A Different homework dilemma... need advice! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 12-17-2002, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My stepson's in 6th grade. A month into the school year we were all called into an emergency meeting as my stepson's overall average was bordering on 29%. We discussed at length an approach to take and came up with the idea of teachers signing his agenda so we knew which classes he had homework in. He would then have to show us the agenda and sit and do the work. The only trouble is he would do the work and then not pass it in... or fail miserably on the next-day quiz (even though he really seemed to grasp the homework the night before). We also took weekday computer time away until grades come up.

Every night has become battle. A HUGE battle. He seems to expect us to do the work for him by answering the questions or giving him an idea to write about. When we ask him to look the info up or come up with his own idea he gets quite angry.

When the agenda isn't signed and my dh asks about it, ss says he is picking a fight.

My question is this... I am a huge unschooling proponent and my first reaction besides homeschooling (which will not happen) is to completely back off and tell him his work is "his" responsibility. So. if he gets his grades up great - if he doesn't, he may repeat 6th grade next year or attend summer school. I believe at 12 he is old enough to take on the responsibilty. I'd personally rather see him stay back than have a larger rift between him and his dad. I think there are more important things to "battle" about.

Am I crazy?

For the record, I was in his shoes from 5th grade until 12th. I wonder how things would have been different had my family backed off and let me make my own mistakes (even if they were huge like staying back a year).
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#2 of 9 Old 12-17-2002, 11:10 AM
 
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I'd say that 12 is old enough to take responsibility for his actions, but I guess I'd look at it from a bigger perspective and try to find the root of his actions. I am writing this after watching my nephew struggle for years and then discovering that he has a mental illness that can only be managed with drugs.

If school is too horrible for him and your husband isn't ready to give up all structure, could you compromise by having a tutor keep him going in math and language and then let your stepson decide about the rest? Perhaps a few more guidelines like a limit on daily computer and TV time (with as strict a limit on the content of the games and shows as you feel comfortable with) and a guarantee that he'll get a lift back and forth to the library once a week.
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#3 of 9 Old 12-17-2002, 11:37 AM
 
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I don't have a child his age, but my gut is telling me that letting it be his responsibility is a better response than power struggles/restrictions, etc...

But I would also look for ways to fascilitate improvement. My husband had a hard time in elementary and middle school -- and not doing his homework at all was a big factor. He was in special ed. classes etc. because he just could not get organized. In high school, he started taking computer programming classes and discovered that he is gifted when it comes to computers. He succeeded in college by using computers to do homework and stay organized.

I'm not saying this is a solution for your son, just suggesting that there might be ways to help that you have not thought of. I know you won't give up trying though!
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#4 of 9 Old 12-17-2002, 12:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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There is definitely stuff going on for him (out of school)... he's living part time with a bi-polar mom in "recovery" who is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Its really a long story - too long to go into. While we both (dh & I) have a very positive relationship with his mom it is hard to see dss acting as her caretaker and her putting him in that position by telling him every negative thing that goes on in her life. That's still a situation we have yet to resolve. We want him to be part of his mom's life. I don't think taking him away would do either of them any good.

If he were my biological child I would have pulled him out of school a long time ago. Unfortunately that is one option that is just not possible. We are planning on unschooling our daughter in a couple years and perhaps he will see what its like and decide he wants to try it. Right now he says "no way!!" He thinks being homeschooled means having no friends.

He's really a great kid, very personable, smart, etc. I just see a child who has an aversion to learning school stuff. He has a very strong personality and hates to be told what to do. When it comes to learning things that interest him (videogames, music lyrics, characters in Magic cards, etc) he does great and has no problem. I might add that I find it completely normal to have no interest in learning things that are meaningless to you... I really see him as a great unschooling candidate and wish there was a Sudbury Valley school nearby!

We are willing to try anything... perhaps try the backing off approach for a month or two and see what happens. Thanks for the thoughts!
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#5 of 9 Old 01-14-2003, 08:12 PM
 
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Hope things have improved for you all. There definitely seems to be a lot going on for him...almost sounds like he is exerting control over one of the few areas in his life that he can (especially if he had work that was completed but he did not hand it in...).

Living with his mom sounds great in theory but if she is in a bad relationship that means HE is, too. Can your husband do anything to change this? He can still be part of her life but his role needs to be changed...he's too young to be her caregiver! There are support groups to help family members deal with a relative with mental/emotional problems. He needs to hear that his mom's illness is not his problem to fix. Help him succeed at school. While you do that, attend some local homeschool get-togethers or monitor an email group so he can see that they are not lonely or different from "regular" school kids.

But regardless of where he gets his education, you and your husband have a more critical issue to address: the root of his difficulties. Our prayers are with you all.
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#6 of 9 Old 01-14-2003, 08:58 PM
 
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I would ask the school to do a full evaluation to make sure he does not have some learning issues that are going unnoticed.
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#7 of 9 Old 01-15-2003, 01:11 AM
 
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Hey french*girl, as a 2nd grade teacher, I have parents in similar positions to yours back off completely and make homework the child's responsibility...and these are 7 and 8 year old students we're talking about. I tell the parents that homework should be an issue between teacher and student, not parent and child, and that I will provide the appropriate consequences (such as doing unfinished hw during recess) in school if need be. I feel it's good for them to learn this responsibility before the content material becomes important or consequential. Out of curiousity, what were his homework habits like a few years back, and how were homework issues handled by you or another of his parents? This IS a very hard issue.
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#8 of 9 Old 01-15-2003, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone!

His homework habits used to be okay. He always did fairly well. This year has been very different. We are not sure if its the fact he is in pre-puberty or what. We have noticed he is beginning to come to some serious realizations about his mom (all on his own) and has called her on things in front of his dad. As someone said above, this probably has more to do with his home life than anything else (and has someone who has been there herself I'd have to agree!).

So the latest is that we never saw his report card and three weeks after it supposedly came out he said it wouldn't be out for another week. Well we contacted his teacher and found out it went home with them before Christmas. We had the big talk about the importance of honesty, etc.

So yesterday we get another email from his homeroom teacher saying he is slipping again. We explained to her the approach we are taking and offered to set up another meeting. We explained to her that there is a significant difference in our 2 households (without getting into it) and that he may be having a hard time transitioning.

We are trying really hard right now to buy a house buy by next fall and if we do we are going to try and get him during the school week. His mom seems to have no clue about his schoolwork and often says she can't help with his work because she stinks at math and is dyslexic, etc etc. My thoughts are that you don't need to *do* the work for him but guide him towards finding the answers for himself (isn't that what school is really about?). I don't think she wants to take the time.

I do think it would be a good idea to get him around some homeschooled kids (his sister is staring in that process now but because she's only 3 I don't think he sees it that way - plus we are unschooling which may be different from what he envisions homeschooling to be).

Anyway, We'll probably here back from his teacher this morning and I'll keep you all posted. And I love the idea about getting him involved in a group of kids who are dealing with a parent with mental illness!! I need to look into that for my area.
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#9 of 9 Old 01-15-2003, 10:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ughh, please excuse my several typos! I just woke up!
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