Friday, January 16, 2015

A Little Help

I am at my wits end.  Our beautiful, smart, talented 12 year old is really struggling in school, and it isn't so much the material as the motivation.  I cannot get her to complete assignments on time to save my life, unless I resort to threats, restrictions, cajoling, and at times, yelling.  She struggles a touch more in school than her siblings have and I've made all sorts of adaptations to curriculum for her more kinetic and auditory learning styles.  I have been more than willing to discard material that is not working and replace it with something that suits her personality better.  Still, we battle over certain kinds of assignments--anything that appears to her to be unnecessary or extracurricular to the rest of her materials, especially anything that requires extra reading or writing.  Today I have her sitting at the dining room table working on two writing assignments she has allowed to slide all week; one for religion and the other for literature.  I even adapted the assignments to better match her interests, and still she resisted.  She will be a 8th grader next year.  She cannot afford to slack off now on the cusp of high school.  She has goals.  Does she have the motivation to meet those goals?

Any help here would be appreciated.  How can I motivate this vibrant, intelligent young lady so she might one day be the vibrant, intelligent, talented young lady God wills her to be?  Does anyone have a strategy that has worked for your reluctant student? Sending her off to "regular" school is not an option I would consider, just yet. I'd really like to leave off the yelling, threats, restrictions and cajoling.  Obviously, it is not working. Print Friendly and PDF


Natalie said...

Maybe you and Wingnut should sit down with her and establish new rules since she feels like the old rules don't apply to her, especially since you went above and beyond creating a new curriculum based on her needs. What you call "threats" sounds like her form of currency or something she really values.
Simple new rules would be along the lines of work now and play later. If you already have that established and it is not motivating her then you just keep upping the anty. No social activites, no TV, no bagpipe chanters, no desserts, no skiing (even if its part of her physical education then you can tailor that as well and just have her run around the track), extra chores, etc... I would expect tantrums and a big bad attitude because it always gets worse before it gets better.
On the flip side, if work is done on time then there is the possibility of a special reward. The key word is "possibility" because you obviously want her to do the work because that is what she needs to do and will do no matter what. If she does all the work, but has a bad attitude all week then no reward, but if she has a good attitude with limited input from you then an extra reward would be okay.

Hope I don't offend you but it sounds like motivation is not her problem, but you tailoring to her whims are. She may have the attitude of "I don't like this so someone should change it for me or I'm just going to start over." Perhaps the changing the assignments or starting new ones based on her interests might not be the best solution. (It's actually a great solution, but she still doesn't want to work for it.)
I hope this makes since to you even though I don't have much homeschooling experience or teenagers for that matter. I can guarantee she would have trouble in a non-homeschooling situation because everything is standard and nothing is tailored to any student. Good luck and I hope you find a good balance with her. =)

Katherine said...

My oldest is only (almost) 9, so I’ve no experience with 12 year olds, but in case any of my thoughts might be helpful, here they are:

If the assignments are on subjects of interest, is it the writing she doesn’t like? My brother is brilliant but such a perfectionist that writing can paralyze him for fear of it not coming out the way he wants. Others just don’t like writing and prefer typing or narrating, as in an oral exam.

Or perhaps explain why the assignments are important and necessary to her goals? If she is motivated towards her goals, does she not understand how and why these assignments will help her achieve them?

Does she have chores and other responsibilities? If she is anything like I was growing up, she doesn’t want to do anything but the bare minimum and these don’t meet that distinction. Doing things you don’t want to do is a learned skill of maturity and, I think, begins with responsibilities at home and then responsibilities at a place of employment.

Maurisa said...

Natalie: Thanks for the ideas. I do think it is time for a sit down talk with her in regards to expectations. She is definitely not living up to them, attitude wise. I think part of the problem is allowing her to do her school work in her room, instead of at the dining room table so I can keep track of what she is working on. Maybe, after a few weeks, if her attitude and work improve, working in her room can be the reward--showing she can be trusted to do what is expected without my having to sit on her. I am not offended at all by your offering an opinion--I solicited after all. I think I gave the wrong impression when I wrote I've replaced some curriculum with new material that better suits her personality. I should have used the word "abilities". I have not changed things up just because she doesn't like it, or just because she finds it too hard at first. If I've seen she has given due diligence to a subject and is just honestly not capable right now of having any kind of success, I have searched for alternatives. This is a very rare occurrence. Admittedly, she has tried to get me to drop certain things for example she was assigned The Story of My Life by Helen Keller to read over Christmas break and did not do it. She claimed the book was too boring. We did not give her a pass on this and took all her electronics time away until she did finish the book. She not only finished reading it, but to prove she had she answered every single comprehension question even though I had not assigned that work. As you can see, I am not in the habit of giving in to her whims. She really struggles in math, spelling, and writing. So much so, she is my first to use the Saxon Math 87 in 7th grade instead of moving up to Algebra 1/2.
Wingnut shed some light for me today. He pointed out we have really let her diet slip and she has been getting way too much artificial color, flavors, and additives and this has corresponded with the slip in her attitude. Anyhow, thanks for your suggestions. Just having someone else chime in is a huge help!

Maurisa said...

Katherine: Thank you for your thoughts. Just even commenting on my struggles is a huge help. She was balking at typing up a paper for literature. She hasn't learned keyboarding yet, and I think that was her big beef--having to hunt and peck. I explained to her how important of a skill typing is and I promised we would start Mavis Beacon next week. She really struggles with spelling and grammar in her day to day writing and so writing is definitely not her favorite thing to do. I ended up having her handwrite her assignment first. I made corrections in ink and then had her type the corrected assignment on the computer. She still had a couple errors in the final draft, but at least she finally got her work done.

You are absolutely right regarding maturity. She drags her feet and doesn't put her best effort forth in her chores either. Believe me, I've been known to call my children back to a task multiple times until it is done right. She will eventually grow up. Her older siblings have all mentioned, on more than one occasion, about how thankful they were we taught them to do chores and how to do them right. It has played a huge part in their employment situations! Thanks for your encouragement. I will persevere in keeping her on task. Teaching children to find joy in work has to be one of the more difficult lessons!

Natalie said...

Oh man, I feel for her on Algebra. It stinks. I was lucky to pass and that was going to the teacher every single morning for nearly a year in highschool. The only reason I passed freshman algebra in college is because the TA liked me and luckily, he was in charge of grading. ;)

I bet Wingnut is absolutely right about her diet! The boys are also doing much better now that all the holiday and birthday food crud is gone. Sleep might be an issue too? Getting too little or too much can really put a damper on your willingness to get moving.

As for attitude, is it mostly just pre teen puberty ya think? This is a little gritty, but I was a "late bloomer" and didn't start cycles until I was 15. Then I had horrible issues with regularity due to a huge hormone imbalance. I remember being so super thrilled when my period lasted only 7 days because there were lasting 20. Before that happened I was the queen of bad attitude. Anyways, it's just a thought and you obviously don't have to mention where she's at in her stage of womanhood. Keep us posted on what you try and what works and doesn't. I might need that info when I have teenagers! lol

Michelle said...

I feel your pain. My 13 yo daughter is arguing that studying history is unnecessary. She goes to a small middle school girls' group at church twice a month and she can't go if her work isn't done. I hate the fighting, but we're moving in May so we simply cannot get behind in school.

Renee Ar said...

I was that teenager. I was also that 8yo, 10yo and 15yo. What really helped me was clear firm goals. Also not skipping from topic to topic. I did Seton and the best thing ever was when I spent 3 weeks and did a quarter in 2 subjects. That's it. Religion and Math, all day, every day for 3 weeks. History and Science etc. Even Vocabulary and composition.

Consider this, in college most students take 4 or 5 classes. Those classes are often heavily inner-related. Economics and Finance, Business Law and Business Management, etc. Once I got to college I just never understood how I ever functioned with 6-9 different school topics a day. Even if I had a fun art class...I never could give it my best because even if I was given a lot of time, it never was enough to get my mind to truly focus on it.

I remember so much more from my sessions of 2 weeks on a subject than I do from any other time I was educated.

I'm 30 now, working full time and taking "accelerated" grad school classes. Quite frankly, I'd rather do 9 weeks of subject A and 9 more of Subject B than take 2 for the traditional 18 week college semester.

Maurisa said...

Renee, thanks for your thoughts. I'll have to mull it over and see if that just might work in our situation. Unfortunately, she does not "do" change all that well, so I'd need a way of making it sound like it will make her life so much easier. Now, if I could just get her to do her chores correctly! Lol! The never ending battles of parenthood!