Monday, December 22, 2008

Home School High School Math Problem

I had a question from a reader concerning how to handle her home schooled, 15-year-old son who hates math and refuses to do it.

First of all, don't assume a child's dislike for doing school work is because he is rebellious.
It may be he isn't developmentally ready yet or may never be. For instance, our second son took college algebra and successfully moved on into second year math (statistics, I think). (It's totally hilarious, I warned him, if he didn't finish his high school algebra, he would end up having to pay for it in college. It ended up costing him $300. Ha!) Our oldest son, on the other hand, uses math every day as a tile layer, but has never gone past one semester of high school algebra. He just didn't need it. If he ever does, he'll take it at a community college like his brother did.

In any case, one alternative to chucking the whole curriculum is to extend it into a two-year program. Slow down a bit. Make sure he's getting it before pushing him forward. Talk it out. Ask him how he can get it done himself. Work with him on attainable goals.
Another alternative is to wait a year and try again.

However, the problem may be the curriculum itself. I had some trouble with our guys when they got to algebra. We tried Saxon math first, but it just didn't work for them. We switched to Christian Light Education, and it went a little better. However, it ended up neither one completely finished algebra. Shock! Yes, it's true, neither one finished algebra, and I didn't make them. They just weren't able to comprehend it at that time.

Please consider, however, if you live in a state with minimum requirements for home schooled children, you may need to investigate alternatives to the traditional subjects in math. Even accredited public high schools do this. Back in the 1980s, for instance, business math and general math were acceptable classes to take to meet the state requirements for graduation in my high school in Illinois. You don't always have to do everything in order or according to institutionally-ordained time lines either. It's worth looking into.

Nevertheless, you must determine whether or not math is really the problem. Does he balk at doing any school or just math? Are there other things going on in his life? Is it a matter of him going through adolescence? Those can be very turbulent times.

It is important to sit down with him when you are not in an argument and explain there will be times when he thinks he is going to explode. He still has to respect and obey you, but he will be responsible for controlling his emotions. In those times, he must learn to call upon the Lord for strength and peace. He may need to go take a walk or go to his room to be alone for awhile, not as a punishment, but for his own emotional well-being.

Also, a private discussion with your husband is a must, especially when you are overwhelmed by a problem with schooling boys. He will have some very insightful advice, I'm sure.

About this age I noticed our guys were itching to be working somewhere outside of the home. Our oldest son began a construction apprenticeship at age 14 with a trusted friend of the family (know your state's laws regarding apprenticeships and child labor). Our 15-year-old now works at the granite shop with his dad one day a week.

It's good for them to begin to enter the world of men around this age. It gives them confidence and helps bring them out of the middle-school silly stage which some boys go through. The hard work also relieves some of the built-up stress of hormonal changes. Caution is a must, however, since boys are as much at risk of molestation as girls these days. Also, co-workers with rebellious attitudes will absolutely rub off on a child who is not thoroughly rooted and grounded in Christ. Even Christian teens can pick up wrong beliefs and habits which may take years to recover from.

Most of all, keep all these considerations in prayer. The Lord has placed this child in your particular care, and He will give you wisdom to rear him if you ask for it.