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    #144195 - 12/07/12 11:39 AM How to teach a child to focus?
    Michelle6 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/16/12
    Posts: 76
    We're slowly, but surely, getting DS9 to the point where he is getting a challenge at school. He still has a lot of meaningless, stupid work that he has to do, but he also has some more challenging work. That's a huge step. Problem is, he has never learned how to study, and still expects everything to be easy for him. (I should be the bigger person and refrain from pointing out that I've told his teachers since preschool that this was going to happen....but I'm not that mature.) Anyway, he is doing well, but now he is used to getting fantastic grades. So if he gets a "B", he wants to bring it up to an "A". Good for him, a B is good, but I think it's good to always try to improve. Here's the problem - he genuinely doesn't know HOW to try. He's never had to. So for him, if he doesn't completely get it within a few minutes, it's a lost cause. Any tips on how to get him to focus and study the material? I don't think it would take that much, if he could just concentrate on it for a bit.

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    #144198 - 12/07/12 12:01 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    selway Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/13/12
    Posts: 7
    I don't have an answer, but I'd sure love to hear one. I'm in the same boat. Focus, willingness to do more than the minimum acceptable, willingness to do something hard - I'd love to figure out how to get DS8 to do any of those things.

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    #144202 - 12/07/12 12:12 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    CCN Offline
    Member

    Registered: 06/25/12
    Posts: 978
    Loc: BC, Canada
    Challenge is what worked for DD10. When she was 8 she was in a grade 4/5 French Immersion split in which many kids were 2 years older (and most a head taller... poor kid! lol). Anyway. It saved her... it really did. She needed to get her butt kicked. Sure enough, this year she has much better focus, better study skills, organizes her homework time independently, and isn't plagued by perfectionism.

    DS8, meanwhile, is the same... he needs to be CHALLENGED or he's on the moon somewhere.

    When you say: "Here's the problem - he genuinely doesn't know HOW to try. He's never had to. So for him, if he doesn't completely get it within a few minutes, it's a lost cause." ...this was my DD. She would learn at the speed of light until she crashed into the wall of "just a little too hard" ...and then she'd be DONE. I had to toss her in the deep end (too challenging to be perfect) to get her past it, but it worked.

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    #144207 - 12/07/12 12:45 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    Zen Scanner Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/13/12
    Posts: 1478
    Loc: NC
    Better timing than many of us faced (i.e. running headfirst into challenge in college for the first time.)

    Maybe help him approach it as another learning exercise. I found this site and book reference, might be useful for him to read:
    "Study Strategies for Accelerated Learners"
    http://www.galileoeducation.org/Recommended-Books.html

    There are also all of the competitive venues to consider as they are more "sky is the limit." Odyssey of the Mind, Math League, spelling bee, etc. Odds are some of the prep in those is in learning methodologies.

    I'm a fan of teaching metacognitive and metalearning concepts to kids.

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    #144209 - 12/07/12 01:26 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    polarbear Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    Are you sure he needs to learn how to focus, or does he just need to learn how to study? We found with our EG ds, that when he first ran head-on into challenge at school, he simply needed to have us (parents) give him tips on how to study. Things that seem simple in terms of digging for more info/etc actually weren't all that inherently obvious to ds, so we would show him how we would approach the problem and that helped tremendously.

    OTOH, it also helped when he started being motivated by grades too smile

    polarbear

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    #144210 - 12/07/12 01:56 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    My eldest has had this problem twice. The first time was after he skipped a grade and moved to a middle school aimed at gifted students. He was also 9 years old. Having to work was a real shock for him. It took him the better part of that year to get used to working, organizing his time, and the idea that stuff in school can actually be hard.

    His second year at that school was a dream. The teachers and the dean gushed about what a wonderful student he was. Homework problems diminished by ~90%.

    Then that school moved far away and he went to an easy charter school and got used to getting As with near-zero effort. frown This year, he homeschools online and is again taking challenging courses (CTY, EPGY, etc.). The studying problems came back in September, but this time, he got past them in a few weeks.

    Other people have posted about the same problems, especially after grade skips/consistently getting challenging work.

    Bottom line: what you described strikes me as a normal, understandable, and complex reaction. Studying and working through challenging material are learned skills. If you have no concept of them, you can have a hard time getting up the hill. Also, getting used to the idea that you can't answer every question (or whatever) immediately also takes getting used to. It's a blow to the ego, and if you have no clue how to approach something difficult, it's easier to turn away. I'm not saying it's right to turn away. I'm just saying that when you have no clue what to do and maybe you feel like it's hard because you're not smart enough, it's easier to just get distracted by some fluff on your trousers.

    Personally, I find this situation in academics to be only indirectly related to working on something in other areas. I've known people who worked their butts off to improve a tennis stroke, but shut down over school/college work. In those situations, tennis (or Legos, whatever) was fun! School sucked.

    I try to remind my kids of times when they struggled with something they thought they'd never do, and managed in the end. This helps a little. But really, I think it's a matter of time and of patient (well, the best you can do) parental assistance. I spent a seriously large amount of time with my eldest that first year in middle school. Another person here once wrote the same of her child after a grade skip. She said that she pretty much had to breathe for him that first year. I felt that way, too.

    Again, I think what you described is completely normal and to be expected. Plus, he's still a young kid. That's probably also part of it. If you see it that way, it might not feel so frustrating when you're trying to help him.

    True, you're going to have to put a lot of energy and creativity into helping your son learn to study, but he'll get it eventually. Take heart in the facts that study skills have to be learned just like math and science, and that acquiring them and internalizing them takes a while.


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    #144212 - 12/07/12 02:21 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    HowlerKarma Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    I should be the bigger person and refrain from pointing out that I've told his teachers since preschool that this was going to happen....but I'm not that mature.


    Heheheh... yeah. Me, too. grin

    Quote:

    She needed to get her butt kicked. Sure enough, this year she has much better focus, better study skills, organizes her homework time independently, and isn't plagued by perfectionism.


    Yes, this has also been our experience. AP Lit (along with one teacher who is a total.. er... well, the polite term is "barracuda" here), and AP physics have been the first real occasions where our DD has truly had to do HER BEST in order to have reasonable results.


    Originally Posted By: Master of None

    He's never had to work hard at anything? Sports? Music? Legos?

    If he's never worked hard at anything, it might be a personality characteristic.

    If it's that he doesn't get satisfaction out of working hard to master something, then you can teach it, but it takes time. And it takes things that really are hard that you can coach him through. Use methods he enjoys-- racing you or a clock, applying his artistic flair, using his hands, having you read to him and quiz him, etc.


    Agreed-- although this can be at least partially a conditioned response, we've found. We've really had to push things that DD isn't "automatically" extraordinarily GOOD at... i.e., things where results more or less reflect effort, I mean.

    We've tried a lot of different things, and yes, some of it is innate personality. DD simply likes to be good at things. Not to 'achieve' mastery-- but to POSSESS it. It is a subtle distinction, but it's an important one. It's the same root as task-avoidant perfectionism, and the basic fuel that it runs on is a self-identity built around "competence/mastery" rather than rapid or deep LEARNING.

    We eventually gave up on school doing this teaching, incidentally. They simply never saw the problem, which boggles my mind, but anyway...

    We used music lessons, dog obedience/showmanship (animal training is GREAT for teaching task persistence and acceptance), and swimming.

    We also have to be willing to accept that some of those activities, SHE may decide that she doesn't care about real "excellence" but "good enough" instead. That has to be okay with us-- the important thing is that sustained effort and proportional results.

    My kid is a sprinter by nature-- and mostly, life is built around rewarding border collies and not cheetahs... wink

    So we've worked on sustaining EFFORT even when MOTIVATION wanes.

    I'd also like to reiterate that some of this is maturity. It's amazing how different kids are between 6, 10, and 14. I'm assuming that the same will hold true at 16 or 18, too, though we're not there yet.






    _________________________
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

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    #144214 - 12/07/12 02:32 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    Wren Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1685
    I also think it has to do with interest. DD can focus and do well on tests, because I think she has the motivation to score well. We pushed the expectation. But I also see when she isn't pushed and she doesn't have the motivation. There is a fine line of wanting to do it exceedingly well, compared to just good.

    I think there is more than just challenge. It has to do with desire. And desire is something else.


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    #144219 - 12/07/12 07:12 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    Zen Scanner Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/13/12
    Posts: 1478
    Loc: NC
    Originally Posted By: HowlerKarma
    My kid is a sprinter by nature-- and mostly, life is built around rewarding border collies and not cheetahs... wink



    Perversely, first impressions go a long way, going into a job interview with a robust understanding of the company, showing up the first day, diving in and figuring out the job, the procedures, the people, etc. It leaves a lasting impression. There is interesting work for sprinters out there; such as a wide variety of consulting based work.

    To add on to the notion of studying, I never figured out what that is myself. And I know I couldn't teach it to my DS. But I know how to learn and approach a discipline or a body of knowledge with the intent to devour it whole. I don't know that I'd advocate teaching a kid to completely ignore homework and the intended lesson plan.

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    #144222 - 12/07/12 10:53 PM Re: How to teach a child to focus? [Re: Michelle6]
    Michaela Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/18/09
    Posts: 530
    Loc: The bottom of my cup
    I got addicted to working hard at things as soon as I saw what I could do when I did. It wasn't that I'd never worked hard at things before, but there was a *moment* when I *saw* it. Not that I know how to orchestrate a moment like that.

    We've very accidentally hit on something with DS3.5, who has tended to have painfully low frustration tolerance: it's this game called Civiballs. It requires accurate timing and fine motor skills (for a 3 yr old, pretty trivial for an adult), as well as problem solving. For some reason, he's absolutely willing to push past frustration with this game. He'll be sitting there in tears, demanding help, and we'll be telling him that if he's frustrated, he should stop. And he just. won't. stop. It's actually kinda funny in a... painful... way.

    We just made him stop a few times, but then we started realizing it seemed to be affecting his frustration tolerance in a more general way. At which point, we decided it would be Very Wise to let him wail and cry over Civiballs.

    I *think* what really drew him in was that everyone he's seen play the game takes the same approach: everyone tries a few things to see what will happen _before_ taking a run at an actual solution. Also, we sometimes trade tries, and when we do that, sometimes I'll find a key detail that leads to the solution, but isn't the solution. Then he gets his turn to try and wins. Basically, he sees how my failure contributes to his win.

    I've been trying to come up with more situations like this to accidentally-on-purpose introduce him to!
    _________________________
    DS1: Hon, you already finished your homework
    DS2: Quit it with the protesting already!

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