden the sheer number was overwhelming. Anyway, just a thought. don't know how it will work for you.

Acceptance with Joy said...

I have thought of that. And I know that might be part of the issue... only I HAD cut the page out. He did one side in 15 minutes. When I flipped the page over THAT is where the trouble started. It was the first question on the second side. He then battled for one hour and did not once touch the paper with his pencil.


Kelly said...

I want to comment but don't have time right now but know I am thinking about you and praying for you.

Me and Jesus said...

have you ever asked him in a good moment why he does what he does?

sometimes when my sons get into that rut, I will have them repeat back to me the "story". Ex. I hvae them say: I am stressed because this looks hard, so I am pretending I dont know the answer just to be difficult.
Or I will make them pray with me, that God would help them stop these lies.
Most of the time, the only thing that works is sending them to their room with their workbooks and telling them they cant come out until I tell them, and theyd better have the work done. My son took 7 hrs to do 5 math problems the other day. sadly his brain needed much rest after that hard work and he missed out when friends brought pizza over and when out of town cousins came. For the entire weekend, he couldnt have any desserts and had to sleep extra in the hopes that his brain will work better tomorrow.

I have also found that EVERY time I sit down and explain AGAIN how its done I am feeding into his game and it just prolongs everything. It can send me to tears because I am doubting myself.

I also do some brain exercises before I start. ex jumping gently on the trampoline, tracing 8 on the chalkboard, strong sitting, crawling in a figure 8 on the floor.

Me and Jesus said...

if it makes you feel better. I am a single mom with TWO 7 yr old boys and TWO 6 yr old girls, all but one get stuck in this rut about once a week... I cant call someone to cry. I can only cry out to God and it does help.

What does help me is, I cant just focus on the stubborn one. I have to move on with my day. The stubborn one is not allowed to disrupt family life, which is why they have to go to their rooms to do their work whenever they are feeling difficult. They can ruin their day but not mine. But often they will then also miss out on the fun the rest of us are having.

ManyBlessings said...

It's why I no longer homeschool mine. You will battle for the relationship regardless of where he does his learning. I was exhausted so I needed (for me) to choose to battle for his heart as only his mom. Not as his teacher too. It is not failing to put a child in school. It is choosing what works for you and that child (this is what I had to repeat to myself over and over). It's another option.

Acceptance with Joy said...

M & J,

Thanks for writing that big long response. I hear what you are saying and I needed to hear that. He can't really express himself well. He parrots words but really never expresses how he feels or why he's having trouble. he will repeat me, so I can try that. He usually gives his pat answers and when I press for more we go in circles and it's painful to say the least because nothing is absolute... he says what he thinks you want to hear and you can ask him 50 different ways and you will get two opposing answers each 25 times.

He is tired of pushing the wheelbarrow up the road. I asked him if he would do a few math problems and he said no and went back to pushing the wheelbarrow. Recently he came back and said he would do a page of math. So I handed it to him with a pencil and some blocks to do outside in the sun. (it's a gorgeous day!!) I thought to go over the page and make sure he understood the questions and I quickly saw that he was going to use it against me so I said good luck and went back to folding clothes. Apparently he's lying on the ground with the dog, but the girls are going for a bike ride and want to know if he can go. I said it was fine because at this point exercise and distraction will pay well in the long run, especially if he's going to have to do some room time. He hasn't been going to sleep nicely like he used to. He is the laziest kid you ever heard of - even to not playing actively like kids should. And so while he might say he's interested in biking he'll be back before the others or he'll throw a fit when they aren't ready to turn around.

So, yeah. Maybe his brain isn't really "tired" like your kid's, but "asleep" and in a "fog" and has to be "woken" up by some major physical activity.

I appreciate your ideas.

Acceptance with Joy said...

Many Blessings,

This is part of why I had to put Missy in school. It broke my heart to do it, but along with the learning disability it was consuming us. With James I see potential for this to work out if we can just get past... ugh. I pray for guidance. I don't want to be a quitter...

C Dawn's bucket said...

Something I use with some success with my boys is to tell them that their behavior is showing me that they need a break from whatever it is. Then we just move on and come back to it later. Or if it is school work I just remove myself and let them put wrong answers down or if they ask me I tell them a wrong answer. However I don't homeschool so it is their teacher who metes out the punishment for wrong answers (they have to redo the problems) and oddly enough when I remove myself from the struggle they almost always do the problems correctly. So maybe (and this is just me thinking as I write) maybe once you've taught the topic let him do the whole assignment and then you correct it out of his sight for him to redo?

Me and Jesus said...

I wouldnt bet on your son being the laziest... I have one will sit on his behind all day if I let him. He doesnt like riding his bike or anything that takes effort. lol

My other son would much rather go out and do something like hauling wood then do his school work. He kept my garden weed free last summer until I discovered that it was really more of a punishment to do math then to pull weeds.

Math seems to be our trigger subject all around. which according to my homeschool support group is not uncommon in boys our boys ages. So I keep reminding myself that some of this is just normal boy parenting.

QueenB said...

I have an ll y/o who does the same thing, and also cannot do more than one small page of any subject at a time. We are "loose" schoolers, in that often I let themm decide how they want to spend their day. I found my children of trauma did not know how to play; they had no imagination for role playing, they could not set up toys and play with them and make the toys interact properly (would smash cars together, instead of driving them around). Now, he is finally able to set up a scenario of action figures, can build with lego blocks, and reads voraciously. Math still is a challenge, and always will be. I figure it will be his problem later in life when perhaps his brain has had a chance to heal and grow more, and then he can catch up quickly to where he needs to be. I think the playtime is much more effective in their healing, and as such, that is why we homeschool. I do not worry about standards or norms, but let the Lord guide our day and what He wants us to learn. Blessings and prayers

Anonymous said...

Two books that have helped my perspective with my strong-willed son. You Can't Make Me (but I can be persuaded) by Cynthia Tobias is the first. It gives an interesting perspective into the heart of a strong-willed child. It goes somewhat against my thinking that a child should obey immediately without question, but the dogmatic approach definitely wasn't working either. :)

The second book is Parenting With Love and Logic by Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay. This book was most helpful to me in reminding me that I must keep the responsibility on the child not myself when they misbehave. But their emphasis on empathy when a child makes mistakes takes much of the anger/frustration out of the conversation - when I remember to follow their principles. ;)

I know that your kids are dealing with more than the normal growing "pains". But since some of it seems so similar to our own home, I wonder if perhaps some of it may be personality as well.

Just as a side note. Now that my dk are 10, my sons screaming fits have diminished greatly. When mine were the ages of yours, we were still in the thick of it. So it may also be partly a stage.

And as you know, the ultimate answers come through God. I just wanted to share these ideas with you in the event you might glean something useful from them as I have.



Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Sorry ... but my husband had a good laugh over this one. He says, "I know it's not funny, but it's just so real."

We are considering putting our Little Miss into school. I really need to focus my homeschooling hours on the other 5 kids ... the ones the want to learn.

And, as you know, it is NOT about the math. It is 100% about CONTROL. Every day, all day, our Little Miss will do whatever she can to be in control.