Helping a child reluctant to do anything? - Mothering Forums
Learning at Home and Beyond > Helping a child reluctant to do anything?
mummyof5now's Avatar mummyof5now 01:20 PM 05-27-2014



I thought I would ask here - I don't teach my children at home but it seemed as though people here may have some advice for me on this issue!


I have 5 children ages 9,7,5,3 and 2 we live in the UK. The 3 oldest go to school but the 7 year old has struggled a lot with his learning in all areas. At the moment his reading (to give an example) is at the level they would expect of a 5 year old, in fact he and my 5 year old bring home the same reading books. 


The school have sent him for a wide range of tests to see if they can help. His IQ is normal to above normal, he has not specific learning disabilities, he is not dyslexic.He has no behavioural problems and behaves well at school and home. They give him one to one help each day which has helped a little but obviously he is still very behind. The more behind he gets the more extra work he is given at school to catch up and it seems to be having little to no effect because he sits there and gets through as little as possible until he can go! 


At home the other children (all girls, he is the only boy) love doing all kind of activities! I print out various activity books for them, we do sensory trays, arts and craft etc I have set up a room of the house specifically for them in the hopes that having everything set out will help him get involved and just at least try (the rest of us love playing) - but it doesn't he just wont take part at all. If I ask him what he would like to do he doesn't have any suggestions.  


Last summer I decided I would just let him do what he wanted and give him a break from it all and it set his work back a lot in fact it took months to get back where he was when he got back so I dont know if I am doing the right thing trying to encourage him to try a bit or not!


Does anyone have any experience if this sort of problem, he enjoys school and has lots of friends but he hates all learning and dislikes most of what he does there and wont even try anything at home. 


Do you have any idea what I am doing wrong?



Sponsored Links
SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 01:48 PM 05-27-2014

It's difficult to give advice when a child is still in the school system.


What I would tell a homeschooler is to give the child time and support to identify and immerse themselves in their own interests, *whatever* that might be.  They've been taught that their (most likely) normal but "delayed" development is not normal, that something is wrong with them and they are effectively getting punished for something that at this age they simply cannot help.  Development doesn't move along just because you spend more time on it.


I would tell a homeschooling parent to stop valuing one skill and ability over another, that what is taught in school isn't necessarily the "important stuff" while digging and daydreaming are fun but never really important in the scheme of things.  


I would advise that a break should include a break from expectations, outcomes, and judgements.


But as long as that child is in school, he needs to "keep up".  If he doesn't, something is "wrong" and I'm just not really sure what to suggest when the breaks you've so wisely given him aren't really long enough, and the outcome of those breaks needs to include "keeping up" so really it's not a break at all.


I simply don't know what to say when you've got the needs of school breathing down your son's back.

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 02:03 PM 05-27-2014

OK, I do know where to start, and you had the right idea but instead of asking him what he wants, instead of setting things up for him you think he might be interested, just watch him.  Watch him.  Listen.  I know he isn't just standing there like a zombie in between things he has to do.  Just watch.  This part is just for you, with no direct benefit to him.  Learn to see him AS HE IS RIGHT NOW.  Part of what needs changing is simply whatever lingering judgements and expectations you might have, and I know you've tried really hard.  Stop thinking about what the school wants.  That's the easy part.  Then stop thinking about what you want.  Or, just set them aside for now.


When you see something that is "his", don't jump in to make it bigger and make it into something it isn't.  That's dropping your expectations of interests having a particular outcome. Experienced interest-led homeschooling parents still struggle with this.  Parents come with baggage, with expectations.  So, what to do?  If he's watching TV, have a seat and really watch what he's watching.  Don't say anything, just sit together.  You're actions saying "I'm on board with your interests--no, with YOU-- without needing you to change, without any expectations whatsoever."


I'm not sure this is going to help his schooling, but I think that a child needs a place in his life where being himself is enough.


ETA:  My girls and I were just watching a Swallowtail butterfly, and it simply wouldn't let us take a photo of it.  It essentially insisted that we engage with it on his terms.  (Watch only, don't approach.)  Enjoy the beauty without needing to hold on to it or have it become something else.  Some beings simply demand more subtlety in our actions.  Well, I enjoyed the metaphor, anyhow!

mummyof5now's Avatar mummyof5now 02:06 PM 05-27-2014

thanks, it does feel like the school are putting too much pressure on now. I have a diary that I have to fill in each day saying what we have done at home with him (he has a folder of around 15 different activities we are supposed to do 2 each evening and each weekend day (it is a school holiday this week and he brought home a big folder of work). I am really grateful for the work the school has put in and I know that the teacher does really care BUT it is stressful for me let alone him. 


Part of the reason I ended up on this forum (I normally stick to reading the mindful home section - and hardly ever actually post!) was that I have been reading about unschooling and having a big daydream about doing it although I am not sure I am brave enough and not sure of the practicalities of it in the UK - especially with a child who has already been "noticed" for being behind.


He is in love with power rangers at the moment and he is always really interested in talking about Japan (he tells me the power rangers are in Japan?!) today for example he was chatting like mad about it I would like to just let him find out more about it and not have to say "sorry its time to do homework now - we need to get it done for today".


He is very good at canoing and swimming and enjoys all outdoor sports he also LOVES all kind of designing (lego and mechano) and of course computer games :)


Anyway thanks for replying :). 

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 02:30 PM 05-27-2014
Originally Posted by mummyof5now View Post

I would like to just let him find out more about it and not have to say "sorry its time to do homework now - we need to get it done for today".


Anyway thanks for replying :). 

:HugSuch a difficult situation.  It sounds like you really can't give him the time he needs outside of school.  


I know there is at least one UK unschooler active on this board.  Perhaps she can give this thread a moment of her time.


@Fillyjonk ?

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 03:29 PM 05-27-2014

Me again.  I keep thinking about this thread.


One thing you might find helpful is learning how to translate your son's interest-led activities he is already doing into something that the school will recognize as valuable.  Unschoolers in many places who have to check in with school districts get very skillled at doing this.  It might help you as well.

onatightrope's Avatar onatightrope 06:57 AM 05-28-2014

I don't think you are doing anything wrong. FWIW, bright kids who cannot read at age 7 are not uncommon in the homeschooling world (I imagine they are also common in schools, but I don't have experience with that). I believe there's a developmental aspect to reading, and just like it's perfectly normal for some kids to walk at 7 months and others at 18 month, some kids' brains are ready to read at 4 and others aren't ready until age 9+. One of mine was reading well below grade level at 7, then one day things started clicking and reading stopped being such an uphill slog. She now reads well above grade level. Before things started clicking, we would try to read a easy reader, and she would spend forever sounding out a word, and then not recognize that word when it repeated on the same page. It was extremely frustrating, but it was a phase that ended. 


I found a website about home education in the UK. Thought it might help you determine your legal rights.

moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 10:59 AM 05-28-2014

I think you might be able to do a bit of damage control around the reading/schoolwork issue. Just keep telling him that you know he's smart, and that his brain is just built to learn other things before reading, and isn't it unfortunate that schools get so hung up on learning reading at a certain age? And, well, I guess it's because with so many kids in one place at one time they kind of have to rely on book learning, since learning-by-doing and learning-by-talking are tough to manage in large groups. So you understand why they focus so much on reading, but it's still too bad it doesn't fit the way some kids learn. <sympathetic sigh> So you want to make sure that as much as you're working towards that reading goal you're not neglecting the things his brain is built for right now. 


And then put some focus on engaging him with things that his brain is really good at already so that he keeps feeling smart. It might be as simple as overtly valuing what he is already doing: for instance, photographing his Lego and Meccano creations, and captioning the photos with his descriptions of what he has made. Or finding him age-appropriate library picture books about samurais. Or putting a little more in the way of family resources into his passion for canoeing than you might otherwise. Or allowing him half an hour on the computer on the Power Rangers website.


You could also try to incorporate his interests into things that the school might view as "literacy related." Keep thinking creatively and outside the box and you'll come up with things. His teachers will probably be just as happy to see reports of alternative literacy-related "homework" as they would to get some of those 15 items checked off -- particularly if you approach them and say you're looking for ways that are "more engaging" to "instil enthusiasm" and "to harness momentum from his interests" and so on. With practice, looking at his natural learning through the pedagogical lens of literacy development becomes easier. 


For instance, learning Japanese hiragana is a really neat way to explore phonetics: all the syllables starting with b (ba, be, bi, bu, bo) change into equivalent syllables starting with p when you swap the little " for a º. Vowels transliterated from Japanese have only one pronunciation: the "a" is always a short-a sound, while "u" always makes the long-u sound, which is neat to compare with English. Call it "exploring phonetic relationships and the representation of phonemes in written form." Poking around the Lego website can be interpreted as "using contextual cues to aid in the decoding and memorization of sight-words" and "reading simple text to explore new information and accomplish tasks." If you play guessing games with power rangers characters ("I'm thinking of a Power Ranger whose name starts with J. Can you guess who it is? You can ask me yes/no questions if you want more clues.") you're "practising the identification of phonemes in everyday language." 


In other words, I think you should become his ally in satisfying the school's well-intentioned but frustrating expectations in ways that are more appealing and less intrusive to him, and at the same time celebrating and valuing the things his brain is good at learning right now. Enlist his help in striking this balance and I think you'll minimize any damage to his self-esteem and happiness that otherwise could result. 


I had an analogous situation years ago when my dd's piano teacher insisted on using incentives and peer pressure to track and reward the amount of practising the students all did each week. For my dd, this sort of overt public attention was destroying her enjoyment of piano. I sat down with my then-7-year-old and explained in simple terms the intention and belief system behind the tactic. ("Some people think you have to pay kids with stuff before they'll want to learn, or get their friends to make them feel badly when they don't work hard. I think that's silly. I can see that you love learning!") I commiserated with her over the fact that the system was a poor fit for her, and then worked with her to find back-handed ways of playing the game, staying true to its big-picture aim if not necessarily to the letter of the law. After that the incentive system lost its [negative] power over her.



Ruthla's Avatar Ruthla 12:12 PM 06-01-2014
You need to realize that boy brains are sometimes wired differently than girls' brains. Schools are designed with "typical girls' brains" in mind. Gender might be a HUGE factor in why he's at the same reading level as his younger sister. I'm sure there are other things he's advanced at compared to her- but it's not the kinds of things the schools are paying attention to.

If I were in your shoes, I would take a serious look at the local homeschooling regulations. Find out exactly what's involved and whether your concerns about "he's already 'noticed' as having problems" is really a valid concern. Your daughters are doing well in school so there's no reason to pull them out- but your son is not thriving and you may want to consider doing things differently with him next year. At least find out what all of your options ARE.
Nazsmum's Avatar Nazsmum 07:34 PM 06-08-2014
I want to come back...
Tags: Education