My 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!