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frustrated middle schooler part II

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#1 EmilyGF


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Posted 10 October 2017 - 04:33 PM

I keep thinking I fix things and then now things pop up. 


I think he is frustrated by the chaos (?) brought into the house by so many siblings. He's the sort of kid who CANNOT multitask and CANNOT deal with any sort of disorderliness, so much so that he currently has decided sleeping in the laundry room is preferable to sharing a room with his messy little brother. As you can imagine, with three school-aged kids and a baby, (and a mom who is more ADHD than Martha Stewart), he gets frustrated. 


I'm working on boundaries (they all always interrupt each other and me while I'm trying to tutor them individually) and organization, but it is so hard.


Part of me thinks I should just toss everything and order up a Calvert year to hand off to him to do, planning in a daily hour or two of just us, but otherwise letting him go (he's at Dad's work right now doing his studies to get away from the others - and today was a relatively quiet day). 

He said he felt really behind because we took yesterday off for the holiday. I had printed up Monday and Tuesday schedules and told the kids to "Do what you can from them" but that was very overwhelming for him, I think.





#2 SanDiegoMom in VA

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 09:20 AM

I have a lot less going on (just 11 year old twins) but my ds gets anxiety if the day is not structured. He doesn't do well with self led learning, and he doesn't want to choose what to work on and is not able to prioritize himself between things that need to get done vs. things that can slide. I have tried before to give them a list of things and told them to get as much done as you can, and the thought stresses him out -- what if some are more important than others? What if its too much and I can't finish? He really likes to finish everything. 


We have switched to the Kanban method of scheduling -- post it notes on the wall that get moved for every subject.  If I need I put numbers on the post-it notes to indicate which ones to do first, and if there are some tasks I'd like him to get to but aren't necessary for that day, they go on the border of the chart.  Just the act of moving the post it notes to the completed section is very soothing to him. More so that checking things off a list. 


Before the year started I created all the days assignments ahead of time and put them in a list. Then I use an online teacher's program (teachers.io) to schedule out the day and I do that in two week chunks. Then I just make the post-it notes the day before. It's not easy, but it makes his day go so much better.


With chaos and noise, I have no suggestions except headphones. :-( My ds often does his online class using headphones, even though it's entirely text based and there's nothing playing over the headphones! It just helps him concentrate better and reduces external noise.

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#3 ClemsonDana


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Posted 12 October 2017 - 11:54 AM

I only have 2, but my older (6th grade) likes order and my younger likes chaos and being the center of attention. I've got a pocket chart with index cards listing the day's subjects, and they move the cards from 'to do' to 'done' pockets every day. My older loves this method because he knows exactly what to do - every Monday, he does the same subjects, so it's predictable. Older also struggles to work with noise, and at times has chosen to work in my husband's home office or on the porch. For most subjects, I've chosen books where it's obvious what to do next, so my help isn't needed to get started. There are a few subjects that we do together, and older is usually good about grabbing me at a time when younger is occupied to do that work. If we get to the school room before younger, or younger takes a snack break, older will quickly say 'Let's do MCT' to take advantage of the quiet.
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#4 MinivanMom


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Posted 12 October 2017 - 12:56 PM

Even with 6 kids, I try really hard to keep things from becoming too chaotic, because I can't deal with tons of noise and chaos. So I sympathize with your son. If it's reached the point where he's sleeping in the laundry room and going to work with dad, then he needs some changes.


I would start with the room and general day-to-day functioning, because I think it's a huge deal for a tween if they don't feel like they have a quiet place they can retreat to. Is there any way to rearrange the rooms so that he has his own space? I understand if they need to share a room, but sometimes there are ways to reorganize the room so that the mess doesn't spill over onto his side. It helped my current 7th grader a lot when we just physically rearranged the room so that he had a corner that was clearly his own space (that his little brother is not allowed to touch). We also bought a new nightstand for his bed so that he had a space where he could put his things that is not shared with his brother. But I have to be on top of the little guy to be sure he isn't touching big brother's things and to be sure that he cleans up his stuff each day. It isn't fair to 7th grade son if I'm not monitoring and teaching the little guy. I know that's hard with a baby, but it helps to build it into the daily routine.


Do you have a good daily routine going? I don't know how old your baby is, but I would work at building a solid routine around the baby's naps. If it's chaotic when you work with the younger kids, I would plan for oldest ds to work independently in another room during that time. When our curriculum hasn't been conducive to working independently, I have had older kids practice instruments or do assigned reading in a different room while I work with littler kids. But I think it helps a lot for middle schoolers to have a few subjects they can do independently and a daily checklist to work from. It's a lot of work for me to make a checklist, but it really helps the day go smoothly (though I would try to keep the number of items short at first so it's not overwhelming). We've done daily checklists in 5th & 6th and then transitioned to keeping a planner in 7th & 8th.


I also don't think there's anything wrong with moving to Calvert or something else more structured & independent if you think it would help. Some kids thrive with structure, and it's okay to get that structure from an outside provider if that's not your natural style. 

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#5 MerryAtHope


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Posted 12 October 2017 - 04:54 PM

I'm working on boundaries (they all always interrupt each other and me while I'm trying to tutor them individually) and organization, but it is so hard.


This is one area I worked hard on, because my oldest especially just could not cope with or recover well from interruptions in some subjects (usually the ones that required my working one-on-one with him). He really needed some intense time of focus and concentration on a few subjects. (We worked on learning to "go with the flow" and "handle interruptions" during less intense subjects, chores, and other areas of daily life, but protected certain times.)


I made the rule that there were no interruptions allowed unless there was an emergency. An emergency was defined as fire, flooding, copious amounts of blood (not just a little bandaid needed), broken bones, or other serious destruction to body or property. Get specific! No exceptions. If they interrupt you and it's not an emergency ("mom, can I...."), send the child to his or her room until you are done with your current tutoring session. Don't answer questions--not about school work, not about fun time etc... Don't answer the phone during tutoring time. If people coming to the door is a big issue, put a sign on the door that you are schooling and can't be interrupted if necessary. 


Sit them all down and let them know that this is how it will be and that they will have to go to their room to wait for you if they interrupt, and then just be really, really consistent with it. It's really SO helpful! 

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#6 Farrar


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Posted 12 October 2017 - 09:27 PM

If you have the space, I'd physically separate him from the others with his own spot. I only have two and I increasingly have to make them be in different rooms. This wasn't as big an issue when they were in elementary school, but middle school activities are often much more focused and directed - writing longer things, reading longer things, working on longer sets of problems.

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#7 EmilyGF


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Posted 13 October 2017 - 01:14 PM

Unfortunately, giving him his own room would require remodeling that we can't afford now (moving plumbing for washer/drying to third floor) or moving (we love our street and don't want the expense). Kid brother catches school bus at 6:40 so he was always waking him up, which was a big reason for the move to the LR. These are just facts of life right now, unfortunately.

I did deal with the interruptions today by telling kids that anyone who interrupted me would be given extra chores to do. After two interruptions from one kid and one from a second, I didn't get any more (though I did get some rather strong glares...). 


I also realized that if I can't write my kids' tasks on the white board, then they have too much going on. So I'm working on streamlining.


Also... and this is sort of silly but actually really useful... I got my kids' standardized test scores back and they did AMAZINGLY well, which takes a bit of stress off of me. You see, school admissions for the public schools here are based on test scores, and this will make possible future school admissions a lot easier. It means I can relax a bit.



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#8 Rosika


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Posted 15 October 2017 - 04:49 PM

I struggle with focus, and chaos feels more comfortable to me than rigid structure does. My son is the complete opposite. He was my first home school student, and once he hit 10-11, it started to become a problem. At that point I abandoned the DIY/family approach with him, and began to use textbook style curricula for a few subjects. It gave him the order he craved, especially on days when the younger kids were sick or just big into interrupting us. It gave him concrete deadlines ("this chapter" or "these questions") which he thrived with because no deadlines or loose deadlines just screwed up his brain. It didn't look like the home school I had dreamed of, but I had to put those ideals and philosophies aside to meet my student where he was. We still did family history and science, but he had some subjects he could work on independently and orderly. It was an amazing change. I know some kids do well with headphones - noiseblocking kind, ear muff style. My son did better just to have music playing softly as a sort of white noise to cover the kiddie babble and crying and noise (no headphones). 


I'm relieved my other kids are more like me, and do fine with our brand of chaos.  :tongue_smilie:


I'm also so glad you got great feedback from their tests. I know how stressful it is to worry about that stuff, and it's great you can get a little breathing room now!

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