Summer reading (longish rant) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I definitely love my 11-y-o step-son (who lives with us), but in all honesty he can be a 1st-class B.S. artist and he frustrates me. His mother, who wholeheartedly enables him, frustrates me even more. And my husband and I don't always agree on how to handle the problem, which also frustrates me.

DSS is very bright, borderline gifted. In early grade school (before he lived with us), he caught the bug that sometimes infects smart kids in unchallenging classrooms: he was bored in school and discovered he could put no effort into things (or not do them at all and muddle through with, "I left it in my Mom's car!" and then "Gosh, Mom! I don't know what happened! I turned it in! I guess my teacher misplaced it.")... and yet he was still praised and recognized for being so smart and hard-working and such a good student.

Then, when he came to live with us (and started attending better schools), he was placed in a gifted class in error, as a result of some drama where his mother had falsely claimed he'd been i.d.'d as "gifted" (thinking that would make her look like the better parent in court) and she also created roadblocks to the timely transfer of his records to his new school. For about the first year, he kept up so well that even when the school figured out he hadn't quite tested high enough to be in the class, they let him stay there. But the problem with resting on your laurels in classes with kids who struggle more than you do, to learn is that when you find yourself in a class full of kids who are all as smart as you are (or in some cases smarter), you're not used to having to work for your grades.

So his performance tapered off and he was moved to a "regular" class for 5th grade, where he continued to "half-a**" things whenever he thought he could get away with it. He loves to read, he does so quite voluntarily, we even read as a family. But, by God if he could come up with a story to convince his Dad and me that his teacher had let them off the hook for Reading Logs this week, he'd do it. Evidently, he could suffer through that uncomfortable moment in class when everyone handed in their logs and he didn't have one. And it might be weeks before we'd find out and he'd have to listen to his Dad marvel over how someone who reads on an 11th-grade level could possibly get a B- or C in 5th grade Reading!

My preferred approach (after the 1st time) was to make him do Reading Log every week, unless he got a note from his teacher affirming that they had a week off. Sometimes my husband agreed with me, but it is really hard for him to ever admit to himself that his son lies. Or, at least, it's really hard for him to look his son in the eyes and say, "I don't believe you,". So after a while, if his son looked us in the eyes and swore vociferously, "My teacher is out with appendicitis and doesn't trust the sub to grade Reading Logs, so we don't have to do them all week and I couldn't get a note from my teacher about it because they had to rush him to the hospital the minute I asked for one..." my husband would let it go with, "OK. But I'm going to email your teacher, to check. Are you sure you don't want to change your story before I do that?" My step-son never changes his story. And unfortunately his teacher was pretty crummy about responding to communication from parents.

And that kind of thing just drives me crazy, because it reinforces for my step-son that he's smart enough to manipulate us... when in reality, he's just manipulative enough to take advantage of the fact that my husband wants so badly to believe him. There are huge issues with the ex-wife (DSS' mom) lying and her problems are so distasteful to my husband that of course he doesn't want to think he may have the same type of problems with DSS. Moreover, it doesn't teach DSS to just buckle down and do the little assignments he's supposed to do, which don't really require more effort than the lying takes!

Anyway, due to his lackluster grades, he did not get into the Honors classes in the public middle school next year. And my older sons (who are on the opposite spectrum, academically) are in the "regular" classes there. My husband and I both think DSS would just get distracted and lost there, socially, academically and motivationally. So, we got him into arguably the best Catholic school in the city, starting this fall. It's our parish school, so he already plays sports and has friends there. It should be more challenging than the public middle school, but not quite as demanding as the "Gifted" or International Baccalaureate programs at the public school. Plus, the classes are very small and the teachers are all expected to be very responsive to and communicative with the parents. We hope it will be just the right place for him.

But now he's right in the middle of his 2-month summer visit with his Mom (across the country). She has been saying things to him about how hard his new school will be, how onerous it will be to have to wear uniforms, and what a big "waste of money" it is, since he was first accepted.

He's required to read 3 books over the summer from a specific list and do a detailed outline of each one, to turn in on the 1st day of school. We only get a couple weeks with him in the beginning of the summer, but we made sure he got most of the way through the 1st book. We had him read a bit every day and sat down and talked with him for a few minutes afterward, to make sure he was doing it and not just giving the appearance of reading. We helped him make a template on his laptop for the outline, based on the school's requirements and had him fill in what he could, after each day's reading, so he wouldn't have to do the whole, long outline at one time when he finished the book. We got to the point that he really had a good pace going and had stopped complaining about having to do it and really liked the book. We sent his laptop and all the books with him, to his Mom's. My husband emailed her the requirements.

While he's with his Mom, he's not permitted to speak to any of us except his Dad. My husband asks him periodically about his reading and just gets, "Yeah, Dad. I'm doing it!" The other day, he added, "I'm almost finished with the first book!"



He was almost finished with the 1st book when he left! He only has a month left with his Mom, then a single measly week with us before school starts. I've put off taking my older kids to Six Flags so we can go when DSS is with us. He also has friends he'll want to get together with, whom he hasn't seen in 2 months. And, the way things are going, he'll have 2 months worth of reading to cram into that week!!!!!

My husband emailed his ex about it and just got the usual spin-doctoring. My husband is "so controlling", trying to tell them what to do! DSS is so hard-working, organized, and such a conscientious student! Instead of nagging him about his reading, DH should be praising him for "all his accomplishments" and recognizing his need for "well-deserved relaxation" and the "lazy days of summer".

Yeah - DH and I get to seem like slave-drivers when DSS gets home, because all his days with his Mom get to be so "lazy" that he can't even spend a half-hour reading (which he LIKES to do!!!!!!) and taking some notes! He must do it ALL when he's with us!

Since when does "unconditional love" mean "unconditional praise"? I love my step-son even though I recognize his deficiencies as a student - and his tendency to tell self-serving fibs. Is it more loving to pretend you don't see those things and let him keep shooting himself in the foot?

So. Frustrated. What a great start to the school year this will be.

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#2 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 04:13 PM
 
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I wouldn't make him do the 2 other books before he starts school. Have him complete the first book, then spend the remainder of the week writing a truthful explanation of why the other two books were not completed, and what he intends to do to correct his error (including by when he will read the books and complete the reports) He can spend the reasonable 1/2 hour a day to do that task, and your family will still have fun summer time together. If you make him cram for the week, he might get the message that it's okay to procrastinate if you can slap something together last minute. He can hand in his explanation with his report for the first book, and then he can be held to the terms he laid out for himself.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#3 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 04:53 PM
 
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Mummoth, that's a great idea! Jeannine, can you do something like that?

Annie wife v2.0 to DH and joyfully parenting DSS 18 jog.gif, DSD 15 knit.gif, DSD 14 banana.gif, DSS 12bikenew.gifand heart hero DD 2superhero.gif. angel1.gif 8/2010

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#4 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 06:01 PM
 
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I wouldn't make him do the 2 other books before he starts school. Have him complete the first book, then spend the remainder of the week writing a truthful explanation of why the other two books were not completed, and what he intends to do to correct his error (including by when he will read the books and complete the reports) He can spend the reasonable 1/2 hour a day to do that task, and your family will still have fun summer time together. If you make him cram for the week, he might get the message that it's okay to procrastinate if you can slap something together last minute. He can hand in his explanation with his report for the first book, and then he can be held to the terms he laid out for himself.
I used to be an English teacher before I 'retired' to be a stay at home mom. I can't speak for the school that this kiddo is heading into but if I got a letter instead of the assignment my response would be, "Well then you can deal with the repercussion of trying to bring your grade up from an F. I will not accept this assignment late."

Summer work is usually not really part of the curriculum at the beginning of the year. There isn't a lot of point to doing it later. The point of summer work is to keep you more or less in the groove of reading. If you don't do it then you accept the grade hit and we move on. There will be too much going on at the beginning of the year for most kids to handle having essentially another class on top of their full load. If the kid does a half-hearted cram job at the end of the summer there is the potential he will only have to bring his grade up from a C or a D instead of an F.

That said, make sure the kid doesn't try to cheat. From how you describe him you should probably be watching him to see if he is actually doing his homework as he moves on through harder grades. It's ridiculously easy to get 'fake' essays online these days. Most teachers have access to websites where we can put in one line from a suspected cribbed essay and pull up any reference to it anywhere--it's even better than Google. And teachers really don't look kindly upon cheaters and liars.

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#5 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mummoth, I simply love that idea. Thanks!

Rightkindofme, you also make a good point. But I think I'm OK with him having the consequence of a bad grade - as long as he's forced to make the effort to write out an explanation other than the cover-up he comes up with on the spur of the moment, when the kids are handing in their assignments. And there's something to be said for him having to make the effort to finish the work he should have finished in the summer (even if it takes the entire first grading period, doing 10 extra minutes of reading a night) - and then still not getting the grade for it that he would've gotten, if he'd done the work when he should have. I think part of the problem is him knowing that ALL of his parents (me included) look for ways to help him compensate for slacking off. His Mom acts like he never slacks off, regardless of the evidence. His Dad keeps giving him more chances than he really deserves. And I organize his time for him and make sure he does things, when ideally HE should do more of that, as he gets older. This could be a good learning experience, esp. since he's going to have the same summer reading expectations for the next 2 summers. There's also something to be said for him not being able to hijack what the rest of the family has planned for our last week of break together, with his need to finish the work he blew off.

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#6 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OMG. I just read the ex-wife's response for myself. She actually threatened my husband that she and DSS would work on his reading less, if he said anything else to either one of them about it.

How the *#@+ are you supposed to "co-parent" with someone like that!?

One woman in a house full of men:  my soul mate:  partners.gif  orfencing.gif... twin sons:lurk.giflurk.gif(HS juniors) ... step-son: guitar.gif (a freshman) ... our little man: kid.gif  (a kindergartener) ... and there is another female in the house, after all:  ourdog2.gif. 
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#7 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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You're welcome Jeannine. That is awful about the mom! I can understand not being keen on doing homework over the summer... my son needs help with reading, his teacher suggested regular practice over the summer and I have ZERO patience for it. It seems like he has those eureka moments on his own schedule no matter what I do with him. But I find ways to get him reading a bit every day anyway, because it's not going to hurt him!

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I used to be an English teacher before I 'retired' to be a stay at home mom. I can't speak for the school that this kiddo is heading into but if I got a letter instead of the assignment my response would be, "Well then you can deal with the repercussion of trying to bring your grade up from an F. I will not accept this assignment late."
I'll admit, I didn't think of the academic ramifications at all. I wouldn't expect the teacher to accept the assignment late. I'd have him do the reports late whether it was 'for nothing' or not.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#8 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 06:57 PM
 
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I'll admit, I didn't think of the academic ramifications at all. I wouldn't expect the teacher to accept the assignment late. I'd have him do the reports late whether it was 'for nothing' or not.
As a teacher I would have really appreciated that you were holding your kid responsible and that you didn't yell at me for holding your kid accountable.

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#9 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 07:19 PM
 
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OK, I might be the odd man out here, but if his mom didn't have a voice in what school he's going to, and she sounds like she's not all that hip to the idea, why should she be the one to enforce the reading assignment? Even if it's only 30 minutes a day, maybe she doesn't want to do ANY schoolwork during the summer. This site is very open to different philosophies on parenting, so I'm sure there are other moms and dads here that feel that summertime is vacation time.

I can see your side of it, too. A lot of people feel that kids need to stay on top of reading during the summer so they don't fall behind. But having a kid read during the summer to keep up, and having a structured assignment based on books not chosen by the child? That to me is a different story, and if I were the mom who was already not liking the idea of this school, I would have to say I'd be digging in my heels on doing this assignment as well.

As far as whether the child is lying about reading logs and things, that to me is pretty typical. My kids try to pull the old "teacher said we didn't have to do it" line sometimes. If I don't get a letter from the teacher, we do it anyway. I don't tell them I don't believe them. I just say they need to do it because it's good to read a little everyday, even if it's not for credit.
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#10 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 07:51 PM
 
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OK, I might be the odd man out here, but if his mom didn't have a voice in what school he's going to, and she sounds like she's not all that hip to the idea, why should she be the one to enforce the reading assignment? Even if it's only 30 minutes a day, maybe she doesn't want to do ANY schoolwork during the summer. This site is very open to different philosophies on parenting, so I'm sure there are other moms and dads here that feel that summertime is vacation time.

I can see your side of it, too. A lot of people feel that kids need to stay on top of reading during the summer so they don't fall behind. But having a kid read during the summer to keep up, and having a structured assignment based on books not chosen by the child? That to me is a different story, and if I were the mom who was already not liking the idea of this school, I would have to say I'd be digging in my heels on doing this assignment as well.

As far as whether the child is lying about reading logs and things, that to me is pretty typical. My kids try to pull the old "teacher said we didn't have to do it" line sometimes. If I don't get a letter from the teacher, we do it anyway. I don't tell them I don't believe them. I just say they need to do it because it's good to read a little everyday, even if it's not for credit.
I don't know of a middle school, public or private, that does not have summer reading assignments. It doesn't matter where you go there is still work over the summer.

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#11 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 07:54 PM
 
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I don't know of a middle school, public or private, that does not have summer reading assignments. It doesn't matter where you go there is still work over the summer.
That's interesting because here it is not the norm at all. Summer reading lists...yes, but they are suggested reading. Maybe this is a regional thing, but I've never heard of a graded assignment over the summer.
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#12 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 07:58 PM
 
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That's interesting because here it is not the norm at all. Summer reading lists...yes, but they are suggested reading. Maybe this is a regional thing, but I've never heard of a graded assignment over the summer.
I could totally believe that it is regional.

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#13 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 08:03 PM
 
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I have mixed feelings on this one.

Personally and professionally, my view (which is backed up by lots of research) is that external motivations (grades, punishments) tend to decrease internal motivations, so reading logs and too much structure will tend to turn a kid off of reading. However, if they have no internal motivation to begin with, then they have to have the external motivation or the reading just wouldn't happen. So, for the teachers, they're dealing with both types of student, and everyone in between, and they will err on the side of structure and compelled reading. I understand that, but, for example, with my DSS, it tends to discourage him. He likes to read big, long, challenging books, and the school says ok but then they test him on these, and he will effectively get punished then for not choosing simple books. It frustrates me as a parent. I like to see him push himself and hate to see him pull back just to get a good grade.

So, back to your situation. If he's compelled to do this log and, as you say, he's bright or perhaps gifted and would read on his own, I can see him wanting to rebel against that structure and just read what he wants or even not read at all, in protest. I get it. I feel for him. But decisions have consequences, and he needs to be held to them. It sucks that his mother won't encourage him to do his schoolwork, whether she approves or not. There are assignments DSS brings here that we don't like, but as parents part of our job is to encourage him in school, so we make sure he always does them.

I suppose since you chose the school and she didn't, she may feel justified not helping out. Have you asked the school what they would like you to do? Personally, I'd tell him the books are read by the week before you come home, or we go to Six Flags that last week without you and you are grounded when you get here. But that's just me. I believe in lots of warning and clear consequences. They get to make the choices and they get to live with them. No anger -- just clear, calmly delivered consequences.

I don't think any of that will encourage him to read in the long term, but it probably won't stop him reading the stuff he likes, either.

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#14 of 26 Old 07-09-2010, 08:28 PM
 
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Although I agree with some things that many other posters say, I have to tell you I'm with buttercup. "Reading logs?" For a kid who loves to read and is reading anyway? That is the kind of thing that convinces kids - and me - that schooling by this kind of teacher is less about education and more about paperwork. Tell me what sort of teaching goes on when a kid turns in a "reading log?" And what happens to them after they're turned in? My guesses are 1) a check on a spreadsheet and 2) trash can. Not some great discussion about what the kid read and how he analyzed it.

The assignment by his new school, on the other hand, seems to require some summary and analysis - something the new teacher will actually read. A "let's get acquainted with your mind" sort of thing. An opportunity to make an impression on a teacher who could be an inspiration or a mentor. You might try pitching it to the kid that way. If I were you, I'd invite this teacher over for dinner/coffee/something the minute the kid gets home. This child is obviously not motivated by grades - and lots of kids, even from intact and functional two parent homes, just aren't. He might be motivated by a personal connection with someone who could command his respect, or at least his interest. It's worth a shot.

I have got to praise you for finding a good middle school. Around here, the high schools that have a low dropout rate and a high number of college bound kids tend to lavish praise the middle schools that feed them. Because most grade schools bring kids along pretty well. Middle school is the place where kids get turned on or turned off. I really hope your efforts here pay off. Because it sounds like the parental kicking of his behind isn't working, and I'm willing to bet it wouldn't work even if both his biological parents dropped off the face of the earth, leaving you in charge. You might get him to get a couple of assignments done, and lose most of your mind in the process, but it won't fix his problem.
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#15 of 26 Old 07-10-2010, 01:03 AM
 
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What are the consequences of not doing the assigned reading and logs? Honestly, if there isn't a grade on the assignment, I can see where he doesn't want to do it. I was one of those students who see where they can skate by, and would pull this crap, even in college. You may want to explain to him that even if there isn't a specific grade for the project, that his teachers aren't going to look kindly on a new student who blew off summer reading. (Speaking from experience, believe me. I had a professor make my life miserable for refusing to brief cases for one extra credit point apiece, when I already had a solid A.)

Does he also understand that his poor performance at the public school resulted in removal from Honors programs? How does he feel about that? Does he understand that his performance in school now is going to affect the rest of his life, to some extent? I hate to recommend natural consequences, but a child at that age should understand the ramifications of being a slack-ass know-it-all, "I'm gifted and don't have to work," kind of student. Excuse my language

I really hope I'm not coming across as extremely rude or harsh, and I don't mean to tell you to let him sink or swim on his own. But I have been in his shoes to a certain degree, and while it's really hard to get a good study/work ethic if it doesn't start early, it's not something that can be forced on a child by their parents. Learning to do the work, on his own without anyone breathing down his neck, might be good for him. The first bad grade for a missed assignment or last-minute paper might be a wake up call!

(I hope I don't get all flamed to heck and back for this.)

DD 2/08
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#16 of 26 Old 07-10-2010, 11:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the interesting discussion, ladies! (Whenever I write something so long, I'm always grateful that people even take the time to read it, much less respond!)

A few thoughts:

1- I can see others' perspective, but I think his assignment's perfectly reasonable. The unstructured time of summer is very valuable (as long as kids don't spend most of it plugged in to mind-numbing devices). I think summer should be even longer, like it was when I was a kid. But reading is one of the things kids should be doing with that time. I see nothing wrong with guiding kids to make some of what they read thought-provoking, or something that has an uplifting or challenging message. My step-son's school requires him to read one specific short book and choose two others from a list. So he does have some choice. He also has plenty of time to read what he wants, beyond those 3 books.

The outline is longish, but basic: Major & minor characters; point of view; setting; major themes, conflicts & symbols; summarize the exposition, conflict, rising action, climax & resolution; and would you recommend this book and why? A kid who actually read the book (or even the Cliff Notes!) should easily be able to list these things without flipping back through it. But if you plug in the info. as you go, it should take no time to wrap up the outline after finishing the book. The outline forces kids to brush up on structure, organization and completing an assignment for maybe a total of a couple of hours over 10 weeks.

As a kid, I also HATED assignments like that. I also HATE having to do housework, or just clean up after myself period. It's not interesting to me, at all. But life is better if you make yourself stay on top of it anyway. That's a learned behavior that's taught and reinforced by parents, just like homework. There's value in learning to buckle down and DO what you're assigned, as long as it's not outlandish. If DSS were being asked to do work that took up a significant amount of his summer or that interfered with him being able to spend time with his Mom, I'd have his back, in resisting it. But that's just not the case.

2- My husband did ask his ex-wife to be involved in the decision about where to send DSS next year. And he phrased it as though the two of them should decide. He didn't mention me, which would have surely offended her. (I see eye-to-eye with him on it anyway, so there was no big discussion or debate about it, between us.) No response from her, which is par for the course. Presumably, she'd approve of the decision. When she lived here and had custody, she really wanted DSS to attend one of the other top Catholic schools and was very disappointed that my husband wasn't able to get him a spot then. Honestly, I can't see any reasonable parent actually wanting their child to attend the public middle school over the one DSS will attend. According to his teacher, the parents of half his classmates tried to get their kids in and he's the only one who got a spot. Most of those kids will go to other Catholic middle schools, not the public one.

It seems clear that her negativity about the school is simply part of her overall effort to influence DSS to think of living with us as a desperate, miserable situation that's been forced on him and to pine for the day he can tell a judge to send him back to her, in the land of neverending vacation and praise (and, in the meantime, not ask himself why it's more important to HER to be there than to live here, near him...)

3- Even if she does disapprove of the school choice, or the reading assignment, IMO she's supposed to be parenting him, not focusing primarily on what she wants. So many things in divorce are uncomfortable and confusing - like complying with an order to let your child spend time with (and build a close relationship with) someone you may hate! I think the only way to approach any of it is to always ask, "What's the right thing for the child?" In this case, even if she's resentful, how can it possibly benefit DSS for her to show him it's not a priority to me that you complete your requirements for school and your Dad's oppressing us by showing an interest?

4- If she really feels he shouldn't have to work on anything for school while he's with her, I think it'd be easier if she were just direct and honest about it. Then DSS would know that her guidance is focused primarily on strengthening his connection to her, not on helping him succeed at school. He might not care and just want to take the easy way out, but at least it would be clear who's focused on what, in the contradictory guidance he gets. We might even be able to go to the school and alter his requirements, explaining, "He spends most of the summer with his Mom who has explicitly stated she will not support him doing school work when he's with her. Can he just do an amount of work that's reasonable for the time he's with us?"

Instead, her lip service is that his school requirements are a top priority for her, she's very responsibly guiding him to get his work done and my husband is oppressive to even ask about it - and that DSS is doing everything just fine... yet if DSS was honest about being so far behind on the work (and why would he say he was so far behind, if he isn't??), then he knows his mother's representations aren't true. So it just reinforces the "Blow stuff off and stonewall anyone who calls you on it" behavior!

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Does he also understand that his poor performance at the public school resulted in removal from Honors programs? How does he feel about that? Does he understand that his performance in school now is going to affect the rest of his life, to some extent? I hate to recommend natural consequences, but a child at that age should understand the ramifications of being a slack-ass know-it-all, "I'm gifted and don't have to work," kind of student. Excuse my language

The first bad grade for a missed assignment or last-minute paper might be a wake up call!
This has been a growing issue since he was in maybe 2nd grade. Halfway through 4th grade, he was given the choice to move to an easier classroom or work harder. He insisted he wanted to stay in the "smart" class (with all his friends), but he didn't work harder and he knows that's why he was moved to a different class for 5th grade. Again, he probably shouldn't have been in the gifted class in the first place, but for a good, long time he didn't have a problem keeping up. I don't think the expectations changed as much as his effort did. He also knows why he couldn't be in the Honors classes, if he went to the public middle school next year. He's also gotten numerous poor grades.

One thing I think we're dealing with is kind of a negative fatalism, on his part. Internally, I don't think he takes responsibility for much. I think he sort of waits out the negative consequence ("takes his medicine"). If the consequence is over quickly (like being grounded), then it's done. If it's more enduring (like spending 5th grade in a different class than all his "smart" friends), I think he feels sorry for himself instead of thinking, "Crud! I did this to myself. I'm going to work harder, so I can be in the Honors classes with them next year." I know the latter is a lot to expect of a kid, anway. Especially if the kid has dealt with a lifetime of unfair circumstances - being denied contact with his Dad, being moved to a new school every year, being moved across the country from his family and friends (and from a nice house to a studio apartment) because his Mom wanted a different life, then being sent to live with us while his Mom decided to stay by the beach - NONE of which he got any control over or say in! He's grown quite used to the idea that frustrating or disappointing things are going to happen in his life and he just has to accept them and keep going - AND that they are always the fault of outside authority figures (parents, judges), not HIS doing. It's hard to make him see that when he DOES have power (say, over his school work), the responsibility for negative consequences lies with him, not his teachers, principal or his Dad and me.

I can't just let him sink or swim on his own. He's with us 80% of the time now, so I DO have responsibility for him, whether he's "mine" or not. I need to feel like I gave him the best guidance I could, even if it doesn't ultimately change his habits. He doesn't have to become perfect. I don't know anyone who is. But I need to make the effort to parent him the best I can, not give up because he's set in his ways, at 11.

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#17 of 26 Old 07-10-2010, 04:02 PM
 
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OK, I might be the odd man out here, but if his mom didn't have a voice in what school he's going to, and she sounds like she's not all that hip to the idea, why should she be the one to enforce the reading assignment? Even if it's only 30 minutes a day, maybe she doesn't want to do ANY schoolwork during the summer. This site is very open to different philosophies on parenting, so I'm sure there are other moms and dads here that feel that summertime is vacation time.

I can see your side of it, too. A lot of people feel that kids need to stay on top of reading during the summer so they don't fall behind. But having a kid read during the summer to keep up, and having a structured assignment based on books not chosen by the child? That to me is a different story, and if I were the mom who was already not liking the idea of this school, I would have to say I'd be digging in my heels on doing this assignment as well.

As far as whether the child is lying about reading logs and things, that to me is pretty typical. My kids try to pull the old "teacher said we didn't have to do it" line sometimes. If I don't get a letter from the teacher, we do it anyway. I don't tell them I don't believe them. I just say they need to do it because it's good to read a little everyday, even if it's not for credit.

Yes, but would you still not do it if it was going to be detrimental to your child and cause them to start out the school year already in the "negative" in terms of grades/teachers view of them? I to some degree agree with you that kids need time do decompress and do activities they enjoy (reading for pleasure, etc.), but I would also follow the guidelines set forth by the teacher to ensure that dsd feels like she is starting out in school on a good note, KWIM?

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#18 of 26 Old 07-10-2010, 09:15 PM
 
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Yes, but would you still not do it if it was going to be detrimental to your child and cause them to start out the school year already in the "negative" in terms of grades/teachers view of them? I to some degree agree with you that kids need time do decompress and do activities they enjoy (reading for pleasure, etc.), but I would also follow the guidelines set forth by the teacher to ensure that dsd feels like she is starting out in school on a good note, KWIM?
It would depend. I'm not saying that I would handle it like the mom in this case, I'm just saying that I could see how the constant mentioning of this assignment could be seen as the dad's way of controlling 'her' time with her son.

Jeannine,
You can't teach someone to live up to their potential, and trying to force it will only alienate him. I think that by 11 he is old enough to take responsibility for his own projects and schoolwork with minimal help from you unless he asks. Provide him the tools to do the work if need be, but punishing him for not doing it will not work. If he fails, he fails. Will he have to pay for it later on...maybe so. Maybe he won't be able to get a college scholarship one day. Maybe he'll be kicked out of this great school and have to go to public school. Who knows? But I promise, you won't be able to teach the lesson you want him to learn without pushing him away.
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#19 of 26 Old 07-10-2010, 10:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It would depend. I'm not saying that I would handle it like the mom in this case, I'm just saying that I could see how the constant mentioning of this assignment could be seen as the dad's way of controlling 'her' time with her son.

Jeannine,
You can't teach someone to live up to their potential, and trying to force it will only alienate him. I think that by 11 he is old enough to take responsibility for his own projects and schoolwork with minimal help from you unless he asks. Provide him the tools to do the work if need be, but punishing him for not doing it will not work. If he fails, he fails. Will he have to pay for it later on...maybe so. Maybe he won't be able to get a college scholarship one day. Maybe he'll be kicked out of this great school and have to go to public school. Who knows? But I promise, you won't be able to teach the lesson you want him to learn without pushing him away.
I think you misunderstand a little. My husband has brought up the reading assignments to his ex once, half-way through her summer visit. He talks to his son almost daily and only asks him periodically if he's doing his reading. It's not constant nagging. There's no question: she does feel like he's trying to control their time together. But the rest of DSS' life, connections, associations and responsibilities don't cease to exist just because he visits his Mom. She can try to keep herself and DSS in an isolated little coccoon, by keeping him from talking to anyone but my husband, living across the country, and even by permitting him to ignore his school work. But my husband can't be expected to "respect" that as though it's reasonable and never ask about the school work.

Also, DSS doesn't exactly get "punished" for slacking off. I mentioned grounding earlier. That was when he neglected to bring in materials for a visual aid for a report, picked up another kid's stuff from the back table and insisted it was his...and got a one-day in-school suspension for lying to his teacher. I think grounding was warranted. But just for getting worse grades than we think he should get...the "consequence" is typically some version of a lecture, and not receiving the incentives offered for good grades.

I really hope you're wrong, about alienating him. I see what you're saying. But the idea that at the young age of 11, the people closest to you, who are supposed to think you're the most important thing in the entire world, would just throw up their hands and say, "If he fails, he fails. Not my problem," just sounds so lonely and hopeless to me! How can he make a valid decision now that he doesn't want help learning better study habits - that would benefit him later - when he scarcely thinks past this week?

I used to "hate" the high school Spanish teacher I had for 4 years because she was demanding, didn't let me get away with anything and called me on it in front of everyone if I slacked off. She alienated me! She's also the only teacher I bother going back to visit. She was the best! I just didn't know that or tell her that when I was 16. I certainly don't want DSS to hate me. And I really don't think that's the road we're on. But if he's frustrated with me sometimes because I remind him that he should strive to do more than the minimum...well, aren't we supposed to resent our parents' high expectations from time to time, when we're kids? That doesn't kill the long-term relationship. I guess only time will tell...

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#20 of 26 Old 07-18-2010, 09:14 PM
 
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OMG. I just read the ex-wife's response for myself. She actually threatened my husband that she and DSS would work on his reading less, if he said anything else to either one of them about it.

How the *#@+ are you supposed to "co-parent" with someone like that!?
Say what I will - but this is exactly the kind of response my ex would give me, were I to suggest strongly that our kids do x,y, or z while they were with him over summer holidays.

And quite frankly (I'm hoping not, but you never know) it may be my response too.

Judging from your past posts, your (and your dh's) relationship with his ex is horrible at best - I don't find it hard to believe that she wants nothing at all to do with any of your suggestions.

Not that I'm saying this is sane or fair, but I can see why she does what she does.

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Yes, but would you still not do it if it was going to be detrimental to your child and cause them to start out the school year already in the "negative" in terms of grades/teachers view of them? I to some degree agree with you that kids need time do decompress and do activities they enjoy (reading for pleasure, etc.), but I would also follow the guidelines set forth by the teacher to ensure that dsd feels like she is starting out in school on a good note, KWIM?
Perhaps. Maybe she thinks they're exaggerating? God knows I only believe half of what comes out of my ex's mouth, and our relationship isn't half as acrimonious.

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3- Even if she does disapprove of the school choice, or the reading assignment, IMO she's supposed to be parenting him, not focusing primarily on what she wants. So many things in divorce are uncomfortable and confusing - like complying with an order to let your child spend time with (and build a close relationship with) someone you may hate! I think the only way to approach any of it is to always ask, "What's the right thing for the child?" In this case, even if she's resentful, how can it possibly benefit DSS for her to show him it's not a priority to me that you complete your requirements for school and your Dad's oppressing us by showing an interest?
Again, she really truly may simply see this as you trying to control her time, with her child, as a means of keeping your hands on him while he's gone, etc.

God knows I can't even mention something medical, let alone reading logs, while my ex has our kids or it's all 'Quit telling me what to do on MY time. You have YOUR time, so back off'.

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#21 of 26 Old 07-18-2010, 10:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Perhaps. Maybe she thinks they're exaggerating? God knows I only believe half of what comes out of my ex's mouth, and our relationship isn't half as acrimonious...Again, she really truly may simply see this as you trying to control her time, with her child, as a means of keeping your hands on him while he's gone, etc.
To clarify...Initially, my husband just sent her the link to the page on the school's web site that describes the summer reading assignment. I think all he wrote in the message was a simple sentence to let her know what the link was about, so she wouldn't ignore it. He wanted to avoid seeming like he was telling her what to do - and, for God's sake, he wanted to avoid letting her think he was exaggerating about the requirements! He only brought it up again when DSS told him that, after 3 weeks with Mom, he was still at the same place in his reading that he was when he left home (almost done with the 1st book), which obviously means he's not on-track to finish all 3 books in the 4 weeks left of his visit, or the 5 weeks left before school starts.

Initially, my husband didn't even tell her how we were approaching the assignment at home, to avoid sounding like he wanted to "control" how she handled it. We made sure DSS had the outline he'd worked on, on his laptop, which he took to his Mom's. But if she approached things differently, fine - as long as it got done.

I'm sure she's not the only divorced parent with this type of attitude. But it's not defensible. The kids should be the first priority, not the pettiness.

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#22 of 26 Old 07-19-2010, 12:47 AM
 
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I'm sure she's not the only divorced parent with this type of attitude. But it's not defensible. The kids should be the first priority, not the pettiness.
Agreed.

On our end, we don't get consulted about the school they attend (in fact, we have to find out from the kids when they switch schools!) or told much of anything. But, when we are sent homework to do with the kids, or reading assignments, you better believe we make sure the kids do them.
It's called "parenting time" for a reason.

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...But, when we are sent homework to do with the kids, or reading assignments, you better believe we make sure the kids do them.
It's called "parenting time" for a reason.
Amen!

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#24 of 26 Old 07-19-2010, 09:39 AM
 
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To clarify...Initially, my husband just sent her the link to the page on the school's web site that describes the summer reading assignment. I think all he wrote in the message was a simple sentence to let her know what the link was about, so she wouldn't ignore it. He wanted to avoid seeming like he was telling her what to do - and, for God's sake, he wanted to avoid letting her think he was exaggerating about the requirements!

I'm sure she's not the only divorced parent with this type of attitude. But it's not defensible. The kids should be the first priority, not the pettiness.
Well, that negates that idea then.

As far as the bolded quote goes, again - of course children should be the first priority, not pettiness, but when the co-parenting relationship is so bad... there's not a lot to work with. I can't even ask my ex to put sunscreen on our two kids (who come home sun burnt all.the.time) w/o him shrieking about me trying to control him - and we get along rather well when it comes to the kids.

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#25 of 26 Old 07-19-2010, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can't even ask my ex to put sunscreen on our two kids (who come home sun burnt all.the.time) w/o him shrieking about me trying to control him - and we get along rather well when it comes to the kids.
It sounds like several moms on here have that problem with their exes. That stinks.

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#26 of 26 Old 07-25-2010, 04:08 PM
 
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I think you misunderstand a little. My husband has brought up the reading assignments to his ex once, half-way through her summer visit. He talks to his son almost daily and only asks him periodically if he's doing his reading. It's not constant nagging. There's no question: she does feel like he's trying to control their time together. But the rest of DSS' life, connections, associations and responsibilities don't cease to exist just because he visits his Mom. She can try to keep herself and DSS in an isolated little coccoon, by keeping him from talking to anyone but my husband, living across the country, and even by permitting him to ignore his school work. But my husband can't be expected to "respect" that as though it's reasonable and never ask about the school work.
All I can say to this is obviously this approach is NOT working otherwise you wouldn't be here posting about it. As a child of divorced parents' all I can tell you is that if the mom is telling him it's not a big deal, and your husband is asking about it (and asking about it more than once IS nagging to a child if he's not doing it), than dss is being put in a stressful situation. How would the situation improve if you guys put NO expectations on dss while he was with his mom? It may not be 'fair', but oh well, life's not fair.



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I really hope you're wrong, about alienating him. I see what you're saying. But the idea that at the young age of 11, the people closest to you, who are supposed to think you're the most important thing in the entire world, would just throw up their hands and say, "If he fails, he fails. Not my problem," just sounds so lonely and hopeless to me! How can he make a valid decision now that he doesn't want help learning better study habits - that would benefit him later - when he scarcely thinks past this week?
I didn't say that. I said give him the tools and the support to succeed.. You can't make someone succeed. And if he's fighting it? Forget it! I think you and your dh need to do some real soul searching and decide what kind of relationship you want with dss. I'm not talking about abandoning him, I'm talking about supporting what's important. From reading your other posts, the last thing this kid needs is stress about a reading log.

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I certainly don't want DSS to hate me. And I really don't think that's the road we're on. But if he's frustrated with me sometimes because I remind him that he should strive to do more than the minimum...well, aren't we supposed to resent our parents' high expectations from time to time, when we're kids? That doesn't kill the long-term relationship. I guess only time will tell...
Yes, I think parents' that have a strong relationship with their kids can push them and that relationship will be intact. But your dss obviously has a lot of issues he's dealing with. Maybe he doesn't need to focus on a more challenging school right now? I think if you focus more on building trust between you guys and less on him "living up to his potential" that the success will happen, even if it's not in the conventional way you want it to.
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