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"I just want to be a regular kid"


Halcyon
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I am a little annoyed right now with my 7 year old. He hates learning his math facts, this is what started this whole thing this morning. We were doing some word problems, which he loves, but got to the point where you can't just intuit anymore, but actually have to DO SOME MATH. And he was annoyed. And I said that it's great he knows what to do for these challenging problems, but that he still needs to work on his math facts. And he started crying and said he "just wants to be a regular kid" and that none of his friends are doing this level math and he hates being a "nerd".

 

"Who calls you a nerd?" I ask.

 

"I do!!!" he says.

 

Okay, well, I explained to him that we are working at his level in each subject; in some subjects he is "ahead" and in others he is on grade level. We always emphasize that every chld is unique, with unique strengths, and we rarely if ever praise him for being "smart". We praise him for working hard on things that don't come easily to him, and leave it at that. But in his afterschool, he alternately takes pride in being able to help other kdis with their math, and gets upset that he is working above grade level in math (and note: he gets upset when he needs to actually THINK, and that's when he says "why can't I just be regular??")

 

Do you see what's going on here?Here's my take; he has no problem being considered "bright", and is not reticent about what he knows. But when we hit sometyhing that is "hard" for him, he makes the excuse that he is "doing stuff that no other kids my age are doing". I told him some kids his age are doing calculus, some are just learning to count, and that everyone is different. And yes, sometimes math is hard and he needs to work at it. That DOESN'T mean it's above his level, just that he needs to work.

 

Personally, I think he pulls the "nobody else is doing this" card when he hits an area that is hard for him, in hopes that I will relent and give him "easier" math.

 

So what do i do? We play lots of fun math games, he loves Sushi Monster on the ipad, we play Speed! and RS games, Like most kids, he needs to WORK at his math facts, and because most things come easy to him, he is resistant to working hard. And then when he DOES work hard he feels that he must not be as smart as he thought, if this is so hard for him.

 

Does this make sense? I am rambling here.

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I have no real words of wisdom. Just a :grouphug: .

 

I know some people start off their HS day or math time with a few minutes of drill of the math facts, no matter what grade level because they feel it helps keep the "I don't know this--waaah!!" type drama to a minimum.

 

Why not try adding in a little extra drill here and there, but in the mean time, could he keep a table of the math facts near by so that he can use it for reference. Maybe not all the facts, perhaps just the facts from 6-12 he can keep a reference on while drilling all the 0-5s until he knows them all, then steadily remove the 6s' then the 7s', etc from his reference table until he doesn't need to reference them anymore?

 

7 is still kind of young, so I guess just hanging in there will ultimately be the thing that gets it done. :grouphug: :grouphug: :grouphug:

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I remind my kids that it is very hard these days to find a decent-paying job without strong math skills. I also remind them that they are lucky they don't live in China where there is a best-seller entitled Beat Your Kids Into Peking University (the Chinese equivalent of Harvard). They have plenty of time to "just be a kid" AFTER they have finished their assigned work.

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Parts of that sounds familiar. Even though DD is a little advanced, she melts down easily. The most I ever push her ahead in math is 3-6 months. It just isn't worth the stress. We will get to where we are going on schedule (hers), so for us, that's all that matters. Hope that makes sense.

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This prevalent culture of mediocrity in America is the most difficult obstacle I have found to teaching. It affected me roughly from ages 8-18, but I was lucky enough to still get into a challenging college where the culture was anything but mediocrity. By then I was miles behind, but I never forgot the impression it made on me to be around people who had higher aspirations than mine. I still think about "what could have been", but not much. I could not persuade my kids either that the world was not entirely as limited as the near zero competition level in their schools, even their elite private one.

 

I would guess the only treatment again is encouragement (lap therapy?), and continuing to try to find the joy in the subject. There are two dangerous extremes, one of not wanting to work harder than ones friends, and the other of not enjoying being overshadowed by really stellar students. I began to find my middle way when I learned to immerse myself in the work for the fun and challenge of it, and to enjoy the company of stimulating people, even those much better and brighter.

 

They are pricey, but I think those summer camps where kids meet other like minded kids, good material, and top instructors, are very beneficial.

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:grouphug:

 

One thing that has helped for DD is sending her to the dance waiting room where the girls who do multiple classes do their homework between classes with a book to read (I've done this simply by volunteering to supervise a few times each semester). She's able to see, there, that pretty much everyone hits a snag now and then with math and gets frustrated by it, no matter what the level is-and she also has a chance to see, first hand, that her workload is quite a bit lower, despite working on a higher level, than other kids her age, and is certainly lower than the other kids working on her level. Because they're coming to dance after a full school day, and are still often spending several hours on homework. She was probably done with everything assigned by noon, and really doesn't have ANY homework. Stops the whines a bit.

 

One thing I did realize in the last year was that DD really didn't have any area where she was one of a bunch of strong kids. She was always either on a completely different plane entirely, or she was in a physical activity where she was actually one of the weakest kids of her age group. She never was "one of the group". Now that she's started to have those outlets where she's one of a group of kids who all enjoy math and are good at it, she's a lot less focused on seeing academics as her defining feature.

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I don't really have any advice, but I see my son in your comments. He loves school -- when it's easy for him. However, for anything he has to work hard to learn, he fusses more. Running laps around the backyard does help him when he just needs to be able to blow off steam or concentrate more. I don't think it's a culture of mediocrity for him, that's been his personality since birth for most things that don't involve moving or eating (two items he has always excelled in). One thing I think might be happening with my son is he seems afraid to fail with some tasks, so if he's always doing easy work, he won't have to worry about failing.

 

7 is young still, and he likely doesn't have the maturity to realize why he wants the easier work (laziness, fear of failure, not wanting to be different). I have a gifted 7 yo in PS who wanted to learn multiplication. He was fine and then he realized it would be two more years of adding and subtrating at school before he could do multiplication there and he didn't want to learn it too early and be bored. No amount of reasoning with him would get him to change his mind. (Hopefully he'll be homeschooled next year along with my other son, but that's still up in the air.)

 

Another thought is as adults, how many of us always want to be pushing hard and doing difficult tasks? I know when I worked full-time I loved challening projects, but it was also nice to have the mindless work interspersed in there to take a mental break.

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Have you tried to find a local group of math accelerated kids around his age? A math circle or something comparable, such as a competition math group? I find that when my dds are around others who are at and/or above their level mathematically, it really inspires them.

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Hey, what's wrong with math nerd? I was one myself. (Where's the wink smiley when you need it?)

 

 

Nothing wrong with it if one is happy in that "persona," but this is a kids who is saying he "hates being a nerd." Now, maybe, this is just plain old work avoidance. I dunno. Or maybe it is something else.

 

We do a fair amount of math acceleration with my son (and it is hard for me to remove the bias of my experience) especially on such little understanding of case with Haylcyon's son.

 

With my boy there are two issues:

 

One, he needs to blow off steam. When he's had hard play brain-work comes easier.

 

Two, while being very strong in math this strength does not define him socially with his peers (or in the home). At school my son is seen as a very outgoing kid who plays a bunch of sports (currently lacrosse), who loves boy energy and the trouble that follows, and coincidentally plays piano and is good at math.

 

So he gets to be a "regular guy" and a bit of the scholar-athlete, which is a much more comfortable place for him that it would be if he was known as "the math nerd."

 

People are different. But having something that helps "round" you n the eyes of classmates can be helpful to school children, and to the child's own self image.

 

And I say this as someone very interested in cultivating the academic side of my child's life. But it is good to have balance, unless it is the child that is single-minded and driven. If not, I'd look towards the Golden Mean.

 

Bill

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In situations like this I turn to "lap therapy."

 

Run 'em until they are about ready to drop from exhaustion, and then propose (in a chipper sounding voice), "wanna take a quick break and work on some [fill in the blank here]?

 

Bill

 

 

And here I thought lap therapy meant cuddles and cookies/ chocolate lol. Halcyon, now you know what we do when we hit a snag. ;) (found the wink smiley!)

 

Would reading mathematician biographies help? Or watching videos about them? Mine watched the one about Andrew Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorem when he was about your son's age and he decided it would be really cool to be a math nerd. I agree about what someone said about him being 7. Math facts were only really solid here around age 8+ or so. Give it some time and in the meanwhile, hugs!

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And here I thought lap therapy meant cuddles and cookies/ chocolate lol. Halcyon, now you know what we do when we hit a snag. ;) (found the wink smiley!)

 

That was my first thought, too, before it occurred to me that it really, really did not sound like Bill. :)

 

Would reading mathematician biographies help? Or watching videos about them? Mine watched the one about Andrew Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorem when he was about your son's age and he decided it would be really cool to be a math nerd. I agree about what someone said about him being 7. Math facts were only really solid here around age 8+ or so. Give it some time and in the meanwhile, hugs!

 

 

Good idea. Another possibility is Hard Problems, the documentary about the US IMO (math olympiad) team from a few years ago. The kids are unashamed math nerds and pretty charming, as well.

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You all might be surprised (and my son would certainly be embarrassed if you knew) how much math and language arts work we do while "cuddling."

 

It's all about finding balance :D

 

Bill

 

Ah, I don't doubt for a moment that you're cuddly as all get-out. I would, however, be extremely surprised if you had an adorable name for it and used said name on a public message board. :)

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Ah, I don't doubt for a moment that you're cuddly as all get-out. I would, however, be extremely surprised if you had an adorable name for it and used said name on a public message board. :)

 

 

I don't really have a special name for it; however, I am grateful to the folks at Art of Problem Solving, because saying, "You wanna do a little Beast?" sounds much more manly than some of the alternatives :D

 

Bill

 

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What are you doing to cultivate a "persona" beyond "math nerd?"

 

Bill

Oh, it isnt just math nerd lol. It's reading nerd too!

 

Jk. Sorta.

 

He loves to dance and do crafts, but really, he doesnt have a ton of friends with whom he can discuss the kind of things that interest him, kwim? He has friends, but just not the "sit down and talk about things" friends.

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:grouphug:

 

One thing that has helped for DD is sending her to the dance waiting room where the girls who do multiple classes do their homework between classes with a book to read (I've done this simply by volunteering to supervise a few times each semester). She's able to see, there, that pretty much everyone hits a snag now and then with math and gets frustrated by it, no matter what the level is-and she also has a chance to see, first hand, that her workload is quite a bit lower, despite working on a higher level, than other kids her age, and is certainly lower than the other kids working on her level. Because they're coming to dance after a full school day, and are still often spending several hours on homework. She was probably done with everything assigned by noon, and really doesn't have ANY homework. Stops the whines a bit.

 

One thing I did realize in the last year was that DD really didn't have any area where she was one of a bunch of strong kids. She was always either on a completely different plane entirely, or she was in a physical activity where she was actually one of the weakest kids of her age group. She never was "one of the group". Now that she's started to have those outlets where she's one of a group of kids who all enjoy math and are good at it, she's a lot less focused on seeing academics as her defining feature.

 

"One thing I did realize in the last year was that DD really didn't have any area where she was one of a bunch of strong kids. She was always either on a completely different plane entirely, or she was in a physical activity where she was actually one of the weakest kids of her age group"

 

This really resonates with me, he has no groups or activities where more kids are acadmically advanced or simply engaged. He plays hockey but is a weak player and doesnt love it and plans to stop. He did really enjoy an art class i used to send him to. It was pricey, so we stopped, but i may, rethink that. It was engaging fun art, and the teacher was great.

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I don't know if this will help, but I often say the phrase "everyone should be working at his challenge level." So a "regular" kid should be working at his/her challenge level as well (though I say "should" because I know it doesn't always happen). But in that sense it is "fair" because everyone is working at their challenge level (instead of being "fair" by everyone doing the same thing).

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My 11 year old still asks to cuddle with me. If he weren't nearly as big as me I'd probably still let him sit on my lap while I read to him and I know he'd do it.

 

I'll take it for as long as I can get away with it. They grow up so fast!

 

I with you!

 

Bill

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We ran into that a little last year, and I found it was because ds was watching some blasted Disney program where the stereotypically nerdy character was always being made fun of. Arrrrgh!

 

I put the kabash on that one right quick. Gradually, as he matured a bit, he was more impressed with Richard Rusczyk than the moronic kids on TV. :)

 

I think a lot of this is just being young, and while they're immature it's up to Mom and Dad to reframe a lot of this thinking. That, or just don't give too much credence to what they complain about. The truth is, when they work hard and experience success, they will have the personal satisfaction of a job well done, and the kudos of people around them to encourage them. But understanding this takes time and maturity.

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And here I thought lap therapy meant cuddles and cookies/ chocolate lol. Halcyon, now you know what we do when we hit a snag. ;) (found the wink smiley!)

 

Would reading mathematician biographies help? Or watching videos about them? Mine watched the one about Andrew Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorem when he was about your son's age and he decided it would be really cool to be a math nerd. I agree about what someone said about him being 7. Math facts were only really solid here around age 8+ or so. Give it some time and in the meanwhile, hugs!

 

 

Where can i find those movies?

 

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Andrew Wiles/ Fermat proof

Hard Problems (this is the dvd on amazon...if someone has a link to a free version I'd be grateful!)

He might like The Story of Maths too (4 part BBC series)

We also liked the one on Erdos...there may be some non-age appropriate mentions...my memory is vague on that

There are others...I'm not able to google them all right now but you might be able to snoop around on youtube with keywords like "pbs nova mathematics" or "bbc mathematics", "pure mathematics", and so on.

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Please, I just spent 15 minutes trying to track down "Hard Problems"-----if anyone knows how to watch it, let us all know!!

 

Dd and I enjoyed the book "Count Down" about the six American IMO team members from 2001 http://www.amazon.com/Count-Down-Beautiful-International-Mathematical/dp/0618562125/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1365464601&sr=8-2&keywords=Count+down

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I am a little annoyed right now with my 7 year old. He hates learning his math facts, this is what started this whole thing this morning. We were doing some word problems, which he loves, but got to the point where you can't just intuit anymore, but actually have to DO SOME MATH. And he was annoyed. And I said that it's great he knows what to do for these challenging problems, but that he still needs to work on his math facts. And he started crying and said he "just wants to be a regular kid" and that none of his friends are doing this level math and he hates being a "nerd".

 

"Who calls you a nerd?" I ask.

 

"I do!!!" he says.

 

Okay, well, I explained to him that we are working at his level in each subject; in some subjects he is "ahead" and in others he is on grade level. We always emphasize that every chld is unique, with unique strengths, and we rarely if ever praise him for being "smart". We praise him for working hard on things that don't come easily to him, and leave it at that. But in his afterschool, he alternately takes pride in being able to help other kdis with their math, and gets upset that he is working above grade level in math (and note: he gets upset when he needs to actually THINK, and that's when he says "why can't I just be regular??")

 

Do you see what's going on here?Here's my take; he has no problem being considered "bright", and is not reticent about what he knows. But when we hit sometyhing that is "hard" for him, he makes the excuse that he is "doing stuff that no other kids my age are doing". I told him some kids his age are doing calculus, some are just learning to count, and that everyone is different. And yes, sometimes math is hard and he needs to work at it. That DOESN'T mean it's above his level, just that he needs to work.

 

Personally, I think he pulls the "nobody else is doing this" card when he hits an area that is hard for him, in hopes that I will relent and give him "easier" math.

 

So what do i do? We play lots of fun math games, he loves Sushi Monster on the ipad, we play Speed! and RS games, Like most kids, he needs to WORK at his math facts, and because most things come easy to him, he is resistant to working hard. And then when he DOES work hard he feels that he must not be as smart as he thought, if this is so hard for him.

 

Does this make sense? I am rambling here.

 

I have a bright kid. 13yo ds. Gifted probably, but I've low keyed that. We have had our share of motivation problems.....I got the most incredible thoughts from a psychiatrist the other day. When I told him my son does great with school work but doesn't apply himself and could do so much better than he does.....he shrugged and said, "you will hear that about him and say that about him dozens more times before he is grown. It is a common thing wiTh bright kids. It was the same with me."

 

So take heart. He will be fine.

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Fabulous, thanks!

 

To the OP, 7yo was when my son had these issues of wanting to be the same. He went to school and came back crying that he was a lot smarter than the other kids, a lot lot smarter, and he wanted to be the same as everyone else so that he could relate to them. Homeschooling has helped so much in that he loves what he's doing. He still has one of his old school friends and views that child as an "action friend". Boy do they have fun! But he thinks of academics as a huge personal interest and doesn't let other kids wear him down. He was going to a sports class where the other kids were school going, and they ostracized him for liking math (a subject much despised in school for being "boring"). We left the group eventually not because of this issue, but I did feel a weight lifted off my shoulders :).

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Joining this late, but I would likely say, with little emotion, "You're a regular kid" and continue on with what we were doing. Basically, my approach would be to put the behavior on extinction, behaviorally speaking (treating it as a ploy to get out of work by tugging at mom's heart strings). But that would be the purpose of this behavior from two of my homeschooled kids.

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What are you requiring him to do to practice his math facts? If it's worksheet style, I get the same thing from ds, especially if he's convinced he already knows how to do it. We review math facts with beanbag tossing. It works really well. When he was 7 we did it while he bounded on the trampoline.

 

I'm not one who feels the need to make everything fun, but when it comes to rote memorization and math facts practice I'm happy to use movement to keep my ds engaged.

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Are you sure no one actually called him a nerd at the after school program? If he is helping other (especially older) kids, it wouldn't surprise me if someone did call him nerd or joke or just basically point out that he is different. When you are a kid, being different can be uncomfortable. I totally get teaching our kids to be who they are and rise above mediocrity...but they are still kids who just want to feel normal.

 

Along the lines of what other posters have said, I have had success reading bios of gifted people. I agree with texasmama too. He is a regular kid. Every kid has strengths and weaknesses. I know you had that talk with him already. If you think helping the other kids is leading, at least in part, to these feelings I would have him stop.

 

On another note, I think it is perfectly natural for him to wonder why some things are easy and others seem impossible. Heck, there are oodles and oodles of threads about our own confusion as homeschooling parents who wonder why can my kid _____ but not _____?! :tongue_smilie:

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They are pricey, but I think those summer camps where kids meet other like minded kids, good material, and top instructors, are very beneficial.

 

 

As a self-professed math nerd who attended one of those camps (run by the future AoPS guys, no less!), I have to say that was the best month of my teen years. It was WONDERFUL to be surrounded by other kids as into math as I was and to get a taste of what college would be like. I still keep up with many of them, almost 20 years later. For kids who acknowledge and embrace their love of math, I highly recommend it.

 

One of my high school boyfriends went to the IMO. Only the mathiest guys for me.

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People are different. But having something that helps "round" you n the eyes of classmates can be helpful to school children, and to the child's own self image.

 

 

 

This post resonates with me because its similar to what we've been doing. My son is definitely a math nerd and has a bit of a dorky personality to boot, but I've long thought it important to develop "cool" interests that connect him to his peers. Not a huge issue now, but I'm very cognizant of issues that can face a homeschooled only boy in a the teen/tween years.

 

For us its activities we already do like mountain biking, skiing, and rock climbing. But I look for other opportunities and just enrolled him in a Crossfit style kids fitness class. He's very proud that he can keep up with the older kids there and that he's been riding a bike for 3 years while many of his peers just had their training wheels off. He gets attention for that stuff more than being ahead in math or his academic interests. Of course its not just popularity... I truly believe that lots of hard , challenging physical work is great for kids, especially boys.

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Your son just sounds frustrated. I think it's natural to want to leave something when it gets tough. I do that often enough with my Italian when it gets tough -- such as right now! :)

 

If it makes you feel any better, my 15-year-old son complains almost every. single. day. He hates analyzing literature the most. Nowadays he realizes that he has to do certain things in school but he just needs to sound off to someone. We just empathize and then he begrudgingly finishes what he has to do. Occasionally, he realizes that the project was not so bad afterall and he actually learned something interesting.

 

It is really good that you are praising your son's effort. Another thought about effort and persevering is that boys tend to keep with something when they feel they're one of the bigger and better fish in the pond. That might be why your son likes helping other kids. While he's helping them, he's cementing what he's learned, so that might not be a bad thing for him to do.

 

Good luck!

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A little update. This morning we spent time playing with a book called Number Patterns, working on physical representations of squares and triangular numbers. Then he played around with Fibonacci which he has always enjoyed. He enjoyed showing Dad that 1+3=4 which is the square of 2, and 1+3+5=9 which is the square of 3 and so on. He enjoys patterns and cryptographs immensely. Then we watched the end of Fermats Last Theorem. No drill work, but that's ok. I Am happy to see him excited about math.

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A little update. This morning we spent time playing with a book called Number Patterns, working on physical representations of squares and triangular numbers. Then he played around with Fibonacci which he has always enjoyed. He enjoyed showing Dad that 1+3=4 which is the square of 2, and 1+3+5=9 which is the square of 3 and so on. He enjoys patterns and cryptographs immensely. Then we watched the end of Fermats Last Theorem. No drill work, but that's ok. I Am happy to see him excited about math.

 

Oh, so it is the good old Option #3: Drill is boring and an insult to my intelligence. I'll perk up when the work gets interesting :D

 

Bill

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Another comment occurred to me on general motivation, although it may or may not apply at various ages. One day when I was discouraged at lack of interest and participation by my graduate students, I went to my chairman, who sympathetically gave me off the top of his head some beautiful advice on motivating students. Unfortunately I did not try to write it down until later, when I could only remember parts of it, something like:

 

"Try to catch their imagination, either by the intellectual challenge of the material, or the aesthetic appeal, or the practical application, or the historical significance."

 

 

I ran across a hand written account of this advice today, some 20 or 30 years after receiving it. It still seems pertinent to most teaching.

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My advice is to ignore the whole "nerd" issue. Red herring.

 

Personally, I think he pulls the "nobody else is doing this" card when he hits an area that is hard for him, in hopes that I will relent and give him "easier" math.

 

This is the crux of the issue, I think. My daughter does the same sort of thing. All grins and giggles until she has to stop, think, and use brain-power processes she would rather not use. Then she falls into a pile of tears and self-pity and becomes uncooperative.

 

So that is what I make an issue out of: the attitude. I ignore the tears or pity party. I tell her something like, "You're not allowed to give up just because you actually have to work at this now. You will not always immediately know the answer to something just by looking at it. That's life. Having to work through this is not the end of the world."

 

I'm nice like that. :tongue_smilie:

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  • 2 weeks later...

We do math first, but for this instance I'd announce a change. Writing first, reading, lunch, recess, math in the afternoon (for that kid only, the others generally have afternoons free).

 

At that age I'd confront this with bible/character copywork that is directly about courage, hard work, perserverence, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and anything else I could find, every day, without commenting that the copywork has anything to do with his behavior.

 

And when it came time for math class I'd announce there are a lot of hard things in life and a lot of times when you have to memorize something, and when it doesn't come naturally it's time to study. And I'd announce that since he doesn't seem inclined to study on his own, we were going to study together until he gets his facts. It's important to make this very positive and excited, like a game. And then I'd get out the flashcards and work with him nonstop, 3 hours a day, until he had them down, all facts 1-12, and possibly square roots and the prime numbers under 100, depending on attitude. And when he did instead of going back to a formal curriculum I'd do Ray's Arithmetic with him for a while, because it's very verbal and focused on drill and mental math rather than "easy" things. I'd go by my intuition about how long to do that, but it would probably be for at least a few weeks after an attitude change from fighting me to happy and excited about it. And randomly do fact drills in the car, at dinner, anytime, on the facts you know are hardest for him.

 

An alternative is using games for facts, but I think it's a life skill to learn to tackle difficult things that we're afraid of head-on, so that's the approach I use in those situations. We can tackle it together, but we're specifically going towards the things we're afraid of. On a spiritual level I think we are often afraid of the things we need the most, and courage is a virtue I really value, so even though I'm relaxed about a lot of things, when it comes to courage I'm all tiger mother.

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