Plagiarism & More - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-11-2009, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
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We are at such a loss with our 13yo son.
Since he was 6, he has been homeschooled, attended a small, Waldorf inspired public school, a larger IB public school, homeschooled again and now a small, expeditionary private school.
In every learning environment he has worked very hard at getting out of doing even the simplest work. He whines, complains, gets up and walks away.
In a classroom environment, he is disruptive and acts the class clown. Homeschooling him was an incredibly difficult and stressful time. He just refused to do anything.

He's gifted musically but doesn't practice. We have provided him with avenues to express his talents and he just doesn't seem to care.

His current school has shown a commitment to him like no other. He has shown that he his capable of excellent classroom behavior and turning in work that reflects his capabilities. However, he seems to lack "staying power" over the course of a semester.

He recently was caught copying and pasting from Wikipedia for a very simple assignment. When faced with the fact that he was caught, he bald faced lied to the dean. Again and again. In the assignment sheet, it was made very clear that the kids were to read the sources and put it into their own words. There was no grey in this situation. This just brought to a head his habitual dishonesty.
He was put on academic probation. More for the persistent lying than the plagiarism. It's a big deal. Daily check ins with his adviser, staying after school twice a week. A couple steps away from being asked to leave the school.

Yesterday, I received an email from his math teacher. He's slouching in class, refusing to do classwork and take notes. Says he knows this stuff but turns in partially completed homework saying he didn't get it. It wrapped up with some excellent suggestions for strategies he could use for being successful in math. Math is an area he also has a lot of aptitude for but refuses to put forth any effort.
He was asked to leave math class today for all the above reasons.
We've asked him if he wants to stay at this school. He says he does.

Heck. We're running out of places for him to be. At home we've done unschooling, structured schooling, you name it. He hates it all and would watch TV and play on the Wii if he were given the option to do whatever he wants.

Where he is thriving...Spanish and Improv class.
He has a huge heart and thrives on the company of others. He loves to help kids out. He loves to cook for others. He does this at least twice a week.

We've recognized that he may not have the aptitude for heavy academics. We've even recognized that average or satisfactory may be what he's capable of. He has strong interpersonal skills and could be very successful putting those to work.

It's his f*ck this attitude about putting forth any effort, even in the things he loves, that really concerns us. Also his habitual dishonesty. In addition to the plagiarism, he's been stealing money from everyone in the family, and just lying about the smallest thing.
Thank you for reading this novel. Please bring it on.
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#2 of 6 Old 11-11-2009, 05:39 PM
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First (((hugs))) to you. This must be stressful and worrying.

I'm guessing you recognize that the plagiarism is part of larger problem with lack of engagement and connection to his education. Can you appeal to his huge heart and concern for others to help him realize that plagiarism is really just theft? It's theft of someone's creative product, rather than money or property, but it's just as hurtful to the person who worked hard to produce it.

I'd probably start with the areas he's enjoying and applying himself. If he likes Spanish, maybe he'd be willing to do some extra reading in Spanish or South American literature, or learn a little more about Spanish history - which leads into topics like Muslim life across Europe in the 8th century, and North and South American exploration. If he enjoys theatre, are there theatre groups that he could join? My dc have been in productions of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and Pride and Prejudice. It's inspired them to read the original works.

Does he respond to talks about planning for his future? Perhaps he needs some goals. If he was a little older, I'd suggest considering cooking school or a chef's apprenticeship or something like that.

Best wishes.
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#3 of 6 Old 11-12-2009, 12:14 AM
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In our community we have a place where kids can go to cook at a church to make a much needed meal for others. He might enjoy working at a place like that.

That he is willing to steal from family members is a real indication of a big problem that you should deal with now. What are the consequences for his actions? Does he have to explain himself to the person from whom he stole, or is it all brushed under a rug?

As for academics, have you considered letting him fail? I mean really let him fall on his ass and just have to admit that he did it himself?

What would his current school do? Kick him out? Or require he repeat the year? If it is the former, I'm thinking I'd ask for my money back because theyr'e not engaging him. If it's the latter, maybe you can work with them.

I don't know what I would do if one of my kids were to be in your son's situation, so I am putting it out there as an idea.
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#4 of 6 Old 11-12-2009, 11:39 AM
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I missed the bit about stealing money from family and lying. It sounds like there are deeper issues than attitude about school. He's sounds unhappy and I hope you can help him figure out why. If he can't open up to you, perhaps there are other trusted adults to whom he can talk. Counselling may help.

I came back to post another strategy. He's uninterested in a lot of his school subjects and in danger of being expelled. I might tell him that he needs to figure out his next steps if he has to leave school. Sitting around the house and watching t.v. is not an option. Help him look at job want ads (there won't be many for a 13 y.o.), find people for him to talk to about career strategies for education drop outs. Ask him to put together a budget for living expenses. Give him a taste of what's expected if he isn't working on his education.

I'm not sure how effective this strategy will be, given his age and the fact that there seems to be some underlying issues bothering him. I would keep helping him search for something meaningful that will help give him some purpose and direction. I'm sorry that I don't have better ideas to help.
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#5 of 6 Old 11-12-2009, 12:46 PM
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Hugs, mama!

This must be so stressfull.

Seeing as he wants to stay in school, and facing the consequences of his action is important, I would do as follows:

1. Let him flunk or get kicked out of school. Discuss with him now the consequences to his actions.

2. If he gets kicked out of school, I would unschool him. I would not enroll him in another school until he has shown some growth and maturity. I cannot see this hapenning in less than a year. It is not fair to him, you or the school to put him in one if he does not want to be there (and yes - he says he wants to be there - but his actions speak differently, you know?) I know Hsing/Using has not worked in the past ...but neither has school.

USing does include letting him sit around and watch TV and play the Wii, lol. If he takes a community based improv class, Spanish class and volunteers in some capacity he really is good to go. I would suggest posting in the Using section if you are interested.

The truth is you cannot make someone want to work, the motivation is going to have to come from within. USing is all about this and may be a positve reflection of his reality - if you can accept that the whole thing is on his schedule.

I think 13 is a hard age for some kids. One of DS friends is really floundering at the moment - smoking and doing (we believe) weed; he also wanders aimlessly around town for hours at a time. I don't suppose this makes your situation any easier - but know you are not alone.

I have heard that many kids start to understand the consequences to their actions and look more long term as they age. Kids who were not interested in academics start taking it seriously, etc, as they realise they really do want to go to college in an attempt to avoid McJobs. Grade 10 or 11 seems to be when they get it together.....

Good luck, mama!

P.S. Have you asked him why he is stealing?
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#6 of 6 Old 11-13-2009, 10:52 PM
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I think the stealing and lying merit consultation with a therapist. Separately and together. Something more is going on here and while I'm all for natural consequences, I'm not sure the root cause of the problem has been unearthed and the lesson will be lost if the real problem is never identified.

I would seek outside assistance.


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