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?

northlondoncat Fri 28-Feb-14 09:22:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Fatphase Fri 28-Feb-14 09:38:12

My daughter is older (yr 10) in an academic selective school. She weekly boards and some weekends she comes home with so much homewrok it makes me really sad that we dont see her all week then simply dont have time at weekends to do much together either. The weekened when she is bogged down completely usually come after a week when she has had lots on in the week - like a school trip that retuens late for example.

I think problems arise with management of homework. DD learnt early on this year she needs to be doing 2 hours a night prep every weeknight to keep on top. Initially I think there was a bit of finishing a subject after 40 minutes and then thinking great I have finished early this evening because X.Y Z does not need to be in until Weds and Friday. When really she should have been forging on with those subjects to make way for the other prep that would be set inbetween with a shorter handing in date.

We had a couple of letters home to say she had not completed set homework a few times but this was down to her management and not slacking off (thankfully she has a very studious attitude generally) so we did not reprimand her but it alerted us to the fact she needed help with her time management. We spoke to her and then also her HOY who also ensured she had a little extra support for a few weeks to ensure she knew/understood how to keep ontop of it all.

Perhaps you need to sit down with him and look at his homework diary and and check every evening what homework is newly set and what is due in when then help him work out what needs to be done that evening. Perhaps spending longer at the beginning of the week to get on top but maybe also ahead. It may mean at the weekend of an evening later on the week he may not have to spend so long working. He is only 12 and may need help with the management side of it. Also engage the school, his tutor or HOY. Its in their interest to help kids learn how to manage their workloads. That in itself is a learning curve.

woodrunner Fri 28-Feb-14 22:27:42

OP, when our DC were at state primary they stagnated. I remember feeling pretty bitter that they went to school to bake and paint and watch theatre shows then came home to learn their times tables. It felt the wrong way round. We chose an academic school so that we could take back the role of being the fun ones.

If you can just carve out half an hour an night with him to laugh at a comedy together, or take turns playing favourite songs on you tube; if you can plan fun events for the holidays as you chat over tea, then bit by bit you'll regain the balance. If it's an indie, keep reminding him how much longer his holidays are, and make sure you do some really brilliant fun every day stuff with him in the holidays, or if you are at work, sign him up for some stuff that has no academic pressure involved: drama or rock groups or fun sports.

And let him know the school might snort smoke if he gets a few Bs but you won't. How much pressure we apply is also vastly influential to their stress levels. I bet the mentally ill children Mulv is talking about have parents with super-high expectations.

Krindlekrax Fri 28-Feb-14 22:31:54

If he's spending his whole life working and is getting stressed and bogged down by it, then he's at the wrong school and you need to find somewhere that is more suited to his needs.

Unfortunately, extremely selective schools only suit a certain type of child. I say 'unfortunately' because they a) offer a lot and b) it's impossible to tell how your child will cope before they start.

summerends Fri 28-Feb-14 22:51:31

I think that if a child of 12 at a selective school has to do more than an hour regularly every night plus at weekends then that is hot housing or cramming and not worth it, they only have one childhood and so much of that sort of homework is wasted time. As said by others children at certain very selective schools do only an hour or less max 5 days a week until year 9/10 and still get extremely good results.
If he wants to stay at the school why don't you make an executive decision about which homework tasks he should do or leave each night depending on their learning value and the chances that the teachers will notice. However surely it is going to get worse for him as he goes up the school? It all sounds as though his enthusiasm for life and learning is being quenched.

LynetteScavo Fri 28-Feb-14 23:03:16

What would happen if he did less homework?

My ds does the bare minimum homework- just enough to ensure he spent get a detention. I don't think he does more than 30 mins a week. He remembers everything he is told in class, so as long as he is paying attention in class, I figure he will be ok.

BlogOnTheTyne Sat 01-Mar-14 06:02:42

So he's accumulated 9 subjects for HW this w/e (a record even for him!) all of which he'll have to complete today, as he has a rare full day activity (school club) tomorrow.

All week, I've reminded him about getting on with more HW in the evenings, if he's to have any downtime on Saturday. He's done a few subjects per night but has been too tired to plod on with the others - hence 9 this w/e.

I repeat endlessly to him that it just feels better and works better if you get things over and done with and out of the way. He's still a bit young to 'get' this and more focused on the fact that if the HW doesn't have to be handed in till the following week, then why should he lose the only 30 mins he has, before bed, to carry on with more work.

I feel unwilling to force him to do more HW on weekday evenings as sometimes, he'll then develop migraines and end up vomiting and in bed at 6pm - wiped out. So it's an endless balance between him doing enough in the evening and yet not so much that he ends up having a 12+ hr working day.

Also, once I've made supper for DCs and ensured they're settled with HW, I then have to go back to work myself for the evening in my home office. So I'm not really there for the time he does his HW. I do check every night what new subjects he's been set and he usually agrees with me that the priority subjects will be those for tomorrow. He's never late handing in HW. It's just that there's so much of it given.

I don't think he gets enough sleep - for him. He's always needed a lot more sleep than the rest of us and still easily needs 10 hrs a night. As he has to be up by 6.30am latest, to get time to shower/bath, dress, eat bkfast etc (and is the slowest person I know with all these things) and we leave for school at 7.20am, he'd have to be asleep by 8.30pm every night to get the sleep he needs. But he adamantly refuses to go before 9/9.30pm, as that last half hour or so at night is literally the only time I get as quality time with the DCs and is v precious to him and all of us.

He's usually asleep between 9.30pm and 10.00pm, after lights out at 9.10pm. He's never had any kind of 'screens' available in his bedroom.

DCs used to do far more clubs and activities in the evenings but gradually have stopped everything but one thing that the other DC does at school, one evening a week, whilst DS works in the library for an hour, trying to do some HW. There is no way at all that they could fit in a social thing or an activity these days, partly cos of the HW and partly cos I work every evening (need to pay the school fees!).

I sort of agree that having fun and friends and good social skills will set him up for life, in so many ways, more than a string of A*s. However, it's also true that as jobs become more competitive and more excellent graduates are not getting work, it helps to be that person with a string of A*s, a first class degree from a RG Uni and excellent social skills too. It seems to me that young people need far more than I ever did at their age and beyond, just to climb the next rung of the ladder.

I should say that he's by no means the only one in his year to accumulate so much HW and is probably an average example of this. So although mega bright children may be able to whizz through some subjects more quickly, many of the rest will be even less organised and even be handing HWs in late.

He has quite a few commitments at lunchtimes so doesn't get so much time to do HW then and in any case, they only get 35 mins of break - which isn't that long, when you've maybe got to cross the school grounds to get to the library, get out all your HW and focus down on getting some done. However, he also says he needs some time off at lunchtime to be with friends and I'm reluctant to discourage this, just so he can get more HW done. The school discourages this anyway as they prefer children to 'do it properly' at home.

Now my DCs are older and school fees higher, I can't afford holiday camps/activities for them and they're able to survive without childcare, whilst I work (from home). But it does mean that chunks of time will be spent in front of their PCs and not going out and about. I just can't provide the extra resources for paid activity nor the time to take them here and there to see friends.

I feel hugely guilty about this of course but if I've suggested how we could all have a much less stressful lifestyle if they went to the local state school, they explode in fury and angst, as they desperately want to remain at the school they're at, along with all their friends - old and new. DS would just like not to have so much work outside of school.

I find myself pulled between encouraging him to buckle down and get it out of the way, frustrated that he'll do the minimum in the evenings (still quite a lot) - and telling him it doesn't matter at all. He'll be dropping that subject next year anyway.

The 'deal' for today is that I pay him 50p if he can get all the HWs done during the morning, when I'm working myself. That might not sound like much incentive but without any tangible reward, he'll probably fizzle out after 3 or 4 subjects and retreat to browsing on his PC, when I'm not there to monitor him. He says a lot of the HW this w/e is just small amounts to do for most subjects but I've not checked that with him. It may be completely impossible for him to do nine subjects in one morning. But I'd really like him to get some rest and relaxation this afternoon, as he's out all day tomorrow at a physically invigorating but tiring activity.

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 06:35:34

Do you think he is taking a reasonable amount of time over each piece of homework? Have you worked out what he is doing in a 25 minute chunk of time in relation to what he has produced at the end of it? Are similar traits to his slowness in getting ready in the morning coming into play? He may be spending a lot of time thinking / obsessing about doing each task rather than tackling it. Could he sit with you in your office so that you can observe what happens? He might benefit from some cognitive behavioural strategies and better at this stage than later.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 01-Mar-14 08:10:27

This really does sound intolerable. I've read all through, so if you've mentioned taking him to the GP and I've missed it I apologise - but I really do think that needs to be your next step.

I used to suffer from migraines (in my case cutting out one food group almost saved my sanity) and I know absolutely that they wipe you out for days - even after the pain has gone. So your poor DS is surely walking around in an exhausted daze half the time. And I know at that age they still don't know what's supposed to feel "right."

I feel so sorry for you both. (Somewhere between empathy and sympathy...) You're working relentlessly for something you're not sure you want - and which is harder and harder to maintain. He, as you say, must find it hard to see the purpose of all the work when, to be frank, you don't seem to be enjoying life much.

It does sound (and I appreciate you've probably condensed things) as if too much of the scant family relaxation time is spent looking at screens; you tube, films.... And it sounds as if that's so because you are too exhausted to think of or do anything else. I'm certain lots of fee paying (and other) families don't have spare money for camps and safaris (!) but I wish I knew where you are - have you truly exhausted all the free / cheap outdoor / water based / gallery options? (I'm comparing this to the 12 year olds I know who work very hard but have lots of time to "play" and run wild outdoors...)

Take him to the GP. The migraines probably are stress - but they need sorting out. He can't cope otherwise.

Whyjustwhy Sat 01-Mar-14 08:15:23

Op I feel really sad for you and your DC reading your last post. None of you are enjoying your lifestyle, or have a balance between work and fun.
I appreciate your worries about future careers for your children, but it's far more important that you help your children grow into resilient and emotionally secure adults. To feel under so much stress that he is vomiting and having migraines, that's not normal.

My DC attend/ed a non selective state school. Homework was always manageable. We leave the house at 8:15, and are home at 4:15pm. The older 2 have the strings of A/A* at GCSE, and more importantly, at A level.
They are at 2 of the better RG universities and both are doing very well.

The money we could have used to pay for private school, has been used to allow me to work part time so I am here for the DC. They have taken part in a wide range of sports, clubs, enrichment weekends etc. and have enjoyed their childhood and teen years.

Earlier this week, we learned of a friend of a friend who started at Oxford in the autumn. He was found dead after falling out of his window in the early hours last weekend. However it happened, that's it. His whole life is over.
My point is, we don't know what the future holds, so having a balance to life in the present is really important.

Sorry this has turned into an essay, but I think the problem is much bigger than too much homework.

BlogOnTheTyne Sat 01-Mar-14 08:22:22

He's been to the GP and referred on for migraines/vomiting - quite a long time ago now. They ruled out anything insidious and suggested possible meds. that would make him sleepy - the last thing he needs. So we just try to maintain enough sleep for him when this is possible, me playing down the stress and he only gets a migraine usually the day after going back to school after a break or at a really busy time.

Yes, he does have some processing issues (nothing that would give him more time in exams though) - just enough to make organisational skills slightly harder than average but not enough for him to stand out at school with this as an issue. He doesn't really take my advice - which is typical of his age I guess. Today, he decided the best subject to start with was Art - a subject he's dropping next year - when i suggested he begin with a hard academic one that hs finds more difficult like maths.

Anyway, he's done one a bit subjects so far.

He can't be with me when I'm working as I'm in meetings (think something equivalent to a law practice). I'm about to start work now and we'll just have to see how much he gets done by the time I'm next free at lunchtime. I have told him that any subject he's dropping next year doesn't need to be done perfectly - well nothing needs to be perfect really either.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 01-Mar-14 08:36:43

He's been to the GP and referred on for migraines/vomiting - quite a long time ago now...... and he only gets a migraine usually the day after going back to school after a break or at a really busy time.

Take him back. Get them to suggest relaxation techniques, yoga, anything. Honestly, it's not going to get better without some sort of intervention.

SwayingBranches Sat 01-Mar-14 08:48:12

What a hideous existence. What future is worth so little childhood?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 01-Mar-14 08:54:41

Hmmph. I think there's room for a little more understanding Swaying. The OP is a sole parent. She's moving heaven and earth to keep her children as far as possible from statistics and stereotypes.

lottysmum Sat 01-Mar-14 09:05:10

I'd really question whether this is all worth it ....

My daughter (very able) is at a comprehensive (average)...hardly any homework...she's top ability set (classes that have been set)working at level 6's in most things apart from FRENCH/SPANISH/PE...level 7 in Maths ....being totally stretched ...not perfect some disruption in classes that are not currently set but she's focused to get on with work ..school is 8:30 until 2:55...she's home at 3:15 or able to go into town with friends ...We could have sent her to a selective independent school - but so glad we didn't!

If he's unhappy ...then you need to re think - your only a child once ...and he may find the pace at another school is better for him....

CecilyP Sat 01-Mar-14 09:27:56

What has being a single parent got to do with it, other than that OP's the one will all the responsibility. She is hardly a stereotype if she is earning enough to pay for private schooling.

That seems to be a very long day and ridiculous amount of time to spend on homework, certainly at 12, even for a very selective school. The lack of sleep cannot be helping either. (10 hours is pretty normal at this age). Is there any way you can take some time out from your own work to monitor the homework to see if it really is excessive or if it is more to do with your DS's lack of organisation or perfectionist tendancies. If it is the latter, you may be able to suggest strategies that help him work more efficiently; if the former, you should really have a meeting with the school to see what can be done to reduce the workload. It really should be possible for an able 16 year old to get a string of As and A*s without putting in this level of work 12.

LynetteScavo Sat 01-Mar-14 09:30:47

My advice would be that he puts left time and effort in to the HW.

The whole point of this seems to get his some decent GCSE's and A'levels, so unless what he is doing is contributing towards the end result, then it seems a bit pointless.

Abra1d Sat 01-Mar-14 09:35:37

Both my children found there was a lot of work in the early years in selective schools and my daughter's school seemed to pile it on in particular. By the time they were in GCSE years they had learned a lot about how to prioritise and streamline. And they just get quicker, too (and more adept at using downtime, such as the bus journey to school, to learn vocab for tests, do Latin prep, etc, which is all part of being efficient in the way you work). And there were fewer subjects too as time went on.

I think it may be a case of some schools piling it on early on and then easing up a bit in the GCSE year so that the pupils can actually relax a bit more and feel they are more in control and feel more confident before the GCSEs (IGCSEs). I noticed this certainly with my son: year 11 seemed less stressful than year 10.

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 09:37:02

If Blog's son is happy socially at his present school that counts for a lot and therefore much more difficult to decide to move him even though many of us think the homework is too much and not needed even in very selective schools.
I agree with Zero about intervention with relaxation, yoga type exercises or as I said before cognitive based therapy with a counsellor. He reminds me of another boy I know and the most help he can get at this stage will lessen the inevitable increasing problems later when tackling work / exam revision . Although he may just be letting off steam by moaning, teenage depression / anxiety can present this way.

CQ Sat 01-Mar-14 09:43:51

I've had a similar situation with my DD and needed to go and see the Head of Year to get it sorted. All the individual subject teachers were merrily setting their own homework, supposedly to an agreed timetable, without any regard to other subjects, school trips, sports fixtures or bank holidays.

We had, for example, an English essay set one day, due in the next, so she could mark them over the weekend. That was also the last evening for finishing a big science project, so those who had left it to the last minute were scuppered. Another large piece of work was set for a Bank Holiday weekend which made our precious break an absolute misery for all of us.

A meeting with the head of year was really valuable as we could show her the full picture - she agreed it was all too much and we have seen a definite improvement in amount of work set, more flexible deadlines and more acceptance by the teachers that if the kids are out for a full day at the weekend at a sports tournament, they should not be having to devote the whole of the other day to homework.

Most independent schools need to become more family friendly but can only do this if we parents keep feeding back to them about acceptable balance.

OP, my heart goes out to you, you are doing so well at juggling it all on your own, but do go back to the GP, and start jumping up and down a bit more with school - it sounds like your DS has way too much on his plate.

CecilyP Sat 01-Mar-14 09:50:04

I agree that if blog's son were less happy with the school generally, then moving him would be the obvious solution, but as he really wants to stay, this is less of an option. From OP's posts it does sound as if the homework really is excessive, plus leaving the house 7.20 to get to school on time already makes for a long day, so that is a problem to be solved rather than trying to use yoga or CBT to try to come to terms with the problem (which might be just another thing to fit in to already limited time).

Artandco Sat 01-Mar-14 10:06:39

I would try and get him to do homework at school. Ie I went to a super selective grammar. Between 9am-1pm we would have 3 subjects so could potentially get x3 home works before lunch. Hours lunch would usually be people eating and helping each other do majority of homework already received that day.
I used to do maths in the bus home!
By the time I was home around 5pm most was already done and just some art/ longer projects left.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 01-Mar-14 10:28:17

But Cecily do you honestly think that moving house (assume that's what you meant?) will be less of an upheaval for the whole family? Even if it's a viable option it's not going to happen in the coming weeks....

The issue with the amount of homework does need to be addressed, but it has to be from a point where the child is physically and emotionally able to work on an equal footing with everyone else. At the moment this child is more or less "disabled" with symptoms of extreme anxiety and subsequent exhaustion.

Medical intervention isn't being suggested as a way of coming to terms with a problem - but as a way of making part of the problem disappear. I do think that might be a better way of spending a spare half hour than sitting in front of a computer.

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 10:30:04

CecilyP my reason for suggesting de-stressing techniques / CBT is for the longer term benefit since I suspect that Blog's son may have tendencies to OCD and stress / depression. Obviously reducing his long day would be one short term aim ( if practical) but he needs to have tactics to manage workload if not now, later at university or work.

rabbitstew Sat 01-Mar-14 11:04:27

The sad thing is, Blog's ds doesn't really know what's good for him, and that includes what school would be good for him. His saying he doesn't want to leave sounds to me like clinging to the security of it at least being the devil he knows, and having friends there. Who would choose the deep blue sea when it's the great unknown and he is having a hard enough time with what he does know? Maybe at least looking at alternatives would make it feel more like a choice to be working so hard and help the family get out of the rut of thinking that maybe this is what life is all about and they should get used to it? If the alternatives are awful, at least it will feel more like a positive choice! And if they aren't as bad as thought, then maybe dreaming about how life could surely be more fun could become a reality? At the very least, though, the school he is at, now, ought to be made aware of the amount of angst being caused. It does seem at the moment as though everyone is working very hard for something they don't quite believe in.

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