Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

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Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:13 pm

Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

Unread post by bethinga »

My 11 year old son (just turned 11 a couple of months ago) recently expressed to me that math and English make him feel frustrated and sad. He doesn't like math drill because the concept of trying to get faster at it makes him nervous/anxious. I thought the point of drill was to get better at the math facts to make other math easier. He is getting better, but I think maybe it was a mistake for me to challenge him to get faster. I thought it'd make it more fun for him, but it seems to have given him more reason to fear it. How can I inject some fun into this and take away his anxiety? Edited to add: He is very good at Math, but he is in Singapore 3B which may be low for his age, only because he's a slow worker. I hated math as a kid, so I never wanted to make him do too much in one day. We are very consistent but we don't follow the MFW schedule. We do about one lesson with its exercises per day, two if the first one went fast. It's just the drill that seems to make him feel anxious. He's good at that too, just not quick.

Also, I love Language Lessons for Today. I've tried pure Charlotte Mason-style dictation and narration, and although it's definitely necessary, it wasn't enough. I've tried programs like Language Lessons Through Literature, or Climbing to Good English. The former was just too time-consuming- Even I couldn't remember all the syntax rules we were learning. The latter felt like busy work, although I've used parts of it to review things like paragraph formation and other writing skills. I love the way Language Lessons for Today feels gentle, but just challenging enough. It reviews all the necessary grammar and syntax rules for the age recommended on the book (we're using grade 5), while also using lots of practice with narration and dictation.

However, my son just expressed to me that some of his frustration with school is because English moves too slowly. He says we review things he already knows. I can't seem to find a balance between too much and too gentle. I've also taken a short (holiday) break from Writing Strands because he doesn't enjoy the subject matter. It feels pointless to him. I know the skills are important, but I want it to be enjoyable. I'd almost rather he just use his history and LLFT writings for practice instead. A lot of people have recommended IEW, but I just can't afford that. Any suggestions?

One more thing, 11 years old seems kinda tumultuous. He often seems sad to me and it takes some work for him to tell me why. It's usually related to school (the above-mentioned things) or an argument with his sister. He still seems happy and interested in the things he enjoys, and I'm sure to get him involved with church activities, time with friends, and physical activities (he's part of a martial arts class he enjoys, and I make sure they play outside often). He seems bored more than usual, although he tries to find things to do. But I'm not sure how much is normal for his age or if I should seek a counselor for him. I worry about how easily he cries these days. Can anyone clue me in on the normal happenings of the 11year old boy's brain?
Beth in GA
Mom to a boy and a girl
Using MFW since 2012
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:34 pm

Re: Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

Unread post by ruthamelia »

Hi Beth- It's obvious by your in-depth understanding of your son that he has a mom that cares deeply about him and his development as a person. I want to encourage you that that will go a long way! He will one day be able to look back on this time and know that you loved and cared for him, even if everything wasn't perfect all the time. It is also encouraging that he is able to articulate his feelings about school!

I'm afraid I don't have much further insight on the pre-adolescent boy side of your comments! But I wanted to share a few thoughts related to your math and English challenges.

1- We have had various challenges with math drill as well, and I found that just changing things up made a difference. Repetition will lead to increased speed, whether you actually time things or not. So maybe skip the focus on being fast, and just make sure it is done every day. We rotate among standard flashcards, triangle flashcards, (free), and various free printable worksheets such as 5 minute frenzy from Just changing the format every few months seems to help keep the motivation up.

2- I really appreciate LLFT as well! As kids have graduated from the series (or from the predecessor PLL/ILL) they can very easily do more challenging grammar work, etc. Writing has been the more challenging part for us as well. I've tried Writing Strands with 3 kids now, and while I personally like it a lot, they have all specifically disliked it, and I have eventually moved on to other resources. This is another area where I have found variety to be helpful. We will use a specific writing plan for a while, then take breaks and just write, as opposed to doing writing lessons. For a few weeks I will just assign letter writing, free-writes, timed writing on specific prompts, etc. I have some old, old workbooks that have things like pre-drawn cartoons with blank speech bubbles to fill in or other creative writing prompts.

3- If he feels English moves too slowly, and he has a good grasp of the material, why not go ahead and do 2 lessons per day? You said "I can't seem to find a balance between too much and too gentle." Is it possible that his learning pace is just ebbing and flowing? I always remember when my kids were infants, and just when I thought I had perfected their eating/sleeping routines, they would change! I think the same thing happens with learning, to a degree. As soon as I have something that works smoothly for a while, something about the child or their learning changes, and I need to adapt. I don't think it's as much a problem of finding the right balance, as doing some continuous adapting as needs change.

I hope something in there is helpful, and please toss out anything that isn't!

Kids in school: 15, 13, 11, 8, 6, 4, 4
We have used: K, First, all Investigate years
2018-2019: First, ECC, AHL
Julie - Staff
Posts: 1044
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:52 am

Re: Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

Unread post by Julie - Staff »

Hi Beth,
Age 11... I just had to chime in since my grandson just turned 11 and my daughter commented on how he doesn't seem like the same kid! (He does to me, but kids are different with their Nana :) ) I imagine there are all kinds of changes going on inside these preteens. In one of my favorite series of books about kids (Your Ten-to-Fourteen-Year-Old by Ames & Ilg, who simply observed hundreds of kids), their observation was that age 10 is a year of equilibrium and age 11 is quite the opposite. So that is just to say that he may be experiencing normal changes.

Math... I really like Ruth's ideas - changing things up. If math facts are stressing him out, maybe playing math games would be more fun. Sometimes just doing something *with* someone is helpful. Kids in public schools get to look over the shoulders of other kids to see how to do something or to see that no one gets it right all the time.

Or, when I was a tutor at a heavy-duty math/reading center (Kumon), they had kids begin math facts by simply reciting them. I wonder if that would be less stressful to him? They would read them off a list, in order, "1 times 1 equals 1" and so on, using a timer and going a little faster each day. Next they would read them off a list that didn't show the product, so their list would show 1x1=__ and they would say "1 times 1 equals 1." They would simply do this faster and faster, before moving on. The next step was to mix up the problems.

I agree that math facts will definitely make life easier in upper maths as well as upper sciences, plus about half of most standardized math tests is based on speed as well. And even when a calculator becomes an option, using the calculator for simple calculations will be a very slow process.

English... As far as LLFT, those lessons can be done orally and as Ruth mentioned they can be doubled up when you see he's mastered the subject, and slowed down when you see a need or an opportunity to go into more depth.

You can be creative - here's an old post about ways we mixed things up at our house, such as the time my ds combined several lessons on description and spent the week creating a Power Point about his cat (I still have that on my computer and it makes me smile - he's in college now LOL).
Julie in MN wrote:
Fri Aug 18, 2006 10:56 pm
We do almost ALL of [LLFT] orally at our house.

When I do want something written, I have ds do it in different ways. The outlining he does on a marker board. He did a report on the computer using Power Point. And there was one poem ds slowly copied as cursive practice over the year. Most of the rest was done orally. I have heard the Hazells say that they often do it orally, as well.

My ds did write out all of his Writing Strands but it was at the computer, which he doesn't mind at all
And here is one of my posts about the things I valued in Writing Strands. I was always very flexible with my son, as far as how he did assignments, but he needed to work on the skill in some fashion. Some of the skills leanred in Writing Strands are not really covered anywhere else and are not really learned by simply writing something:
Julie in MN wrote:
Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:17 am
* First person vs. third person
* Past tense vs. present tense
* Omniscient narrator vs. limited point of view
* The power of the author's opinion in influencing the reader to like it vs. dislike something
Hope something in there sounds promising :)
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:13 pm

Re: Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

Unread post by bethinga »

Thank you both so much! This is helping me think it all through. We are in week 10, about a week and a half behind schedule. But I'm not worried about that since we enjoy some school in summer. I've been taking that week very slowly due to the holidays and a death in the family. It's our second week on week 10, mixing it in with lots of holiday fun. I figured my son may be close to not enjoying some of the little kid parts of Christmas, so I want to really take our time enjoying this one all month. However, he asks that we do some school each day because he enjoys the challenge. (Says he gets bored without some math, history, and science.) Ill be slowly trickling in these ideas over the month so that maybe January will be better. And maybe I should get that Ames & Ilg book from the library. I used those a lot when they were toddlers. Thank you. ❤️
Beth in GA
Mom to a boy and a girl
Using MFW since 2012
Posts: 95
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:41 pm

Re: Need some help with math, English, and pre-adolescence!

Unread post by allgrace »

My son is 9 and he needs variety in math drill. I agree with Ruth that changing it up helps. We use the math drill practices that Ruth mentioned but we also use math wraps. It is more tactile. We also sometimes just do it orally. I have no advice to offer on 11 year old boys but I am learning what I might experience in 2 years!
I hope the rest of December goes well!
"Sanctify them by the Truth, your word is Truth" John 17:17
Dd6: MFW 1st
Ds 4: preschool workbooks
Ds. 2: preschool
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