Reluctant Learner! At my wits end! HELP!

Discuss unschooling, eclectic, the unit study approach, or any other "unusual" homeschooling method.

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Reluctant Learner! At my wits end! HELP!

Postby Missie_M » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:00 pm

I don't know what to do. My eight year old daughter has always been a very reluctant learner, with tears and tantrums involved.

Recently she is getting better and she is even starting to read without being forced to, but she just won't do any writing. It is like she gets mental block, gets frustrated and it all ends in tears.

She also can not hold any information for longer than a minute, you can cover something in depth and then when you ask her about it, she has forgotten everything even though she was listening avidly.

I decided to back off for long while, thinking that doing anything by force is not going to achieve anything in the long run, and I homeschooled in a very laidback, unstructured, 'unschooling' way. However, she is eight now, and there has to be some kind of structure. She can't go her whole life being unable to even write a letter. She always gets very upset and says she doesn't know what to write, no matter the subject.

She also has problems with concentration, forgetting the answer to something before she has even written it down. I noticed when we went out earlier to a museum, even though art is her number one passion, when she was colouring something in, she was looking around the whole time at other people and children, she wasn't focused at all. Focus and concentrating is another area where she has problems. We can't do anything for longer than ten minutes before it becomes to much for her and we have to leave the rest till later on.

She also can't yet differentiate between a C and an S, a B or a D, and she sometimes writes letters and numbers the wrong way round, or puts a capital letter in the middle or the end of a word. She also skips words or adds words when she is reading.

We haven't started cursive yet as she hasn't even grasped printing.

Is this a sign of ADHD, or dyslexia? Or is she just a very reluctant learner? She is as stubborn as a mule and the smallest thing can take forever to do, leaving us both exhausted. I wanted to make learning as fun as possible, but she just wants to watch cartoons all day or go to hands on museums!

I am open to any kind of suggestion as this isn't just causing a huge problem since she was homeschooled but while she was in school too.

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Postby janaleigh » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:06 am

She also skips words or adds words when she is reading.

My son used to do this and it drove me crazy (he's 15 now). I even paid him, one time, to try and read each word and not add any in because I wanted to see if he could do it.

He didn't get the reading thing completely until about 5/6th grade. Now he reads often, took college classes in 7th grade (writing courses) and has a very successful website where he is the sole writer-go figure. And his spelling is still horrible :)

I can't speak to the other issues but my guess would be that she just may be a late bloomer. The other thing we had him tested for was the irlen processing problems where they use cover overlays-this did help.

Try reading to you daughter and have her tell you back about the story. (Charlotte Mason methods). Also have her try drawing while you are reading to her and see if she remembers more. Some kids need to be doing some kind of movement-to help them remember.

Sorry for all the random ideas....I hope something may be encouraging to you.
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Postby elliemaejune » Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:37 pm

Here's what I want to know:

How long has she been homeschooled?

What teaching materials are you using?
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Postby Naturalnut » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:30 pm

Have you tried just asking her to copy something fun and simple that is already written just to get her into the habit of writing? You can also 'dictate" to her and have her write exactly what you say.

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Postby thinks » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:23 pm

Missy_M, have you also considered whether she may be dyslexic? In which case you will need to relax and back off, and find some specific strategies to help her- there's lots of info on the web too. I'm not saying this is what she has, just adding to your pot of ideas to explore. Your post made me feel so much for you, and just MAYBE you have hold of the wrong end of the stick (metaphorically speaking) and are drubbing both yourself and your daughter needlessly..?

Another suggestion: let her type stuff on the computer... even playing online spelling and maths and logic games will get her reading and starting to write.. :)

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Postby jules88 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:43 pm

I just came on here to post about my son. Who sounds alot like this. He is also 8. I do a mixture of unshcooling, learning by games, field trips and subjects of iterest. He just to me seems to not to want to do the work. For example to finish off this week, we just went to the fair yesterday and so I thought this would be an easy one for him. They ( I hs his twin and younger sis too) were to write something about the fair and then illustrate what they wrote about. I even wrote a list of questions that might spur his thoughts. It was very poor writing (and I don't mean penmanship) at best. None of my kids will stay focused. Even if we are all at the table doing work, they are always poking at each other staring off into space daydreaming etc. They can spend all day on 3 math problems, because in my opinion lack of concentration. Even if they go to another room all by themselves and the door shut they still get nothing done, they will doodle etc anything to not do the work, even if this means that in the end they don't get to play with the neighborhood kids when they get home from school. Other times they zip through the homework with very little to no problem. If this continues my husband is going to want to send them to public school. He thinks that they will show the teacher more respect than me and in doing so, do their homework.
If they just did their homework like they should, then they would be done and out the door in no time! I just don't know what to do! Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Postby thinks » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:02 pm

I've had this problem too and had to do a lot of thinking! I think it all boils down to the children not having intrinsic motivation - i.e. not bursting to do something because of what THEY themselves get out of it. They're simply doing it to please someone else. I'm not talking about tangible rewards, such as 'you get this if you do this" - I mean their own sense of value and worth and pride when they do something.

The answer? Hmm. Firstly, it's NOT YOUR FAULT - nor is it theirs! It's a problem to tackle together.

How? One way is to say "Here are a few non-negotiables - spelling, times tables etc - because they are things you HAVE to know in order to be able to do most things in life. AND now we need to suggest a list of things you're interested in finding out about or doing, so that you're doing things you like."

When they've come up with their ideas (which can take a while- how can you suggest studying Mendel and his pea experiments for instance, if you've never heard of him??) pore over the ideas- it's time for input from you as "guide on the side". Can you come up with any OVERALL 'umbrella' topic or concept that means you all study some things in common, and each can also branch off and do their own independent study on something?

For example: one is interested in volcanos, one in reading, one in aeroplanes. Three off-the-top-of-my head Suggested overall themes:
    Natural vs human-made disasters;
    Energy sources- natural and human-made
    Famous explorers

This is the START... next step is working out some guidelines for them I'd suggest using Bloom's taxonomy to write activitiesvity questions and instructions for them to do, ensuring that they're covering all levels of thinking.

Hope this help :)[/list]

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Postby Lily » Sat Sep 05, 2009 6:51 am

It sounds like she might just need to slow down a bit. Some kids don't pick up writing as quickly as others - mine being one of them. The reading sounds on target, though. Kids tend to go through phases or steps: sounding things out, guessing at the word, near fluency where the mind "jumps" and doesn't read but expects the following words, and finally fluency where it all comes together in a workable manner; the knowledge base is there to allow for subtle jumps without it being a big deal. At 8 she sounds right where she should be. We helped the kid get over that third step by reading together below his level and using a paper guide to isolate lines of text. You can buy plastic ones premade, but a cardboard bookmark with a long hole cut out does the same trick.

For writing we're using Writing Tales this year. Check it out - the first book is for 3-4th grade. It's very simply laid out where the child starts with basic activities like learn what a sentence is, circle the capital letters and ending punctuation, check to make sure these are sentences, including hands on and full body work..and every other week there's one writing assignment that gets progressively more difficult from retelling the story they're reading to writing their own. We tried other programs and this is what is working because its so intense on what needs to happen with just basic skills.

You may want to look up learning styles, too. It could be that she's a kinetic learner and NEEDS to move or do the activity in order to grasp the concept or understand the lesson. There's a variety of curriculum that semi-meet this need, but you'd also need to create or adapt a lot of your own work, too. I will say that an mp3 player is one of the best investments we've made. I've filled ours with classical music and audio books to maximize concentration when its needed for different tasks, like filling in a form or drawing. The lack of outside noises helps him focus better.
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Postby MelissaM » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:19 am

I'd really like to find out how this one is going? Anyone know??
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Postby ThatGirlWithGlasses » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:01 pm

Hello. I was once I very reluctant reader and writer. I don't know what to say to help you. All I know is that my mom stuck with it and forced me to do dictation and to read even when I was throwing a tantrum. It must have worked because today I read more then three books a week ( unless they happen to be really thick) and my favorite hobby is writing.
My mom used to read aloud to me and just as we got to the "Good Part" she would hand the book to me and say " You read for a bit I am getting tired." Or she would just lay the book down and tell me that I was going to have to finish the rest of the story myself. Pretty soon I was ( and still am) reading anything I could get my hands on.

To most of the people who wrote on here.
Your kids sound just like me. I think my mom would be relieved to know I wasn't the only child like this. I never could spell sight words like "Would, Should, What, When, That,This" (ect) properly. I hated neing forced to do anything. I drew endlessly when I was supposed to be doing school. And I am still awful at anykind of math.
One thing I thought might help: Sometimes when my mom would read aloud to me, or try to explain things to me I would kind of blank out. I wasn't trying to be dence ,most of the time I was thinking. Mom would say something and instead of following her line of thought I would rail road onto my own thought track. She would be explaining the Civil War and I was thinking how bad it must hace been for the slaves. She would try to explain the orbit of the earth and my brain started mulling over life on other planets. I still do that ( a LOT) but now I know how to focas when it matters and when to let my mind wander.

I am sorry if I sound like a know it all teen trying to be a smart mouth. But I thought words from some one who was like that as a kid and could relate to the kids might be helpful.

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Postby justaskkarend » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:51 am

My DD was/is a reluctant learner; however, when she was 10 and went for a sports physical, we learned that she needed eyeglasses. It helped us see what was just plain stubbornness and what was actual disability.

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Reluctant Reader

Postby Momma24 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:55 pm

My second daughter was a reluctant reader/ writer for what seemed like FOREVER...and then one day, I found the clue!
She sees EVERYTHING in 'black and white...' and is a perfectionist to boot! So, in her mind, if she were unable to read/ write perfectly, then she was a failure. We SLOWED everything down...(Let's be honest...the English language is a pain with all of the 'exceptions!' Add a 'black and white' child- that spells disaster!) Now, at 16, she STILL sees everything as either RIGHT or WRONG, but she is reading wonderfully and is even taking college classes! My point? There is HOPE! SLOW down and work at THEIR pace...not at the 'curriculum' pace! They will catch up...and soon overtake!
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Postby Blessings4all » Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:38 pm

It sounds like your daughter is a visual learner and perhaps kinesthetic (physical). I would use a lot of imagery when teaching her. Believe it or not, the brain works best in pictures anyway. If she doesn't remember things well, tie them to an image. Take her struggles with b and d. I would have her make a large b on a paper and make it into something which starts with a b like boy. Maybe the b is the head of the boy and he has a hat on. Something like that. Do the same with the other letters she confuses. Let her have fun some day making letters into works of art, decorating them in anyway she can think of. Letters are works of art with calligraphy after all. :wink:
Another way to use imagery with her is to let her draw a picture of a concept that you are teaching her. If she is learning about the molecules in solids, liquids, and gases, she can draw the molecules for each state. If she is learning about the ancient Romans, let her have a history journal where she draws pictures and labels them.
I mention the use of imagery in some of the articles on my homeschool website.
You might want to get her checked for ADD, but I wouldn't put her on medication for it. I think that in most cases ADD/ADHD can be handled with diet, frequent breaks, and other modifications.
Hope this helps you.
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Susan - Homeschooling made easy for you & fun for the kids.

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Don't Force!

Postby southernlover » Mon Jul 09, 2012 12:56 am

Definitely don't try to force learning. It's impossible. Second, I would get her tested for dyslexia. Third, I would ex tv and sugar as much as possible. Diet and TV are HUGE factors in these things. If my son eats sugar (besides fresh fruit) his concentration completely fails! Same thing with the tv.

Once you have established those, I would try more games. Do some fun things outside. Does she like sidewalk chalk? That's great for starting writing... also painting is good. Just be as genuine as possible and play play play, read read read! Get some good, age appropriate living books. Check out for some some booklists.

Good luck- you are doing great!

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Postby brookeh9 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:01 am

I definitely agree to not force anything and to look at the learning style. The more tools that you can provide your daughter, the more it will become an exploration and discovery instead of a task that isn't fun. My children had the same problem. So instead of trying to follow what I knew or what was expected, i began to work with games and began to notice their learning styles to work more effectively with them.

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