DS (12) feeling schoolwork/homework is relentless

(112 Posts)
BlogOnTheTyne Thu 27-Feb-14 12:55:09

He keeps saying, "Is this what life's all about then? Just work?" In term-time, his entire life revolves around lessons and then homework - this latter taking up most of the evening and lots of the weekend.

It's all going to get a lot harder too, as he gets nearer to public exams. He's happy at school - socially - and holding his own academically (v academically selective school) and wouldn't want to change schools.

It's more an attitude of mind and a reality and he sees me working most of my waking hours anyway (solo mum/ fully self employed/ family solely reliant on my income). I can't really say to him - by example - 'actually it's not all about work', when this feels a bit like the reality to me too.

However, when I was 12, I certainly didn't have a life revolving around work and exams and there seemed a lot more downtime. Is he a product of the 21st century and will just have to find a way of tolerating life as it is - or is there much I can say or do to help him feel differently?

tiggytape Thu 27-Feb-14 13:00:05

Academically selective schools sometimes have much more homework than other schools (although I have also heard of some that have much, much less than the norm too). I don't think it is a 21st century thing, more an individual school thing.

Does his school have a homework timetable with set subjects on set days? Is this adhered to?
Do they have guidelines as to how long homework should take? Does it take him longer than this for him to complete and, if so, is that due to disorganisation, being slow to get going or finding it too difficult?

If he is getting behind due to lack of good time management there are things that might help such as breaking up larger projects into daily tasks. If teachers are setting more homework than scheduled, it might be worth raising that.

sixlive Thu 27-Feb-14 13:01:37

How much extra circular stuff does he do, this can lessen the burden as it's a break from the studying.

pugsandseals Thu 27-Feb-14 13:14:16

I'm a harsh cow - I would tell him that this is the exact reason he needs to work so hard now so that he can get a nice job he will enjoy if he's going to be spending most of his adult life doing it!

dellon Thu 27-Feb-14 13:17:06

i think unfortunately with most of the very academically selective schools (and I am thinking of the top indies) lots of homework and tests being set in order to achieve expectations of several A*s at GCSE is kind of what you sign up for. Some prefer less academic and more all rounded schools for that reason. Whether a child will thrive in that hothouse environment is very subjective- they may be bright but may have lots of other interests they want to pursue outside the academic side.

wordfactory Thu 27-Feb-14 13:32:26

Blog how much homework is he actually doing?

My DS is in year 10 of an absurdly academic school and there is still oodles of time left for going to the gym, playing footie, singing in the choir, FIFA 14 and eating crisps grin...

Nocomet Thu 27-Feb-14 13:32:41

It's exactly why my DD2 choose not to try for the grammar school.

Massive amounts of what you learn in Y7-9 you never ever use again. Acres of history and geography that isn't in the GCSE syllabus, the language you hate and will never utter a word if again, likewise all the English set texts you loath and will never read again.

Yes you can argue a great deal of what we learn in school we never use again, but it adds to who we are. And I'd totally agree.

What I verdantly disagree with is that this learning needs for primary and younger secondary DCs to extend much out of school hours.

School aged DCs need time to explore other skills and talents outside the basic school curriculum.

DD1's love of art and singing feeds directly into her GCSE's, but it keeps her sane too.

DD2's gymnastics keeps her fit, happy and away from to much YouTube. Given she wants to teach primary it may even be vaguely useful.

DH's boyhood addiction to electronics gave him far more if the skills he uses at work than his Oxbridge science degree.

And all this aside, children should not be working longer hours than many adults - Full Stop!

dellon Thu 27-Feb-14 13:43:06

I hate to say it but some kids at very academically selective schools do more hours of studying in the week that I did at uni in my arts degree...and I still came out with a good degree...it may be a sign of the times too...more competition for Oxbridge from top schools, publishing of league tables/ obsession with rankings etc.

JiminyCricket Thu 27-Feb-14 13:57:32

I have been feeling recently that its a pretty close run thing who works longer hours/harder between me and the kids, and they are only in primary. Part of the issue is that two of DD1s out of school activities involve homework, adding to the timetable, and partly its these Jan/Feb short days when it doesn't feel like we do anything else, and they are short of energy. I feel for your son though. I guess if it was me I would be making sure that I communicated that exam success is not the be all and end all - encouraging him to figure out what is important to him and how he wants to spend his time. Maybe even see what happens if he doe slightly less work (he might find he still does OK and can relax a bit). Do the two of you have some definite work free/chore free time every day doing something relaxed and fun together, and definitely at the weekend? Life shouldn't have to be a treadmill, especially at his age.

HisMum4 Thu 27-Feb-14 14:13:58

I am with pugsandseals. Enjoying interests outside work and having nice lifestyle is an income related luxury for most people on the planet. Hard work now buys him the flexibility and choice to work only on things he really enjoys doing.

But he could look at this as an opportunity and focus on the sphere of his influence... How can he work faster, use time more efficiently? Could he describe what activity would make him feel he has a life, exactly as he enjoys it?

starfish4 Thu 27-Feb-14 14:36:24

I know some spend far less time, but I'd limit his homework to two hours a night in the week and perhaps one morning or afternoon at weekends. There are some that will spend far less, but he's obviously trying to do his best to get it right if he's spending lots of time. That way, he has an hour or so to see friends, crash out in front of the tv, do a sport, whatever he wants to do. My daughter does her own thing until 5/5.30pm, has tea and then starts her homework. I'd rather she did her homework first, but it works for her and her friends are more likely to be free after school.

BlogOnTheTyne Thu 27-Feb-14 16:48:48

Lots of feedback here....basically, they're supposed to get 1.5 hrs HW a night every night and more at w/es. However, many HWs aren't for the next day but for a few days later or the next week. This means they have to organise their time to prioritise subjects. Also, some HWs will take, individually, a lot lot longer than 1.5 hrs and some will take less - say 25 mins.

Most nights, he'll come home with another 3 + subjects, additional to those accrused the night before. He'll tend to do the HW that's for the next day and leave some - though not all - of those for a few days time.

However, all this means that at the w/e, he may have accrued around 6 to 7 subjects, despite working hard every evening all week to keep on top of as much as possible. That then means that on and off across the enitre w/e he's doing HW. He may take a break to do computing but the HW is still there hanging over him and often won't leave enough time to do a few hours of a major activity.

He feels too tired anyway to want to go out really and just wants to slump in front of his PC (he does CGI stuff for fun or browses YouTube etc).

He isn't the best with organisational skills - nor the worst. I constantly encourage him to 'get it over and done with so you can then relax fully' - but he often won't as he says he's too tired and so it accrues. He quite often gets migraines when he's tired and then loses a whole evening HW anyway, meaning there's even more the next night to do.

If it's HW he enjoys, he'll spend a lot longer than they're supposed lnike the HW, he'll be slapdash and messy and do it as quickly as possible. I find lots of the HW is a waste of his time and the worst thing of all is that some teachers just never ever mark HW - SO annoying. So he feels like what's the point in doing it then?

Then there's the fact that whilst he's holding his own in the school and pretty good at one or two subjects, he's by no means bright enough to coast through certain subjects, especially Maths, which isn't his thing but is a v v strong subject at his school and there are lots of gifted mathematicians there. I expect they spend hardly any time compared to DS on their Maths or science HWs.

It's difficult not to complete HW if you go over the expected time allotted to it. It's kind of not in the culture and v unusual for a parent or student to say - I didn't finish this exercise as it took me longer than 1.5 hrs. No one wants to admit that kind of thing and anyway, as you often get several days to complete one subject, each individual teacher can say - but you had 7 days to do it. How can you not have completed it?

As far as family time goes, there seems less and less of this as I spend any time between paid work and needs of the DCs, simply catching up with the top priority domestic tasks. We'll occasionally watch a family movie on Sunday afternoon but this doesn't always work because of the needs of my other DC. I seem to race from one task to the next myself, most of my waking hours and am not exactly a good example of a 'balanced adult life'!

He does some activities at school, at lunchtimes but no longer anything after school - but one activity that happens v occasionally at w/es that's school related. However, on those w/es, he often wishes he wasn't doing it as he then loses a full day of the w/e and so has to cram all HW into oneday and it's quite sad that he contemplates dropping that one too (like so many others) just to get a bit of w/e 'downtime'.

woodrunner Thu 27-Feb-14 17:10:15

That really does sound like overload. But DC have also both said exactly that to me in the past and been overwhelmed by homework (also at v academic selective school.
We've made it all very structured.
Come home at 5pm: have a snack and watch trash on tv or play computer games for half an hour.
Do 1 hour homework.
Have tea at 6.30. Do last 30 mins homework. That takes until 7.30. Then there's 1 hour to relax totally before bath and bed.

That works three nights a week. One night a week they each have music lessons, so that time comes out of chill time. They love music, so if they complain about lack of tv on music nights I just ask: 'what will you regret at 16: missing episodes of Family Guy or not getting up to grade 5?

Friday night is always no homework night in our house and we make an effort for it to be fun. It's time for their friends to pile over, make pizzas, play games, go to the cinema etc.
Saturday is homework day, house cleaning etc.
On Sunday we always do something fun as a family or with friends for at least half a day. That way when they say 'is life always one long drudge,' I can reply: No you had your mates over for tea on Friday, we went to the cinema and to the leisure pool.'

By getting into these habits, they see that it's only three nights a week when there is no fun. One night is music and they love that. one night is friends/film night and they love that too and Sunday is a proper day off, going into town or to the theatre, so something memorably fun.

The other thing they've started to do is get basic homeworks done at lunchtime or on the way home.

And last, I tell them they don't have to be best at everything. No point in sweating blood over maths if you'll never take it up. As long as he gets an A or B, that's fine by us. Leave the A*s a year early to the math geeks.

Sorry - this is long but we have had similar and I'm pretty happy with the balance now.

JohnnyUtah Thu 27-Feb-14 17:13:07

I was going to type a post about my kids who are at an independent school as well. But it would have been just the same as wood runners!!

NearTheWindymill Thu 27-Feb-14 17:20:13

Hmm. My DS went to a very selective London Indie. I think he was supposed to do about 1.5 hours at 12. In reality he probably did about 45 minutes, skimming through bits and skiving others. A couple of hours tops at weekends. He got 10 A*s at GCSE and did exceptionally well in 6th form (he worked considerably harder in 6th form). Up to that point he certainly didn't kill himself.

Do you think OP that this might not be quite the right school for him? Does he have the opportunity to switch to somewhere a bit more nurturing at 13?

Ragwort Thu 27-Feb-14 17:32:37

I think this is what you get if you go to an academically selective school - but hopefully your DS will do well and end up with a well paid and fulfilling career.

Meanwhile my DS is the same age, goes to the local bog standard comprehensive, does about 10 minutes homework on a good day and i just hope to goodness he gets to knuckle down sometime soon or he will be facing a dead end future. sad.

RiversideMum Thu 27-Feb-14 17:37:21

My DD got all A*s and As for GCSE with relatively little homework. This was at the local comp.

BlogOnTheTyne Thu 27-Feb-14 18:42:35

NearTheWindymill, your DS sounds very clever! Mine fits comfortably within the school he's at, academically - but couldn't get 10A*s with v little work. He's not that bright. On the other hand, he's not in the bottom ranks either (usually in set 2 or 3 for things - out of 4 sets) and does v well at some subjects like English (in top few percent of cohort).

He's been with most of his cohort since age 3.75 in any case and would hate to move now, when friendships are strengthening. To be honest, I have no idea how he would compare with another cohort from a different kind of school. I think most of them at his current school get As and A*s at iGCSE (doing 10 to 13 subjects) with the occasional B grade if you struggle. My total guess (and he's currently only in Yr 8 and a bit young for the year) is that he could get 6 A*s, 3 As and maybe a B and the school say that every single child gets an A* at Maths, even those in bottom set (below DS).

So I don't have a real idea of how he is compared with UK wide peers. I only ever get to compare him with his cohort. Lots of children seem to coast along and do much much better (those would be the ones who'll get 3 A*s IGCSE a year early and then another 10 A*s the iGCSE year) and some are like DS and others are struggling more but will still probably get a lot of A grades at iGCSE. So it's a bit of a skewed cohort.

I'm not sure how much is his attitude towards work and whether he's just being pessimistic and stressed when he needn't be - but just get the work done. But I think my OP was really about the sense that actually, most of adult life really IS about endless hard work and tiny islands of leisure inbetween and is this how it should be?

Was it like that when I was a child? Why does it have to be and feel that way now and that DS - at such a young age, is questioning if this is the very nature of how life is and will be?

Back at the very beginning of his life, I was completely torn between academically selective schooling and actually home schooling and let childrne learn at their own pace, follow their own interests and perhaps become really expert at one of two things, whilst not having to pursue others. I bought into the academic schooling partly because I wanted my DCs to grow up socialising with lots of other children on a daily basis and getting used to 'institutions' as they'd probably oneday have to fit in with their employers institution, the office team etc etc.

But I do sometimes wonder now what life might have been like if I'd cosen the other path for the DCs, not had to work so hard myself to pay the school fees and we'd all had a much less pressured and busy life.

NearTheWindymill Thu 27-Feb-14 20:06:31

We did IGCE's too. dd is harder worker and we hope will come out with 6A*/5A or vice versa. She has a place for 6th form at DS's old school providing she gets 5A*s. I think they've made a bit of an exception for her because she's Windy's sister - but also she's good across the board whereas ds was really focused on the liberal arts. I'm not at all convinced the school is the right one for her but she is desperate to follow "his" footsteps. I have a feeling we might be talking about the same school wink

NearTheWindymill Thu 27-Feb-14 20:08:05

Oh, and blog the friendship group changed completely once they moved up to the senior school so don't despair about that.

Rabbitcar Thu 27-Feb-14 20:16:32

DD1 aged 13 is at what would be called a super selective London grammar in y8. She doesn't get much homework and spends most evenings when she's not at clubs, on her phone. Maybe she isn't doing enough. Her friends at indies get a lot more. But I like the fact she is enjoying her childhood.

Whyjustwhy Fri 28-Feb-14 07:48:11

Im sorry your DS is having such a difficult time.

I think practically, the only advice I would offer, is that your DS needs to get ahead of the curve here and be in the position where he is able to tackle most of his homework on the night it is set, rather than the night before it's due in.
Given that he's got so much homework, realistically this may not be possible until after Easter when he will go back to school with all the work done, so can start with a clean sheet.
You've been given some excellent advice about structuring the week, and I agree that's essential.
My dd also year 8, is currently rehearsing for a dance show and has dance every week night, 6 hours on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday. She gets about 45 mins per week per subject, (so about 8 hrs pw) and is keeping up with it all, but is needing support to stay organised. But she's not at all stressed and is doing well at school.

mulv2222 Fri 28-Feb-14 08:59:57

Blog - I feel similar about the point of all this competition, slaving away for exams at school. I'm not into it at all. I teach at a highly selective indie and there are so many mental health issues, stressed out kids - why? What is the actual point? Different if your life long dream is to do something that you need a string of A*s for but mostly it comes from the parents. We are now choosing secondary for ds and whilst he's bright I wouldn't put him through a super selective. I want him to have fun! Shocking eh?i want him to enjoy his time at school i want him how to make friends and develop as a person and not into an exam taking machine. I know I'm in the minority, friends are aghast at my take on things. I think socialising and learning how to get on with people will see him further than whether he has A*s or A/B's.

tiggytape Fri 28-Feb-14 09:12:31

Mulv2222 - I agree with you - the pressure comes from the parents who select these schools in the first place and drive the demand for this. Parents who choose highly selective schools (i.e. a school that is very competitive to get into, turns away more applicants that it accepts and is judged annually on whether it climbs or slips 3 places in national league tables) often do so because they want a fast pace of learning and expect a lot of additional study. They want guaranteed results.
They believe children should work very hard indeed at secondary school age in order to maintain the advantage they have of already being ahead and make sure they are best placed to scoop up good uni places at the end of it.

That view is fine but if you have a very able child who sails into a highly selective school without years of preparation and you don't particularly support that ethos, you might find you are in the minority. Similarly if you have a perfectionist child who is conscientious about their work anyway, the extra pressure and volume of work can be overwhelming.

Suttonmum1 Fri 28-Feb-14 09:18:06

If you are a parent choosing a school soon please take these posts on board. Not all super selectives are the same. Locally some are known for huge amounts of homework and some for giving less and encouraging a more rounded approach with more after school activities.

The point about spending tons of time doing homework on subjects you will then drop is very relevant.

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