View Full Version : Help, encouragement? I don't know what I need here.

07-19-2011, 04:28 PM
My oldest is 7 and we are on our 3rd week of her 2nd grade school year. One of the things I have chosen to really focus on this year is her grammar and writing. I tend towards child-led, relaxed learning so for kindy and 1st I didn't provide much structure for her writing, I wanted her to learn how to express herself without boundaries. This year I wanted to introduce the rules but I'm trying to do so in a gentle manner. We are doing Easy Grammar which is very short, simple and to the point and I thought would be a good introduction. We are also doing Spelling Connections which melds spelling with grammar and writing. I know neither of these systems are too much for her to grasp.

Anyway, our daily short lessons which I thought would be easy and understandable are driving her to tears. I'm just frustrated with her response. Honestly I still think both programs are best for her. She just hates rules. She is a very good reader and she rushes through directions and misses details in her hurry. She has the same problem with math from time to time. She much prefers subjects like science and social studies that have discussion and points of view and many ways to get to one answer. The black and white of grammar rules and math are basically just pissing her off. We correct and fix each page together and by the end she's in tears, hitting herself in the head in frustration and saying stuff like how bad she is at everything and how much she hates it. It really breaks my heart. I work so hard to be calm and non-judgmental when pointing out a mistake but you know, just showing the need for it to be fixed is therefore making a judgment so no matter what I guess I am screwed. Her behaviors are what make me really lean towards unschooling because obviously there is a lack of judgment in that system. But then I worry if I don't help her grasp these things now she may not grasp the at all. And then I think I am totally crushing her spirit and this is why we are not in PS in the first place. And then I think if I don't teach her some structures and rules I'm failing her. And. And. And..........

Right now I am concerned because she 1. Does not capitalize at the start of sentences. 2. She mixes capital and lowercase letters throughout her writing and is random in capitalizing proper nouns. 3. She doesn't use punctuation at the end of sentences. These are the 3 things I am concerned she should be following. Do second graders usually know that going in or is it something they have by the end or is it something that still isn't really a concern? Should I just be letting her write as she wants and only enforcing the rules in the Easy Grammar book, or should I be pointing out these basic grammar issues in everything she writes?

Help. :(

07-19-2011, 04:42 PM
She sounds somewhat like my dd, but mine is a year older, and I can tell you that a lot of that stuff improved over the past year. She was in school though, so I'm not sure how much of that was her teacher browbeating her about it and how much just happened naturally.

I would suggest tackling one of these issues at a time. Maybe work on the case thing first, because it would be annoying and confusing to read. She may just need practice writing some of her lowercase letters - is it consistent as to which ones she capitalizes? I'm not sure what to suggest, but I'm definitely glad my daughter got over that hump while in school, because it sure sounds frustrating. I hope some people have good advice for you.

07-19-2011, 05:36 PM
Have you tried having her copy out something? Then she will have the correct capitalization and punctuation right in front of her. You can just casually mention that sentences start with an uppercase letter and end with punctuation when she is copying those parts. You could have her copy anything--sentences from books she likes or ones that you make up together, jokes, silly sentences, poems, whatever would interest her. We haven't done any formal grammar with my rising second grader, but he's been picking the rules through copywork (he needs a lot of work on his handwriting, so we do it every day).

Accidental Homeschooler
07-19-2011, 05:46 PM
We correct and fix each page together and by the end she's in tears, hitting herself in the head in frustration and saying stuff like how bad she is at everything and how much she hates it.(

I am sorry you are going through this but relieved that my dd is not the only one who hits herself on the head saying how she gets everything wrong. I see it most with math and reading, as you say, the only ones she has with absolute right/wrong answers. My dd can do a dozen math problems, miss one and totally lose it. I have taken the approach of saying things like, "nobody is born knowing this, everyone has to start at the beginning, if you don't make mistakes you aren't learning...." I talked to our therapist about it and she suggested that I be very careful about how I act when I make a mistake in front of her (I needed to make some changes there). We also did an exercise where I opened her math book and said, "I want you to get all these problems wrong." I think that really helped, even though as she pointed out, it did not count since I told her to get the wrong answers (and bonus, she figured out the right answer first so she could make sure she put down a wrong one). I don't let her off finishing the work. I understand the temptation to stop and it may be the right one for some kids but for me (and this is just me) and my dd I feel like I would be communicating to her that, "yeah, you are right, you can't do this. It's too hard for you." And I am seeing this get better as far as math. With reading she still gets upset if she reads a word wrong. But seeing definite progress with math gives me hope that we can get there with reading. I just want her to be able to bounce back after mistakes and try again.

07-19-2011, 06:06 PM
Oh these are all good suggestions! Thank you! Working on one thing at a time is probably a better approach. And copy work is definitely something we can try. I know she won't like it but it will be easier if she can do it and then check it herself.

Both our kids are super hard on themselves. They both do the hitting themselves thing when they are frustrated. We are a non-violent house and don't ever use physical punishment so it totally has me feeling like crap that they smack themselves! Why??? And I try to be calm and matter of fact when dealing with all of this, there is no punishment for being wrong, no red marks on the papers, no minus number or percentages or grade letters or anything. I really try to make it not a judgement, just a learning process. I keep telling myself it's just a phase, it's just a phase, it's just a phase.

The worst part right now is that she is being an awful example to her little brother who is doing kindy work and was super enthusiastic about everything at the start but now he's beginning to mirror her behaviors. Having 2 kids in tears while trying to work with them in the most gentle way possible is really making me feel like somehow I'm screwing something up.

07-19-2011, 06:22 PM
I'm having this very same issue and actually posted about it earlier. I've purchased Daily Editing Practice for 1st grade to put an emphasis on correct punctuation. My oldest HS child is 9 with special needs and my DD,7, sounds very much like your little girl. I would maybe take the editing route and see how that goes. If nothing else, it would give you an explanation. Pick her favorite author and explain that even (insert author here) makes mistakes and has to edit his/her work. Also, the PP has a very good idea about asking her to do everything wrong on purpose. I've done the exact same thing! Another suggestion: Write something along with her making all the mistakes she would normally make and then switch. Have her check yours while you check hers. Go step by step for whatever grammar rules you are working on at the time. Good Luck!

07-19-2011, 07:00 PM
My son is this way too. He doesn't hit himself but he totally shuts down; it's completely unnerving. He absolutely believes that he should get everything right the first time even if he hasn't learned or been exposed to it yet (this is the kid who, at 2 or 3, declared that by the time he is a daddy he *will* know everything in the world. oh my).

I have had some minor success in moments of sheer frustration having HIM teach ME the work. It was more distraction than anything, but it has helped him work through a rough patch here and there. To be the one in charge was good for his self esteem I guess.

I wish I had some advice, just lots and lots of sympathy. We have always been so careful to show our mistakes, to talk about them and own up to them in our everyday life; why some kids think they should be the exception is baffling.

Stella M
07-19-2011, 07:10 PM
She sounds normal to me :) Rules, schmules!!! My middle daughter was like this, until I got it through her head, this year, that good writers learn the rules before they break them. Capitalisation isn't worth getting stressed over, in my minority opinion.

07-19-2011, 07:26 PM
Maybe you should emphasize to your daughter that writing is a process. First get it all out, then refine. The English grammar you're trying to teach is the "accepted" means of communication. Point out how people write in books and magazines differs from how we speak to one another in conversation. It sounds like the idea of being perfect, getting the rules right, is what brings your daughter to tears. Personally, I think capitalization is elemental and important when writing an second grade paragraph, but poetry is different. Grammar is a tool and not a set of rules to memorize.

Stella M
07-19-2011, 07:33 PM
The things the OP talks about are most definitely important! I just respectfully disagree there is a window in which these skills 'must' be accomplished lest the child never master the skills at all. Does it really matter - if the child is writing legibly - in the homeschool environment if those skills are mastered or accepted at 5, 7, 9 or 12 ? I don't know where the rule is that says these things must be acheived by second grade, especially if it is causing parent and child stress :) I would be much more concerned about legibility and energy of expression with a 7 year old.

It is nice when it becomes a habit early but it doesn't prevent development as a communicator if mastered later. Unlike maths, where if you balk at your year two work, you probably aren't going to do too well moving on to grade three. There are so many unavoidable things to stress about in parenting, I just don't know why we kill ourselves over rules. Personally, I would let it go, allow oral narration and revisit it in a few months time.

07-19-2011, 08:06 PM
Good advice, Melissa.

Stella M
07-19-2011, 09:08 PM
I should clarify though that I'm not talking about children with a learning disability that prevents them from understanding punctuation etc. More about the elementary school child who just doesn't want to! right now but if asked, can answer correctly when asked "What's missing at the end of your sentence ? How should that sentence start ? What's the rule about writing names ? "

I would expect children to apply themselves to this by Year 7. As I say to my daughter "You may think the rules are stupid, but if you don't use them, people will think you are stupid." I wouldn't say this to a younger child though! Dd has the goals and the maturity to balance her dislike of rules with her goals now. She didn't when she was 7.

07-19-2011, 09:18 PM
This sounds very familiar to my 7 y.o. She struggles with grammar rule recollection and applying them to her writing. Instead of going over and over her mistakes, I found her a little check list that she can look at to remind her of things she may have forgotten.

-Each sentence starts with a capital letter
-I used punctuation correctly
-I checked my spelling
-My work is neat and easy to read
-I read my work, and it makes sense
-I did my best

She can look at it after she completes her writing to remind herself of what needs to be done. Now, she enjoys making sure each listing is marked off and it has pretty much eliminated the "red marks on the paper." I also got her a copy of Editor in Chief from the Critical Thinking Company, though, we haven't cracked it open yet. However, I agree with Melissa. I tend to encourage creativity at this age with just sprinkles of rules in there. If the passion and ability for expression are there, they will pick up the rules along the way just through sheer enjoyment of the writing process.

07-19-2011, 09:53 PM
It's really ok. This is typical of A LOT of early second graders, whether they are homeschooled or not. My son just completed second grade and his experience was similar. Have you read "Your 7 Year Old" by Ames & Haber? No child fits a mold perfectly, but it is very normal for children at seven to be hyper-critical of themselves and their mistakes and inability to grasp things right away. A lot of the reason can be chalked up simply to where they are developmentally. My son did the head hitting thing too. It really does come with the age for a lot children. So be happy about it! Your daughter is behaving in a way that is right on schedule with what "the experts" say is "normal" for her age. : )

Stella M
07-20-2011, 02:31 AM
Alice, I posted an example of my ds's oral narrations on my blog just now, if you want to take a look. I really think writing in this way is a whole lot less stressful, even if you just did it for a bit and let your child have a break from her frustrations with traditional writing and rules. before starting up again with the programs you've chosen. The narration I chose is far from perfect but it does demonstrate that a child can learn things like how to structure a piece of writing, how to include detail, how to use sentences properly, without a pencil in hand. I type what ds tells me; I do use it as a chance to reinforce things like "Oh, beginning of a sentence, better put a capital" and "End of sentence, what do I need again ?" He eyerolls but he gets the point, no pun intended.

07-20-2011, 07:44 AM
The head-hitting thing is something that my daughter went through awhile ago, but it was generally over behavioral issues rather than schoolwork. It's so upsetting to watch, and it comes with the territory with bright, perfectionist children. Every time she did that I went over and made physical contact with her, and if she wouldn't stop I restrained her and talked to her in a soft voice. They older they get, the harder that is to do, of course. And some kids don't respond well to physical contact anyway, so take it with a grain of salt. But that's what we did, I felt like we had to respond to it in some way.

07-20-2011, 07:56 AM
Alice, I posted an example of my ds's oral narrations on my blog just now, if you want to take a look...

Melissa, this is great. It might be especially nice for those of us on summer break to use to transition our kids back into writing again when we start up.

07-20-2011, 11:10 AM
My son is 7 almost 8 and doing 3rd and some 2nd. He has really bad fine motor skills and so we have always stressed gramar rules. But he is always critical of his writing and in order to not discourage him I tried to make him recognize what he was doing wrong. For example after writing a sentence I would go back and say, okay now look at your sentence do you see anything that is not right? And then I would ask what he had remembered to do? And then after praising his good job we would talk about what he missed. That way he would look for any mistakes (usually their was one), then look for things he had worked, get praise and then I would talk to him about what was worng. When we did talk I would just say things like hmm what is a richard, I have never seen a richard. And when he would say "Richard is a person" I would answer "oh i couldn't tell because it wasn't capitalized..e.tc.

Also I second the idea of working on one thing at a time! Since your Daughter can read why don't you write her a sentence or instructions and have her correct your work so that you can model the behavior and it is less critical on her?

07-20-2011, 11:13 AM
I agree it's normal. My then 7yo backslid -- went from always punctuating correctly to skipping it altogether. She's a perfectionist, so I didn't want to shut down he writing. I explained that punctuation gives the reader cues as to where to put breaks, emphasis, etc. I read a few sentences without any intonation or pauses, then we punctuated them together.

I also encouraged her to free write daily without worrying about spelling/punctuation/caps. Then later that day I have her go through it and proof-read. I think she had to learn to slow down her writing and think a bit. For copywork and dictation I remind her beforehand to think about caps/punct/spelling and afterwards to check for those things. I think she eventually realized it was easier to just do it right the first time. LOL

Learning to write is a bit of a push-pull/shoot-undershoot-overshoot kind of thing, and I think it's important to gently provide the "rules" without discouraging them from writing. But I think what you are experiencing is normal. :)

07-20-2011, 05:30 PM
My daughter just turned eight and has experienced much of these same frustrations. In second grade last year she would be terribly upset doing math or grammar even though I wasn't pushing it much at all. She has difficulties with handwriting and some learning differences. I had to really step back and look at what my priorities were in homeschooling her and what research tells us about how kids learn. I realized that what was most important to me was helping her to gain self-confidence and to maintain a love of learning. I also read Charotte Mason's ideas about what very small amount of grammar kids really need to know at the end of elementary school. Plus ideas about the need for greater reactivity in learning.

So in the middle of the year last year I switched her to Math U See and that really
helped. I also started letting her do more of her grammar pages orally with just some handwriting thrown in. This year we are continuing with Math U See and doing just a few lines of copy work for handwriting practice. Most of our schoolwork is done via reading and discussions. We also do grammar practice via Mad Libs. These changes have made a world of difference in her. She might fuss that I make her stop playing for school, but it doesn't
last long. She enjoys school now and even her math and copy work have improved in both attitude towards the work and what she can do. She even picks up the Mad Libs and writes the words in herself sometimes! I can see her confidence towards her schoolwork improving as we do it in a manner that really works for her.

So my best advice is to do what homeschooling really allows us to do which is to step out of that "school" mold and education h ow our children really need educating. Grammar doesn't have to be learned by 2nd grade. Multiplication tables don't have to be learned by 3rd grade. There are tons of valuable things to learn in the world that schools don't ever teach. Find what you and your kids love and go from there.

07-20-2011, 06:52 PM
Thank you all, there have been so many great suggestions. Melissa I'm going to go look at your blog now!

She and I also had a heart to heart and I explained what I would like from her and she explained what she needs from me. We seem to need these kind of serious evaluation conversations every other week but they help her decompress and help us get on the same page so it's a good thing.

07-20-2011, 11:48 PM
I am new to HS, and have a younger child, so this may be worthless to you, But I went to a workshop, and subsequently purchased the WriteShop Primary curriculum. I really want them to learn about the process if writing (I always feel like I was just told to write about X.) At the stage my DD is at, we do a lot of "guided writing" where I ask questions, and she dictates sentences back to me, occasionally writing a word. I like it, because I capitalize, punctuate, etc. but she sees all of that as we read it over together. Obviously your DD is past that, but there are a couple things that you might find useful. 1. Editing is part of the writing process, just like brainstorming ideas, and organizing thoughts. 2. A checklist for what to look for as she edits. 3. Make a copy of her writing, and edit the copy. Some kids feel about their writing as they do about their artwork, and it is very hard for them to mess up the original. If edits are done on a copy, the original "work of art" is preserved. But the final version is what gets "published."

07-21-2011, 01:42 AM
Wild Iris is on to something. Sometimes creative types get very frustrated when you try to slow down their creative *process by making them work the rules, before they get that rough sketch out first. Their train of thought will jump the tracks, and then they can only focus on the negatives--which are the rules.

They will be learning how to create drafts anyhow, so why not start now? And then do as she says and refine it.

And I would keep those before and after pieces. Have them evaluate why the refined piece is better. That could also help them to be better communicators on several levels and teach them the art of presentation.