View Full Version : Frustrated . .. comparing my kids?

10-16-2010, 12:15 AM
Ok, there was something tonight I found hard to handle.

background: 14 yo son has been really struggling w math. His math teacher in 7th grade told me he was doing great and could go straight to algebra - he was doing fine with ALEKs until he crashed his computer. We struggled w LOF algebra, then did LOF prealgebra, which was fine, tried algebra again, and gave up. Over the summer, I tried to have him work through Timez Attack, but he insisted the timed part made him panic, but he really knew his facts.

This year we started with singapore new syllabus, which is one of their easier curriculum. He's been struggling with things I'm SURE he's seen before, but i felt like we were making some progress . . . i let him do 1 letter from each problem, we worked through them until he seemed to get it, then he had to do 1 more letter and that was easier. We went back a section and he did fine still. So I returned to the current section and had him do 2 word problems today. I didnt have time to review them, so I asked him to show his step-father at the end of dinner.

The first one, he was fine until an arithmatic error at the end, but he'd shown his work, so it was easy to find and fix. The second one started with the wrong answer from the first one, and then went somewhere very strange that didnt make sense. My husband asked him "ok, if you have 10 feet of cloth, how many yards is that?" He sort of muttered "10 feet, 10 feet. Well, a yard is 3 feet. So, it would be 10 divided by 3. Hmm. Well . . . "

My husband interupted him and redirected him to his problem, and he realized his error (something about converting from seconds to minutes or something)

BUT . . . . right as my husband interupted him, our 7 yo said "it would be between 3 and 4". Luckily neither husband nor 14 yo heard that . . . . but later when I mentioned it to dh, he asked Raven what the answer was, and he thought a minute, and said 3 and a third.

7 yo is very mathy, but stubborn. we've done a bit of singapore, he's doing Time4Learning, but he always asks us random math problems. Earlier that day he had asked me 5 times what is 16; I asked him how many 5s in 15, and how much between 15 and 16, and then asked what is 1 divided by 5, and he got it. So he'd learned that and applied it to a similar problem.

Ok, i know we shouldnt compare. But sometimes I do. Orion was reading better at 5 than Raven is at 7. So was dh. But i was reading more like Raven, and was one of the fastest readers in my school later on.

but . . . this math thing is huge. Raven's father is a mathematicain, seriously, 4 degrees in math. I LOVED math. Raven has the potential to be extremely good at math. Orion, i'm starting to wonder if its discalclia, because even if he seems to understand the concept, he seems to get lost in the problems and he really doesnt know his times tables. (today he was trying to figure out how many times 60 goes in to 420 and he was counting my 60's . . . he didnt recognize the 42 as 6x7.).

I'm not sure what I"m asking here, but its just frustrating - nerve wracking in part because i worry that Raven at 10 will be helping his brother at 17 with his math, and that cant possibly be good for Orion's self esteem, can it?

10-16-2010, 01:07 AM
I understand-- gosh do I understand! My middle child is a whiz at math (and knows it, too-- she was not taught long division, and though sometimes those problems are on tests, she refuses to ask the teacher because she doesn't want the other kids in school to know she was never taught it... but that's another story), and my eldest is not. My wife and I were in love with math and great at it, so it was tricky to relate to someone who seemed a bit lost in it. Our eldest has improved through the years with motivation (she wants to be an inventor and we made it clear to her that in modern times, this requires math)-- she recently scored 95+th percentile on the math portion of our state achievement tests, but there were a couple of years there when we were wondering the same thing you are-- when, not if, our younger gal would outstrip the elder in math.

Ultimately, to address the issue early "just in case", we reinforced that everyone has different talents, and repeatedly had a dinnertime conversation discussing what mommy and daddy were good at and not so good at, by example, so that when we discussed the kids and their skillsets they would not seem singled out. I know it's heartwrenching when your kids seem to have the potential but just don't seem to "get it" like you did, or like one of your other kids does. Just make it clear to Orion that while you understand he may find math challenging, and it may never be his favorite subject, you expect him to try his best at it, and that you will help him as much as he needs you to.

And, of course, make sure he knows you will love him no matter what. But that's standard advice.

10-16-2010, 01:42 PM
I wouldn't throw out the idea that he is not gifted in math. A lot of mathy people get concepts, but just can't be bothered with basic facts.
When my son was tested at Scottish Rite this year, that very thing came up. They recommended that I not get bogged down with facts with him and allow him to explore the higher concepts. And then they said that he should be allowed to use a calculator to check his facts so that a simple addition/multiplication problem didn't mess up an entire bigger problem.

10-16-2010, 02:23 PM
Terri, I do often let him use a calculator. He forgets concepts that he's already learned, and was totally panicking over algebra. The teacher who said he was really good at math was a specail ed teacher. Compared to other kids who learn by a lot of repitition and are never given challenging questions, he learns quickly. Last year I guess I learned that he does, in fact, need slow, linear, not-too-challenging curriculum. I didnt really get it. My sister had a hard time in math, and I often tutored her through it. It seemed like she had trouble following the teacher, but once I walked her through a problem or two step by step, she could do it. But of course, that was after sitting through class, also. When she went to a flaky quaker boarding school for her last year of high school (The meeting school, if anyone is interested, in . . . Ridge NH maybe?) she was their top math student, tho. So I know my standards are pretty high.

10-16-2010, 02:24 PM
I wouldn't throw out the idea that he is not gifted in math. A lot of mathy people get concepts, but just can't be bothered with basic facts.

Sounds like my son. He totally understands big concepts but we still have to work on the basics. It makes teaching fun because we get to explore all kinds of math, yet challenging because he still needs to get the basic facts down cold--and he'd MUCH rather explore different types of "challenging math", as he calls it.

I'm not a fan of calculator use though. I'm of the thought that those basics must be mastered, even if happens while working on fractions or long division or whatever. I do agree that certain kids can go ahead and work on bigger concepts while working on the basics though--they'll either figure them out simultaneously or realize they need the simple concepts before they can get more complex.

10-16-2010, 02:24 PM
Oh, and thanks Archi, its good to hear someone who's been there. He does understand the importance of math, since he really loves science, and he does try. He just gets lost in there somewhere.

10-16-2010, 03:23 PM
As I see it, the problem isn't the comparing it's what you do with the information you're getting from the comparison. I'm not advocating comparing kids and certainly not in the "why can't you be like your brother" kind of comparing. But assessing your kids strengths and weaknesses and meeting their needs is why I homeschool. My two oldest boys are sight readers - the switch flipped for them when they were 4 or 5 and they never looked back. My youngest not so much. So I gave him time, then went both to a reading coach and an opthalmologist. There were vision and auditory reasons he was struggling. Speech therapy, phonics and bigger print and he's as enthusiastic a reader as the rest of us.

So, is your sense that your son gets the concepts but not the arithmetic? Or that he doesn't get concepts? If it's the former then you can continue to allow, or even insist on a calculator (appropriate technology - if he was nearsighted you'd let him wear glasses right?), or you can, in the words of one of my least favorite politicians "Drill, baby, drill." until he has the answers pat. If it's the latter you might want to consider changing your sequence, instead of tackling algebra (which if your son is a s literal as mine is hard. B1 hates the unknown.) try geometry or trigonometry. Or acounting or personal finances.

The reality is that if he wants to go into just about any scientific field he's going to have to master algebra/calculus/statistics. Does he have any sense of where he wants to be in four or five years? Maybe researching the careers he's thinking about will help focus his math skills.

I hope this doesn't sound too harsh. I know I'm working with imperfect information, that life, IRL, is very different than life on a forum.

It's crazy isn't it just how different we can all be? One of my brothers teaches high school physics which is something I could never ever do, on the other hand he could never master the intricacies of a&p (to say nothing of dealing with all those bodily fluids) that I had to.

10-16-2010, 04:20 PM
Hmm. I dont know what a&p is. I mean, it used to be a grocery store chain when I was a kid, but I dont think thats what you meant.

But otherwise, Pefa, I appreciate your point. Its not that I'm saying 'why arent you more like", as much as seeing them next to each other makes it easier for me to see my 14 yo's issues. I always accomodated him so automatically, and had so littl experience with 'normal' kids, that I really couldnt see what was so different about him. But I can see his little brother mastering things he hasnt mastered, emotionally.

I've been dropping hints to DH that I might want to get more testing done on Orion to figure out what, exactly, he's missing. But i worked with him a lot in 4th grade to memorize the facts, and he's forgotten them. Dh just keeps saying 'he'll just never be great at math. he's not an abstract thinker." But i also feel like dh really doesnt want to spend the money. To tell the truth, its hard to know if a bipolar and mildly autistic young man with tics will ever really be employable . .. but its hard when dh never bonded to him emotionally, and is going to resist expense I feel might be reasonable. when i'm not working.

The singapore curriculum i'm using combines pre-algebra, algebra and geometry in to three mixed years, which I'm hoping will help, since we will revisit things continually. I guess I just have to keep chugging along for now.

10-16-2010, 04:21 PM
Oh, and i also keep meaning to print a multiplication table for him to use as a reference. and dh suggested I print large grids for him to use for multiplication, because he seems to get his columns misaligned and then get the wrong answer. He also has horrible handwriting . . . i mean, it makes mine look neat!!

10-16-2010, 05:47 PM
My son was doing complex addition/subtraction in 1st grade but really couldn't read well until 3rd grade. He's now into Order of Operation equations using exponants. My DD on the other hand could read well in 1st grade but is still working on simple addition/subtraction in 2nd grade. All children are different, you can't help but compare them. DS is an extreme procratinator, DD get's her work done right away and asks for more. DS can spend hours designing "army bases", DD can't hardly sit still. They help each other in the weak areas. The 9 yr old can't spell to save his life so will often ask his 7 yo sister how to spell the word. This only works I think because we are very honest about what their strengths/weaknesses are in learning. The honesty has helped remove any shame associated with it. Our family is a team and "isn't it nice, that together we know everything".

10-16-2010, 06:56 PM
Thanks, fbfamily - thats really a great way to think aobut it

10-16-2010, 08:09 PM
Very much agreed with what others said about how every kid has their own strengths and weaknesses and homeschooling lets us address those individually. I have twins, so part of the deal seems to be a side by side comparison. BalletBoy read early, Mushroom is struggling a little (not behind, just behind his brother). Mushroom can swim, BalletBoy cannot. Mushroom loves math and is whizzing through MEP, BalletBoy is moving sluggishly. BalletBoy is extroverted and loud, so he often gets picked for things and noticed while Mushroom is shyer and more reserved so he often does not. It's tough sometimes. But I'm hoping that they really learn how to accept what they're good at and accept what challenges them and push through it without getting hung up on it. I feel like that's a much more important thing to learn than any particular bit of information.

The school where I used to work had kids at massively different levels - we often served GT/LD kids or kids who were really good at one subject and way behind at others - as a result, we always had different expectations for kids in the same class - different lengths for essays and different types of assignments sometimes. One year, we started the year by putting students in random groupings and giving each kid a different handicap - one kid had to be blindfolded, one could only say one word, etc. - and telling them they had to get across a path in the woods together. It was funny at times and a good team building experience - at the end, we talked about how every kid needs different support - to get down the path or to get through school - and every kid has different talents they bring - again, to get down the path or to get through school. That was one of my favorite beginning of the year activities ever.

Some of the kids I taught, like your son, had difficulties that would probably stay with them their whole lives - such as learning disabilities or issues that would always make particular things harder for them than others - such as organization or math or the physical act of writing. The parents often wanted them to learn particular skills - to be at some arbitrary sense of grade level - or the like. However, I always saw it as a greater goal to help kids feel like whatever was their particular stumbling block was something they could handle in life and wouldn't let it frustrate them and make them give up (which had been an issue in the past for many of the kids I taught).

So, hugs and good luck.

10-16-2010, 09:21 PM
Khanacademy has an amazingly fun way to multiply big numbers. Requires knowing your basic times table but nothing bigger. Had BOO multiplying 4 digit numbers in less than 3 minutes last spring.

(a&p=anatomy & physiology)

I so totally know what you mean about being so used to one kids quirks that you just don't think about it anymore.

10-16-2010, 10:24 PM
Older brother does NOT know his times tables, imo. Younger bro probably wouldnt watch Khan academy videos . . . yet. He is maturing, tho, i see it. Tonight as I was tucking him in, he asked me what times 3 is 16. I walked him through it a bit, and finally he got frustrated and said "but halves wont work with ounces!" I asked him to explain - it turns out that T4L had said that three appled weighed one pound, and he was trying to figure out what one apple weighed. i checked, and no, T4L had not asked that. He was just thinking about it. When I explained that you can have fractional ounces, he felt much better. Crazy math kid.

10-16-2010, 10:25 PM
And Farrar, I so appreciate your response - you are often very good at putting in to words what I am thinking, or putting in to nicer words what I said, um, crudely.

10-17-2010, 10:49 AM
Joseph took it upon himself to make a times table chart in excel and print it out. He tried to hide it from me at first, but heck, he went through all of that math to make the grid himself....go for it kid. ;)
I have my kids turn the notebook paper on it's side and use the lines as columns to write their numbers. It has helped immensely with keeping things lined up.
Also, Joseph excelled at using the abacus. That might be something else to consider.

Speaking of "abstract thinker", my daughter with dyslexia said to me yesterday, "I don't believe that time exists". It makes me think that these kids that are neurologically wired differently, perceive things completely differently than us. She is also the one of mine that age 9, still has a difficult time grasping the concept of the clock and the calendar. What on the surface appears to be a learning deficit may turn into a gift for perceiving something that I cannot fathom.
I definitely compare my kids though. That is how I knew that Libby was not reading like she should and had her tested for dyslexia.