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My Dear Little Perfectionist

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vol. 11 No. 62, October 14, 2010, ISSN: 1536-2035
© 2010, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.


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Reader Feedback
-- Grandmother Jennifer
Helpful Tip
-- Free Election Year Unit
Winning Website
-- Homeschool Media Network
Reader Question
-- My Little Perfectionist
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
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Reader Feedback

"Heather -- Please pass on my grateful thanks for the answers to my question about homeschooling and extended family.  Yay!  What encouragement!!" --  Jennifer in North Carolina  


Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Election Year Unit - FREE 85 page download

2010 is an election year and with primaries right around the corner, this is the perfect time to download Elections for Lapbooking, Notebooking and General Study. Use the download time and time again. This isn't a Presidential election year but save the download and use it again in 2012 (or anytime your children/students are studying government and elections!)

What will you find within the download? Pages devoted to help students begin and end their studies (through KWL - What I Know, What I Want to Learn and What I Learned), pages to be used if creating an election lapbook, vocabulary flashcards, maps, a good variety of notebooking pages appropriate for elementary through high school, timeline pages and more!

Winning Website

Homeschool Media Network


This simple website offers 4 sections:  A world-wide homeschooling social register, a chart on the growth of homeschooling (that you can mathematically manipulate according to your own understanding of homeschooling statistics!), an interesting archive of edited newsletters from a secular unschooling magazine of over 10 years ago, and a GREAT archive of homeschool audio programs you can listen to in your spare time while doing other things.

A very straightforward, resourceful site!


Do you have a website, tip, idea or experience to share for our next issue?

Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Last Issue's Reader Question

My Little Perfectionist 

"Hi there! My daughter is soon to be six and we are doing kindergarten this year. I'm having a big problem with her wanting to quit anything that is slightly difficult or something she doesn't know the answer to immediately. I think the problem is that she knows it should be able to be done and she's embarrassed that she can't do it yet. Saying that she just needs to practice results in tears of frustration. I'd love any ideas of how to work with tiny perfectionism! :) Thank you!" -- Traci

Our Readers' Responses

"I have two children who are perfectionists and manifest it in different ways. One daughter is very gifted in some areas and, as a result, she balks at anything she has to work at. I had to get out some of my old school work and show her how much I improved just because I tried. My handwriting, math, artistic ability and piano skills haven’t always been what they are now! We talk about how we grow one step at a time and the goal is not to do it right the first time, but just to try. The more we work at it, the more we get it right, until we can do it with near perfection. You could demonstrate this concept by letting her see you try something new, such as reciting a short verse from memory. She’ll see you can’t repeat it perfectly at first, but that it’s a process, and that it’s normal and necessary with many skills to make mistakes (like walking or riding a bike) in order to get to the point where you can do it with ease. The one rarely happens without the other. As for me, I had to learn to focus more on rewarding the effort, not the outcome. I wish parenting and teaching were things we could do perfectly on the first try! Hang in there. Try out as many new suggestions as you can and with time you’ll find what she needs. Just an afterthought -- we do the more difficult things first like reading (she has dyslexia), when her mind is fresh. After she does that, she’s rewarded with the more enjoyable subjects like music and crafts." --  Laura in Idaho


"Hi, Traci --  I've got one of those at home, too. He's now 14, but when he was younger I used to try anything I could to keep him encouraged. Usually I would remind him how good he did on the last lesson that was similar or even something else that he was frustrated at. Sometimes we had to temporarily move on to something he felt he could do and then come back to it when he was in a better frame of mind. Sometimes I had to rethink how I was teaching it and change to a different angle (ie. having him dictate it instead of writing it or typing it instead of handwriting it). He's the type that if you have to practice it and don't get it right the first time, you are wasting time. It helps him now as he only has to look at most things once and then he can do it like he's been doing it for years. Also, just a hint -- doing pages of math problems when they already understand the concept won't help. It just frustrates when they're ready to pass the test.  Try doing every other problem or question on the page and possibly skipping to the checkup. Don't be redundant.  The perfectionist many times is for the most part a quick learner and that's why they get so frustrated when it's not quick! They get bored easily and are usually done quickly with their schoolwork except when they meet up with one of their weaknesses. She may also be super observant, so watch how you handle situations that are a little to big for you. Maybe even encourage her to help you or another sibling that's having trouble with something and talk to her about how just like she's helping *you* to persevere, that's what you're doing for her. And one more thing -- discipline is needed for any type of tantrum resulting from her frustration, even if it's a pout and tears that are defiant. It will help her later on when it's better channeled, but I totally understand your frustration now. Lord bless you!" -- Debi E.


"We had the same problem with my son. He's now 11 years old and still a perfectionist, but willing to try almost anything a few times to see if he can get the hang of it. When he was 5 yrs old he wouldn't do it if it couldn't be perfect. Our mantra became 'It doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be done'. Sometimes we'd discuss what would happen if a mistake were made. We also gave him outrageous examples, too. Would he (or you) be able to fly a jumbo jet on the first try? No -- you'd need years of lessons and practice. Additionally, I told him that these are the baby steps toward ANYTHING he wants to do later in life." --  Jo


"Hi, Traci --  My son is 6 and we started first grade this past August. He too struggles with wanting to give up or rather ignore some concepts that he does not catch onto at first. He is also a perfectionist, to the point that when we do our Bible lessons, when he is reading the verses he does not feel he has completely read a verse without reading the book, chapter and line reference. He constantly asks me if he can finish reading when I ask him to answer the question related to the verse he just read if he has not read this last part (what most of us would glance at as a reference). With him, though, I do not believe it is embarrassment. He is an only child and never receives ridicule for something he can't do to his level of perfection to cause embarrassment. For him I am confident that he does not want to take the time and apply himself to learning something that he cannot see a clear answer to at first. And I must admit these situations get frustrating for me, too. They usually occur in math when we move onto something new.  I clearly remember this feeling myself during my school years. I was always happier when something could be easily figured out and always felt smothered, almost, at the thought of finding a clear path in something that seems so confusing.

With my son there are two things that I have found essential:  First, the right curriculum. Last year I would have not said this, but this year with the curriculum we are using, I can see the small victories and HE is overjoyed when understanding finally clicks in his brain. As an adult I find the curriculum extremely repetitive, or at least I thought so at first, and was certain we would be skipping a few lessons as I skimmed through it this summer making lesson plans. But what the curriculum is doing is breaking down the concept of even such seemingly simple concepts of '2+2=' to its very basic level and explaining what plus and minus is, what the equal sign is, and how they work in other situations.  This is quite different from a traditional math problem and it is building an understanding of these concepts from the ground up. And then each lesson builds on the previous lesson, as it should, so that by the time we go through all the lessons on equalizing an equation, he has repeated the same concept so many times (from different angles each time) as to make it more interesting and to always give him some small victory in understanding something new about it.

Second, I make a BIG deal out of it when he finally grasps a new point. I can see his frustration rising just as I know mine is, and I am making him stick to the lessons even though he doesn't want to (teaching him perseverance in the face of opposition - albeit self opposition).   By doing this I have found out 2 things that I did not expect:  The more I require him to stick it out whether he wants to or not, the tears and fights have decreased to none - because he has learned that I will not sacrafice his education simply because he does not want to do it. And sometimes that is a phrase I have to use with him --  'I'm sorry, it's not about what you want; it's about what you need'.  That also helps me to keep my frustration under control as well.

Third, when we go crazy and cheer and high five each other over his small victories I can literally see the confidence and joy building in his eyes.  Then he reapplies himself to his lesson with a new determination that can't be taught any other way than by experience.  I hope our experiences give you some new angles or perhaps just lets you know you are not alone.   We all want the best for our children, and our children seemingly want to do less for us than they would a teacher because they already know our buttons and are already assured of our approval and love.   Homeschool, I have found, is just as much about learning a new way to communicate with my son as it is to teach his education." -- Marcie


"Hi, Traci -- I'm new to homeschooling this year, so I'm sure there are lots of more experienced people who have more advice.  But this is what I have found to work for my daughters (K and 2nd). If I introduce something that they just can't quite grasp I just do it until they get frustrated and then stop. I once did that with a new concept for math for my 2nd grader and we didn't return back to it for a week. When we went back to it (I was prepared to start from scratch) she just seemed to understand it somehow. I do not even try to push my kindergartener. If she says she's done, I say okay. She's usually pretty happy to try again another day, and she usually does better. I think if they feel like they have a little control over 'when' they practice things, it helps. Sometimes they just aren't ready for certain things. If we take a break and go outside and just run around and play for a little while, that seems to do wonders for changing their attitudes also.   :)   I hope this helps." --  Katie


"I also have a crier; my 8 year old cries every time she is challenged by something new. I have learned to patiently push through the tears, keeping on task. She cries while she completes the work. If I have her stop to recover herself, it doesn't help, she starts to cry when we begin again. Most of the time by the end of the week she can do the work on her own. Part of life is learning to deal with challenges and I don't want her to think life stops because she gets frustrated with something. Some moms may not let the crying go on while the student is working, and that is fine. One of the wonderful things about home school is you get to decide how best to handle the child you know so well. It helps to know that you are not the only one who has problems." --  Becky


"When my children lose confidence in their abilities, we will sometimes reverse the roles. I let them 'play' the teacher and either myself, siblings, or even stuffed animals are the students. It's amazing how taking away the pressure to perform can bring their confidence up. They are quick to share their knowledge with their students. This will also give you a good idea of what she is really understanding (and is just too frustrated to show you) and what concepts she may not have grasped yet. Another idea might be to just put away the frustrating work for a while. When my now 10 year old was in the midst of phonics and read-alouds, he was consistently in tears when it came his turn to try to read. I decided that he would no longer be required to read... for a while. He completed his phonics lessons and I read everything to him. I never asked him to read anything. Finally, one day, he just looked at me and said, 'Mom, I know what that says. I can do it myself!' Now, our biggest issue with reading is having to remind him to put the book away and go to bed! Find ways to play your way through your school work. Make a game of everything! Have fun!" --  Bonnie


"I have had to explain to my son many times that everybody has a different brain and body, and some things that are easy for one person's brain or body are not easy for another's. We talk about how various of his friends find various mental, physical, or social activities challenging or easy. Of course he still often feels that he alone is having difficulty. He knows that I am very smart, and so it helps for me to talk to him about things that I had problems with in school, and how I felt about it. It helps him to know that I could become proficient at some things that were initially impossible for me to understand. It also helps that he is much better coordinated than I am, so there are a lot of physical things that he can do that I cannot." -- PDW


"Hello -- I have a perfectionist, too. And he is a lefty. Double whammy! He is now in 4th grade, about to turn 10 and doing very well. But 1st grade (our first year homeschooling) was a scary time for the same reasons. He would freak out if whatever I asked him to do did not come easily. Printing, cursive, reading, spelling -- you name it. Everything except math and 'boy' things, like P.E. and science experiments. So that is what we did. We did math and boy things and I read to him tons of classical literature every day. And I just waited. That was the hard part for me. S-l-o-w-l-y, I began to add in challenging subjects. And now he does it all. And he does it well. He is reading the Harry Potter series, we do spelling, writing and grammar programs, and he learned all his cursive just this month and in two weeks! As a perfectionist, I know he can still get to tears easily when he feels overwhelmed, so I introduce new things VERY slowly. So my suggestion is this: do what she loves to do now and just wait on the stuff that is frustrating her. Then go slowly. When your daughter is ready and old enough, she will be able to deal with her frustration in a better way and will be able to get to 'grade level' or beyond in no time. Listen to her, not to where you think she should be based on state standards. That is a huge benefit of homeschooling! Good luck and have fun." --  Kathy

Answer our NEW Question

Reading - What's Next?

"My son, 6, just finished Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and I'm looking for advice for what to do next.  I know there are a lot of reading programs, but I'm looking for something phonics based that will pick up pretty closely to where the other book left off.  Thank you for any suggestions." -- Cara

Would you like to make a suggestion for or share some experience with Cara?
Please send your response by email to: hn-answers@familyclassroom.net

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