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.

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.

CecilyP Sat 01-Mar-14 11:13:20

No, I honestly never even considered moving house (not sure where you got that idea, Zero) - just changing school for the one child, which is obviously not something he wants.

I think techniques for managing stress are fine for someone at university level (or even doing GCSEs) but even the idea of it for a 12 year old doesn't sit well with me. I think at this age the responsibilty should lie the adults in his life to try to reduce the stress that they appear to be causing him. As I said earlier, it may be a problem with his own organisational skills or it could be a problem, as highlighted by CQ, of individual teachers happily setting their own homework with little regard to what all the other teachers are doing. It is something OP needs to investigate to try to bring about a solution.

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 12:23:25

I completely agree with you CecilyP that in the ideal world no child should get stressed by schoolwork. However the reality is that even from an earlier age some children find life and time management stressful and that means that they find it very difficult to properly relax and have perspective which in turn makes them even more anxious. In those cases a crisis may be averted by intervention even if just amounts to learning some simple breathing exercises or a way of tackling tasks.
The school should also be asked to do their part here and manage their teachers better so that less homework is needed.

lljkk Sat 01-Mar-14 12:50:07

I'm confused, is OP paying fees now for this selective school that works her son to the bone & makes him depressed? She's working long hours for the privilege of this experience?

This is what most people do when they choose private, they want a school that will make their child work hard & they want to see their child working hard to feel they get their money's worth. The school isn't going to change since most the parents want exactly what OP's son has. There was a whole story on BBC the other day about the Asian view of childhood as an intense training period. Certainly not an age of innocence.

I guess you have to decide what you both want, OP, there are trade-offs & compromises no matter what.

BlogOnTheTyne Sat 01-Mar-14 13:59:06

So the good news is that he completed 7 HWs in under 3 hrs whilst I was working and the other two he says he can't do as he's supposed to do them with a friend and will do them tomorrow at school (lunchtime).

Last year (Yr 7) the Head of Year got a few children (DS included) to keep a real record of how long HW took as other parents had complained about exactly what CQ says - different subject teachers were unaware that their colleagues had already set masses of HW, so it all accumulated. DS didn't dare record exactly how long each subject took him - but was more or less honest - indicating things like a 25 mins HW was taking 1.5 hrs.

He was by no means taking much longer than anyone else, although he has a bit of a problem with settling down to work and focusing on the task in hand - but he's become much better with this. Anyway, the result of that close monitoring of HW time was......nothing....It seems that in Yr 8, they get given even more.

I suspect many parents are reluctant to admit that their child is taking so long to do the HW as they believe everyone else's child is super-efficient and much more intelligent. Also, to make a bid deal of this - enough to contact HOY, will draw unwanted attention to DS.

In Yr 7, teachers/tutors would always just say the party line anyway - ie "Get him to stop after the allotted time" - but no child at this school is likely to want to do this if all his peers are completing everything.

He's not at all desperately unhappy BTW. He has a great time with friends at school, is v sociable, adores spending time doing computer imagery design for fun at home (he'd do this all day if he could) and only gets migraines every so often - at the start of term, the end of term or when there is extra pressure. He wouldn't stand out in any way as stressed, compared to his peers.

It's more his sense of the montonous, relentlessness of a 'working life', although i keep telling him that it's not at all all about work. However, because he and other DC are desperate to stay at their school, above all else (in fact they've half-joked they'll disown me when they're 18 if I can't keep up the the school fees and they have to leave!), I'm having to work harder and harder myself and so I'm not able to model a balanced life for them.

Given I only get 1.5 days off a week from paid work and in that time off, I have to fit in all the business admin. and the entire week's laundry/housework/shopping etc etc, I'm too tired to want to fit in extra activities too, like we did when the DCs were younger. It may be that he's 'picking up' my stress and 'translating this into his own view of life - as I certainyl work far far harder than he does, of course. With this in junction to his school life (from 7.30am when I drop them off until around 4.45pm when they come home and then till around 7.00pm till they finish HW), it feels as if all life is work.

All that said, I'm about to start on the domestic tasks now, having made and fed them their lunch straight after work and DS has the rest of the day off!

Artandco Sat 01-Mar-14 14:08:26

Blog - can you afford to get some home help? To free up your free time. A cleaner 3 hrs a week will be able to keep main cleaning done, put some washing in etc. Then maybe you can all have at least some chill time.
Could you fit in sat afternoon/ eve as family time? Out for a film/ meal/ walk etc

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 15:49:27

Poor Blog we obviously missed the subtext that you are the one who needs their 'homework' reducing. You should think seriously of getting some help even if it's only every 2-3 weeks.

BlogOnTheTyne Sat 01-Mar-14 16:58:32

Thanks. The thing is, I absolutely can't afford any kind of paid help. I used to have a cleaner a few years ago but right now, I'm trying to keep us living off about �100 a week as school fees and tax swallow almost all my income.

I'm desperately trying to find ways of saving money and so can't even afford paid activities or holiday clubs for the DCs anymore. The house is massively messy too, as I don't get any time really, during the week, to keep on top of anything other than the absolute basics (ie wiping round areas where food is prepared, whizzing round bathrooms with antibac wipes). It's got to be easily a year since I dusted and in any one day, I can't find a moment to do simple stuff like unstack the dishwasher, except when making DCs supper at night, before then returning to work.

That said, I could have done some housework in the last hour or so but chose to knock a tennis ball around in the garden with DCs, to spend some time with them and keep us all a bit active and am now about to cook them another meal/snack, before returning to paperwork.

So if and when I do get a tiny bit of time, I'll always prioritise the DCs before anything - but work demands take up virtually all the rest of the time. Have done two loads of laundry today too, however but once it's dry, it sits in laundry baskets for days and I never get time to hang it all up.

Meanwhile, at least DS is now chilling out in front of PC, having at least been physically active for a bit and I've also spent a v v long time supporting other DC (who has Asps traits) - about a social situation he's worried about. So I feel I've given a bare minumum to them for now and have to get back to paperwork.

wordfactory Sat 01-Mar-14 17:01:18

Oh blog it all sounds like such a treadmill!!!

Are you really sure that this school is worth this level of stress? I admire you for trying to give a wonderful start in life and education, but this is a very hard price to pay sad...

rabbitstew Sat 01-Mar-14 17:36:11

I agree with wordfactory - you children's childhood isn't sounding like much fun for you at all. It sounds as though you feel you have to endure it, because your children have told you they'll disown you, otherwise! I don't suppose your the poster who posted a long while back about having difficulties with the prep school that fed into this school, are you, but feeling you had to put up with it to get into the academic secondary and because your ds with aspie traits wouldn't cope with going anywhere else? If you are, then you really do seem to be having a lousy time with your children's education!

rabbitstew Sat 01-Mar-14 17:37:04

(sorry, "you're")

Artandco Sat 01-Mar-14 17:42:03

If life is that much of a struggle I would stop the school fees. Send to a local school. Use the money for trips/ cleaner/ tutor/ fun

summerends Sat 01-Mar-14 19:11:30

Dusting is seriously overrated wink. I would perhaps have a serious talk with both your DS and tell them that if they want to stay at this school they need to do some extra help in the house. Dishwasher, hoovering, doing their laundry, cooking simple meals is well within the capabilities of 12 year olds even boys! Draw up a rota, it may make them feel better by knowing that they are doing something to help you and working as a team. If they are grumpy about it then be firm.

CQ Sat 01-Mar-14 19:21:35

I don't mean to bang on about it, but I really would go back to the school and ask them about the homework review they did last year. What did they conclude? Why was no further action taken, as far as you could see? Tell them you feel it's got even worse.

Year 8 for both of my 2 DC's felt like 'the year that time forgot' - Yr 7 is the big settling in year, Yr 9 is options year. Year 8? Let them tread water. And absolutely so. This is the last few precious months before the real pressure starts piling on for GCSE's. Although my DS, now Yr 10, feels it's easier in many ways because he's been able to drop the subjects he hates.

I know we pay these independent schools lots of money to ensure that our kids are given every possible opportunity. This does not equate to a constant treadmill of deadlines and pressure. And I'm sure most of the teachers at your DS's school don't think so either. If the teachers are having to set so much homework then something's not right at school - they are not getting through the curriculum, so maybe not great teachers - or there's maybe too much disruption in class so they are not finishing the required sections in time.

Please please please go back to the school and make a fuss. Ask around some of the other parents - I bet he's not the only one. It will not 'come back on' your DS - these schools are here to make money and will not risk looking unprofessional.

A wise woman once said to me that we have to be our children's advocates at school. The teachers and the school are working to their own agendas, and no-one else, however good, cares about your children as much as you do.

Get in there and be proactive. For your whole family's sakes. daffodil

Slipshodsibyl Sat 01-Mar-14 23:35:11

Children with processing issues are slower than their peers and the effort makes them more tired. I am surprised the school hasn't suggested a more personalised h/w timetable for your son. I have a child of a similar age at a selective independent with processing issues and we are instructed to stop after a certain time and to keep in touch in case of overload. The extra sleep needed is typical.

If he doesn't learn to love his work - which means it must be manageable - there is a high chance he won't be getting the grades you hope as by 16/18 they need to want to work rather than see it as a slog. Please go and see the school. It does sound as if you are exhausting yourself too though.

wordfactory Sun 02-Mar-14 08:55:32

I would also say OP, that both my DC have at different times asked to do things which made family life difficult - DS wanted to be a chorister, DD wanted to appear in a West End production.

I agreed to both, but the quid pro quo was that they never whinged and that they had to help with things that would normally take place in the time now being taken up by said activity.

Can I suggest you have a similar discussion with your son?

Bonsoir Sun 02-Mar-14 09:22:10

Stress is a killer for academic performance and the tipping point is very individual. My experience, FWIW, is that the right home support can alleviate the perceived burden of too much school work and, as a parent, providing you have the availability and the skills, you can help your DCs achieve to their full potential without feeling anxious. It might be very draining for you, however!

Bonsoir Sun 02-Mar-14 09:24:54

Living in physical chaos and within a tight budget cannot be doing anything for your DC's stress levels, OP.

rabbitstew Sun 02-Mar-14 09:38:49

Tbh, I think the only thing you can really do to stop your ds thinking life is one endless slog is to stop endlessly slogging yourself. Your entire life is set up to give your ds the lesson he is expressing to you, that life is a slog.

rabbitstew Sun 02-Mar-14 09:48:26

Your endless slogging is a lifestyle choice, not a necessity. You have chosen to spend all your spare cash on one thing, which is now the centre of your and your children's universe - their school.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sun 02-Mar-14 09:57:36

Thinking about this overnight I'm wondering if you think the school business is really sustainable. From what you've said, there isn't much room for you to increase your income (in your current occupation,) but fees and expenses will be rising inexorably.

It's clear that your Dcs love the school, perhaps it's time to find out how much the school loves your DCs. What would happen if you arranged a meeting to say that you really need some fee assistance in order to keep them there. (I know you've said your DS is not in all the top sets - but he's already there and wouldn't be if he didn't have plenty to offer.)

If the school can help - you get to work a little less and have time to cheer up your DS. If they won't help - what are you working for? Look for another school and bookmark some holiday sites.....

Slipshodsibyl Sun 02-Mar-14 10:12:28

I think Zero's ideas are helpful. As for the moving to a different school, mine have had to move schools quite a lot. It isn't an attractive prospect but is not as hard as you might think and they have thrived. The elder two, now at university, believe it helped their resilience and flexibility and it didn't harm their academics.

Martorana Sun 02-Mar-14 10:25:07

There are a lot of schools, both state and private, that seem to think handing out a lot of homework makes them look impressive.
One of the things we liked about dd's school was the ahead saying that they work them at full tilt all day, so in the lower school, homework was for finishing off, and should never be more than an hour a night- usually much less.

What do the kids at your school do about matches and performances, OP? Don't you think it's sad that they can never go to Scouts, or suddenly decide they want to take up bell ringing or something? You can't get better than an A* at GCSE- and you can get that without working all the hours God sends. Where is the enrichment that private schools usually provide?

HmmAnOxfordComma Sun 02-Mar-14 12:13:53

I agree with Martorana.

Ds is at an independent school which is non-selective but which achieves ~50% A and A* at GCSE. They manage this with less than an hour's homework per night and probably 3 hours per wkend tops in KS3 (ds is in top sets; I imagine middle and bottom have less - looking at the hmwk on the intranet, anyway). Ds is also a child who procrastinates, looks out of the window, has slowish processing and is a perfectionist.

Ds (yr 8) doesn't do much out of school anymore, but most of his friends practise instruments every day, or are choristers, or go to Scouts, play lots of sports etc etc. He does have time for oodles of reading, drawing, writing and playing though.

As another poster said, you can't get higher than A* at GCSE, and that is reasonably easily achievable for a bright child in a good school where the pace and content of lessons is good and there is little to no disruption. I'm not exactly sure why your school need to set so much homework. You really do need to work out how much of it is meaningful and how long exactly other dc are taking over it.

I don't think your current balance is sustainable for any of you, so a conversation with school and with your dc (why are they so keen on their current school if the work is making them so unhappy) seems crucial at this point.

Good luck to you all.

summerends Sun 02-Mar-14 12:58:53

In addition to all of the above, another important consideration in your family decisions is whether there is the possibility of a move to a good state sixth form (which will shorten the duration of your present stressful life-work balance).

BlogOnTheTyne Sun 02-Mar-14 13:28:15

Thanks for the further feedback and haven't had time to come back on and reply to everyone!

Have now emailed the HOY to query a homework audit carried out last year and explained DS's current difficulties and will see where that gets me.

Should just re-emphasise that DCs LOVE their school and would really, really hate to leave at this stage. I've already spoken to them about the financial situation and suggested the possibility of the local state 6th form college (which is excellent). So far, both are very keen to remain at their current school.

I presume that if there were just a little easing off of homework demands, plus an improvement in his processing and concentration, then DS would feel happier. I think it's just the sheer relentlessness of each week, having to get up early, do a long day, come home and work again and then get maybe 30 mins before bedtime to do anything other than HW - that's making DS feel fed up.

Teenage hormones must also be contributing to his feelings too, I suppose and then of course my own busy life, exemplifying the treadmill of work.

Because of how hard the DCs work at school and on HW, I'm always reluctant to make them help more domestically.

Other children do plenty of outside activities - like sport etc - but we can't afford anything that costs more money and there really isn't time for me to take them to things at weekends, unless it's a quick drop off at school for a one off activity, as I work on Saturdays. Because I work in the evenings, I can't pick them up from school later in the evening anyway. But they already feel there's too much on and prefer some downtime - if they can only get it.

Thinking about some of DS's peers, there are those (lots of girls and some of the very bright boys) who have excellent organisational skills, plus a huge aptitude for subjects that are very factually based - eg Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc. So for them, they'll just get down to work efficiently, find the content of the work easy (and some of these children work ahead of the cohort anyway) and whisk through any homework, leaving time to practice musical instruments, do sports etc etc.

Other peers struggle more than DS or have a more slapdash attitude towards work than he does. The former spend even longer that DS on homework and are adversely affected by greater processing issues or perfectionistic and obsessive tendencies. The latter dash off any HW at odd times - like on the way home or at break - don't care how they do but are bright enough to remain in the school.

DS is sort of in the middle, in terms of ability, has slight - but not horrendous - processing difficulties and sometimes perseverates on work and sometimes dashes it off. I think the school is a good fit for him and the main thing is that he's happy there and wouldn't want to leave.

I think we'd all prefer if though if there were much less HW and then only specific work that is going to be useful for progress - not work for work's sake (think drawing cartoons of a Shakespearean play or theatre, designing posters for History etc etc - which he occasionally gets and feels to me like a waste of time, as he'll take hours over this!)

Martorana Sun 02-Mar-14 21:22:26

Well, there is no way I would allow a regime which only allows 30 minutes of down time a day- that just ridiculous. There are loads of activities that don't cost much-scouts is a couple of quid-and very soon they won't need taking. And anyway- 30 minutes isn't long enough to read or listen to music- or just stare into space. You need to do something, Blog- it really can't carry on like this. The school is setting a ridiculous and unnecessary amount of homework.

Martorana Sun 02-Mar-14 21:25:12

Just for comparison- my dd is in year 13, doing 4 essay heavy A levels, predicted As and A*s, and she has loads more free time than your ds has.

ggirl Sun 02-Mar-14 21:48:05

Good lord I'm exhausted listening to these schedules.
I also don't see why so much HW!
My dd got all A*/A at gcse and As at alevels , goes to RG uni ...all from the local comp , they did have homework but no way near that amount!

Hope you achieve a good balance soon OP.

ApocalypticBlackHorseman Mon 03-Mar-14 12:49:31

He has my sympathies, my DD is 14 and she has been getting ridiculous amounts of homework; apart from 3 hours on Saturday morning she was working all day Saturday and Sunday and missed her sports club because of the amount of work. She also did 4 full days work over half term and hardly has any fun at all any more, when she is not working she is so tired that she goes to bed early.

ApocalypticBlackHorseman Mon 03-Mar-14 12:55:13

I just looked at the school homework policy, for my DD it is for between 11 and 16 hours of homework a week. That's a non-selective state school for years 10 and 11.

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 13:48:39

Apocalptic- I hope you have already been in touch with the school to query the amount of homework your dd is getting. Unless it's in the run up to exams, nobody should have to miss a sports club for homework at the weekend.

ApocalypticBlackHorseman Mon 03-Mar-14 14:06:18

Not yet, I am going to sit down with her tonight and go through her homework diary and list what she has had and then discuss with the school how long they expect it to take; if it is between 11-16 hours then, well, we will see - I don't know what I will do.

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 14:08:20

improvement in his processing and concentration

Blog, I would like to share our experience, just to highlight other factors you might consider.

My DS is in year 11, GCSE year at a grammar school. The homework thread-mill has been as relentless as you describe and DS struggled to cope. Like in your case, my DS spends much more time doing homework than his peers, but the others seem to cope well. My DS is very bright and doing well at school, in top sets, so ability is not the issue. The reasons for my DS difficulties are his special needs. Asperger's syndrome and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The latter particularly contributes to DS's issues with homework. The medication for ADHD exists and is very effective, especially in the first few years once it's started.

ADHD medication, if appropriate will certainly help with concentration and staying on task.

I am not saying your DS has SN, but you might just explore this, to rule it out, if anything. If you never considered SN before, just would like to add that it has nothing to do with intellectual ability or with looking and behaving normal. Most bright kids with ADHD and ASD would be very hard to spot!

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 03-Mar-14 15:00:05

HisMum4, DS has always had sub-clinical traits towards ADHD and my other DC has Asperger's traits but neither is sufficiently challenged, to merit medication or intervention. However, the school are aware that DS has processing difficulties and in fact re-tested him last term, as he used to get extra time in exams.

Unfortunately, although there's a gap between his processing speed and ability, it's not at all a big enough gap to merit extra time in exams, so this has bene withdrawn. He's also not nearly the most challenged child in his year - through processing difficulties - and there are other childrne who literally will spend unecessary hours on small HWs. DS's problems are mild by comparison, so school 'awareness' doesn't translate into daily individual special conditions.

He's actually doing fine academically - so again this means the school won't necessarily highlight any problems he might be having.

Still waiting to hear back since I emailed the school about the recent HW audit and the fact that DS had 14 subjects last week.

Martorana Mon 03-Mar-14 15:50:14

Blog- what's good about this school? Your ds is overloaded with unnecessary work, his specific needs are not being met, they do a homework audit and don't reveal the results.................f

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 16:06:41

Blog, I understand he is doing fine academically, as he obviously must be very bright. However your OP suggests this comes at a cost as he is overwhelmed by the time it takes him to do all the homework in an academic school. Both of you seem to be emotionally drained by this and there could be impact on your DS mental health, motivation and self esteem. You will continue hearing questions whether your DS is in the right school for him, but the problem will follow him to any school. In the run up towards GCSEs and beyond the pressure will increase even further. So, I would argue that he is sufficiently challenged with the workload at home to consider medication.

You might consider lurking or posting on the SN board to voice some of your concerns about medication. I understand people can have reservations. For me it was a straight forward no brainer decision that made a huge difference for my DS overnight. SN is a minefield of complex arrangements where parents have limited control. ADHD medication is one of few areas where your choice can make an immediate big difference.

For proper diagnosis and prescription of medication DC need to be referred to the Psychiatrist and the diagnostic questionnaires, i.e. box ticking should reflect the real everyday very significant effect inattention is having on your DS school/life balance.

HisMum4 Mon 03-Mar-14 16:18:26

Blog, wanted to add that itt is very normal that the new challenges of the curriculum draw out some of the SN problems, make them more obvious and acute, so it is entirely appropriate you ask the school and your GP to revisit the issue of diagnisis and Special Needs provisions in light of his challenges with school/life balance. This problem will not go away.

My DS had a friend in primary school who also has ASD, but never had problems with concentration and time management, so he is coping with workload at a very demanding grammar school OK. That boy also is on School Action. My DS is much more 'severe', he has a Statement in another equally demanding grammar school. So academic ability and achievement are not at all the gauges whether diagnosis or provisions are necessary. If your DS struggles to cope at 12, I would act urgently as it will be more difficult to initiate all those processes with age and there might be a risk that the impact will cristalise in your DS's lower grades.

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!!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Martorana, what do you know about selective schools?

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?!!!

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 19:58:10

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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.

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.

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