Hates Holding the Pencil

by | Homeschooling, Math | 5 comments

I have a 10-year-old-boy who has done very little formal academics. He is very creative in nature, devours books (although he didn’t learn to read until age 9), draws continually, has an inventors mind (like his beloved daddy), can recite to you anything he has read from a book, is fascinated by history, but despises using the pencil! He is very obedient and will do whatever I ask but is coming to despise math because of its continuous writing. We have done lots and lots of mental math over the years, and I write a lot of word problems out on the board and he will do them. We started Saxon 54 this year. When he sees me pull out the book, his face does these strange contortions! He will complete the pages and get the answers correct but he loathes it! Is it time for him to just buckle down and do it? –Sandy

I wonder why it is that some boys just hate holding that pencil. I wish someone in a university somewhere in the land of degrees and professors would do a study and tell us why. Perhaps it is because just the though of all that “work” they must do in holding the pencil just so (and holding the pencil never really feels comfortable to them) and writing out each and every letter (and they know they can never get the letters to looks exactly just like in the books) is too overwhelming to them. And then on top of that they must sit still for so much time when they really just long to be jumping and rolling and talking.

I think a 10-year-old should be doing some writing every day, even if it is just a little bit. Allow him to do as much of the math orally as possible or write out for him what he dictates to you. Your son sounds like a delightful laddie who is willing to please his mommy and daddy in most anything. Help him out with his weaknesses. In another year or so he will be more ready to write out on his own his math exercises.


  1. carolyn

    Have you tried Life of Fred for Elementary school.

    My boys all love it. There is minimal writing and and a terrific storyline.

  2. Danika Nelles

    Not sure if this math goes beyond grade four, but Right Start Math also has very little writing, very little. It makes good use of the abacus instead. I’ve only done the first grade program which had almost too many manipulatives, but this may be different in older grades. All this meant is that we are taking two years to go through it instead of one but we don’t push math when our kids are young.

  3. tammy

    I too have a boy who balks at anything with writing. He was also a late reader (just reading now at 8) and struggles with spelling. He does, however, love his math which is done on the computer. Check out Teaching textbooks – for us it is worth the cost because he likes it 🙂

  4. Ms.B.

    Perhaps a different kind of pencil? Different grips?
    Jetpens.com offers instruments with a variety of grips. UGLEE pen is also designed with young writers in mind – very squishy, comfortable grip. Is it the size of the pencil? the grip? the texture of the graphite? Some kids are wired to be very sensitive to such stimuli and it short circuits their ability to think.

    Perhaps a smooth inked pen (and white out if needed?) would be more appealing. Pilot has a number of erasable pens called Frixion that might help.

    Have you looked into issues with dysgraphia? It is possible that there are deeper issues at work here. Now would be the time to find what best helps him so as not to quash his love for learning.

    Or how about completing his work on a white board – sometimes the large broad area is more conducive. Take a picture of each lesson if you need to keep records…

    Blessings on your journey!

  5. Rhonda

    Issues with dysgraphia sound probable. Fine motor skill problems can cause pain and extreme hand fatigue. That’s the problem with my kids. You might ask him if his hands hurt after he does a lot of math? If this is the problem you can do hand exercises to strengthen the muscles, and use grips that make the pencil more comfortable. You can also reduce the number of problems he completes.


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