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?

totallyuseless Wed 05-Mar-14 08:16:15

My son fees the same. Year 8 is a big step up from year 7 they are learning lots of new topics and are expected to do more independent study and research, which is time consuming.

I am trying to help my son with the research and planning so he feels less daunted by the amount of work. I found by breaking the homework into smaller chunks he feels more able to cope.

HmmAnOxfordComma Wed 05-Mar-14 07:34:42

Lots of academic schools (grammars, top comps and Indies) are also proud of not giving out lots of homework because they work so hard and with meaning in lessons and are lucky to have less disruption, on the whole. Some/most also have longer days meaning they don't need to give out loads of homework.

I counted back through ds's planner last night (yr 8). Between 7 - 10 pieces per wk. Some took longer than others (geog essay, English essay, revision - how long is a piece of string?) and others were much shorter. I reckon 4-5 hours a wk absolute max.

Needmoresleep Tue 04-Mar-14 10:50:32

OP I really feel for you. Now the end is in sight I have been able to give up the full time job I had to fund both school fees and a London mortgage. Juggling it all was tough.

Was it worth it? I regret not having the time or energy for my children, DH, our house and to some extent for me. However I am optimistic that DC will look back and feel that the investment in their education (meaning more than grades) was worthwhile. Me earning has also meant that we are now better off than we would have been. Plus I suspect I might have been bored not working.

It is not for much longer, indeed time will go far faster than you think.

Suggestions:

1. Family night in. Maybe Friday nights. Box set of your favourite DVD and heat and serve curry or pizza. We watched our way through a James Bond set, and more recently the Mentalist.
2. As others have suggested try to programme. So on a Saturday you all give yourselves a couple of hours work (eg without stressing it a set task with a time limit) then off to a farmers market, the local park with cricket bats or maybe a trip to the South Bank or a Museum. (Time out in a physical sense, eg getting outside and doing some exercise is very important. Maybe when it gets warmer a trip to the Lido, with a picnic and if need be some reading or things that can be tested.)

Its tough. You are in this together, but somehow it needs to be more fun.

I would then tackle why homework takes so long. My DC somehow managed the "good enough" principle fairly early. Their standard school reports refers to the need for them to pay more care and attention. Its Ok. They get through the workload without too much fuss and are doing fine.

The really important thing is to really listen in class. If you do, revising for tests becomes much easier. Often no more than reading through it on the journey into school.

Squeeze as much as you can into the school day. 15 minutes break..then sit down with a friend and work on the maths together. The ones with the busy sports or music schedules manage by heading for the library at lunchtime, or staying there for an hour after school.

Look at how they learn. The student room website has quite a lot of study material, in different formats including mind mapping etc. DD has processing issues and we cracked it when we realised her aural memory is good. Sending her off to her room to revise meant she spent hours not achieving much. Bursts of testing her verbally is much quicker. Learning, especially language learning, works better if you mix around where and how you learn.

Unless there is something obviously wrong, I would not worry about further diagnostics. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and need to make the most of what we have. If the school has some sort of SENCO/study support, it might be worth asking for an appointment to see them to discuss how your son can improve his time management and effectiveness. This might allow for a discussion with him and an agreed approach. If this includes a maximum time to be spend on any one homework he can then be supported by his class teacher. This ought to help him get faster. Some children will appear to be breezing through it all. I doubt all them are really bright. Some are just use their time more effectively. Great life skills to learn at an early stage.

I would then scour Council websites and other places for cheap holiday courses. For example there used to be some very cheap introduction to rowing courses offered by the relevant National Sports body. More expensive but still good value are things like the Smallpeice trust. Even an exchange. DD used to spend a few days with a girl she met on holiday and who lived in the country, and then we gave the girl a few days London experience. Both were envious of the other!

Suttonmum1 Tue 04-Mar-14 08:05:10

I chose my son's super selective in part because it is known for a more sensible homework policy, he does not get tons of homework.

rabbitstew Tue 04-Mar-14 07:54:55

I don't see why an academic school would need to give tonnes of homework - surely academic children pick concepts up more readily and need less practice to cement them? A truly academic child could then read around the subject for pleasure in their own free time, unhampered by their school's pointless demands for homework the OP has said they don't even mark half the time grin.

HmmAnOxfordComma Tue 04-Mar-14 07:34:14

Lots of academic schools (grammars, top comps and Indies) are also proud of not giving out lots of homework because they work so hard and with meaning in lessons and are lucky to have less disruption, on the whole. Some/most also have longer days meaning they don't need to give out loads of homework.

I counted back through ds's planner last night (yr 8). Between 7 - 10 pieces per wk. Some took longer than others (geog essay, English essay, revision - how long is a piece of string?) and others were much shorter. I reckon 4-5 hours a wk absolute max.

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 21:45:37

"All academic schools give out a lot of homework, this is part of the reasons why these schools are academic and why parents have chosen those schools for their DS/DD."

Not always, not it isn't and not usually!

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 21:42:27

All academic schools give out a lot of homework, this is part of the reasons why these schools are academic and why parents have chosen those schools for their DS/DD.

Students should be able to cope with this workload well and to have time and energy left for a reasonably balanced life. This is the case for vast majority.

There are however DS that spend more time on hw and this does put their life off balance. In case of my DS this is due to special needs. We are dealing with this. I often hear from DS's school about other students that are struggling because according to the school they got in there due to tutoring. My view is that there should be a reason why DSs are struggling with the workload.

I am not sure the general debate about suitability of homework is necessary or useful to OP.

rabbitstew Mon 03-Mar-14 19:58:10

HisMum4 - I don't see how you can have too much homework if you cope with it easily? Surely that's a perfectly alright amount for you if you cope with it easily?! Or do you mean, all children in selective schools have too much homework, but don't realise it because they lead such deadly dull lives where they have nothing more interesting to do than the homework set them by school? grin

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 19:57:29

"Martorana, what do you know about selective schools?"

Well, apart from having a child just finishing in one, and her and her brother having friends round regularly for the past 6.5 years who go to 7 different other ones, absolutely nothing! grin

rabbitstew Mon 03-Mar-14 19:55:35

14 lots of different homework in one week sounds bizarre to me. How many subjects is your ds studying, OP?!!!

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 19:51:46

Martorana, what do you know about selective schools?

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 19:36:30

"mulv, all children in selective schools have too much h/w and they all cope with the workload easily.."

No they don't and no they don't.

woodrunner Mon 03-Mar-14 19:04:09

Blog, glad he's had a happier few days.

Sometimes I realise I want DC to be happy all the time, and that's an undue pressure too. they are allowed to feel overwhelmed at times and have a gripe and get a bit existentially angsty. Teenagers do. Sounds like your DS is doing well.

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 19:03:18

mulv, all children in selective schools have too much h/w and they all cope with the workload easily... I think it is generally unhelpful to make statements that discourage parents to diagnose and assess SN in their DC.

mulv2222 Mon 03-Mar-14 18:55:19

His4mum - it's not about being self righteous, op never expressed her concern over ds having sn. He had too much hw. I am ghowever glad that you have found a solution that works for you.

summerends Mon 03-Mar-14 18:20:49

Blog going back to my comments about your DSs helping out with housework, most of us let our DC not do very much around the house during termtime but holidays are a good time for them to help.
It sounds as though they both have lots of activities / sport at school so don't feel bad about them not doing anything out of school especially as the interests that you mention.

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 18:10:48

But I just don't understand the academic pressure thing. How come loads of schools- like my dd's, and possibly your local school (maybe check it out before being so sure he would "sink like a stone" by the way)- get loads of As and A *s without putting this much pressure on them ever, alone at 14!

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 03-Mar-14 17:48:10

HisMum4, I know you're trying to be helpful but DS really isn't in the category of people who need medication. However, I understand that this can really help many people, where this is appropriate. DS doesn't have any issues at a medically diagnosable level - is well under that level - just has some tendencies, which we all do, in our own various ways.

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 03-Mar-14 17:45:40

Well I do keep telling him regularly that finding something to do that makes you happy is far more important than getting a string of good exam results and a first class degree and he knows that his happiness is my top priority.

He's surrounded though by people where the adults are all high achievers and may also high earners and has yet to see that there are many ways of living life and being happy, even though I tell him this.

I've contemplated several times over the years whether DCs should chnage schools and I keep coming back to the fact that they're very happy there, DS has good friends and other DC with Asps traits would sink like a stone in some of the local schools and thrives in his current school.

So I feel compelled to work had so they can stay with the good parts of their current school, even if there's more academic pressure than some other schools. I think they'd be very unhappy if they had to leave the school at this point. However, both are clear that lots of their peers may go to the local 6th form college and DS may well take that route, (defintiely aware of the potential advantages of then getting into a RG Uni from state) although his Asps bro. would probably thrive better where he is.

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 17:44:56

mulv, this self righteous accusations against medicating children with special needs are very unhelpful. OP confirmed that her DS was assessed for a number of conditions, but was judged below the threshold. Would you also advise those with depression against taking medication? This is a matter for health professionals and victimizing parents for taking medical advice fails those children.

I know a few parents in denial of their DC SN for fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against. Private schools are not interested in properly identifying special needs, if the implication will have cost consequences for them. Typically this results in child being pushed out transferred to another school, or parents being asked to pay 100% of the 1:1 support, i.e. a full TA salary..., which OP wants to avoid at all cost.

I think OP needs a few options /scenarios to consider if her DS would no longer cope with the status quo. Diagnosis, medication and proper assessment of her DS needs is the only way to reconcile high academic demands with 'processing and concentration' problems.

mulv2222 Mon 03-Mar-14 17:12:56

I am shocked that someone would suggest medicating a child to enable them to complete hw?! What is this world coming to?!

I also wondered as another poster did that by you sacrificing so much of your time and enjoyment of life that you are only increasing the pressure to succeed on your ds. If he can't cope, or hell forbid doesn't make good grades, he will an enormous sense of guilt in what you have sacrificed for him.

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 16:50:24

Are you absolutely sure you want to carry on this relentless treadmill- no time, no fun- just to pay school fees? Might it be a good idea to have a revaluation session- it does sound as if nobody in your family is having any fun.

ancientandmodern Mon 03-Mar-14 16:34:59

Blog reading your posts, I'm struck by your DC joking that you have to keep paying for them to be at an independent school till they are 18. Just wondering if they have picked up on how hard you are working to achieve this, and how bloody the whole experience is proving, and so are saying this as a way of acknowledging your sacrifices, rather than as an absolute indication of their views re the school? Certainly, it is extremely common for children who have been at an independent school to be encouraged by parents to consider a state 6th form (there is, in fact, a whole group of parents who think this is a useful device for getting round RG universities views on widening access, but that is a different topic!). Anyway, at a minimum I would say you are well within your rights to continue to consider 6th a break point, which at least hacks some time of the school fee payments treadmill.

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 03-Mar-14 16:33:10

Have I given too polarised a view here? I need to say that DS LOVES his school and today, for example, had a great time, good connections with friends, not too much HW tonight - hence an attitude shift...some great test results (92% and 85%) in a couple of subjects. He's currently laughing with his sibling and has been talking avidly about a friend/social thing he's planning.

So it's not an ongoing everyday, chronic issue - just that there's an underlying sense of endless HW that wipes him out from time to time.

He's by no means at a level where I'd even consider any kind of medication. He just isn't in that category and has been tested many many times and never fallen within any clinically diagnostic category. Like lots of children, he has minor issues - in his case, with processing and, when younger, some attentional difficulties which he's now mostly outgrown.

He's basically just fed up with too much HW - so I don't want to give the impression he's in need of medical help. The issue is much more about how, in current society and in this type of school and with this current situation at home, he can realise that life isn't all about work and that whilst i might model this, right now - it's not the case for lots of people, even given the pressures to perform in exams and beyond.

There are other children in his cohort who are struggling much more than he is, academically and with processing issues. I think with DS, it's a combination of objectively, too many HW subjects and the daily addition of more - so you never have a feeling of keeping on top of it, plus his attitude of finding it hard to settle down to it at times (though this improves year by year with him) plus the 'family' model of "always working/no time for fun".

Talking of which, I need to make supper now and then get back to work myself!!

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