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Problem: is it DD1 or is it the school? I need some perspective....

(24 Posts)
LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 09:48:20

My DD1 has had a really rough ride since starting school. She is now in Y2.

We were quite laid back about schooling as she is an older child, appeared very eager and were always told she was able, so nothing to worry about.

During the course of Reception and Y1 though, we noticed that there was a pattern developing, ie say if we had not practised any writing at home for a while, her writing would decline dramatically, same with maths. Reading was always done regularly at home so not a huge issue.

Now she is in Y2 we are at the point where her progress from reception has been minimal and patchy and most worryingly her enthusiasm for learning has virtually dissipated. She's gone from the eager, enthusiastic, proud of her work type individual to very disengaged, almost teenagey "do I have to" whenever we try and sit her down and do something, including her own homework.

Her work is shocking now, she appears to have forgotten everything and even her reading has gone downhill, despite us reading with her every day. Very rarely I get the odd spark back, where she picks up a chapter book and whizzes through it with enthusiasm, so I know she CAN do it, but most of the time she reads her school books rolling her eyes, not understanding her words, skipping lines, yawning, dropping the book, you get the picture. As you can tell, I am at the end of my tether!

She seems happy at school, she was elected in the school council which tells me she is reasonably liked in the classroom and has no issues socially that I know of anyway.

I mentioned recently whether she would like to move schools and she said YES but could not give me a reason why.

In the past 2 years we have approached her teachers at various stages as we saw this problem developing slowly, but they appeared unconcerned and also unwilling to encourage her academically, as she was always a little ahead. We've had a number of instances where she had brought work in she had spontaneously done at home and it was always ignored - I think it irritated the teachers as they thought it was us pushing her as opposed to her wanting to do something and show it off at school.

I just want her to have that old spark back and don't know what we are doing wrong or if the school is getting it wrong and we ought to move her.

Maybe someone with more experience of similar could come along and enlighten me as I really do think we've gone down a slippery slope.

LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 10:17:56

PS The problems with her reading in particular started last year when she was put on free readers in April. Since then she was hardly ever listened to read and her reading started to go downhill, despite us doing loads of reading at home. I thought it would be just a phase but it has got worse and worse and worse.

Ladymuck Wed 05-Oct-11 10:47:26

How is her schoolwork doing? Ie the maths and English work that she is doing there, rather than just homework? If that is not progressing, and doesn't seem to being addressed by her teachers, then that would be a concern. I would also assume that by year 2 a free reader would still be participating in group reading exercises, so that the teacher would be able to pick up issues such as skipping lines etc.

What are your school options if you were to look to change schools?

LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 11:02:01

Very good point Ladymuck, I am not sure what her work is like at school so I would need to make an appointment to go and have a look. Which I will do.

Last year (at the end) when I saw her work she'd done at school it was ok, very shoddy and rushed a lot of it, but I guessed because they always do worse at school?

School options for change are not great and that's why I am hesitating, especially as I have 3 other children to consider. There is another school which only has 2 classes in total (disaster having my two eldest there, especially as DS1 who is nearly 2 years younger has now overtaken DD1 with reading), then there is a catholic school which is ok, and then private schools of various ilk further afield. I looked round all of the above and wasn't overwhelmed by any.

My main focus is to try and get the the bottom of her disaffection before deciding to move her and I have no idea why she has got to this and how to change it. (I've tried carrot and stick, ignoring, praising, etc but nothing works).

Thanks for replying, I am at the end of my tether and have lost perspective over this really.

Ladymuck Wed 05-Oct-11 11:08:33

I'm not sure that it is automatically the case that their work at school would be worse than the work at home to be honest. But, if you haven't seen recent examples, then I would suggest that you do go and see it, and if possible compare it with some of her work from last year, to truly get a sense of whether she has advanced, stayed the same or regressed.

I don't think that a child being unenthusiastic about homework is particularly unusual in year 2, and it wouldn't bother me if they were working at school. If they're not, then that would be a greater concern.

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Wed 05-Oct-11 11:12:37

Have you checked her eye sight or hearing?
just a suggestion...

LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 11:19:45

Good point LeMousquetaire, we did get both checked last year in April/May as she started to get so bad and it was fine. I even thought of dyslexia but then she will pick up a book and read it well (rarely) so I can't believe dyslexia would come and go in that way?

We did get her some coloured overlays but I think it's the attitude that is her problem rather than a physical cause - not sure why her attitude is so bad though! It's like dealing with a teenager, maybe this is common in 6 year old girls, I am not quite sure what to make of it as all my other children are younger so not been there yet!

redskyatnight Wed 05-Oct-11 11:56:46

Agree with a PP to see how her work is at school. At home DS seems hardly able to write a simple sentence but at school he is producing some well written stories. Reading is very variable depending on what mood he is in.

adelicatequestion Wed 05-Oct-11 13:11:58

We also had issues with DS at that age. It was like pulling teeth getting him to do anything.

We spent a couple of weeks where we didn;t ask him to do anything, other than the bare minimum homework he had to do.

Then with all pressure off, we sat down (with other children out of the way)and I asked him "If you could design a school or change yours, what would you do?"

Well, a whole string of problems came out, some that needed addressing and others less so.

Also if she senses your concern that may affect her too.

I'm not for a minute suggesting you are doing what I did, I just know looking back, I used to question DS a lot about his work, about school etc and I think he got frustrated with it.

GooseyLoosey Wed 05-Oct-11 13:18:11

DD (7 in Aug) can be rather like this and was completely disengaged by the end of Yr 1.

She is the most incentive based child I have ever met so I agreed with her that for every day her teacher told be she had listened at school and worked hard she would get 20p. She could also have 10p for every book she read at home. This meant that she could get around £1.50 a week. On the other hand, if she told be she didn't want to do her homework or I was told she had been messing about, there was a deduction from the week's total. Every time the total got the £15, she was allowed to go to build a bear and buy acessories.

It was not fool proof, but it helped a lot.

Is there something you could use to motivate your daughter?

LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 14:04:28

Goosey you have hit the nail on the head in that my DD seems to lack the incentive to do well, as she is not getting praise at school, or at least that's the impression I get. My DS1 for example doesn't care if he doesn't get praise at school as he is an entirely different character. With her, it's a disaster...

My DH and I have been thinking about what we can do to motivate her. She is not interested in money or material things (as opposed to DS1, very easily bribable!!!) so getting her stuff doesn't seem to do it. We need to find something that will get her motivated - thanks for that, it's good advice.

Adelicatequestion, yes I have become anxious although I try and conceal it the best I can (I am sure she picks it up though). I know I need to step back but it's really difficult as I have to be so involved with her homework otherwise she doesn't do it/does it really badly.

I just hope the others don't go through this phase otherwise I will be a wreck! Or maybe I won't care by the time it gets to DC4!!!

GooseyLoosey Wed 05-Oct-11 14:27:03

You just have to find her currency. Ds couldn't care a less about money either. If I wanted to bribe him, it would be with staying up 10 minutes later.

Tortu Wed 05-Oct-11 14:54:18

Gah! Sorry to butt in here, but am quite worried about what you're doing in terms of motivation. What motivates children to learn is enormously complex, with many different factors, but you certainly don't want to be pushing your children towards incentive-based, extrinsic motivation at infant school level! What are you going to do when they are teenagers (yeah, sorry- it's never a great idea, but maybe save it for GCSE slackers)?

Having said that, I don't have any groundbreaking suggestions. I understand your frustration completely and have no idea what I'd do if I were in your shoes, however, your children need to build their own love of learning for learning's sake. You are correct that they will do this mainly because of your expectations, but giving them money or incentives will ultimately lead to them feeling as though their learning hinges on you and external goals i.e. they will see learning as a means simply to get a material reward.

At this stage, things that it might be useful for them to see include:
- you studying or working too, so that they think it is just something everybody does- perhaps at the same time as them.
- you reading and writing by hand or on the computer
- loads of praise (from you. Ultimately you matter more than the teacher)
- set times and space for homework, so that it is a routine (I'm sure you already do this!)
- ignoring the work. Seriously, I know it's hard, but longterm they need to claim ownership of their own work and accept responsibility for it.

You all sound like lovely parents and I know why you're worried, however school is also about the social aspects of life and the hidden curriculum. It sounds like your kids are also learning some important life skills too.

GooseyLoosey Wed 05-Oct-11 15:02:46

Tortu - this was not the first stop and followed on from extensive interventions by the school and us so no need to worry!

Tortu Wed 05-Oct-11 15:07:42

Blimey, well feel utterly free to ignore all of my advice. The last thing you need right now is for somebody to make you feel more paranoid. Ultimately you know your child the best and it doesn't really matter what you do so long as they know you care and that you're there for them. Good luck

LovetheHarp Wed 05-Oct-11 15:12:32

Staying up later - now that's a good one!

Tortu I know what you mean and we do all that you suggest already. Maybe it's just a phase and it will pass - who knows.

I will bear in mind all suggestions so far, there isn't a magic formula is there?

I think it's easier for my DS1 as he loves reading so I don't worry about him - I think if you love reading then everything seems to follow - his vocabulary is amazing, his knowledge is great because he reads so much out of his own accord! But with DD1 she NEVER picks a book up - which is hugely disappointing coming from a house where books are everywhere and she sees people reading all sorts, including her brother!

Maybe one day she will find something she's interested in reading, you never know!!!! The most discouraging thing as a parent is to have failed in instilling a love of learning, and by that I don't mean a love of homework but just a love of learning in general. We obviously got something wrong with her but I don't know what it is!

aularaef Fri 07-Oct-11 00:22:08

Could she be seperating herself from her brother, she may think her siblings are better than her so why bother, when it doesn't come as naturally to her...perhaps she may be creative in other ways, music or drawing which if her gift is different may make her feel special from siblings, i don't think children like to feel inferior to their siblings, no matter how hard parents try to treat them equally in praise, kids are smart and feel things for themselves.
I would class my dd1 as an erratic learner she too causes me loads of nights of worry, shes also just gone in yr2,: reception (bright but socially different), sorted itself out, Year1 (maths very average compared to literacy skills) now in top group sorted itself out with some home practice on computer end of yr1/yr2
handwriting/writing poor i think we've just turned a corner (fingers crossed).
But i've done a whole lot of worrying...
As with reading, does she choose her own books in a book store, because perhaps she doesn't like the books shes having to read, some school books my dd brings home are dull, and she can sometimes speed read them to me, and i have to keep slowing her down, where as the non fiction she bought home last week she loved (loads of talking involved) also she likes quite funny books or ghostly books. she always has a book in the car and reads them without any prompting (If only I could say that about writing), don't blame you for being a stress head, I'm exactly the same, Afterall they spend so much time at school and if the foundations are laid well hopefully schoolwork will come easily and they'll have happy memories of their school life.....

piprabbit Fri 07-Oct-11 00:31:16

What sort of things does she do outside school hours - just for enjoyment?

How about putting her in a list to join something like Brownies - where she can try lots of different skills and get badges if she works hard?

Or some sort of art/craft activity (especially in the lead up to Christmas - she could give some handmade presents and gets lots of positive feedback.

I think that while you are trying to work something out with school, it might be an idea to remove all academic pressure for a while and give her a chance to shine in other areas (and with different people from the usual school friends).

manicinsomniac Fri 07-Oct-11 00:52:15

You said there were a range of private schools around you - are there any traditional prep schools? If there are you might want to consider looking round one for when she is in Y3? She would have specialist teaching for things like art, music and science, play sport every day, probably have large grounds to play in and more freedom from H&S to play in it and she would be in a smaller class with a lot more individual attention. The actual quality of her education may well not improve but her motivation to learn might, given those new circumstances.

LovetheHarp Fri 07-Oct-11 11:40:12

Yes she does loads of stuff out of school; Rainbows, ballet, tap & modern and tennis - she also swims in the holidays. She is also bilingual and we spend all holidays abroad in my home country, where I purposedly never bring any work and we always do fun stuff outdoors!!

I always get the comment back from every teacher out of school (well apart from Rainbows) that she really excels at all those things and is really determined and hardworking. I think the problem is that at school she never gets much recognition so she has gradually disengaged from it. She is also very good at drawing, but again it's not something that is massively encouraged.

I think the trick would be to put her in a school where all the extracurricular are included in school life, as she would see it as part of her day. I am seriously looking at moving her because I know that, even though the academics might not change, at least she has a chance to excel at school in something and that will boost her confidence!!!

mistlethrush Fri 07-Oct-11 11:51:12

Ds disengaged from Yr 1 - he dropped from a high achiever in maths to the middle of the class; he was so disinterested with the writing he was meant to do he mainly daydreamed and then rushed somethign down badly in too little time. He's just moved into Yr2 and (crossing fingers, touching wood etc) its going significantly better - the teacher has inspired him again and yet she's set really firm boundaries with strong dissinsentives for crossing them - which he understands and is quite happy to adhere to. The change is wonderful - and its spreading out into the rest of his time too, because he's happier in himself. We've gone from disinterested reading to racing through reading books - and reading lots of things to himself with great interest.

When he said he was bored last year, the teacher dismissed it as 'an easy thing to say' and yet, based on this year, I believe him - he was bored so switched off so didn't listen so didn't know what he was meant to be doing so didn't achieve - its a downward spiral. Of course the teacher wouldn't have any suggestion made that it was their problem last year - it was ds that was being naughty apparently.

I don't really know what to suggest - although if she's anythign like ds, I think that you need to work on getting her reengaged with education before she gets into too much of a rut. Good luck!

LovetheHarp Fri 07-Oct-11 12:14:38

We had exactly the same last year, complaints that she was bored all year. We didn't know what to make of it really.

Yesterday at bedtime she told me that every day they have half an hour where the teacher is busy doing something and they have to read a book. She says that she can't concentrate as it's chaos, children running around, children hiding books, children sat in groups commeting loudly at pictures in books - she says she tries to read but she can't because it's too noisy. I know some children will sit through it and ignore the noise but I don't think she is that sort of child - she needs order and structure, that's just the way she is! (can't sleep in her bedroom if it's not tidy!).

racingheart Fri 07-Oct-11 15:40:55

Um, no one seems to be saying what I'm thinking, which is that the teaching might truly suck. Some worrying signs are there. Indifference when bright children show enthusiasm by bringing in work from home is a very bad sign, as is a general indifference to able kids because they have already reached NC 'targets.'

We had a similar problem in some ways. (Not identical, but a strong feeling that no matter whether they tried their very best or didn't bother at all, the teacher seemed not to notice them either way, so they gave up.) We got round this by being very up front with the DC and saying that school's job is to help everyone reach a certain level, and since they were at that level already, school weren't focusing on them. We also said we could see this made them sad (it did - they were very demotivated) and that we believed they were clever and could learn more. We started doing extra work at home. No pressure - if they don't fancy it, we only do it once or twice a week, but if they do, we spend up to half an hour a night. They feel good to be learning new things and have actually noticeably improved in class, and learned not to care that the teachers ignore them, as they're no longer looking for external praise.

It was trial and error, but what's worked for us is for them to learn to take pride in furthering their own personal bests, rather than waiting for someone else to notice and give them credit. They're much older than your DD, and it's taken several years to get there. Now in Yr 5, they're happy if teachers notice what they're capable of, but it's no longer the driving factor behind their motivation. It is when they're younger. I'd have a word with the class teacher and say she's getting dispirited. Ask what they do to motivate and support more able children if they start to slip behind. If the answer isn't satisfactory, well... personally I'd get her in somewhere better in time for junior school next September.

LovetheHarp Fri 07-Oct-11 17:40:17

Racingheart, possibly the teaching is not great but I am loathed to judge as I am not sure what goes on in the classroom and the staff certainly seem dedicated. I know a lot of parents who complain though about their children falling behind, and then parents of brighter children complaining of the children being a little ignored. I get the impression the teaching is very much aimed at the whole class so it doesn't really capture people at either end...

You are right about the praise thing, it's also a lot down to personality and interest isn't it. My DS1 is in the same school and loves reading and doesn't need any praise as it's just something he loves to do! Sadly not all children are that self-motivated!

I am going to give it another few weeks and see what happens before making my mind up.......thanks for all your advice so far!!!

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