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Old 06-11-2018, 05:50 AM   #1
arelyn
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Default Ideas for the unmotivated child

I have no idea what to do with my 7 year old for homeschool this year. We've been really laid back and unschooly but this has just led to him following me around bored. If I try to do something schoolish with him it usually leads to him throwing a fit. Even when I let him pick topics he rejects doing activities, even when framed as "Hey, let's do this fun thing together."

I could probably make him really happy and find an app for every "school" subject and call it homeschool but the boy already has a terrible screen addiction (we limit screen time to after lunch but he just does not get it and asks every single day, multiple times "Can I use the iPad now? How about the computer?") He has to learn that there are fun technology free things.

SO I'm looking for suggestions. Anyone have any ideas?
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Is he able to have lots of outside or large motor skill time? My youngest son had a minitrampoline and an exercise ball for that to happen inside. Do you have an idea of his learning style? Would have things like Legos and putting on an audio book on tape while he does that kind of thing.He can help choose a chapter book (even if he balks at the idea)that you can play while having a snack or building something. Would continue to limit screen time and when he does use educational ish games and things? 2 of my favs are www.mr.nussbaum.com and funbrain for learning games. Sometimes kids just arent quite ready until 7 or 8. Does he like to be read to? You can use books to teach every subject through story - even math principals www.livingmath.net Does he like to help in the kitchen? Have him measure things. Give him a tape measure and have him measure things. Set up a bird feeder outside a window if you can and have him do a search for the kinds he sees.Even if it is online.
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Quote:
Originally Posted by arelyn View Post
I have no idea what to do with my 7 year old for homeschool this year. We've been really laid back and unschooly but this has just led to him following me around bored. If I try to do something schoolish with him it usually leads to him throwing a fit. Even when I let him pick topics he rejects doing activities, even when framed as "Hey, let's do this fun thing together."
So what happens when he throws a fit? I've never let that stop me from a school activity (or other required task). I view it similarly to a child throwing a fit about cleaning up their toys, or helping in the kitchen. We parent through it, help them calm down, and then re-engage the task. The requirement doesn't change just bc they're not excited about it. So many times, especially with something that's new, there's been a fit at the beginning but at the end the child announces they are proud of what they accomplished or actually liked it. I view school as a discipline like learning a sport or other activity - the joy comes through accomplishment and progress, and not all of it is fun at the time but in the end the hard work bears good fruit. I've seen my kids encourage their younger siblings that they can also persevere and do it.

Last edited by Katigre; 06-11-2018 at 06:56 AM.
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

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Originally Posted by Katigre View Post
So what happens when he throws a fit? I've never let that stop me from a school activity (or other required task). I view it similarly to a child throwing a fit about cleaning up their toys, or helping in the kitchen. We parent through it, help them calm down, and then re-engage the task. The requirement doesn't change just bc they're not excited about it. So many times, especially with something that's new, there's been a fit at the beginning but at the end the child announces they are proud of what they accomplished or actually liked it. I view school as a discipline like learning a sport or other activity - the joy comes through accomplishment and progress, and not all of it is fun at the time but in the end the hard work bears good fruit. I've seen my kids encourage their younger siblings that they can also persevere and do it.
I agree with you but often have trouble patenting though the fit. Do you think you could offer some spacifics as to how you do it?

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Old 06-11-2018, 08:23 AM   #5
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Note: I want to emphasize that so much of parenting depends on the specific parent/child relationship and family dynamics, including this area. This is just what has worked well in our family. We've got good relationships with our kids and are confident that our expectations are reasonable - if we had a lot of conflict in other areas, we might do things differently. Also, none of my kids have special needs and as a family we're pretty emotionally resilient - that affects my confidence in having them keep going even if there are tears. I'm sure that there are kids for whom being forced to finish a task they are scared of doing would lead to an increase in anxiety about it, instead of feeling the pride and accomplishment that my kids feel. Every child and parent is different!

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Originally Posted by knitlove View Post
I agree with you but often have trouble patenting though the fit. Do you think you could offer some spacifics as to how you do it?

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I'm strong-willed . But in all seriousness, it differs by the individual child and task - one wants cuddles, one wants to yell their frustration, one wants to sit on my lap to be able to get through it, one just wants reassurance that these current feelings aren't permanent. But whatever emotional tools I use, what doesn't change is that they can't throw a fit to avoid the task we've already set out ahead of us. It doesn't matter if it takes 5-10-15-20-25+ minutes of them trying to tell me they can't do it - I'll be sympathetic, I'll listen, I'll redirect them to the task (I won't generally let them leave the room unless it's to go to the bathroom b/c it's too easy to get distracted), I'll suggest calming techniques, and I'll remind them that they *can* do it and that it *will* be done - and that there is another side to how they're feeling.

I'm their "doula" . When a mom in labor first says "Oh my gosh this is so hard I can't do it!" the doula keeps helping them along, suggest different coping techniques, etc... But the task of birthing doesn't end just b/c it's hard. A good doula doesn't respond to the first freak out with "Oh no you're right - you can't, so we'll just stop birthing."

I want my kids to know that the initial frustration they feel at a new task isn't a sign to stop, but a sign to figure out the problem and keep going. They may find halfway through that it's too hard - but giving up in the first 5 minutes isn't a good measure of either their skills or the task. Perseverance is a skill that I think is essential for being a capable adult, and this is how we have our kids practice it. We have a saying "Keep practicing it until it becomes easy" (this applies to things big and small).

So I don't let them not do the task just b/c they protest (even strongly). If it's a reasonable expectation, then it will be done. We simply outlast their protests until they reach the other side of accepting that it is required and doing it. I believe this emotional process of feeling frustrated by a task, feeling like "I can't do this! I don't want to do this!", and then completing it anyway (and realizing that they are far more capable then they assumed) is so important.

Once they've realized it has to happen - nothing else happening until this task is done (this is my older kid version of 'make it happen' since I'm not going hand-over-hand to pick up toys with bigger kids), then they find the strength within themselves to do the work. Again, we're not asking unreasonable tasks. We're asking them to do things that are age-appropriate and we know they are capable of doing. Some tasks are 'tip-toe' capable (meaning it is stretching their skills - like someone peaking over a fence on tip toes b/c they're not quite tall enough to see flat footed).

I also have a philosphy that education (becoming a life-long learner) is the 'work' of childhood. That includes play, large muscle, small muscle, free-exploration, and also defined tasks that build specific skills (like handwriting, arithmetic, reading, writing). Work isn't all drudgery - I have great joy in my work! But there are also parts of it that I strongly dislike, but can't avoid. Knowing how to buckle down and get through those parts is part of building character, and we want our kids to be comfortable doing that by the time they're grown adults.

So I approach it mentally like we're building skills, and one of the biggest skills is emotional resilience. My kids disliking something isn't a reason to avoid doing it if I believe it's a necessary thing for them to learn. (And sometimes, it's not so much the task itself that's necessary, but the character development to see that they CAN do something they thought was impossible. It's been great to see that skill translate into other areas of life - everyone needs to learn the emotional skills to know their limits, but you'll never know your limits until you're pushed past the point of what's comfortable/easy/familiar. I want my kids to be open to growth, and approaching school (and other things in life - even stuff like doing longer bike rides than they thought they could do, finishing a big household chore together, etc...) means doing harder things - but it's satisfying and good to tackle them.

This has paid off hugely as my kids are growing older and able to do so much, and are proud of how much they can do. They cheerlead their younger siblings now, b/c they've seen that in their own lives the skills get easier as they go. As an example, We just did some long hikes in the mountains together, and they kept going when it was hard and were rewarded with a beautiful waterfall at the end of the hike. Practicing it on a smaller scale at home leads to them tackling bigger things later on with minimal pushing from DH or myself - it becomes self-generating after awhile .

This also applies to chores like cleaning the kitchen, putting away laundry, etc... This has been our family practice since they were toddlers, so it's not like we were laissez faire and suddenly put down the hammer at age 7 (that would lead to a lot more difficulty in helping the child understand that they are required to do these things - resetting boundaries is always more intense at first). They don't have to enjoy each task, we do talk about what they've learned from it or how something they don't necessarily enjoy is still useful to know.

Ex. My daughter hates loading the dishwasher - but it's still on her chore rotation every other day. Eventually she knows she won't have to do it anymore, that her younger siblings will take up this task, but that it's good to know how to do it as she grows up though. My son hates handwashing dishes, but we still have him do it. He needs to know how to clean up after cooking/eating. They don't only get to do the chores they like, they also have to learn to do the ones they dislike). We totally acknowledge that they don't like those chores, and that's ok! Their feelings are valid, but their feelings don't change the fact that in a family chores have to be shared, even ones we dislike.

For my oldest, handwriting and creative projects are what tended to trigger his 'I don't want to/I can't' in his elementary years - but now, as a 7th grader, he buckles down and does those things with far less resistance/fear/uncertainty b/c we've helped him build the habit of tackling things that aren't necessarily his favorite. He will likely never enjoy creative writing, but he can do it competently now b/c of the practice over the past few years. If it had never been required, he would have stayed in his comfort zone and had far less growth.

We also teach them emotional self-awareness/self-regulation skills which helps in internalizing the lessons from tackling harder tasks. I talk things through with them during and afterward - how did you feel at the beginning/middle/end? what did you learn? will it be easier next time now that you've done it? what would have helped you in the middle of the situation? And we apply those lessons next time we hit a similar roadblock. It's a learning process for them and for me (b/c each child is different in their needs).

Last edited by Katigre; 06-11-2018 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 06-11-2018, 09:12 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Personally I'd consider drastically limiting screen time. In fact, I'd probably eliminate it for 2 weeks and see if you have a big reduction in fit throwing. My kids couldn't handle daily screen time at that age.

Then try adding it back once a week on Saturdays.

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Old 06-11-2018, 09:15 AM   #7
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

As far as academics, a year ago I was sure Lina (just turned 8 at that point) would never show any interest in academics, including learning to read. Throughout last school year I made suggestions, I offered things, sometimes she jumped on something and we did it full-speed ahead for awhile. Sometimes she hated it, and we dropped it. The default when she was/is board, is audiobooks. I finally made peace with her school last year being primarily those audiobooks. And then, sometime this winter (when she was 8 3/4 or so), she started reading, and asking for more books. More and more, when I offer school ideas, she likes the idea and we run with it. Perhaps most interesting, often when she says she doesn't want to do something (school wise, this doesn't seem to work for chores LOL), if I shrug and say "ok, that's fine" she goes ahead and does it. Sometimes does MORE than I asked. . . it's like she desperately needs it to be her idea and then she thrives. I can't really explain it ("unschooling" the older girls was easy, they begged to learn more about all kinds of things. All it took to get them to tackle a new skill was to point out they didn't know how to do it, I joke that Ashlyn was born saying "I do it myself!" and has never stopped. Lexie's less that way, but won't let Ashlyn get ahead of her. Lina's a whole different personality, and it's been hard to believe that unschooling is "working", but I'm seeing her academics increase by leaps & bounds now, so I'm feeling more confident that she just needed that extra time before she dove into academics . . .

As far as screens, I think Lina was 7ish when I decided we needed to drastically reduce screen time (she was watching things like Wild Kratts, so I didn't care too much, but it was when I was starting to worry that she'd never be interested in academics and I thought removing screens would help - it didn't). I came up with a plan where she would earn "gems" (those flat marble things) by, not only doing her normal chores, but also doing things like listening to a story, doing a craft, playing outside, etc. My assumption was that she would only do the bare minimum of those things to earn screen time. So I expected her to go play outside for however long it took to earn enough gems to watch a half hour of tv, then come watch the half hour of tv . . . and so on. Instead, when I introduced the idea she asked if she could use the gems to earn something else instead of screen time. Uhhh, sure . . . I don't even remember now what we decided she could use the gems to earn, but she dove right in and used all her gems to earn whatever it was, and that was the end of that program. The one "free pass" I gave her for tv was when her sisters & I were watching tv (generally during meals I know what "they say" but we talk tons the rest of the time, and I started doing tv at mealtimes to get the kids to shut up and eat when they were little. It still works well, and for the big girls, we watch things like CSI and talk about the science and such). She still just assumes that she can only watch tv when we are. OR, if I leave her home with her sisters she'll ask if she can watch tv while I'm gone. I was stunned at how easy it was to break what I assumed was a screen addiction. She pretty much switched from watching tv all the time to listening to audiobooks but since there's no "watching" element, she colors or draws or plays with toys while she listens.
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Old 06-12-2018, 01:45 AM   #8
arelyn
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

He loves being read to (even no picture novels). He loves playing outside and nature. We only have a little grass with a playset but it's been a huge blessing (last apt had a concrete roof as their only play space). It is very artificial seeming though. We rarely see birds other than pigeons. There is surprisingly little bug variety and of course wall lizards. We have potted plants and watering them is his job though this is done with many complaints.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katigre View Post
So what happens when he throws a fit? I've never let that stop me from a school activity (or other required task). I view it similarly to a child throwing a fit about cleaning up their toys, or helping in the kitchen. We parent through it, help them calm down, and then re-engage the task. The requirement doesn't change just bc they're not excited about it. So many times, especially with something that's new, there's been a fit at the beginning but at the end the child announces they are proud of what they accomplished or actually liked it. I view school as a discipline like learning a sport or other activity - the joy comes through accomplishment and progress, and not all of it is fun at the time but in the end the hard work bears good fruit. I've seen my kids encourage their younger siblings that they can also persevere and do it.
The battles start whenever I try to get him to do something that requires using fine motor skills, or the math toys or a reader. He hates drawing, coloring, painting, play doh, anything involving using a pencil, even solving mazes which he enjoys looking at. He has done about 1/2 of the first Handwriting with a Purpose book, most of the first Miquon math book (he likes this one but hates the Cuisineire rods) and can read the first two boxes of Bob books but this was all done with screaming and tears. He tolerates making cards for people but if I make him write anything other than his name inside there is yelling and crying. We tried keeping a journal with drawings and captions but this led to the most intense battles and then the journal magically disappeared. He has no sense of accomplishment. When he finally gives in, stops the yelling and does the teeny bit of work I ask him to do he usually finishes with something like "There. I did it and I'm NEVER doing it EVER again and you can't make me!!!!"

So I'm really frustrated. If we were in the states he would be going to public school next year. I am THAT fed up. But I'm out here with no other educational options.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:03 AM   #9
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Quote:
Originally Posted by arelyn View Post
He loves being read to (even no picture novels). He loves playing outside and nature. We only have a little grass with a playset but it's been a huge blessing (last apt had a concrete roof as their only play space). It is very artificial seeming though. We rarely see birds other than pigeons. There is surprisingly little bug variety and of course wall lizards. We have potted plants and watering them is his job though this is done with many complaints.



The battles start whenever I try to get him to do something that requires using fine motor skills, or the math toys or a reader. He hates drawing, coloring, painting, play doh, anything involving using a pencil, even solving mazes which he enjoys looking at. He has done about 1/2 of the first Handwriting with a Purpose book, most of the first Miquon math book (he likes this one but hates the Cuisineire rods) and can read the first two boxes of Bob books but this was all done with screaming and tears. He tolerates making cards for people but if I make him write anything other than his name inside there is yelling and crying. We tried keeping a journal with drawings and captions but this led to the most intense battles and then the journal magically disappeared. He has no sense of accomplishment. When he finally gives in, stops the yelling and does the teeny bit of work I ask him to do he usually finishes with something like "There. I did it and I'm NEVER doing it EVER again and you can't make me!!!!"

So I'm really frustrated. If we were in the states he would be going to public school next year. I am THAT fed up. But I'm out here with no other educational options.
Have you had him evaluated for fine moter delays or dysgraphia? This might be a point where he has to work much much harder than normal to do these things.

How is he at holding a fork or spoon? Does he use the three fingers grip when eating?

Last year we did 6 months of occupational therapy with early bird. It helped a lot! We still have issues over fine moter things and I am looking in to wheather we can do a couple more sessions over the summer because she has lost some skills that she had developed.

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Old 06-12-2018, 05:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Quote:
Originally Posted by arelyn View Post
He loves being read to (even no picture novels). He loves playing outside and nature. We only have a little grass with a playset but it's been a huge blessing (last apt had a concrete roof as their only play space). It is very artificial seeming though. We rarely see birds other than pigeons. There is surprisingly little bug variety and of course wall lizards. We have potted plants and watering them is his job though this is done with many complaints.



The battles start whenever I try to get him to do something that requires using fine motor skills, or the math toys or a reader. He hates drawing, coloring, painting, play doh, anything involving using a pencil, even solving mazes which he enjoys looking at. He has done about 1/2 of the first Handwriting with a Purpose book, most of the first Miquon math book (he likes this one but hates the Cuisineire rods) and can read the first two boxes of Bob books but this was all done with screaming and tears. He tolerates making cards for people but if I make him write anything other than his name inside there is yelling and crying. We tried keeping a journal with drawings and captions but this led to the most intense battles and then the journal magically disappeared. He has no sense of accomplishment. When he finally gives in, stops the yelling and does the teeny bit of work I ask him to do he usually finishes with something like "There. I did it and I'm NEVER doing it EVER again and you can't make me!!!!"

So I'm really frustrated. If we were in the states he would be going to public school next year. I am THAT fed up. But I'm out here with no other educational options.
If he loves being read to, I'd build on that. Seriously, reading can come later, I wouldn't push it. He's building vocabulary and reading comprehension and sentence structure by listening to you read. If he's snuggled up with you looking at the book, he may even be seeing/processing the words as you read them. Audiobooks are great when you don't have time to read to him (Librivox is free, Lina listens to the Thornton Burgess books on Librivox over and over again. They're about nature, so might be a good fit for him too?). Nature and outside time as much as you have time for is great. Since you mentioned he seems to avoid fine motor skills, can you try to sneak those into the nature exploration? Have him collect small stones or acorns or whatever is little and catches his interest (works on pincher grip) and look it up in a field guide (before Lina was reading fluently, she loved looking through our field guides, trying to figure out what kind of leaf/flower/bug she'd found in our yard). Would he enjoy collecting nature items and turning them into art projects? If he narrated what you'd read to him, or creative stories (or nature nuggets, or whatever he might be interested in "writing") and you wrote it down for him, would he enjoy "writing" without the work of the fine motor skills? . . . I'd focus on keeping learning fun, building on the things he's enjoying, hold off on the stuff he doesn't enjoy (does he like helping you bake? That's an awesome way to learn math skills without realizing it. And you can sneak fine motor skills in too - knead bread dough, pinch grip by placing chocolate chips on top of muffins or cookies, hand strength, and crossing the midline from stirring . . . might even sneak in some recipe reading

And give him time . . . he may just not be developmentally ready for academics, and pushing it will just frustrate you both.
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Old 06-12-2018, 06:10 AM   #11
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

It's a challenge to navigate this stage. Each child is different.

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, I'll say it:

Your DS is quite young. He may not be ready for what you expect of him. My eldest is also a boy & I had huge expectations for him. Those first few years were a struggle until I changed my thinking.

I think at age 7, it's still appropriate to continue the "unschooly" things you've done already.

Be outside as much as you can. Visit museums. Consider subscribing to a monthly science kit or buy a "gross science project" book & do one of those every couple weeks.

Listen to audiobooks & discuss them as you're living every day life. I seek out books involving boys & high adventure. You're not American, so this series may not apply, but for example, my DS loved books like this when he was 7. I played memorization songs as background music during car rides and to my surprise, the songs stuck -- DD, at 3 & 4 was learning this stuff, simply through background music.

Is he motivated by earning things? Is there a program with a science museum, scouts, other organization where he can earn badges or patches or *something*? My DS is hugely motivated by things like that.

Is there a planetarium near you? Those shows are amazing & afterwards, he may want to buy an astronomy book in the gift shop and every few weeks, you can make it a point to go star gazing.

Is there a forest school near you?

Try a bunch of things to uncover something he's interested in & build upon that.

I strongly do not believe a written curriculum is necessary at this age nor do I believe it's the most beneficial model for boys as young as yours.


ETA: cross posted with sweetpeas. I totally agree with her post.
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Old 06-12-2018, 06:57 AM   #12
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

She's living in rural Asia iirc. There are very few of the resources recommended available to her. That makes expanding educational experiences in an American unschooly way even more challenging.

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Old 06-12-2018, 07:06 AM   #13
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Ooooh . . . yeah, that changes things. Off the top of my head, I was thinking the OP was in the UK.


Is boredom an issue? I'm wondering if the screen "addiction" is boredom-related.

OP, what *do* you have access to? Are there other kids around? English speakers? Can you describe a typical day & maybe we can help brainstorm.
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Old 06-12-2018, 09:31 AM   #14
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Ok this is different. What you described can actually be an LD in which case it is not a behavioral thing but an LD that will need to be accomodated so he can learn in different ways.https://www.understood.org/en/learni...ing-dysgraphia Hopefully this may help. My younger son had issues with those very same things. I had to stop trying to have him color or write except for tracing and forming letters to practice that way and then once he was older having him write brief answers after he would orally answer the question There are app.s to download to help. They do best with being aloud to answer questions orally or express themselves through plays they can act out and that kind of thing rather than writing stories. My son did fine with other fine motor skills including working with tiny transistors and things in a robotics class later. it also helps for them to trace with finger. In the dirt, Trace in a tray of salt or dry rice
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Old 06-12-2018, 10:35 AM   #15
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Default Re: Ideas for the unmotivated child

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamacat View Post
Ok this is different. What you described can actually be an LD in which case it is not a behavioral thing but an LD that will need to be accomodated so he can learn in different ways.https://www.understood.org/en/learni...ing-dysgraphia Hopefully this may help. My younger son had issues with those very same things. I had to stop trying to have him color or write except for tracing and forming letters to practice that way and then once he was older having him write brief answers after he would orally answer the question There are app.s to download to help. They do best with being aloud to answer questions orally or express themselves through plays they can act out and that kind of thing rather than writing stories. My son did fine with other fine motor skills including working with tiny transistors and things in a robotics class later. it also helps for them to trace with finger. In the dirt, Trace in a tray of salt or dry rice
If this matches your son's needs, then my favorite oral curriculum for younger elementary kids (especially boys) is First Language Lessons by Jesse Wise. It had been a favorite with each of my kids. Each lesson is short and can be done without any writing on the student's part. Usually Volume 1 is done K/1st grade and Volume 2 1st/2nd grade age.

---------- Post added at 12:35 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:34 PM ----------

Here's the curriculum link - they have PDF options if shipping is an issue for you. I usually did it with the child sitting in my lap on the couch. It was a great bonding time for them.

https://welltrainedmind.com/p/first-...ssons-level-1/
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