Since DSS (12) moved in with us, at age 8, I've struggled with significant frustration over his academics. He's very bright, but has some really poor assumptions/study habits, such as the sense that being smart is an accomplishment in and of itself, regardless whether you work hard; and a tendency to lie, to get out of boring or difficult work, without regard for the long-term consequences of not doing assignments; also a tendency to dawdle and drag out his work for insane amounts of time, so he can seek sympathy later (from his Mom), over how oppressed and overworked he is.
He clearly acquired these issues before he came to live with us. The Court mentioned his declining school performance, while he was kept away from his Dad, as one reason for the custody change. However, issues like this are not "fixed" instantaneously. I have feared that, when DSS's Mom asks to regain custody when he turns 14, DH and I will have to answer for why he doesn't consistently work to his intellectual potential, as though the minute he moved away from his Mom he should have bounced back to the study habits he had years before (when he was younger, school was easier, and he got fairly balanced input from both parents).
Also, it's a challenge to DSS's relationship with DH and me, that the vast majority of his time off school is spent with his Mom, in CA; and the preponderance of his time with us, he has homework, school and other structured commitments. His Mom has really capitalized on this, too. She doesn't visit him here very much, but seems to spend a lot of money on lavish vacations and entertainment when he's in CA, emphasizing how much more fun it is, there.
Last year, DSS was entering middle school and a top-notch private school DH and I really felt would be beneficial for him. He had a mandatory summer reading assignment, which he did not work on at all, in the 2 months he spent with his Mom. Her email to DH made it clear that she was slathering on the sympathy over how unfair it was, to interfere with DSS enjoying a "lazy" summer and that she refused to make him work on it. (Even though the assignment could easily have been completed with 20 minutes or so of work, several days a week.) Final result: ALL of DSS's scant summer time with US had to be spent scrambling to finish as assignment that was supposed to be done over 10 weeks. Fun, fun, fun with Dad, right?
WELL...DSS's birthday is in the early summer, shortly before he visits his Mom. Originally, he told us he wanted a new bike. Then he started hem-hawing around, that he wanted something else, but he was afraid if he told us we'd say no, or that it was too expensive. Finally, I got him to spit out that his heart's desire was...a Kindle! Little did he realize they cost LESS than a new bike! Moreover, he is a kid who actually loves reading (just not reading assignments), so anything we can do, to help that love take precedence over the poor study habits, we are EAGER to do!
No kid has ever shown more excitement over a new puppy, than DSS showed, when he opened his Kindle. Of course, I had pre-programmed every book on his summer reading list, on it. So, if he started one and hated it, the next book on the list would be right at his fingertips, and he could choose.
He just got home, from summer with his Mom, and has already finished reading ALL his required books AND completed 2 of the 3 required outlines. It's safe to assume his mother did not nag him to do this. And, after last summer, DH and I had just resigned ourselves to the fact that he'd have to do all his reading when he got home, so we scarcely brought it up to him, over the phone.
I feel like doing a jig! And HE is pleased with himself. He keeps talking about how sure he is that this is going to be a great year, and he's off to a good, calm, organized start. This is what we have wanted - for him to see how it feels to be on top of his work, WITHOUT us FORCING him to be - and to like it! It has been such work to get here, but it looks like it all may have been worth it; like we're on the right track, with him! Yeah!