“You did great! As a reward, here’s more work!”

wpid-IMAG1608-1.jpgMy oldest daughter struggles at times to focus on math.  There is absolutely no doubt that it has improved over the years, but every now and then there are rough spots for us.  We work together to keep her moving along, both of us compromising with each other to get the job done–making sure she understands math.  A few months ago we transitioned from finishing Saxon Math 5/4 to beginning Saxon Math 7/6.  We skipped over Saxon Math 6/5 as I saw very little presentation of new material when compared to Saxon Math 5/4.

Well, she began to bog down a bit in math, and her lessons were beginning to push into an hour or more with several outbursts.  She’s the type of kid who you’ll get further with if you compromise and work with her rather than pushing, pulling, and shoving.  Also, I thought perhaps we needed to slow down from doing a lesson a day because I had skipped ahead a whole book.  So I decided to cut the lessons in half.  One day she did the first 15 and the next day she did the last 15.  (We continued to do the mental math and Life of Fred as I’ve described earlier, as well.)  This approach worked well, and math got back to bearable again.

Now, after a few weeks of this, math is going super well and super fast.  She is ultra excited!  “Mom, am I doing okay in math?  Am I doing it fast enough now?”  I am so proud of her, and I can see she feels so proud, too!  And happy!  And confident!  She has started knocking out the fifteen problems in about 15-20 minutes with very few errors.  It feels good to her.

And now my dilemma.  It’s time to ramp her back up to keep “at her edge”–the point at which learning is hard but not too hard.  She’s ready for the full problem set again.  In other books, I’ve skipped problems I knew she readily knew how to do in order to work with her short attention span.  However, in this book, she needs to do all the problems because I just don’t sense she is as comfortable with them as I’d like her to be yet.  I want to give her all 30 problems, but I see the mule balking.

And I think about how horrible of a reward for her persistence and efforts it will be for me to slap on all 30 problems.  “Yes!  Since you are doing so well, why don’t you do more?”  Now I know this will be the ultimate outcome one way or another, but when you put it into words like that, it doesn’t sound quite fair, does it?  And in life, it often does work this way.  And some people thrive on it, and some people learn to just do enough so they aren’t asked to do more.  I want to make sure my kids always work to their full capabilities, regardless of the load they may be asked to carry.

How can I make sure that my daughter sees the request to do more as a positive thing–rather than something to manipulate and hide from in the future?  I don’t know.  Silly thought.  Just throwing it out there because it struck me hard when I was talking to my husband about it.  She’s just so happy and pleased with herself, and now I’m going to say, “Good work, but now I need more.  The more you are able to do, the more you will be asked to do.”  I can see where this might affect work ethic (now and in life) in certain personalities.

Have there been times when we reward our children with more work based on their successes?  Often it is just a subtle part of growing up, but sometimes it is glaring.  How does this make them feel?  What response does it bring about in them?  Is the response different for each child’s personality?  Does it depend on the task in which they are given more responsibility?  Do you have a child that hides or balks with more responsibility?  Or one who manages to somehow get out of the increased responsibility, maybe pushing it onto siblings?  Do you have co-workers who take advantage of your doing more which allows them to do less?

Anyhow, what I’ll do in this situation is bump her up to 20 problems a day and see how that goes.  Then go from there.  But it was a good time for me to step back and make sure I always observe how success that requires more work affects my children.

Have a great day!  Enjoy your kids!



13 thoughts on ““You did great! As a reward, here’s more work!”

  1. andthreetogo

    That is an interesting conundrum. Now that I think of it, I do that to z all the time already… Though I never thought of it. She is at the “I want to do it by myself” stage so adding little daily chores or responsibilities is easy because she wants to learn more. I don’t know how I will handle it as she gets older and it could seem more a punishment than a reward for progressing. I will be following to see what others say.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yes, it has always seemed like an advantage for them until about this age! Now capability is rewarded with more chores and more schoolwork. “Look! You’re tall enough now to reach the dryer! Fold the clothes and put them away!” “Or you’re playing too much, put the dishes away.” 🙂

  2. frogotter

    I don’t know if this would work for your family. But what we do is, if it’s going well the boys can set their own problems in the same style. Then they do more problems, but it feels like a reward.
    Sometimes, we add on an exchange where they can set me a couple and I’ll set them a couple. It seems to make it more fun.
    We try to reward doing well with greater choice. E.g. in your case, if she did the first 15 well, I’d let her pick which five to finish with, or let her design her own five more.
    Anyway, congratulations on maths getting better!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! That is just a great idea! My oldest likes very much to be in control of situations, and I think this sounds like a great compromise for us! I am so glad you piped in! Thank you! (And I am so grateful math got better for us, too. I thought she’d never be an independent worker! But she’s getting there except for these occasional bumps in the road.) Hope your homeschooling week goes well!

  3. The Vanilla Housewife

    I sucked at Math. I just wish my kids will be awesome with numbers. I think I am numbers impaired. I go dizzy when I see formulas LOL.
    I so envy your patience and your dedication to teach your kids Terri. I love tutoring my little ones but I doubt if we all stay sane out here if I home school them. LOL

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I am not a math natural, either (but a stubborn mom and a great high school teacher took care of that). That’s why I like teaching math to my kids; to teach them the gaps that I had or help bridge the difficult concepts that I remember running into. Kids do great when parents simply care and take time to help them and look over their work each day. That’s what my mom did! (I remember doing flashcards till I wanted to puke while she watched TV. LOL! I also remember, “You knew that. You should not have missed that. That was a stupid mistake. Don’t make stupid mistakes, Terri.”) Ok. Sorry for reminiscing. I’m not patient, and I’m probably insane. 🙂 (And I know homeschooling isn’t for everybody!)

      1. The Vanilla Housewife

        I agree! My husband helps my son with his homework because I come home pretty late but I still check them when I get home. We really need to be involved! I’m just scared that when he gets to highschool and asks for my help with math homework, I am pretty sure I will be useless! Hahahaha!

  4. Julie

    Very Good questions! And I was just thinking a possible solution would be to bump up to 20 for now, and then you said you were doing that! Lol! Anyway, I was also thinking the whole time about your approach to foods the kids don’t like, by giving it to them in small portions. Maybe keeping her confidence up and taking 2 yrs (if even) to do the book that is next year’s level anyway is the key? A lot of other curriculums don’t do as much repeating as Saaxon and the kids still learn. We use Singapore and every lesson is geared down a bit, but each kid is different. Some thrive with doing a bunch of problems quickly bc they feel accomplished, while others are overwhelmed by it. I think you’re doing the right thing!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yes, yes, you are right. We have no hurry to complete the book in a year. We can definitely take our time! Confidence in math is key, I think, for sure! And you’re right, too. Saxon Math repeats like the dickens. But darn it, can’t I just slam the book down and say, “Do all 30 problems today. You’re capable and need to quit fiddle-farting around!”? (Joking. Just a key reminder that patience is perhaps not as important in homeschooling as self-control!) Thanks, Julie.

      1. Julie

        Haha, so true again! Homeschooling definitely pushes our limits as moms too…like where do we draw certain lines, etc.? It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! In the end, you know your child best and will do what’s best accordingly!

  5. IrishMum

    That’s a tough one, Terri! We work by time, rather than how much they have done. Mostly it works. Sometimes I make them do extra time if I think they didn’t do enough in the allotted time. It’s hard to know how many questions is the right amount to do with math. Sometimes my boys work hard, but only do a handful of questions, and sometimes they do 20-30 questions, but they are messing around.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I have a friend who started working by time for her kids this past year. She said it worked great, too! I was too afraid to try that for fear that only 8-10 problems would get done ever. My girl can stare out the window a long time! Something to keep in my arsenal of ideas for sure. Sometimes kids shock you when you try something new and it goes over with flying colors!


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