View Full Version : What to do about the reluctant or unwilling student?

07-02-2011, 01:51 AM
I have three girls and have been HSing for two years. We're starting 2nd and K this year with the older two and I just can't have another year like the last two, I'll go insane.

I realize most moms with young kids--younger than school age like my youngest (3 years), or just starting K--have what's called the "crazies" most days. That is to say, most days get away from us b/c one or the other child has a meltdown or other issue that pulls us off task, or their energy just gets in the way--their developmental stage steals the spotlight, so-to-speak.

But our trouble goes beyond that. What makes the crazies worse in my house (or sparks them in the first place) is that my eldest often flatly refuses to do her work. She will sit in time-out all day if need be, and yes, we've tried that, skipped-meals included (cue the hate mail about what a harsh cold Mama I am ;) ). She is just not externally motivated like most kids, even like my younger two.

Acting on a hunch that she's been bored with the curriculum I was using (probably too much T4L, with too little of ME thrown in the mix) and wanting more of my direct attention, I planned to use much more hands-on stuff for next year. But what if that's not it? What if she just decides--as has happened thus far--that she's not going to do the work "just cuz?"

Have any of you dealt with this, and how do you nurture a child's independence and free spirit whilst getting them to sit and be students when they need to be? How do you get them to see you as teacher and not as Mommy?

Stella M
07-02-2011, 02:03 AM
I have one daughter who is an unwilling student. I think you're on to something with the idea that she probably needs more of you, less of a curriculum.

I don't try to get her to see me as her teacher; I'm her mother way before I'm her 'teacher' and I value my maternal relationship with her too much to let h/s stress define it. I worked really hard on trying to see who she was and what she needed. It was really frustrating at times for both of us. For about a year she would cry with frustration over not being able to read but wouldn't let herself be taught. She watched a lot of TV instead :( The next year she reluctantly decided she would allow me to work with her. Now she reads at a high school level...

I try to insist on very little ( academically ) with her but give her loads of opportunities. As she has gotten older and has her own life goals, she takes some of those opportunities and runs with them. She is really doing fine :)

I'm curious - what would your dd do if she wasn't doing her work and she wasn't in time out ? Have you asked for her input into the kind of schooling she does ? Is she generally 'difficult' or is it only with schoolwork ? Do she have any dxs that might impact on her willingness to school ? Is she anxious about her work ?

07-02-2011, 02:36 AM
Generally she is VERY difficult, oppositional is what the therapist we took her to says, but not maliciously so, she just has some impulse control difficulty and gets very attached to what SHE wants to do in any given moment. What would she be doing? Oh gosh, runs the gammut. Sometimes nothing, just sitting there staring into space, other times (mostly actually) playing with her sisters and what we call "getting carried away." She "perseverates," meaning she gets on a roll with something, seems to rev up and have a LOT of trouble calming back down. She's in motion a lot. I had to get swivel chairs for the school room b/c she can't sit in a stationary chair. She will stop and pay rapt attention to me when I'm focusing on a subject she likes, but only for about 30 min at a time, and that's at the most. She interrupts a lot, changes the subject, jumps around, asks to do something wildly different than what you are doing and often it's something requiring a lot of prep. For example, we'll be reading about Van Gogh, and she'll interrupt me three minutes in to say "Can we paint?" And I'll say sure! Just as soon as we finish this part of the lesson, we'll get to painting, it will be great! And she'll say "No Mommy!! NOW!!!" And if I don't oblige, she will sulk, ignore me, walk away, pout, say "school is boring!" Or some other thing like that.

Part of me wants to just let her run with things, but then I see the quality of the output and I resist. If I let her, she'd regress to her younger sister's level, but when I nudge her along, she does amazing work, it just sucks the LIFE out of me to find that *thing* that will encourage her. Sometimes it's speeding up what I'm doing to get to what she wants faster, other times it's adapting to her hissy fit by letting her start and then talking around that. So I have ways to "deal," it's just so exhausting and seems unfair to the other two kids who are caught in her crossfire-hurricane ;) She SO dominates any discussion, even if they are having fun or want to hear more of a story, or not move on, she will make it nearly impossible to continue without removing her from the room, literally. Then she'll go sit in time-out and read or say "This is what i wanted all along, harrumph!"

She's a super bright kid, on the ADHD scale for sure, but not enough to medicate, just enough to make life harder and to reduce me to a puddle of goo by the end of every day, she sucks the life out of me. I just want to provide her with stimulating content that grabs and keeps her attention. I do give her a lot of input into what we do, and in fact consulted her when choosing our curriculum materials for next year. So far she seems psyched. Time will tell ;) In the meantime, I was hoping someone would have other tips for not letting her be so much the center of our universe that the other two get short-shrift.

07-02-2011, 04:04 AM
Oh my oh my oh my......you are writing about my DD aren't you!!!!

I have nothing to help, but am all ears. If I allowed it, my dd would just craft and make a mess all day, coupled with a great deal of time spent outside, picking flowers and catching bug!

Stella M
07-02-2011, 04:31 AM
OK, that's clearer. I don't have suggestions but I know others here will! There have been discussions about dealing with oppositional type behaviour before - hope someone chime in with something that helps. Good luck!

07-02-2011, 06:17 AM
That's a very tough one! My oldest was a very reluctant student 3rd through 6th or so...I blamed it on outschooling K through 2nd. She got better though, on her own more or less. My now-12yo was a VERY reluctant student from about age 9 on. Finally I gave up and enrolled him in a public VA. We're still schooling at home and we have a lot of freedom, but him knowing that his parents could be in legal trouble (truancy) if he refuses to do his work has worked wonders on his attitude. ;) It also helps that I'm not the big bad guy assigning work and deciding what and how much he has to do. I've even taken on a "they're making you do *how* much?" role with him. ;) Now I'm on his side. I had to find his currency and it was a lot of trial and error (and purchasing many different curriculum programs for him over the years). Not an ideal situation but better than the alternative (which was to send him to public school since there were no spots at any of the local charters). We have much more peace in our home now. I'm sincerely hoping I won't face this problem with my littlest ones. Good luck to you!

07-02-2011, 11:28 AM
Ok so I have the same problem with my DS 8. I did the same as you with getting him involved in the curriculum change and yes he seems excited also. I am still afraid of going through all of the same issues again this year! So here is what I am going to try not sure if it will work but, we shall see. I will let him have a little control over his schedule. I am going to write out what we need to complete for the week, we usually HS M-F, I am going to allow him to create his schedule, somewhat. He will be able to look at what we have to do and plug it in the schedule. I am also going to let him use the full week M-S. Obviously I will have the time blocked out so that it is a bit limited as to where he can stick what. It may not work but I have to try something!

07-02-2011, 02:30 PM
Yeah, I tend to take a different approach. If a time out of a half hour isnt enough to motivate, why go past that? Its obviously not going to work.

Why CANT she pain while you read to her about Van Gogh? And seriously, there is no way my 7 yo would EVER listen to me talk about Van Gogh.

I think you said something about that if you push her, she can do really good work, but if you let her, she'll do work at her sisters levels . . . ok, but does SHE actually have ANY positive feelings about her higher level work? Or does she not care at all? Because if she doesnt care about it, and she doesnt care about time outs . . . yeah, you arent going to get her to change.

I allow my 7 yo to mostly work on what he likes best. He did a lot of T4L last year, but wants to quit it. Right now we are reading math readers again, because he loves that. I made some handwriting sheets which are jokes, and he loves that. Can you do more game-based learning instead of 'work'?

I mean, its a good sign that she's excited about next year, but I think that if she is not able to control herself, you need to be flexible enough that she can stay positive about the educational experiences she IS having. It sounds like you are so attached to the outcome (doing good work, listening until the end of the prepared lesson) that you arent actually meeting her needs. And yes, of course, its not fair to the younger kids. But its also not fair to her to expect her to sit and do lessons if thats not how she learns.

Try science kits . . . try reading to her . . . try practicing math facts while she's bouncing on the trampoline. Try having her help in the kitchen. What DOES she REALLY LIKE?! what is her favorite thing?

also, it does sound like you need to schedule some time for her, while the younger girls maybe watch some pbs videos or draw or whatever they can do without you, and then she needs some time alone in her room while you pay attention to the younger girls. I dont feel like there is any way you can work with them together.

really, yesterday was the first time i EVER was able to sit at the dining room table with both of my boys working at the same time. I also, that same day, had to threaten my 7 yo w a time out if he came back in the dining room, because later he was watching a video and wanted to tell me every detail about it.

I cant remember if i mentioned this before to you (i'm really bad w names and w telling ppl appart on lists like this), but have you tried any diet intervention? Feingold diet maybe? Gluten free/dairy free? Often kids who are this off-the-wall have something physical going on, and quite honestly i dont trust most doctors to be able to figure it out. My 7 yo became much easier once we removed all artificail colors (and many natural ones, too, as he reacts to annatto), all articial preservative . . . and eventually gluten and dairy and eggs (tho we have returned eggs to baked goods, at least)

07-02-2011, 03:24 PM
I would back off, at least a little.

Ask yourself what's really essential at this age. I think for most people that boils down to reading and math - and life skills stuff like knowing your phone number and being able to do things for yourself. Everything else is just icing. I think science, art, history, and everything can be great - and when kids are into it, then that's wonderful. But I don't think it's worth going to bat over. You only have so much energy and you want to dole it out for the really essential stuff. Sure pushing her a little will get better work, better art, more retention, etc. But if it's sapping you, causing fights, and generally making everyone nuts, then at what cost is that nice drawing?

But that's just for the schooling. For the behavior itself... I have less advice. I tend to try really hard not to meet my kids head on. When they push, I don't push back, I try to move aside and then push somewhere else. Like martial arts parenting.

Theresa Holland Ryder
07-02-2011, 05:16 PM
The first few years of homeschool, we did everything in 15 minute increments unless the kid actually managed to do longer than that all by himself or herself. My son would do 15 minutes of Math and then we'd get up and run around the house or do some Yoga Kids or work on the ever expanding Brio Train track.

My daughter is pretty much 100% interiorly motivated too, and it can be nuclear levels of frustrating. My only suggestion is that you have to be very sneaky with interiorly motivated kids and make them buy into whatever it is you need them to do with whatever level of guile you need to use. You can't really argue or punish them into doing anything, because the amount of willpower they have to be resistant is pretty much limitless. But you are older and wiser and sneakier. If you can make them think it's their idea, it usually works.

07-02-2011, 05:48 PM
I'm not sure how I'd handle it given the level of her being staunch that she's not going to do it - DS6 (soon to be 7) is a total wiggle-worm, constant motion, great attention span when he's into something, not so much when he's not, but doesn't have oppositional issues to contend with, so take the following with a grain of salt.

One of the things I try to do with DS is let him move as much as he wants to/needs to within limits. I know he isn't thrilled with sitting to do reading/phonics, but we have to do it, so we use a timer - he decides where he wants to do the reading/phonics work (table, sofa, floor), we set the timer and do the work, when the timer goes off, he's done with that even if we have more to do (and only if he worked and didn't dilly-dally, if he's doing that, the timer gets reset) - if we finish up early, he's free earlier!

But he knows he has to at least stay put for the length of the timer if he's still working. Once we're done, I give him a break to play and do whatever. When I started this last year, he could only really do five minutes at a clip - he's now up to 20-30 minutes, depending on subject where we use the timer.

For some things, we don't do seat work at all if possible - science is one - we'll do kits, watch videos, I'll read to him, we'll do experiements in the kitchen, etc. - I know what I need him to learn and that's what I talk to him about as we "do" things....if we're watching a video, we'll pause now and then and discuss, or he'll pause to ask questions.

For other subjects - like history - we listen to CD's of SOTW in the car, then do projects and read alouds at home - that way it's the fun stuff at home, not having to sit and listen to me. Math we do on a white board (lap or our larger one) and DS loves this because he can draw all over whatever we're doing while he's also doing his math.

He likes working on the computer, so each week I try to find some good videos for him to watch on Discovery Streaming and/or Science; he gets time on my iPad to play educational games when he cooperates and does his work too. We also play a lot of games that are learning based too, do puzzles, play 20 questions, I Spy, junior scrabble, etc. (he loves playing games) that I conform to our lessons each week - that tends to work well with him since it gives him mommy-time to play, but gives me peace of mind that he's learning something too.

We also do lots of art projects and lego work - DS loves both and legos can easily be used for math and science; art works with all subjects. He loves to build things, so we're often doing dioramas, posters, DIY books, science pages, collages, etc.

Lastly, I find a lot of activities in our area that are tied to things we're doing - museums, nature walks, programs, and other activtities - this gives us a break from the day-to-day and are fun for DS....they're also something that becomes something I can remind him we'll not do (especially if he's looking forward to it) if he doesn't get his otehr work done - that tends to motivate him to get things done even when he's not readily willing. Same with some toys and games he likes, they're on the list of items he'll forfeit for a period of time if he doesn't get his school work done.

As he's getting older though, it's much easier though - his level of maturity now, compared to a year ago - it's night and day! He's also in scouts and the academic belt loops and pins are a great motivator for him, he wants to earn them, so he'll put in the time and effort - so I also look through the requirements for those so he can work on earning them as part of his schoolwork assignments I give him to do each week.

07-02-2011, 08:12 PM
Our DS1 is like this. I think part of it came from his struggles with his visual processing issues and other issues. These made work genuinely hard and my expectations were not realistic for him. So we spent a year backing off academics and just working on the therapy. Now, he can do the work but is in the habit of thinking that he can't. He is also very stubborn and sometimes really just not wanting to do anything that is hard. But IMO he must learn to do it. He must also learn a better attitude and to not automatically go to "I can't, it's too hard, etc." and pitching a drama fit.

The only thing that works here is for me to sit down right next to him and if necessary walk him through every. single. step. of reading each and every word, telling him when he needs to write something (he is dysgraphic and does not want to write at all, ever), supervising every pencil stroke, mentally leading him through every painful detail of everything, until he 1. gets the message that his drama will not get him out of an ounce of work. 2. gets sick enough of me dragging him through it to want me to stop 3. realizes that I will not give up on him and that none of us is going anywhere or doing anything other than what he is trying to get out of until it is done. This usually takes 30-45 minutes.

Then his own "motivation" kicks in and he begins to apply himself, and then gets the rest of his work done very smoothly. But I usually have to push him up the hill before he reaches that point. This is why I don't like to take any breaks from school. The breaks make it so much harder to get him going when we come back from them. It's much easier if I just make him do something every single day. The hills are usually very small when he is in the habit of doing school work.

07-02-2011, 09:38 PM
The only thing that works here is for me to sit down right next to him and if necessary walk him through every. single. step. of reading each and every word, telling him when he needs to write something, supervising every pencil stroke, mentally leading him through every painful detail of everything.

This is actually some of what i've had to do w my teen, esp in math. I would have to work really hard (in different ways) to get him to JUST WRITE SOMETHING DOWN. Often I would have to sit with him, asking him, ok, what do you think you should do next. Ok, write that down.

After several months of this, it did get much easier. But yes, starting back this week after a 2 week break was, predictably, a bit rough.

07-02-2011, 10:28 PM
Our DS1 is like this. I think part of it came from his struggles with his visual processing issues and other issues. These made work genuinely hard and my expectations were not realistic for him. So we spent a year backing off academics and just working on the therapy. Now, he can do the work but is in the habit of thinking that he can't. He is also very stubborn and sometimes really just not wanting to do anything that is hard. But IMO he must learn to do it. He must also learn a better attitude and to not automatically go to "I can't, it's too hard, etc." and pitching a drama fit.

The only thing that works here is for me to sit down right next to him and if necessary walk him through every. single. step. of reading each and every word, telling him when he needs to write something (he is dysgraphic and does not want to write at all, ever), supervising every pencil stroke, mentally leading him through every painful detail of everything, until he 1. gets the message that his drama will not get him out of an ounce of work. 2. gets sick enough of me dragging him through it to want me to stop 3. realizes that I will not give up on him and that none of us is going anywhere or doing anything other than what he is trying to get out of until it is done. This usually takes 30-45 minutes.

Then his own "motivation" kicks in and he begins to apply himself, and then gets the rest of his work done very smoothly. But I usually have to push him up the hill before he reaches that point. This is why I don't like to take any breaks from school. The breaks make it so much harder to get him going when we come back from them. It's much easier if I just make him do something every single day. The hills are usually very small when he is in the habit of doing school work.

That's us, too, to a T. The only thing that can cause problems with this method is having a younger sibling who disrupts the process, sigh.

07-02-2011, 11:46 PM
That's us, too, to a T. The only thing that can cause problems with this method is having a younger sibling who disrupts the process, sigh.

ITA. Here the younger is 5.5 yo, and has his own, different issues. Most days I feel that things in our homeschool are either about to hit the fan, or at least get reeeeaaaalllly interesting.

07-03-2011, 12:24 AM
OK, first I want to address how my DD feels about her work--she LOVES it when she does well. Really. She gets a HUGE grin and sometimes even says "thanks Mommy" when I push her to do her best. I don't know why she does this, but I honestly think she has thing thing inside her that's afraid to do well, not sure why, but it's almost like she's holding back, perhaps thinking we won't pay attention to her or love her if she's not "little" and helpless anymore? She once told me she was afraid to read to herself for fear we would stop reading TO her anymore. I had to really DIG that out of her, it made no sense. First she wouldn't even try and I *knew* she was capable, then she did it on the sly, almost hiding it from me. When I found out, and showered her with praise, she sort of hid her face and said "stop!!" I had to really press her to ask why, and that's what came out. Well we worked really hard to reassure her, still read to her all the time (never would have stopped anyway, I'd miss it!) and she calmed down pretty fast and now she reads like a maniac and while she still likes me to read to her, she's more than happy to say "No thanks, I'm really into my book now Mama..."

She's the same way with most of her other work too, honest, with the only exception being writing, and I really don't push that b/c I think that's a different issue--going back to her early years when she had fine-motor delay (all resolved now, but some hesitancy remains), so I really don't think her refusal has anything to do with "not caring" about her work or the quality of it or any of that. I think it has more to do with fear of losing something--control, attention, love? Not sure, and I can't fathom what we've done to give her the impression that we would EVER pay her LESS attention if she worked harder more consistently. It's weird. Only thing I can think of is that we'e made the mistake over the years of doing all the wrong things vis a vis the behavior (probably too much emoting, too much reacting, too much attention to it PERIOD). Maybe she's concluded that attention only comes when you're NOT "being good" or doing what you're supposed to do?

Now to the "back off" suggestion. BTDT, more times than I can count. The whole second half of this past year was an example of me "backing off." I let her pretty much do whatever the heck she wanted to do, 90% of the time. TOTAL DISASTER. Everyone was miserable, even her. See thing is, she would "do nothing," and I would let her but I wasn't gonna sit there and wait around for her to ask me to do SOMETHING *with* her, so I'd go on about my business, playing with the other two, teaching them something or just cleaning house, etc...And she would sulk and whine and be obstinate, and paint or play, but soon bore of it, etc...She'd finally come to me and say "Mommy, can we do science?" But by then we'd be on our way out the door for an appt. or about to eat dinner or something else. The natural consequence of her not communicating with me or agreeing to do work with us when I offered was, she didn't get to do what she apparently REALLY wanted to do. Her timing was terrible, consistently. I spent so much time trying to explain how time works, how it passes, and then it's gone, and how she can waste her own if she likes, but not mine, and not that of her sisters'. If she wants to have some of our time, she has to ASK, politely, and she has to be respectful of it. She is only just starting to get the concept, and I don't expect miracles, but I feel strongly I need to drive the point home because she is NOT an only child and as much as I adore her, it's simply unfair to let her needs and wants and impulses dominate all the time. When her agenda rules the roost, it's ultimately not good for HER either.

So I sat down with her and we talked about it and she did say she wanted more of me, more face-to-face time with the work, and has promised to try to do the work I assign her if it can be like that more. I chose curriculum that would allow us to work that way, and all I can do now is hope for the best. I was just hoping people had some suggestions for activities or techniques to help me help her delay gratification just a LITTLE. It's ironic. This is the same kid who'll take half an hour to eat an Oreo cookie when she knows it's her only one. It can get on your nerves sometimes how sloooooooowly she'll eat just to eek every bit of enjoyment out of it ;) (Wish I could do that).

As for organic causes, we've tried altering diet, to no end. I think sleep is a bigger factor--she doesn't get enough. Oh sure, we put her to bed early, around 7:30, but she's NEVER asleep before midnight because of reading. We've tried turning off the light, she turns it back on. We've taken books away, she sneaks them in and hides them in her drawers. We take lightbulbs, she reads by the nightlight in the hall, or the street lamps outside! After a point, you just kinda give up!

The doctor suggested Melatonin b/c she does (like many ADHD kids) have a sleep delay (she falls asleep late, wakes up late). Doesn't matter how much exercise she gets either, and we don't allow caffeine or sugar before bedtime, so it's just HER--the other two share a room and they're fast asleep in no time. So we give her melatonin to help her sleep, but even THAT doesn't always work (does most of the time though). But when she's tired, forget it. The day is gone, she'll see to it. Today was a classic example. She didn't really "wake up" fully until well after noon, but we had to get going out of the house by 9:30. When child her age refuses to get up or get dressed, and no one can stay home with her, you're STUCK. You either put her in the car in jammies, or cancel your plans. I just wish there were a way to convince her that she's mostly hurting herself :( She does all this, then wonders why she can't "do science experiments" at 6 pm, or why she can't eat breakfast at 11 am? That needs to stop. If I teach her nothing else this year, it's got to be that the world just doesn't work that way--at least THIS world, in this house doesn't. I may not be the most strictly structured mom, but I can't function like that. I tried it her way, for almost 6 mos, and everyone--my dd included--was in MISERY.

07-03-2011, 12:45 AM
She really does sound like she has some big self control / executive function issues. I know that my oldest, esp, who has those sorts of issues, does best when I schedule things. But that sleep thing - thats a big problem. Both of my older 2 have really struggled w sleep. My daughter is currently totally nocturnal, waking up past noon. My middle child started sleeping when he went on meds, and I think the sleep alone made a huge difference.

Do you think you could even do a visual schedule, where you can show her what time it is, and what you are doing, so she knows when you will be spending time with her, and when you will be eating dinner, and when you will be leaving the house? That could help her learn to work with everyone else's schedules?

it certainly sounds like a challenge.

07-03-2011, 01:03 AM
I am not sure what is going on with your daughter, but it sounds exhausting, and I am sure it wears you out. :) I have read your posts a few times, and what stands out the most to me is that your daughter enjoys one-on-one time with you. She also seems to be afraid of becoming more independent because it may mean (in her view) that she may receive less attention from you.

I think it is great that you have new curriculum this year, and you seem to be on the right track thinking that you will have to sit with her more as she works. In addition I would shower her with lots and lots of attention for any work that she does on time, and ignore anytime she does not do her work. She is young, and she probably won't be able to work hard everyday, but if you can get her in the habit of trying and succeeding on some days then you would be making progress. Also I would make sure she is rewarded for her hard work with one-on-one time with you. I think that may be a strong motivator for her.

One more thing, have you heard Susan Wise Bauer's talk Homeschooling the Real Child? (http://www.welltrainedmind.com/store/homeschooling-the-real-child.html) If you haven't I would recommend you listen to it. She has some great advice on different ways to homeschool a "real" (i.e. not perfect) child.

07-03-2011, 01:24 AM
I think backing off doesn't have to mean dropping everything. Like what Jill said, it may mean actually spending more time with her, but time where the academic expectations on your part are limited. There can still be non-negotiables - for me, that would be math and reading - things where she does have to do some minimum level of work. But then everything else is just let go if she can't sustain the interest. And by let go, I mean for her and for you.

But obviously there's more going on than just schoolwork issues. I might look at it and make some specific, very limited goals about what you'd like to see change and really focus on that. The sleep, for instance, seems like it might be a place to start. Does she have caffeine at other points in the day? Can you shift your schedule a little so she's not expected to get up so... well... I would say early, but at such a reasonable hour?

07-03-2011, 01:25 AM
You think a visual schedule would help? I was wondering about that. My gut said yes, but I was hoping someone would chime in about scheduling. My plan was to print a schedule for each day and each week. I would expect her to pay more attention to the daily one at first, but having the week up too could show her activities we have planned coming up that she might be excited about. That way I can start teaching her about short-term and long-term goals and patience and possibly even use some of them as incentives to persevere through something in the moment (maybe a planned outing that we won't be able to do if she hasn't finished her work, etc...).

What gives me hope for this is that we got so desperate this year, we actually contemplated sending her to private school. We had no idea how to pay for it, knew we couldn't afford to send the all, but thought maybe even ONE year of structure would help her, we were willing to make all sorts of sacrifices if it would help. Well the school required an all day "interview" which consisted of her just attending 1st grade with the regular class, and not only did she love it, she did well. The teacher loved her, the school thought she'd do great there! She was obviously what they called a "natural leader" too. Luckily (I say b/c truthfully we would have struggled to pay the tuition, and because I really didn't want to send her to school, any school) they didn't have room for her, we applied too late in the cycle, so she didn't get an invitation to come. But the whole process showed me that she did just fine: a) in a structured environment all day b) being told what to do even when it was something she didn't choose to do c) sharing space and time with other learners. After that I asked her what she liked about it, and other than recess and lunch (LOL) she said she liked that the teacher was always "right there" and that there were other people in the room doing the same things or similar things with her. IOW, by "backing off" I'd actually done the OPPOSITE of what she really needed and wanted, but couldn't explain. Thinking she needed less direction b/c of her issues, I'd chosen mostly online curricula and lots of free time for exploration, but she saw that as me abandoning her--I think. This year will be as polar opposite from that as you can get ;) It will be an interesting experiment, but I think coming up with a really rich visual schedule will help. I'm even considering using hokey methods like laminating pictures of subject area symbols and using velcro strips on a laminated poster and some on the backs of the symbols so we can move them around from time slot to time slot, day to day and even in the moment if we need to make adjustments on-the-fly.

07-03-2011, 01:31 AM
And yes, the sleep is a HUGE issue. As I said, we've adjusted diet--NO caffeine after NOON (and the only stuff she'd get anyway would be chocolate milk, and she doesn't even like it much). No dessert at dinner other than fruit, and not even that most nights, and nothing too stimulating before bed (no fast music, only calm activities). I don't even bathe them right before bed anymore but do it before dinner instead b/c it tends to rile them all up more than settle them down. And the melatonin which does work most of the time. It's sad though that I have to resort to that, and I wonder about side-effects. Two different doctors told us it was OK, but I'm not that trusting of doctors frankly....Still, my rationalization is that lack of sleep is also detrimental to overall health and well-being, so maybe it's a necessary evil or good outweighs bad?

Accidental Homeschooler
07-03-2011, 02:39 AM
I have different challenges with my puzzle of a child, but I recognize and can relate to the frustration. It is really hard for my dd to have a bad day and all of us not go right down with her. And then once we are all in that negative place it is very hard to turn it around. We are making progress on this front but it requires a HUGE amount of patience and I am not always up to it.

What has helped me figure her out (sort of) is to really take apart our good days, go over every detail. Do you know what I mean? I started out doing that with the bad days, looking for the triggers so I could try to eliminate them. But it was just as illuminating, if not more so, for me to look at the days where she got everything done and had a reasonable attitude about it. I don’t know if you have had a day like that in a while but it is helpful. It is more helpful than it sounds like it would be.

It also seems like you have already figured out most of what is going on with her. She wants more of your attention, even if she has to act like a two year old and give up having the satisfaction she gets with her academic work to get it. She doesn’t want you to believe how capable she is because she is afraid you will expect her to do more independently which cuts will cut down her time with you one-on-one. I think it also says a lot for her that she can talk to you about that at all or even recognize it, at least a little bit.

I also think it is interesting that she will approach you to do something that she refused to do earlier(though with really bad timing) like she is trying to make it right or fix things. My dd has apologized after giving me a really tough day, but only after I have rocked her or held her at bedtime. It is how she reassures herself that I still love her and I think she wants to reassure me also that she loves me. We go through almost a script after a rough day before she can let it go and go to sleep.

I have found that as much as my dd fights doing school work sometimes, life goes much better if I can get her to do at least something (and some days it is not much). If I back off and give her lots of unstructured time more that one day in a row, we have a crappy day. One day if she is busy in an activity or play I can let the schedule go, but two is not good. I see that happen a lot on the weekends. So actually, a lot of our solutions have come through scheduling (and sleep is a challenge for us too). I just don’t have the same level of challenge you do with keeping to a schedule (two kids who are five and thirteen). Maybe if she understands “her” time vs her little sisters’ times and you have something specific she can do (reading maybe since she likes to read so much) in between her one-on-one time and her sister’s one-on-one time and then back to her again. I have to go back and forth because my kids are so far apart in age that they can’t do work together. And even the thirteen year old gets upset if she feels like she is getting shorted in terms of mom attention.

07-03-2011, 10:36 AM
I have never heard anything negative about melatonin. When I first started homeschooling I did print both weekly and daily schedules. Both of my boys have trouble w transitions and being able to look at the schedule (or me reminding them to look at the schedule) seemed to help. Over time, it became easy enough that i stopped printing the daily schedules. And if you think she might like the posters and letters, by all means, try it!

07-03-2011, 05:07 PM
Just throwing this out there, but in the way of food issues that can cause behavioral issues have you considered artificial food dyes, gluten, and dairy. Those seem to be big ones for a lot of my friends who deal with these issues. Gluten apparently leaves the system fairly quickly so you notice a difference in a day or two if you are going to see one, but dairy can take 10 days to clear the system. And artificial dye is in everything. I have a dye sensitive child so we just don't buy dyed foods but sometimes you don't even realize it, like it makes no sense they add it.

Anyway, not sure if that helps, but I've heard so many success stories with major diet changes. They aren't easy for sure but in the long run it can improve things a lot.

07-04-2011, 11:40 AM
Your daughter sounds very much like mine and I have struggled a lot with how to help her. We made the decision to homeschool because I didn't want her natural love of learning destroyed by the uncreative school environment pushing her to do things she thought were boring, but I realized I was doing exactly. We just started a new school year and really seem to have hit our stride for now. Some thoughts and ideas:

- the taking a half hour to eat an Oreo is very typical of ADHD. It's hyper focusing and is just part of ADHD-if something is very interesting to the person she gets kind of lost in it and loses all track of time.

-read the book "The Gift of ADD." it's by 2 MDs and is an extremely quick read. In
particular read the chapter that is written from the viewpoint of a teenage boy with
ADHD. As much as I already thought my daughter exhibits lots of ADHD symptoms I really didn't get it until I read that chapter. It really opened my eyes to how she was feeling as we struggled to get her work done. The book also gave me some practical suggestions in how to help her with focusing better in daily life.

-dietary changes and supplements. Being gluten-free, dairy-free, dye-free, and mostly sugar-free has really helped my daughter. Also give her a good probiotic-the gluten can cause a leaky gut and she needs the probiotics to help it heal. Fish oil supplements
also have really helped my daughter's brain to make better connections.

-school changes. I went into homeschooling as an unschooled, but found she needed additional help with math so I added that curriculum then other things just kept being added. She was miserable sitting trying to do work for any length of time. So this year I created my own plan for Charlotte Mason-like studies for the liberal arts. It is mostly
reading by her or me and only in about 20 minute bursts. She gets my full attention during that time. She loves art so I based it off of artists which helps to keep her attention. The short bursts mean I can sit and do it when we are both mentally ready to focus on it. The 20 minute bursts also help with my younger son around because he
doesn't get bored and into mischief while I'm sitting with her. Handwriting is very difficult
for her, but she needs practice so I give her just two or three lines to copy (based on the suggestion of her OT). through our reading we discuss history, reading, grammar and sometimes science. Through the handwriting we also discuss spelling and
reading (e.g plane becomes planing or planed vs plan becomes planning or planned). We are doing Mad Libs for practicing parts of speech and increasing vocabulary and she now
love to pick those up and work in them. We use Math U See and even though she liked it better than our previous math curriculum, she still would take an hour to do one page and would scribble all over it. With our recent change in curriculum she will get the page done in about 20 minutes with minimal whining. It's like by removing all of the other sit down work it took the pressure off of her so the math work became easier. I also have learned to go with the flow and let her do the math wherever she wants. She often climbs onto the table and works on it there.

I forgot to say above that my daughter is 8. My at-heart, basic advice is that you have to learn to change your mind-set. Kids like ours can't do "school-at-home" schooling. It's why the schools would require them to be medicated. My daughter would be absolutely miserable in a school environment and we were both miserable when we were pursuing education that way at home. Our children have these wonderful, creative minds and if we want to preserve their inherent amazing thought processes and love of learning them we have to offer them different ways of learning. It can be a lot of work, but I'm finding it's far less work and far, far less stressful to go this route because we don't have the continuous struggles over her schoolwork. And she is loving learning again which is my primary goal with homeschooling.

07-04-2011, 09:37 PM
Wow CCMom, sounds like our children are very much alike. How did you get your daughter off the foods she shouldn't eat? We tried gluten-free for a month, did nothing except drive me crazy hunting for gluten-free alternatives ;) Then the dairy--probably didn't stick with that long enough, but I will say my dd already drinks lactose free milk (we all do, husband and middle child are lactose intolerant, so we just went off it completely) and doesn't eat most dairy products (hates cheese, yogurt), but she does love ice-cream--just gets it very seldom. As for artificial colors/flavors, we shop at Trader Joe's mostly and I'm told they don't use the in their foods, I'll have to check, but I already take great pains to avoid those. What I DO think she eats too much of is sugar. I don't mean "refined" sugar, I mean carbs. We joke that she eats "white" food. I've tried wheat bread, to no avail, the kid won't eat it. So I switched to whole-grain white as an alterative, no HFCS of course, and she'll eat that. And she eats cereals (we eat mostly Barbaras and the Trader Joe's varieties), but it is SO hard to get her to eat most meats or other proteins. She hates beans, nuts, even rice. Her diet is breakfast cereal, the occasional sandwich (she's broadened her horizons and will eat sliced chicken sandwiches, but usually it's PB&J), mac and cheese (trader-joe's so this does have cheese), pasta, turkey meatballs, pizza (sometimes) and occasionally fried chicken. I can get her to eat some fruit (usually mandarin oranges, or peaches cut up, but she doesn't like most raw fruit) but veggies are a struggle. She's quite thin. Luckily my girls only drink milk or water, and if they get juice it's unsweetened and watered down (we call it "water-juice") so they're not drinking their calories. I've even taken her to a nutritionist who took her to the grocery store without me, trying to educate her about proteins. She added scrambled eggs to her repetoire but insists on putting cinnamon-sugar on them (weird eh?). It's tough. Feeding her is a CHALLENGE. My other two aren't much better, but they will at least TRY things, she won't. In her typical way, if it's not her idea, forget about it.

I like some of your other ideas too, about curriculum, and I hope I didn't come off like someone who was going to sit and do seat work all the time. I just meant that she wants me to be with her while she does her work as a participant I think, which is fine. I expect she'll recoil from most of the work that requires her to sit still, so we'll probably have to do it in short bursts, maybe even do it using notebooking or other fun ways to make it *feel* more like "drawing" or making "books" or some such, she likes that sort of thing, and I have a feeling I'll have to start our days with science since that's her favorite and maybe then she'll be satiated and more willing to meet me halfway on the other stuff. Either that or I'm going to have to get really creative about incorporating the hands-on methods into every single thing we do (not that hard really). So far, the only curriculum choice I've made that doesn't is Chinese! Not much of a way around that with Rosetta Stone, but maybe there's a way I can find some chinese language manipulatives or figure out a way to incorporate it into other lessons, certainly we can do geography and history of China, but for the language itself, that might be harder. I will say though, she has greatly enjoyed her "gifted and talented" summer workbook that I found at Barnes and Noble. I *suggest* that she do 3 pages a day while I make dinner, and she always ends up doing more like 4 or 5. I think the fact that they ask her to do more thinking, reasoning, puzzle-solving spurs her on. She likes figuring things out.

Thanks everyone for all the great feedback! And keep it coming, if nothing else it is so helpful and supportive to realize what good company I am in! :)

07-04-2011, 09:55 PM
LOL my daughter is a crazy, picky eater too. She won't eat any veggies and the only fruit she eats is bananas. It's a sensory thing for her so she eats lots of pureed soups or I throw pureed greens into soup or spaghetti sauce. She doesn't like jam or jelly or juice and loves pasta. Going gf was rather scary for me because I had tried going gf myself last year and had been miserable. I found it much easier to take the whole family gf and just cook one meal and remove everything gf from the house. Fortunately my local grocery store has lots of choices for gf foods. I think Trader Joe's does as well from comments some of my friends have made. We make quesadillas although she's not overly fond of the dairy free cheese for those so I don't make them often for her. I bought gf pasta and just make it like any other pasta dish. Be sure to rinse it with cold water at the end as it greatly improves the texture of the pasta. I make pizza. She eats scrambled eggs, hot dogs (gf, preservative and dye free) without a bun, gf breakfast cereal (also makes an easy snack to take in the car), granola bars (I bought them for a while, but they get expensive so I've startd making my own), oatmeal, and chicken. The Annie's gf mac and cheese in a box is pretty good. We tried another brand that is also dairy free and it was rather gross. I will make a big batch of homemade gf/df mac and cheese sometimes and the kids will just eat that for lunch all week. It's easy to toss some pureed squash in that when I make it to get some more veggies into her. We eat plain Chick fil a chargrilled chicken filets when we're out. Fortunately there a lots of good alternatives for gf foods today and lots of websites with recipes. It's not always easy and I do allow her some gluten when we go out just because she needs to eat, but I do pay for that later when she has a meltdown.

07-05-2011, 09:20 PM
Promise not to judge us and I'll tell you what got our 8 year old more eager.
Disclaimer: We are not generally hard-ass, old school discipline type parents and I don't necessarily recommend doing this to your kid.

After several consecutive days of my kid refusing to do school work, his Dad came home and informed him that it was fine if he didn't want to do school but in our house if you're not furthering your education you have to get a job to help contribute to the household. He told him to lay his clothes out and be ready to go to work with him in the morning. 5 am the next day they were out the door. My husband builds houses. He gave him the job of hauling trash, etc all day long and paid him minimum wage. Then he went Bill Cosby on him and took out money for taxes, lunch, etc.

When they got home that evening, tired and dirty, my boy came up to me with giant hug and said, "Mom, I've never been so happy to see you. Can I please go back to school with you?" Some days are still hard but he has a different perspective now.

And I mean it, don't judge. ; )

Stella M
07-05-2011, 09:23 PM
Nothing wrong with creative parenting!

But don't judge this...sometimes we also need to examine our expectations of what our kids can and should be achieving, especially when there is a great deal of conflict involved.

07-05-2011, 09:44 PM
Nothing wrong with creative parenting!

But don't judge this...sometimes we also need to examine our expectations of what our kids can and should be achieving, especially when there is a great deal of conflict involved.
Absolutely. In this particular case we were sure that this was the approach he needed from us. However on a day to day basis I can usually track my frustrations with him and his frustrations with me to an unreasonable expectation on my part or poor choices in the way I communicate with him.

Ellie's mom
07-06-2011, 03:31 AM
I could use some more techniques for my reluctant learner too...

Want to share a tried-and-true sleep inducer:

Cold + Hungry + Moving then Warm + Still + Fed

Working as a rec-aid taking kids swimming and then having lunch and following with a video, even I was dozing off. There is about a half hour window here.

Using that on my own little one, I let her get wild 1 hr before bed -while under dressed- then a warm drink with snack and had story in bed. I only read if she lay still. Bang, out like a light!

Timing is everything: that dozy feeling doesn't last long, unfortunately

07-07-2011, 06:55 PM
As for organic causes, we've tried altering diet, to no end. I think sleep is a bigger factor--she doesn't get enough. Oh sure, we put her to bed early, around 7:30, but she's NEVER asleep before midnight because of reading. We've tried turning off the light, she turns it back on. We've taken books away, she sneaks them in and hides them in her drawers. We take lightbulbs, she reads by the nightlight in the hall, or the street lamps outside! After a point, you just kinda give up!

I think you are completely right about the tiredness issue. Even as an adult, I'm unreasonable and on edge when I'm tired. Even simple rest, instead of reading or sleeping will improve the base issues you're dealing with. Probably not cure them, but letting a young child stay up that late for any reason, including a "good" one like reading is an invitation for chaos. There's just no way around it. I'd focus on this one issue long before I worried that my 1st grader won't listen to a lecture/story on Van Gogh. Throwing up your hands in this moment/on this issue is where it sounds like you're giving up control of the rest of your day.

Acknowledging from the very start that I'm not an expert, I'd try 4 things. Make sure she get enough exercise during the day. Sleep can be quite dependent getting enough of that. You did say it didn't seem to help, but it's kind of dependent how much you tried to get her to do. Walks, playgrounds, dodge ball, swimming. If you can, push her out into the yard for hours. (Sunshine is also a key to good health that modern kids often don't get enough of either.)

The second thing is give her a slightly later bedtime, ideally after exactly 1 story, like 8 or 8:30.

And third, and this is important, sit with her until she falls asleep. Put a chair in there and bring in your ipod to listen to some audiobooks. (Heck, give her an ipod/sound system with water sounds or something too. White noise often helps.) Once you think she's asleep, keep checking every 15 minutes until you are sure. Any sneaking of books, etc, is grounds for loss of privileges (Not time outs, but any stuff she really wants to do) and immediate sad face (as in not anger, but "I'm deeply disappointed"). By checking every 15 minutes, you'll be able to disrupt the behavior pattern before it takes hold and she's been reading for an hour.

It sounds like why she was able to do any of what you describe is I suspect that you're putting her into bed like the other kids and walking away. (Thus why removing light bulb isn't working,etc.) You may not be able to do that with this child until she's a little older or gotten the message like a ton of bricks about what is acceptable at bedtime. Sometimes the only way to improve a situation is to resign yourself to the fact you'll need to be cheap suit and be all over the situation, maybe for an extended period of time. From your description, she's not having sleeping problems in the sense she's getting enough if allowed. However, she is being allowed to control bedtime if you continue to allow books until midnight. (Since sleep cannot be mandated, I'd make simple rest in the dark enough during the evening hours the standard for behavior.)

And in the morning, I'd invest into an alarm clock. You and DD get up at one time everyday, regardless of weekends, etc. That means even if you are lifting her bodily from the bed and setting her upright to stare at cereal in the morning :) No sleeping in at all, possibly until she's much older, if she can't handle switching sleeping rhythms. (If this sounds like baby rearing, there's a lot of overlap.) :) For a while she will be crankier than normal (I wouldn't do school), but it will encourage her body to go to sleep at an earlier time. If she's sleeping midnight to 10am, she's just not tired at 8:00pm. Keep rolling back the wake-up time and stick to it so she is tired by 8pm.

For this issue, it sounds to me like the heart of the matter is about shifting the body rhythms to more acceptable times of day. Unfortunately, since she's so young, it will take some direct investment on your part, perhaps even for a few weeks or months, but it certainly can be done. Regular, set in stone sleep patterns is where I'd start to tackle the problem. :)

Phew! I hope this helps!! Good luck with them. It's a mess of issues you're having there. :) *hugs*

07-08-2011, 09:45 AM
Thanks! That was really helpful, all good points. I would guess she does NOT get enough exercise really, now that I think about it. What is "enough" for the others probably isn't "enough" for one as active as she is. I'll have to figure out how to incorporate more. One thing I did so was schedule extracurricular activities for later in the day this year--so each of then will have at least two things per week that start after 4 and are physical. That way they should get some running around or at least "activity" close enough but not too close to bedtime to make them tired.

We tried the alarm clock, two actually, would you believe she slept through both! :( I tried putting a boom box in there and setting it to wake with CDs or loud radio Nada. I like the audio-book idea though, and I bet she would like it too! Someone else is reading to her, which she likes and is often more relaxing (also can be done in the DARK), so it's less of an active wakeful pursuit. I don't know how she does it personally. I try to read before bed and am out like a light in two pages ;) And I'm a night owl too! I just get so tired that I have to TRY to stay up to read. She does it with EASE, is almost energized by the process. So the audio-books might be PERFECT. Wonder if the library has any that are longer than picture books, yk? We have some of those, but she's heard the all 100 times and they are pretty short....A nice chapter book would be good. Of course, this could have the opposite effect ;) I used them to drive alone from TX to MA and they helped me stay AWAKE! LOL But I suppose if you're tucked up in your bed in the dark and it's not a scary story or adventure tale, it would probably work.

But I agree 100%, sleep is probably 90% of her problem. It exacerbates everything else, so whatever would be "normal" for her as an already hyper kid is even HARDER to deal with b/c she's cranky and tired and can't transition well.

07-08-2011, 01:47 PM
With a 2nd grader, the first thing I'd try, if you haven't already, is sitting with her the entire time she is supposed to be working. Make it as interactive as possible. For example, avoid giving an entire page of math problems; instead, dole them out one at a time on a small whiteboard. Do as much as possible orally. Have her read aloud to you if she is finished with phonics instruction and gradually increase the level of difficulty of the books. All About Spelling is interactive and short and sweet. It also reinforces phonics. I'd try to carve out some unbroken one-on-one time for her every day--one hour would be good and two would be better. For science and history/social studies, keep it simple and just read aloud to her, or do hands-on stuff if you are so inclined, and include your other children.

FWIW, my younger son is highly gifted and starts to act this way whenever the level of difficulty gets too low. When he was your daughter's age, we had bouts of this sort of behavior several times a year and I had to completely refigure what we were doing. I try to figure out exactly what is setting him off. At what point does he become uncooperative? Then I try to focus my energy on changing that aspect of our time together. Also, when something is extremely distasteful (for us this is math review), I set the visual timer for a predetermined amount of time and if he manages to work through that time without having an attitude problem, he gets something he wants (in our case it is screen time).

I hope something in here helps.

Stella M
07-08-2011, 08:03 PM
I sit with my second grader as well. I don't think that's an unreasonable thing to expect to have to do at this age.

Re sleep, something else 'important' is to get exposure to natural light upon waking (within an hour). It sets your body clock. So I'd be sending dd outside to play as soon as she's up or shortly after breakfast for a good 20 min at least.

07-08-2011, 11:33 PM
Kai, that's reassuring--I've worked hard to select curriculum choices that involve me sitting with her and working *with* her 90% of the time. Another thing I did today was order a set of audio books that are designed to help kids fall asleep. I tested the idea of using audio books tonight (we have a few, just story books) and I think it worked! She went to bed around 7:45 and I haven't heard from her since!

07-09-2011, 12:20 AM
Would you mind sharing the details on those audio books please?

07-09-2011, 12:50 AM
This is what I ordered: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0978778197

I read the reviews, and I have high hopes even if one type doesn't work, another will (since it includes both stories and relaxation techniques).

07-09-2011, 07:18 PM
Excellent, thank you. Please update us with whet you think of them won't you!

07-09-2011, 11:02 PM
Definitely :)