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Active Six-Year-Old Won't Pay Attention

Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: I am at my wits' end. Our six-year-old is having trouble paying attention. Even when she was in public school we received notes about this problem. She can't sit still and is constantly moving. She is smart and does well in math and science, but when it comes to reading, she has trouble. We are patient with her, but she says she doesn't want to read — that it's too hard. What is wrong here?

A: My daughter was not ready to read at six and even seven years old. I focused my energy on reading aloud to her every day. She also liked to listen to books on tape. We would go to the library each week and return with a small shopping bag full of books. We stayed away from "school-type" books and, instead, gathered books on whatever appealed to her that day — rainbows, spiders, soccer, monkeys, etc. As she approached her eighth birthday, she began to read and within a few months, she was reading everything in sight.

In a traditional school setting, every child is expected to learn the same thing at the same time. With 25 or more children in a classroom, there is no time to focus on individual learning styles and developmental differences. Fortunately, as a homeschooler, you do not have to follow this path. If reading is too hard for her right now, focus your energies elsewhere. Or perhaps the curriculum or method you're using is not the best one for your daughter. If she is an active, hands-on learner and you are relying on textbook learning, you're going to run into problems.

It is not uncommon for my daughter (also very active) to dance around the room while I read to her. Sitting still and doing paperwork is almost painful for her, but she thrives on games and hands-on activities. We write our multiplication facts with a marker on a ball and toss it back and forth. You have to answer the problem under your thumb. We bake cookies and double the recipe. Cooking, shopping, building with Legos — all of these day-to-day activities present learning opportunities. If she is having a hard time (i.e., she is bored or antsy) with something, step back and ask yourself if she really needs to know this right now. Most of the time the answer is no. If it is something important, recognize your current teaching method is not working, and find a way to present the material in a more interesting, appealing manner.

For more ideas and reading help, read Helping Your Homeschooler Learn to Read. Choosing A Homeschool Curriculum will help you find the best teaching materials for your daughter. Good luck!

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Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to FamilyEducation.com, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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