Meltdowns and Shutdowns

A recent post on a blog I follow led to a short conversation about children, education and meltdowns. I started thinking of Robbie's increasingly frequent meltdowns and shutdowns and decided that I'd share.

Let me begin by stating that my child is not pushed to do seatwork. We do things as he likes, with guidance from me. I don't believe in forcing preschoolers to do academic work.

More and more often, Robbie is refusing to do anything which he deems "too easy". The phrases I hear most often is, "I already know that!" or "I already did that last week!"

He loves to read and we are still working on his phonics. He can't stand repetition. He wants to "read it and move on".

He's done this with our math games, as well. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells whenever we do something that he MIGHT have mastered. I never know if it will upset him or not.

He does NOT like to do things just to show that he can. He's a lot like the Warner Bros frog...

There are many things I would print out for him (as a change of pace) if we had a printer... but ours is in a storage building in Tennessee. I cannot buy new things to keep him interested, occupied or moving forward. So.... I must make do with the things I have and find ways to keep it fun, engaging and moving at his pace.

I feel like I may be holding him back in many ways. I want to keep 90% of his waking time as play time. How can I balance all of this? Any thoughts or suggestions? How have you dealt with similar issues?


  1. When something is mastered, we just move on. When things get a bit tough, we review. My Quince is all over the place on levels, so I just meet him where he is on each subject.

    Homeschool = Customization ( IMO )

  2. Thanks for the response, Jana.

    It would be easier if I KNEW it was mastered. I'm never quite sure UNTIL he melts down, it seems. We may have just covered the material once (sometimes not even once) and I am just usually checking for retention.

    Ugh, I suppose I'll figure it out one day.

  3. That is one thing I struggle with...I want just ONE more math problem completed so I can make sure my big girl mastered something. And then I get the meltdown/shut down. I guess I just need to "get over it" and move on too. It's not like you can't go back and revisit a math topic, right??

  4. My now 13-year old was a little like that when he was younger. He wouldn't melt down, but he would get really angry and shut down in that way. I could not believe his memory. I only had to tell him something once and he got it. I kept wanting, like you, to check retention. I found out over the years that he was keeping 90% of it with only one session of it. The problem was the other 10% and how to figure out which category anything fit under without getting him mad. I found that if it was something that would have other things built on it, like math skills, I would find out very quickly if he got it or not, and it was easier then to go back then. If it was a skill in isolation, say facts about presidents, then I just had to check his retention. I found, though, that most of his work were skills that were foundations to other skills and the proof of his retention was in in application of the skills. For most students I would not have done it that way, but for him it worked out the best.
    BTW- I have kids with meltdown issues and that too is something that is hard to master. Some meltdowns are not their fault. They can't help it. But if you are too accodating, they will use it to get more from you. It then becomes a learned behavior. Navigating which is which is tough. I just thought I would mention it, not because I think you are doing anything wrong. I just got myself in trouble with a couple of my kids when they learned they could get out of stuff if they melted down and they learned tou use it. I had wished I had someone to tell me to watch out of that.

  5. Thanks, Karin and Phyllis, for your kind words of experience and encouragement. I suppose I will just keep moving forward and I'll figure it out as we go.

    I was very nervous about posting this at all, but I'm very glad I did. :)

  6. Very interesting topic, because I dealt with some of it too when Anna was younger. My solution was to let her pick areas of interest (or workbook materials) and then sneak in some sort of activity (mostly in the form of games) to fill the gaps. I think it's great that Robbie resists easy stuff and likes to challenge himself. My daughter is quite an opposite and resists anything that smells like a test or an extra challenge. What worked for us in this case is rewards. This is where "math for points" that you asked about comes in. Essentially, I give Anna 2 points (2 pennies) for each worksheet or challenge of my choice and 3 pennies if it's something that I consider hard for her. She gets 1 point for her own choice. That's how I keep the balance between her choices, my choices and challenge choices.


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