Question: I have a ten-year-old boy who has done very little formal academics. He is very creative by nature, devours books (although he did not “learn” to read until nine years old), draws continually, has an inventor’s mind (like his beloved daddy), can recite 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 growing to despise math because of the continuous demand for writing. We have done much mental math over the years, and I write plenty of word problems out on the board, and he will do them. But we began with Saxon 54 this year. When he sees me pull out the book, his face does these strange contortions! He will complete the pages and arrive at the correct answers, but he loathes it! Any suggestions? Is it time for him to just buckle down and do it?

Answer: It’s nice to know our boy is not alone – there are other boys who hate holding a pencil. Perhaps someone at a university should do a study to discover why. On second thought, that would only mean more taxes and more government programs – and we’d probably never find out the real reason. Forget I ever mentioned it.

Little boys are wired to jump, roll, and chatter. Perhaps they are uncomfortable holding the pencil “just so,” or maybe they are discouraged because their letters do not look “just like” in the books, or possibly just sitting completely still through all of this is beyond their control capabilities.

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. A ten-year-old should be doing some writing every day, no matter how little, but you may allow him to do as much of the math orally as is reasonable. In another year or so, he will be ready to write out his math exercises without a hitch. In fact, he’d probably be embarrassed if you offered to do it for him. In other words, don’t make too much of a fuss. He’ll grow out of it.