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Can anyone give me some math and work habits perspective?

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I'm really struggling here with dd16 and math - well, and her work for school in general.


Here is the text of an email I sent a couple of friends tonight:

I need math advice with K. She is doing Chalkdust Algebra II - and I am embarrassed and dismayed to say she has only finished Chapter 2.6. Sigh. We started school in early August, mind you.


Here are my issues and questions. I'm definitely looking for perspective and any other words of wisdom you have to offer!


First: I did find out that when things got tough, she would "skip" math for the day. YIKES!!!! We have indeed put a stop to that. K is having an incredibly hard time managing her time - she works in her room all day long, but doesn't seem to have much to show for it at the end of the day. I know that in December, I would often catch her knitting and reading at the same time, working on presents. She has been working on school (Algebra & Anatomy) for two days now - she's been working all day, and honestly other than doing two exercises (2.4 and 2.5) and reviewing for an Anatomy test, I'm not sure what she got done. That is beginning to concern me.


Second: I have talked to her about switching math courses. She says she likes Chalkdust - her complaint is that it takes a long time for her to watch the video, select problems, work problems, etc. I just can't see her continuing this pace.


Third: While we have not scheduled her to take ACTs this spring - (I would like her to, but I'm not sure how dh feels about it, so we just haven't scheduled it) - I'm concerned about how she will do on the math portion if she is less than half-way through Alg II.




What would you do in my position?


Make her work here, in the school room, where I can monitor what she's actually doing?


Make her give me an actual accounting for her time?


Change math courses, even though she likes and is "getting" math? We've done Math-U-See up to this point, which she has done quite well on. I know it's not rigorous, but at this point I'm just stumped. Sigh. I thought this would not be quite so hard at this point!!


Just for some background, if you've read this far ;)


K has always been a very bright, diligent, motivated student who has tested well. B/c we have a pile of youngers, she hasn't been supervised very closely as she studies, but that hasn't seem to have been a problem until now (if that is the problem). We school largely in a finished basement, and her bedroom is down here off the main room. She has set up a desk and reading corner in her room, and will be in there - door closed since the Gang can be quite noisy - all. day. long.


She dances ballet - fairly seriously - 3 nights a week. Two afternoons she's out teaching younger students, but she does have time to work on school between teaching and her own classes.


We are doing TOG Year 1, and very, very often she is not finished with her discussion questions on time - or it doesn't seem like she's done much work for the time she's had.


She has given herself a schedule - of 45 minute blocks of time - to do her work for her courses: Spanish (combo of Rosetta Stone & Abeka), Algebra II (chalkdust), TOG Year 1 (history, lit, writing), and Anatomy & Physiology (Apologia). She also practices piano about 30 minutes a day.


What do you think is going on here? I'm really stumped and concerned. She works most of the day Saturday - again, in her room, door closed - just to keep up.


I don't want to make this sound earth-shattering. She's a very intelligent kid - has tested very, very well - but she works so slowly. I don't think she's always been like this, either. She just can't do work at night - she fades by 9 pm, but is up around 6:30. I don't know what she'd do with a traditional h.s. schedule!


Thanks for reading this far. Sorry to ramble - I'm usually the experienced mom everyone turns to, but I am just plain stumped. ANy advice, suggestion, etc. is more than welcome!

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Ground her from her room...to the table...until her work is done correctly, for a couple of weeks and then give her another chance? BUT, if you do this, have her come to this conclusion by herself. When our 16 year old (bright, too:-) forgets to do her work, she limits all of her fun, kinda a self imposed grounding, of sorts.... She is easily distracted when videos/tv etc. is around.

Good Luck.... (PS. I'd rather be knitting, too:-)


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I feel your pain. I've told my teen age daughter, who is quite capable, that things are changing in a few days.:)


I think they need to show their work after each subject or work in the common space. SWB mentions keeping on top of your teens in the WTM. I'm not familiar with her math program but you might need to tell her which problems to finish. I try and then get behind but for us it works best if we correct her math together every day.


If she really isn't going to finish her high school work she needs to reconsider if she has time for ballet. Okay, that's me talking. I threaten and mean it every so often. I tell her she'll have to quit her professional children's choir and that I'll tell her professor why. I also tell her that her well paying baby sitting job isn't necessary. It seems to give her a boost to get things done. :tongue_smilie:


If you get her scheduled can't she retake the test in the fall if she doesn't do well? It might be good to see just where she falls in the testing.


You really aren't alone in this. We'll all keep at it together!

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I'm hoping to hear some good advice on this too. Thanks for the question Heather! My dd15 is having the same problem. She spends all day in her room, but also has little to show for it. (She does ballet 5 days per week as well.) I could have written this post! Is this a common problem? She is my oldest so high school is new to me.


My other two are so noisy, that I know it would be hard for her to work at the kitchen table with us.

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Even my math-quick son spends at least 1 1/2 hours on it. They do it in two sessions - one in the morning with me (3/4 to 1 hour), where we read the lesson together, work the practice problems, and then they try a few problems if I think they need to, letting me look at each one as they do it, and then they finish the problems at night on their own. I'm not familiar with Chalkdust (we do NEM), but as Jann said, I think she probably isn't scheduling enough time for math. Remember that public school students have about 3/4 hour watching their teacher solve problems on the board, and then put in 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours doing problems on their own at home. When you take the college entrance exams, you are being compared to those students. I'm not surprised she isn't farther along in the book, especially if she's found some of it hard going. I would say something like, "I just realized that algebra 2 requires much more time than you've scheduled in the past. (Look to the future rather than critisizing past decisions and take part of the blame yourself.) I'm also worried about how long doing each problem is taking you, so for a while, why don't you show me each problem as soon as you've worked it and let me check it." That will help her to keep going during her math period. It will also make sure that she isn't doing a whole problem set and then discovering she's done something wrong and having to go through and solve the whole thing again. It is more efficient to check each problem as you go along. I tell my children to put a stick or two over the answers and move it along as they go if they are having trouble not noticing the next answer.


I'm not familiar with TOG either, but my impression was that it involves lots of reading and writing? Is 3/4 hour a day enough for all that?


Because I know that we all have lots of things we'd rather be doing than school, I schedule "shcool hours" during which we are supposed to be doing school and nothing else. These are roughly equivalent to public school hours, with a few hours in the evening for the subjects that we don't seem to learn unless we hit them twice a day (math and languages), and extra reading on the weekends and summers. Papers and projects often get finished up on the weekends, too. This is how we manage to balance gymnastics and high school. Unfortunately, college prep high school just plain requires lots of time each day, at least for my only brightish, not very academic-minded sons.


Doesn't SWB say to put the student at the kitchen table for two hours to do great books, because it is hard work? Maybe the kitchen table or someplace away from the distractions of her room and more public, but away from the littles and their noise, would be a better place to work than her own room. I agree with the poster who said she has to decide this herself, though. Can you say you are worried that she is finding her room distracting and suggest that she might like to work at the kitchen table for a while? And tell her that you would have trouble, too, if you tried to do it the way she is? If you are sympathetic, she may confide that she is struggling and be happy that you've thought of a comfortable solution. I've had fairly good luck (along with some spectacular failures LOL) taking this sort of approach with my teenagers. If I approach it such that they can see that I'm just worried and sympathetic about the challenges of their situation and want to help them work out their own solution, they usually will discuss it with me. Often, the real problem isn't what I thought it was and they didn't tell me about it before because they couldn't see a solution or they didn't want to admit it or something like that. I try to suggest several solutions because this makes the solution seem more negotiable and gives them enough ideas that they may come up with a better one themselves. And I try to be very open about how hard it is to make yourself do something you know you should do, and how sometimes you just have to structure your life so that someone or something else helps you to make yourself do it. Working with older teenagers is tricky because you have to treat them like adults but also help bolster their not yet very strong self-discipline and not yet very experienced decision making.




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I always had my kids do their schoolwork downstairs where I could monitor them...yep, even my high schoolers. Also, she may need you to plan out what she's to accomplish each day of the week. That's okay. If she was in school somewhere she'd be told what to do.


Good luck!



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You all have absolutely brilliant replies - thank you!


We do have a very good relationship, and I know she'll be responsive to some of these thoughts. Keep them coming!


:lurk5: (My 4yo is watching me type: she says, 'Do the popcorn one, Mommy!')


I think I'll print some of this up for her, and we'll have a conference while we're out-of-town for the weekend. She got a Panera gift card from one of her ballet students: that might be a great venue for this sort of thing!


Again, thanks. I need to spend more time on this board!

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I saw my teen (now 17yo senior) have issues like this over the last couple of years. More oversight at home helped, but what has really made a difference this year is having him take some courses at the local cc. I've come to the conclusion that he just needed to get out of the house and into a more traditional classroom setting. He has been motivated by their deadlines and the discussions among the other students. It's been a real confidence builder and great stepping stone to college away from home next fall. He hasn't learned anything there that I couldn't have taught him at home, but somehow it seems more "real" to him.


I also think you and your dh need to spend a little time talking with her about her future. Can you go out for ice cream or something? She's old enough that she needs to think about this if she hasn't already. What is in her future? College? A job right out of high school? If she is a serious dancer, does she hope to pursue that as a career? If so, what path does she need to take to get there? If not, what academic areas interest her? If she is more interested in a trade, what kind of training would she need? If college is in her future, I'd definitely have her take the ACT so you can get an idea of where she stands academically and what areas may need more work. If you want an idea of where she's at without signing up for the test, you could check an ACT-prep book out of the library and have her take some practice tests.


I had this kind of discussion with my son several times over the course of high school, and it did help him to focus on his studies when he was able to identify his areas of interest and look ahead to see what courses/skills he would need to get there.


Best wishes as you proceed,


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I feel so much empathy for you, Heather! Our daughter's situation was very similar to yours over the past couple of years. She's a very bright 16 yo, but she got into a funk that caused her to not be able to concentrate as well as she used to. She was also depressed about not being able to finish her work. We have a large, noisy family - she's the 2nd oldest of 7, and the 5 (loud) younger children are quite a bit younger. She would work alone in her room all day and get practically nothing done! Part of her problem was hormones, part was her need for more sleep because she was now a teen, and part was a new need to efficiently manage her time on a new level. She also became more aware socially, and was distracted by the "teen girl stuff" that happens even in homeschool circles, unfortunately. She had some activities, but not as many as your daughter.


Helping her was a process. Here are things we did that helped:

- We prayed for her. There were issues over which we had no control, such as "friends" and their behavior, hormones, etc.

- Dh and I talked about the issues together with her.

- We required her to work in a more public place than her room for most of her subjects, except the one or two *occasionally* that required more concentration. She now works in the living room; most of us work downstairs in our finished basement family room. Cloistering herself in her room only caused her mind to wander, and for her to feel isolated and ignored. It also kept us from being able to monitor her. Monitoring and coaching are very important for teens! They are more mature and they have had a good foundation with homeschooling, but they are facing their studies with a new body and many distractions.

- We addressed time management. Using a watch or timer, we had her spend at most only one hour at a time on a subject. After that, she takes a very short break, and switches! She could come back to that subject later if she needed to. The timer made her aware of those minutes she used to fritter away. Her brain also needed the variety to help her concentrate. We coached her on when best to tackle subjects, and had her work on the hardest subjects when she was freshest and leave the easiest ones for later.

- She and I worked together to schedule her academics, both yearly and weekly. She's doing Chalkdust Precalc this year. She's expected to finish 2-2.5 sections each week. She started this book in August, and is ready for Chapter 4 review after Christmas break. She knows she'll have to work on math through the summer. I keep close tabs on what she's done so she knows she's accountable. I also keep up with her math section checking; we go over the problems she's missed together.

- We made sure she got enough sleep.

- Activities were chosen carefully. I would recommend that you consider dropping or limiting some of your daughter's activities. It seems that your daughter's extracurricular schedule might be too full to keep up with her academics. High school students need time to THINK, and not to try always to see how much they can cram into each day. Either that, or scale back on academics if she want to keep her activities up. She could do Alg II over two years if she's not going to be a math/science major.


As background, we used MUS with her until 6th grade, switched to ABeka Math 5 for 6th grade and Math 6 7th grade, then Chalkdust Algebra I in 8th, CD Geometry in 9th, CD Algebra II in 10, and now Precalc in 11th. She's had to do math through all of the summers to finish. We switched to A Beka from MUS because MUS did not have enough drill for her. Chalkdust was chosen because it is good fit for our math-oriented family, and it's a good value spread over 7 children.


Our oldest, a boy, never had these problems. He picked up on time management skills himself, never had the hormone problems, and was able to tune out the noise of his younger siblings.


Her issues have faded over time. She is still challenged to get her work done, but she's studying for 3 APs, along with Chalkdust Precalc, Bible, and Spanish, so she has a full schedule. Her issues with friends have played themselves out, sometimes in surprising ways, and her hormones have regulated a lot. Activities are the ones she really enjoys, no more than 3 afternoons a week - usually only 2. She got a boost by getting a high score on the PSAT, and is excited to research colleges.


I hope this gave you some ideas to try. Keep us posted on what works!


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My ds can lose quite a bit of time. The things that have worked best for him are using a daytimer type of schedule were he actually logs in the time he starts a subject and the time he stops. He also writes down what time he starts a break and so on....this has helped him to catch himself when he is frittering away time. It also helps me not have to nag so much.


We also use a timer. That way he realizes that an hour or 30 minutes has gone by. It helps him to focus. Frankly I've found the Flylady timer thing works great for me too in terms of my own work. I can easily get sucked into the computer for example, but if I set a timer for a 15 minute break, then I really know when the break is over.


So, for us, logging the time and using a time have been by far the most helpful, practical ways of keeping on track. And I also agree that she probably needs more time on math...the high maths take us 1.5 hours sometimes even two, but we try to keep it to 1.5


By the way.....I still have to remind him to use the timer and the log ocassionally...so don't despair.

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I would only add that when I was in high school, I always had a lot of homework both during the week and on weekends. So your comments about her having to spend all day Saturday working on schoolwork do not seem out of line to me. High school is very content-intensive, and it just plain takes more time than the lower grades do.

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