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Thread: Problems with my son and homework. Teachers?

  1. #1
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    Problems with my son and homework. Teachers?

    Only one week into school and I already am frustrated with my son and homework. I know a lot of teachers frequent this board and I was hoping I could get some advice on how to turn homework from the current disaster into something constructive.
    A typical day of homework goes like this-
    John comes home and gets a snack- then I or he unpacks his bag. This year his teacher is very organized and he has filled out his homework sheet with what needs to be done. (huge improvement over last year) We take out the cards and sheets and start. John gets angry because "Your not explaining it right" or it's too hard or he just ignores me. Sometimes I use different terms like borrowing when his teacher uses regrouping. Other times he is just oppositional and doesn't want to do it because "it's stupid".
    Today we spent from 3:30- 5:30 doing a set of multiplication flash cards, one sheet of vacabulary/spelling and 15 minutes of reading which I have him do aloud to me because he has almost no comprehension when he reads independently. I don't know if that is because he skips over too many words he doesn't immediately figure out or if he is just pretending to read.
    If he is refusing to work or try then he has to go sit in the bathroom to calm himself. He usually has to take one or two breaks during each "assignment".
    Today he did his vocabulary by himself, but got about half of the answers wrong. Should I mark them wrong and make him do them over or should he bear the consequences of his lack of effort?
    We talk to the kids about effort and school being their jobs and how you have to take pride and put in your best try. My daughter has always been easy academically so I don't have any creative ways to inspire him to work harder.
    Any suggestions from mothers, teachers, therapists, tutors or cat wranglers would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
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    How old is your son? I think that will help people give advice.

  3. #3
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    Age of your child would help but..

    Instead of immediately plunging into homework when he comes home, how about if he has a break for a while. Kids are tired mentally and physically when they get home, many times it can help if he just has some "down time" after arriving home from school. Could he do his homework after dinner?

    Also, does your son struggle with school? If so, you need to address your homework struggles with the teacher. She/He could scale down the amount of homework to something he can realistically complete on his own and in a reasonable amount of time.

    If he's old enough, you could let him complete the homework on his own. I have looked over DD #'s 1 and 2 homework but I rarely interfere with what they have done unless it's obvious they don't have a clue. I want my kids to learn the responsibility of completing their homework (it isn't MY homework after all) and I want the teacher to see what THEY are doing. I don't want the teacher to see a perfect paper that I completed for my child.
    Good Luck!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by cminmd View Post
    John gets angry because "Your not explaining it right" or it's too hard or he just ignores me. Sometimes I use different terms like borrowing when his teacher uses regrouping. Other times he is just oppositional and doesn't want to do it because "it's stupid".
    Today we spent from 3:30- 5:30 doing a set of multiplication flash cards, one sheet of vacabulary/spelling and 15 minutes of reading which I have him do aloud to me because he has almost no comprehension when he reads independently. I don't know if that is because he skips over too many words he doesn't immediately figure out or if he is just pretending to read.
    If he is refusing to work or try then he has to go sit in the bathroom to calm himself. He usually has to take one or two breaks during each "assignment".
    Today he did his vocabulary by himself, but got about half of the answers wrong. Should I mark them wrong and make him do them over or should he bear the consequences of his lack of effort?

    Okay - please take into account that A. I don't know how old your son is (but I'm guessing about 8-9 given the mention of multiplication which is typically taught about that age) and B. I don't know what homework was like for him last year. If last year homework was a walk in the park, then obviously he is having difficulty understanding his new teacher's teaching style. BUT - if homework was a struggle last year but maybe less so then this year, then (again based on what you've said which may or may not be the complete picture) I would consider having him evaluated for a potential learning disability.

    Here's why - you mention that he has to read aloud to "get it" and not skip words/gain any comprehension from what he reads. That, coupled with his difficulty remembering spelling and vocabulary words (getting half wrong) plus with his reported high frustration (needing breaks, having to calm down etc) indicates a high level of frustration and effort for a low level of gain. I am not a reading specialist (but I have a degree in early childhood special ed plus early childhood/elemenetary education plus I am a reading tutor) but I would definitely be concerned if he is in fact 8-9 years old (or older). The work you've described sound like "review assignments" meant to be done quickly and bring back the previous year's knowledge. The true "work load" is not likely to have started yet, and if your son is struggling this much now he's likely to continue to struggle and begin to feel like an academic failure in the weeks to come.

    Also - my advice as to what to do with the fact he's getting so many words wrong on his spelling is to leave it as is. His teacher needs to be aware of how much he's struggling, and I would in fact encourage possibly checking in with her(him) to see what she estimates the assignments should be taking in terms of time. If she thinks he should be doing about 45 minutes, and he's taking 2 hours... that may also provide a clue as to whether this is simply a miscommunication of teaching styles or if there's a bigger issue needing to be addressed.

    I hope this is helpful, and again I could be totally off base. It's hard to get a good read on a situation with a couple of lines in a post so if I'm wrong please accept my apologies. But based on what you've described, I think considering an evaluation of for your son may be the best course of action. Good luck! I'd be interested in hearing how things go!

    ETA - I just saw on the homework thread that your son just began 4th grade....about where I thought (9 years old). You also mention that he should have 20 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of Math (or the reverse) but it takes him 2 hours. This definitely increases my thinking that there is a problem, and you should contact his teacher and consider an evaluation. Good luck!

  5. #5
    I don't have much experience with kids that age, other than my own two, but I'd echo the suggestion to let him chill out for a bit before diving into homework. My daughter gets easily frustrated, so we take about 30 minutes after school to relax, have a snack, chat about the day. If she has a few different things to do for homework (rarely - see homework poll ), then I usually have her do one, then she plays for a bit and does the other just before dinner. After dinner is bath and game time for us, so if the homework isn't done then, she skips the game.

  6. #6
    DmOrtega Guest

    Sounds like my ds.

    My ds, who is turning 15, has the same issues every year. What I know about him is that he needs warning and a period of transition that can be frustrating because he wants to stay in his routine. He wants to do what he wants. Change is harder for him when I haven't warned him a million times over that the TV is off, or dinner is at a different time, or whatever. So the week before school, we change the bedtime so getting up early isn't as difficult and TV/Game time is restricted. We've done this since they have been in school. I think of this time kinda like jet lag. It's a change of activies and it can be frustrating for kids and parents. What we do is establish an hour or two of quiet time once I get home from work, meaning no TV or games. This is the time that homework is done. Snacks or a late lunch is a must. The radio is fine if he needs some noise. This way there is no competition to finish quickly. It seems to help us get the homework done and life is calmer.

  7. #7
    Oh my gosh, I could have written this! What a flash back.
    My DD struggled for years (from kindergarten all through 2nd grade) because no one knew she had dyslexia. Not even me, her mother! Once she was diagnosed and got the proper tutoring iin3rd and 4th grade, she is now an honor roll student entering her Junior year of high school. Her third grade teacher is the one who spotted the signs. This is something that you might want to look into.
    I am sharing this with you, just as a suggestion. It would not hurt to talk to a learning support teacher at your school.
    Don't be upset, finding out that our DD had dyslexia helped her so much. The frustration and unable to understand, and reread and reread the same paragraph and still unable to answer a question, it was very very hard for the whole family until we got her the help she needed.
    I could be wrong, yep, I have been known to be wrong before. But please, please think about dyslexia. Good luck. Debralynn

    Viva e lascia vivere - - - Live and Let Live

  8. #8
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    Do we have the same child??? This sounds so much like my oldest that it's scary. What should take him 30 minutes is stretched into an hour or two. (homework is not the only area in his life that takes him forever, it's pretty much anything that he doesn't want to do) He has always hated school, so coming home and doing more school work was/is always a fight, that usually ends in a melt down of some kind. He thinks that he knows everything and gets mad when I try to explain or help (especially math). He had pretty decent grades until he hit 5th grade &
    6th and then he just did a nose dive. He has really stuggled the last couple of years. I think if I had it to do over again, I would have taken him to get evaluated at the first sign of trouble. (he was my first, so I just didn't realize it at the time) I would have gotten him some tutoring or extra help before he got behind.

    The very frustrating thing about this child, is that he is very intelligent, the problems that he is having are basics. He completely understands the higher math concepts, he just has trouble with the stuff that he should have learned in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. He doesn't have problems understanding anything he's doing in history or science, but makes poor grades because in the higher grades, his fundamental reading fluency is slow and comprehension is not where it needs to be. This now effects all of his subjects, not just English.

    Mine is a long story, so I will condense it to say that the small private school he was attending didn't catch (or more like, didn't care) that he was struggling, and if they did, they never communicated with me. Since this was my first experience with school, I didn't realize that he was probably having a hard time with basics, because his grades were o.k. So my advice is this, do have him evaluated to see if he is having problems in some areas. That could be part of the source of his frustration. The frustration you see at home, may very well be the way he is feeling all day. (I just assumed, in our case, that he just didn't like school much and was frustrated at having to do another hour or so at home. When, in fact, he was probably having difficulties that I just didn't understand.) If they find that he does have some problem areas, make sure you get him the help that he needs now, before he gets to the point where he is struggling in all areas.

    I think that our homework time would probably always be a fight, because his attitude about it has always been bad, but I also think that if he weren't struggling in his basics, things would run a little more smoothly.

    BTW, we have changed schools and he is much happier and seems to be doing a lot better. The attitude of the teachers and overall school system, has made a big difference in his attitude.

  9. #9
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    BTW, the above post was written in steam of consciousness, and I will admit that I put very little thought into spelling, punctation and general grammar. I cannot go back and edit, however, because I have got to get some things done before bed. So I will just apologize.

  10. #10
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    I taught for 12 years, and if one of my students was struggling this much with their homework- I would certainly want to know about it. No child should be doing HW for 2 hours. For many children who had difficulty focusing... difficulty academically... etc. I "modified" their homework. Maybe just had them do only even numbers on the math HW or otherwise. The point of HW is supposed to be to practice concepts already learned in class. There shouldn't have to be a whole lot of teaching going on at home, and if there is then the child has not grasped the concept that the teacher has taught that day.

    I really suggest that you approach the teacher as soon as you feel comfortable. And as others mentioned, make sure that there are not learning difficulties that haven't been discovered. Be sure to ask the teacher how much total time is reasonable to expect to complete the HW. If the situation is more a situation of defiance than some type of disability, then you may need to implement some sort of reward system or speak with a behavioralist for help. Perhaps the resource teacher or counselor at school might have suggestions too. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

    Best of luck with this frustrating situation.
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  11. #11
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    Sorry!

    Yes, he just turned 9 last Friday and is in the Fourth grade. I put that info in another thread and thought I had put it in here also. OOPS! Also, I know his teacher this year is very good because he had her in Kindergarten. She is usually a 4th grade teacher, but had to be moved that year because of staffing. She is great and has even called me already to discuss some issues.

    I have tried putting off homework, but the one motivation we have is that he has to finish work before going out to play. We don't usually have any TV or video games during the week so we can't take that away. I'm not sure what will focus his concentration if we let him put off work until later. Also, with it taking so long, you would never know when to start to get it done by bed at 9.

    John did have a hard time last year. He is not underchallenged. He has always been a fair to middling student but very quiet, polite and well behaved in class so he has kind of glided by unnotice. Last year in third grade was the first time he received letter grades and they were not good. I have never had him specifically tested, but he does have an IEP for test anxiety that lets him take standardized testing in a separate room.

    I think his major problem is effort- that he doesn't want to put in any. He hates reading directions so he will just start writing the answers but ends up getting them wrong because the directions say to write the opposite meaning of the word underlined and he wrote words that mean the same. Then he will complain that even when he tries he doesn't do well. Or we will spend hours on a weekly homework packet that he will forget to turn in so he gets a zero. Or he looses an assignment sheet for a project and I don't hear about it until the day after it was due when I get a call from his teacher. I guess I many have misled you with the homework for two hours- he is not struggling over the work for two hours- he is fiddling with this or that, going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, wanting to talk about Star Wars-(I could just kill G. Lucas!) picking a fight with his sister over noises she is making, sharpening his pencil, resharpening his pencil, intentionally breaking his lead so he can re-resharpen his pencil. You name it, he can find a way to avoid it.

    He hates school, says he would never go if we didn't make him. We were talking about what would happen if mommy switched shifts and wasn't home when it was time for him to leave for school in the morning. I was thinking of taking a job where I would get him up at 8, make him breakfast then I would leave at 8:15 and he would walk out the door to walk a block to school with crossing guards at 8:30. He looked at us like we were crazy and said "If you wern't here I wouldn't go." Not like he was teasing or kidding or even getting away with anything- just a fact. Needless to say, I am not taking that job.

    Last year we had a reward system with his spelling test that worked rather well. Every week he would get a spelling packet- one page of homework for each day of the week with the spelling test on Friday. He would do the pages every day yet never concentrate on the words so even though he was writing them he wasn't absorbing the information. So we made a rule that if he didn't get a least a B on his spelling then he wouldn't be able to play any video games over the weekend. That motivated him. Usually he would get A's on his spelling because if he puts in the effort he can do pretty well. The problem is that not everything is so cause and effect. The point we were trying to make with the spelling was that we were hoping he would see that when he puts in effort he gets results. That you can read something in a way that engages your brain where it absorbs in and you learn it, or you can just mouth the words and it makes no impression. Unfortunately, the lesson fell in the later category. Another thing- even though his spelling test were almost all A's- he still got a C in spelling because his teacher said when it came time to use his spelling words in creative writing- he would spell it wrong- even if later in the day he would spell it correctly on the test. Again, only doing enough effort to get a reward, but not actually learning. Very frustrating as it reinforced to him that his effort has no effect.

    Hi Do-lolly, I think we are a few years behind you! I am worried John will have the same problem because this is the age where you build the foundation for all the later stuff. I can imagine that it only gets harder every year with this problem because the list of half learned gets bigger while more and more skills rest on top of that precarious knowledge.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by cminmd View Post
    John did have a hard time last year. He is not underchallenged. He has always been a fair to middling student but very quiet, polite and well behaved in class so he has kind of glided by unnotice. Last year in third grade was the first time he received letter grades and they were not good. I have never had him specifically tested, but he does have an IEP for test anxiety that lets him take standardized testing in a separate room.

    I think his major problem is effort- that he doesn't want to put in any. He hates reading directions so he will just start writing the answers but ends up getting them wrong because the directions say to write the opposite meaning of the word underlined and he wrote words that mean the same. Then he will complain that even when he tries he doesn't do well. Or we will spend hours on a weekly homework packet that he will forget to turn in so he gets a zero. Or he looses an assignment sheet for a project and I don't hear about it until the day after it was due when I get a call from his teacher. I guess I many have misled you with the homework for two hours- he is not struggling over the work for two hours- he is fiddling with this or that, going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, wanting to talk about Star Wars-(I could just kill G. Lucas!) picking a fight with his sister over noises she is making, sharpening his pencil, resharpening his pencil, intentionally breaking his lead so he can re-resharpen his pencil. You name it, he can find a way to avoid it.

    He hates school, says he would never go if we didn't make him. We were talking about what would happen if mommy switched shifts and wasn't home when it was time for him to leave for school in the morning. I was thinking of taking a job where I would get him up at 8, make him breakfast then I would leave at 8:15 and he would walk out the door to walk a block to school with crossing guards at 8:30. He looked at us like we were crazy and said "If you wern't here I wouldn't go." Not like he was teasing or kidding or even getting away with anything- just a fact. Needless to say, I am not taking that job.
    It appears from what you've written that your son is displaying serious risk for academic failure. If your 9 year old openly admits he wouldn't go to school if you weren't there to make it, I believe there is a serious problem. Some of the distractions (pencils, water, misreading instructions etc) you've described
    sound like a child with ADD (I know - I used to teach them).

    I'm cutting and pasting diagnoses guidelines that I found Here I bolded the part that sounds to me (from what you've described) similar to the behaviors your son is exhibiting. Please please consider an evaluation for your son. If I'm wrong (and I am NOT a diagnostician, only a teacher) then there would be no harm done. But if your son does have a serious issue, it is not going to get better and is likely to get much worse as he gets older in school. Your comment about him being quiet and "sliding by" was very telling - that is a hallmark of children with ADD. Good luck....!

    TABLE 1
    DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD

    1. Either (1) or (2):
    1. Six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
    Inattention
    1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities
    2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
    3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
    4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
    5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
    6. Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
    7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books or tools)
    8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
    9. Is often forgetful in daily activities

    2. Six (or more) of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
    Hyperactivity
    1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
    2. Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
    3. Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
    4. Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
    5. Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"
    6. Often talks excessively
    Impulsivity
    7. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
    8. Often has difficulty awaiting turn
    9. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
    2. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7 years.
    3. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school [or work] and at home).
    4. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning.

  13. #13
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    Okay... guess i killed this thread.

    Cminmd - I wish you and your son luck dealing with homework this year. I apologize if my advice came on too strong and offended - that was never my intent. Some alarm bells were triggered but this is after all over the internet. Life looks different in person.

    I hope you find a strategy that works for you both soon.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cminmd View Post
    Yes, he just turned 9 last Friday and is in the Fourth grade.
    Seems to me he might be too young for the 4th grade as he barely made the cutoff date (at least here in Texas) of Sept 1. My oldest was advanced into 1st grade because he passed all the tests but his birthday is the middle of September. The problem of maturity didn't show until 3rd grade. We held him back a year and he did soooo much better!
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  15. #15
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    Much of what your son is doing sounds like my son when he was that age. I will tell you that I fought the ADD diagnosis for many years. I spent almost $2000 in a behavioral modification program for him, that did nothing to help. When he started having the same struggles in HS, I decided to have him evaluated for ADD. I can't tell you how many tears I shed over that situation. He met almost all of the criteria for inattention (but only 1 for hyperactivity). I know all the "black box" warnings for ADD drugs, but it has worked wonderful for us. It is not a miracle drug and DS has a strong desire to get off of them. We only take it on school days, but it helps him focus on the projects that he hates doing (writing), remember assignments, and listen to teachers. I really don't want to be an advocate for ADD drugs because I know it is a very personal discussion that each family must make for themselves. I would recommend a meeting with your school counselor and teachers though to work on some plans to help your son. There were many, many steps that we took before we went the route of drug therapy, and getting the school involved is often all that many kids need. Good luck to you.

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  16. #16
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    I think we all share the same child. My son is in 10th grade and this has been going on since day one. He has an agenda he's supposed to write his h.w. in and then at the end of the day go to his locker check the agenda and get the books necessary to study and do h.w. This doesn't usually get done. Half the time he doesn't write anything down. It's a good thing he's so smart, otherwise he'd fail. He soaks everything in class. H.w., forget about it. He aces all his quizes and test, and if he'd only do his h.w. he'd be a straight A student. He starts off poorly but by the end of the quarter he usually pulls off a B somehow. All his teachers have email and they send out progress reports and I've been able to communicate with this teachers over email. This has worked somewhat since he knows that I'm aware of the tasks he needs to complete.

    I know how frustrating this is. SOmetimes I feel like I"M the students since I'm so concerened about it and I feel like he's not. It's only week 2 and he's back to his old ways. Good luck to you, and the rest of us!
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