Part vent, part request for opinions: 14 y.o. facing potential grade repeat & it might be my fault - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 11-09-2011, 05:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS just turned 14 in October, he is attending an online high school for 9th grade this school year and basically he has probably done no more than 5- 10% of all assignments since school started at the beginning of September.

 

Background: DS was born when I was 20 and a single mom and had a very different mindset regarding child-rearing and education.  Back in the day, I started teaching him to read right before he turned 4, I was making up addition problems for him at 4, and I even put him in Kindergarten in a private school at 4 b/c the cutoff date was in September and I didn't want him to wait a whole year to start school since he was so smart.  In Kindergarten he was the only kid in his class that could read already so I pushed for him to attend language arts classes with the 1st graders.  In 1st grade he transitioned to a good public school but that's when the problems started or surfaced.  Since 1st grade he has resisted doing homework and I consistently spent hours forcing him to complete worksheets that should have taken him 10 minutes.  He was an avid reader though and would spend as much time as possible reading books.  Unfortunately, at the time I had never heard of or considered gentle discipline and frequently turned to yelling and spanking to get him to do work.  DS continued to turn in assignments late or not at all; however, he always managed to make the honor roll and in the 7th grade he had his best year ever.  He was in all honors classes and even made the A honor roll - I'm sure this was because the school had a system that encouraged/incentivized students to succeed. 

 

Because of my job we moved to the Dominican Republic right before DS started 8th grade and I selected an American-style and accredited high school that turned out to be more disorganized than him.  For the first time ever, DS's report card was full of Cs and low Bs and in one case, his teacher said he'd really earned a D but she knew he was capable of doing better so gave him a C.  DS didn't turn in homework and didn't complete all of his class assignments either.  He was really struggling with algebra so I hired a math tutor and he barely eeked out high Cs and low Bs for the rest of the school year. 

 

I was so concerned about him not learning the necessary material during 9th grade and felt guilty about potentially making him change schools from 8th - 9th grade knowing that we are moving right before he goes to 10th grade, I decided to enroll him in this online high school.  My hope was that being at home for a year would give him time to mature, remove distratctions and temptations to spend time trying to impress other kids, and provide me with an opportunity to have up to date information about his progress in school - whether assignments were completed, are due soon or not. 

 

What I've got now is a mess on my hands.  DS spent the first several weeks of school trying to skate by in class by online looking at the online lessons, skipping ahead to take and fail quizzes, and just didn't do any written homework or submit any assignments.  I had the information at my fingertips and would use it to talk about when he'd start getting his assignments done but I was generally met with a hostile response from him.  I started freaking out initially and would occassionally yell, but by the beginning of October I began trying to release and let go my guilty feelings for putting him in this school and accepting that he just might have to repeat 9th grade.  I laid off of him - I'm not even asking every day whether he turned in any assignments anymore- and he started talking about how he intended to just "get it all done".  I honestly think he's so overwhelmed by how much he has to do to catch up that he can't seem to get started and finish.  He's upset with me and says that it is all my fault that he's failing these courses, but I've told him that I am responsible for putting him in this school and now realize that it was a mistake; however, he is responsible for not doing any work at all.  I've explained to him that I'd like to withdraw him from school if he's not going to do anything b/c I don't want these grades on his transcript and prefer that he just start over in a new country next year (and we'll be at the next post for 4 years) so he can attend school from 9 - 12th grade in one place.  He says he doesn't want to give up and he knows he's going to catch up and make it.  I try not to be negative and I do believe in miracles, but I don't see him putting any effort into accomplishing anything (with the exception of one writing assignment that was due in September for English). 

 

Am I being negative by discussing the possibility of him starting over in 9th grade next year?

Should I continue to encourage him to not give up and pretend that he's actually doing something to make up his work?

He has tennis lessons 2xs/week and dance 2xs/week and I don't want to take those activiites away from him, but I have taken away purely social outings.  Does it make sense to consider imposing these consequences when I know that it will be really, really challenging for him to turn things around given his poor study habits and lack of self motivation?

Am I being a reckless, irresponsible mom by suggesting that it's okay for him to take a year off from school this year?

 

My job will only pay tuition for one school/year and given my other responsibilities (2 other children and stay at home dad and stepdad to DS), I can't afford to enroll him in another American school.  Going to a local school in Santo Domingo is not an option.


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#2 of 14 Old 11-09-2011, 08:25 PM
 
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I read your post twice trying to make sure I got the details.
 

First, hug2.gif. It sounds like a stressful situation.

 

Second, I have a child in 9th grade who turned 15 in Oct., and I'm sure that shades my answer.

 

Third, I have a couple of friends who've tried on-line schools with similar results to what you have having, so I think it is a pretty normal outcome. One of my friends' sons, who is super math bright, would just try to take the math test without doing ANY of the work.

 

So, what to do next. If your son totally bombs this year, will those grades transfer to his next school, or will he get a fresh start? I know that for kids in my state, if they are doing an on-line charter, how well or poorly they do goes directly to their next school, but with moving countries over the summer, I don't know how that would work. I would want to be reasonably sure that he can really just walk away from the mess before giving up.

 

Could he transfer some of the credits but not others? For example, could you select certain courses, such has Math and English, and have him complete those while letting everything else go bye-bye. I'm thinking that for my kids, taking a whole year off math would just be a mistake and life would be beyond painful for them when they went back to it.

 

If you decide to continue plugging away, I suggest making him a schedule about what he will do in what order and for how long. Plan breaks. Plan plan plan. He's overwhelmed, and he ain't gonna figure it out on his own. Something like what time he gets up, what he does before he starts school, and how much to do before his first break. Then plan something short and fun for his break, and then what he does after his break and for how long. Turn the whole big overwhelming mess into little baby steps.

 

But I think it would be fine to make sure he keeps up his math/reading/writing skills this year and do 9th grade next year in a brick and motor school. My kids work so much harder when they have a real teacher and other students. 

 

Last, stop blaming him or yourself. This sounded like a good idea. On paper, it looked perfect. You guys tried it. The reality didn't live up to your expectations. It isn't anybody's fault. It just makes him normal. Let it go, and figure out how to move on and enjoy this year.

 

 


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#3 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 03:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for the response.  Because we'll move to a new country with a new international school, I don't think I'll be required to even report this school year.  I will, however, double-check on that.  You gave some good suggestions that I'll try and hope will help him get out of this rut.


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#4 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 05:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 

So, what to do next. If your son totally bombs this year, will those grades transfer to his next school, or will he get a fresh start? I know that for kids in my state, if they are doing an on-line charter, how well or poorly they do goes directly to their next school, but with moving countries over the summer, I don't know how that would work. I would want to be reasonably sure that he can really just walk away from the mess before giving up.

 

I agree with this FOR SURE.  However, I would NOT tell him that he can walk away - even if he can.  I would want to light a fire under him so that he works hard to catch up - and then if some of his grades are good, transfer them.  If his grades still turn out bad, then give him the choice, and act like you didn't know of the possibility.  I would NOT want to set a precedent for "giving up" and not having consequences afterwards, yk?  These are formative years - and he could learn some GREAT skills in time management this year doing all this catch up work.

 

Could he transfer some of the credits but not others? For example, could you select certain courses, such has Math and English, and have him complete those while letting everything else go bye-bye. I'm thinking that for my kids, taking a whole year off math would just be a mistake and life would be beyond painful for them when they went back to it.

 

If you decide to continue plugging away, I suggest making him a schedule about what he will do in what order and for how long. Plan breaks. Plan plan plan. He's overwhelmed, and he ain't gonna figure it out on his own. Something like what time he gets up, what he does before he starts school, and how much to do before his first break. Then plan something short and fun for his break, and then what he does after his break and for how long. Turn the whole big overwhelming mess into little baby steps.

 

YES!!  He's majorely overwhelmed - but he can probably recover with lots of guidance, support, and help with planning and scheduling.  LOTS of baby steps is right!  This can teach him some GREAT coping skills for the future (how to not procrastinate studying for exams, how to tackle large projects one step at a time, how to get caught up when he's behind)  Even though I know you don't want this to hurt him in the future, requiring that he make up the work, and take the hits on grades will give him a HUGE opportunity to grow - I'm a firm believer in parents teaching their children that actions have consequences.  AND - its only his freshmen year.  He has lots of time to show improvement, and good improvement is something thats important to colleges.  It also gives him a great stregnths and weaknesses essay topic for a college app - which he can't write if he just starts high school over again next year.

 

But I think it would be fine to make sure he keeps up his math/reading/writing skills this year and do 9th grade next year in a brick and motor school. My kids work so much harder when they have a real teacher and other students. 

 

Last, stop blaming him or yourself. This sounded like a good idea. On paper, it looked perfect. You guys tried it. The reality didn't live up to your expectations. It isn't anybody's fault. It just makes him normal. Let it go, and figure out how to move on and enjoy this year.

 

 


 

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Originally Posted by aywilkes View Post

Thanks so much for the response.  Because we'll move to a new country with a new international school, I don't think I'll be required to even report this school year.  I will, however, double-check on that.  You gave some good suggestions that I'll try and hope will help him get out of this rut.


Don't tell him this.  Just don't.  It won't provide him with any incentive to do any work at all.  Linda is right about helping him plan plan plan to get caught up.  You should provide him with support, and help in the ways that you can - but this is his responsibility. You can't fix it for him, and even if you don't have to report his grades next year, he will be repeating a grade - whereas if he gets caught up he might not have to, even if he has to take some classes over again.

 

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#5 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 07:35 AM
 
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This can teach him some GREAT coping skills for the future (how to not procrastinate studying for exams, how to tackle large projects one step at a time, how to get caught up when he's behind)  Even though I know you don't want this to hurt him in the future, requiring that he make up the work, and take the hits on grades will give him a HUGE opportunity to grow -

 

 

 

This is an excellent point. I think that focusing on how this experience, your reactions, and the path forward will effect his character development *rather than focusing on grades and credits* could steer you the right direction.  Teaching him to break things into steps, to not give up, to seek help, to take responsibility etc. Because that would all be great stuff for him long term, and have far more of an impact on his life than his grade in freshman english. It would also help you stay grounded in the moment with him in the process rather than focusing on the outcomes.

 

she nailed it. thumb.gif


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#6 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 08:18 AM
 
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For starters, cut yourself some slack. There are generations of kids who were yelled at and spanked and managed to grow-up strong and whole people. While I'm not an advocate of such techniques, I also feel that we've swung too far on the "positive parenting" side and not holding our kids to any expectations nor preparing them for the world they are graduating into. Personally, I can tell you that I have yelled at my kids. We're human. It's really difficult to live in the same house and not let your frustration and temper get the better of you once in awhile. We all have our moments, we apologize and them we move on.

 

As for the schooling, don't beat yourself there either. Sometimes we just have to try things. We know many kids who do online schooling and do it very successfully. The important factor is the kid. He's not an 8-year-old. He's 14. If  he isn't pulling his weight, well, then it's his fault this is failing... not yours. Sounds like the traditional school wasn't working out to well. He had a huge drop in grades from his former school to the new one. Why WOULDN'T you try something else? I can tell you, I'd have done the same thing.

 

If it makes you feel better, 9th grade is a year when kids can sort of lose it. I had been warned about it and sure enough, my own 14-year-old sort of lost it last year in 9th grade. She was unfocused, distracted, trying to stay up late socializing, function on too little sleep. Yeah, not good. She learned her lesson though and 10th grade she's right back on track.

 

It it were me, I'd have him continue. Even if his transcript follows him, most american schools will allow parents to make the call on retaining their own child. If he needs to repeat, no biggie. I'd say most freshman are 14 turning 15 when they start. Perhaps look into his only continuing 2 or 3 courses like English, Math and Social Studies. He might need a little hand-holding in the beginning but it's worth him continuing on some level. Then worry about next year when it gets here.


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#7 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 09:59 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 

 

This is an excellent point. I think that focusing on how this experience, your reactions, and the path forward will effect his character development *rather than focusing on grades and credits* could steer you the right direction.  Teaching him to break things into steps, to not give up, to seek help, to take responsibility etc. Because that would all be great stuff for him long term, and have far more of an impact on his life than his grade in freshman english. It would also help you stay grounded in the moment with him in the process rather than focusing on the outcomes.

 

she nailed it. thumb.gif


awww....thanks!!  Can you tell I've been where her son is before?  I was in 4th grade, but my parents forcing me to make up missed work, and requiring me to take the hit on grades rather than making excuses for me really helped me out long term.  I've now graduated law school and landed my dream job - but had my parents made excuses for me rather than seen the potential I had and requiring me to live up to it, who knows what would have happened.

 

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#8 of 14 Old 11-11-2011, 10:11 AM
 
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I second putting him on a very detailed, clear schedule like Linda suggested, and having him finish what he started. And NOT telling him that this year's work might not "count" officially. Even if it doesn't, it's going to count in a whole lot of other ways.
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#9 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 10:47 AM
 
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First and foremost:  HOW DARE HE BLAME YOU FOR WHAT HE DIDN'T DO!!!!! I'd punish him just for that alone.  Sounds like you're being more of a friend.  13 huh?  Take everything away from him, clothes, TV both priviledges and the one in his bedroom, his computer, EVERYTHING.  Tell him that he has to earn it all back.  Meanwhile put all of his "stuff" from his bedroom in the basement.  You want him to be able to see it, but not utilize it.  That's your carrot and he is the mule.  

 

Dance lessons and tennis lessons are luxuries.  Rewards for a job well done.  It's HIS choice that he didn't do well enough for a reward, now he has to earn it all back.  

 

Yes, he will hate you for a while.  He will threaten to move out (if he does - he takes ONLY his clothes - nothing else) or run away.  Let him know if he runs and takes ANYTHING besides his clothes you WILL call the cops and press charges.  If you want to take the easy route, send him to boarding school and be done with it.  

 

I know that you love him or you wouldn't ask for ideas.  I get that, I was the same as a teen as him, and my parents buckled under to my control.  That's all it is.  Today I'm the daughter they know that they can depend on; so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  But, for now you have to remain in total control, let him know that he brought all of this on himself by cutting out your options.  He danced, now it's time to pay the band.

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#10 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 12:40 PM
 
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  But, for now you have to remain in total control, let him know that he brought all of this on himself by cutting out your options.


I don't parent that way at all. My parents did, and I left home young and didn't speak to them for years.


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#11 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 01:39 PM
 
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I'm forum-crashing, but couldn't help but respond as just a person and a teacher:

From the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

I teach Comp I at a community college. Some of my students are bright high schoolers working ahead and getting college credit, others are adults returning to school -- the group is diverse and full of different people in different programs with different goals. Many, many of them crash and burn in the online environment -- racking up zeros, procrastinating, and then some emergency/technical problem happens and it's the end of the world.

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#12 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 02:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stefinMI View Post

First and foremost:  HOW DARE HE BLAME YOU FOR WHAT HE DIDN'T DO!!!!! I'd punish him just for that alone.  Sounds like you're being more of a friend.  13 huh?  Take everything away from him, clothes, TV both priviledges and the one in his bedroom, his computer, EVERYTHING.  Tell him that he has to earn it all back.  Meanwhile put all of his "stuff" from his bedroom in the basement.  You want him to be able to see it, but not utilize it.  That's your carrot and he is the mule.  

 

Dance lessons and tennis lessons are luxuries.  Rewards for a job well done.  It's HIS choice that he didn't do well enough for a reward, now he has to earn it all back.  

 

Yes, he will hate you for a while.  He will threaten to move out (if he does - he takes ONLY his clothes - nothing else) or run away.  Let him know if he runs and takes ANYTHING besides his clothes you WILL call the cops and press charges.  If you want to take the easy route, send him to boarding school and be done with it.  

 

I know that you love him or you wouldn't ask for ideas.  I get that, I was the same as a teen as him, and my parents buckled under to my control.  That's all it is.  Today I'm the daughter they know that they can depend on; so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  But, for now you have to remain in total control, let him know that he brought all of this on himself by cutting out your options.  He danced, now it's time to pay the band.


Obviously, you've had a very different experience not only as a teen but in parenting a teen than most people have. The whole "tough love" thing has it's place but it's quite a bit early in this particular scenario. This is a kid doing poorly in school after some pretty drastic changes in his life. Not a kid who is doing drugs, staying out all night or attacking his siblings. Yes, there are issues to be addressed but certainly better steps to take first. Jumping to threats and removal of all belongings and activities can push a child to completely disengage from the family. That's not really something you do with a kid who has historically done well in school and with the family.

 

 


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#13 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 02:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stefinMI View Post

First and foremost:  HOW DARE HE BLAME YOU FOR WHAT HE DIDN'T DO!!!!! I'd punish him just for that alone.  Sounds like you're being more of a friend.  13 huh?  Take everything away from him, clothes, TV both priviledges and the one in his bedroom, his computer, EVERYTHING.  Tell him that he has to earn it all back.  Meanwhile put all of his "stuff" from his bedroom in the basement.  You want him to be able to see it, but not utilize it.  That's your carrot and he is the mule.  

 

Dance lessons and tennis lessons are luxuries.  Rewards for a job well done.  It's HIS choice that he didn't do well enough for a reward, now he has to earn it all back.  

 

Yes, he will hate you for a while.  He will threaten to move out (if he does - he takes ONLY his clothes - nothing else) or run away.  Let him know if he runs and takes ANYTHING besides his clothes you WILL call the cops and press charges.  If you want to take the easy route, send him to boarding school and be done with it.  

 

I know that you love him or you wouldn't ask for ideas.  I get that, I was the same as a teen as him, and my parents buckled under to my control.  That's all it is.  Today I'm the daughter they know that they can depend on; so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  But, for now you have to remain in total control, let him know that he brought all of this on himself by cutting out your options.  He danced, now it's time to pay the band.


What an awful way to think. Like linda, my parents treated me this way and the only light at the end of the tunnel for me was my 18th birthday. I fled fast and never returned. Now I dont speak to my mom at all, and she is still dealing with 3 kids relying on her for every decision they make. Not independent, not self reliant, and none of them have any follow through. Punitive discipline has not worked for anyone in my family, nor most of my friends. I think the OP is smart enough to take another route, and I hope you are too.

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#14 of 14 Old 11-16-2011, 04:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stefinMI View Post

First and foremost:  HOW DARE HE BLAME YOU FOR WHAT HE DIDN'T DO!!!!! I'd punish him just for that alone.  Sounds like you're being more of a friend.  13 huh?  Take everything away from him, clothes, TV both priviledges and the one in his bedroom, his computer, EVERYTHING.  Tell him that he has to earn it all back.  Meanwhile put all of his "stuff" from his bedroom in the basement.  You want him to be able to see it, but not utilize it.  That's your carrot and he is the mule.  

 

Dance lessons and tennis lessons are luxuries.  Rewards for a job well done.  It's HIS choice that he didn't do well enough for a reward, now he has to earn it all back.  

 

Yes, he will hate you for a while.  He will threaten to move out (if he does - he takes ONLY his clothes - nothing else) or run away.  Let him know if he runs and takes ANYTHING besides his clothes you WILL call the cops and press charges.  If you want to take the easy route, send him to boarding school and be done with it.  

 

I know that you love him or you wouldn't ask for ideas.  I get that, I was the same as a teen as him, and my parents buckled under to my control.  That's all it is.  Today I'm the daughter they know that they can depend on; so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  But, for now you have to remain in total control, let him know that he brought all of this on himself by cutting out your options.  He danced, now it's time to pay the band.



Wow, that is harsh. I'm not saying the OP is entirely responsible for this situation, but it's also pretty tough for a 14-year-old to be entirely self motivated. 

 

Baby steps sounds like a great plan, and as other posters have pointed out, he'll develop a valuable skill set just in learning to approach the overwhelming.

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