Monday, June 27, 2005

Wed Feb 23, 2005: Hard Day

I've been unofficially blogging my e-lists for years, before I finally decided to spare them the burden. Is there a way to change the font or color of the text inside a post? That would help with flashbacks. Anyway, here's a post from a few months ago:

Yesterday I was doing lessons with the 5yo. At her request we were working in the girls' bedroom. We started off with math and had a fill in the blank question, "2,4,6,8,__,12"

She said, "I don't understand. What's the answer?"

"Let me show you." I look around for the abacus, which was still in the room where we usually do lessons, then counted off on my fingers. "Two, four, six, eight, what am I doing each time? I'm adding--"

"No! Tell me the answer! Don't show me, tell me!"

I hold up 10 fingers. "It's this many."

"No it's not! Tell me the answer!"

Okay, I figure, she's not ready for this. "Do you want to put this aside and work on it later?"

"No! Tell me the answer right now!"

Just then I'm saved by the mail carrier blowing his horn to let me know I've gotten in a package of used children's books off ebay. I bring in the box while Bright-eyes follows, still fussing and demanding the answer. "Let's go do it on the abacus." She follows, still carrying on. I don't know what else to do so I start to work the problem out on separate lines of the abacus while she fusses behind me. In the midst of my counting and her temper tantrum I hear her say "'s ten...!"

"Yes! Ten is the right answer! Good for you, yeah!"

"No it's not!"

We need to break this scene. "Yes, go write it down while I let the lady know the books arrived." I go to the computer with her still fussing behind me. But when I get back a few minutes later she's through fussing and we go on to another topic. She doesn't throw another tantrum during lessons.

I don't know if I handled it well. I told the Pro when he got in as we were having tea-time. When I got to Bright-eyes figuring out the right answer she said proudly, "I went and wrote it down." I hadn't known that, and instead of being fussy she's now proud.

Dh was silent for a moment, then said, "I want you to pay careful attention to what happened. This is a major problem with the school system. There's two different mental processes going on here at the same time. The first was her frustration over not knowing the right answer giving way to anger at you for not giving her what she wanted. At the same time another part of her brain was quietly working out the
right answer. You didn't give in to her fussing, the way they do too often in the school system. You waited and observed her working out the right answer, then rewarded her for that."

Bright-eyes smiled proudly because she got the answer right.

Dh told her, "Yes, Mommy knew the answer. But the important thing is for you to learn to figure things out for yourself. You can't always rely on Mommy to think for you. If you always let someone else think for you and never learn to think for yourself, you will end up always doing what they want you to do. You'll never be able to figure out what you want to do and follow your own dreams."

She looked very thoughtful at that.

I still don't know if I handled it as well as I could have. I hope she doesn't throw many more though. It tires me out to have to handle such as that.

Five months later: that's the only such tantrum she's ever thrown over math, which she now loves. Phonics is a different matter. For a while she was throwing such tantrums over phonics almost daily. Not because she couldn't read, she was reading at a third-fourth grade level at the time. She was trying to memorize all the words instead of breaking them down phonetically, and getting bogged down and frustrated. She hated putting sounds to letters for a while, but now she's getting better at it, the tantrums have almost disappeared, and both her reading skill and the time she spends reading have gone through the roof.

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