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Anyone backpedalled on pushy parenting and changed course?

(257 Posts)
AnnaBBB Tue 25-Jun-13 17:55:19

Am having real second thoughts about applying for highly selective /academic senior schools for DS even though he is quite academic ....... I feel already there is too much teaching is to the test and confess I have contributed to that pressure at home too in an effort to improve his shot at getting into these schools ....but there seems to be little creativity in it all ....I am wondering if it is having the opposite effect of fostering a genuine joy of learning, and the prospect of having him spend several more years of being hothoused at senior school and then having to follow that through at home to keep up in a highly competitive place where everyone needs to get A * or they feel a failure could backfire... the constant testing even at 9/10 years old is making him lose perspective of what he really used to love about a subject and he is starting to question the point of it all. Am curious if others having got into these highly selective schools (aka intensely competitive exam factories/hot houses), regretted it and then pulled their DCs out for similar reasons. Plus you read stories of child geniuses whose parents hothoused them even giving up their own jobs to home school (so effectively 1:1 tutoring) who then grow up to say they feel they lost their childhood and would never put their own children through it (Ruth Lawrence for one). Is it really worth it in the end?

tungthai Thu 27-Jun-13 09:39:08

I thought I would be a pushy parent. When my eldest was a baby I assumed that he would go to the best state schools in the area and would be coached for the 11+. Then your child grows into a toddler and their personality starts to shine through and you see that it can be counter productive.

We have a very relaxed approach to schooling and just want our children to enjoy the primary years without the pressure of worrying about SAT levels.

At senior school we will step up the pressure a little but ultimately I believe the drive has to come from the child.

I know some parents who have very naturally bright children but they still sent them off to Kumon Maths and have private tutors for the 11+. I don't understand why - their children are academically gifted surely intensive tutoring will just stifle their creativity.

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 12:50:53

bico the whole year would generally be ahead of the national average in a selective school.

poppydoppy Thu 27-Jun-13 13:17:39

A child has between the ages of 5 and 15 to be a child. Let them enjoy it !! why anyone would spend two years tutoring to a test is beyond my comprehension.

bico Thu 27-Jun-13 13:26:16

wordfactory really? So they would do all their GCSEs a year ahead of state schools? I know selective schools that might do the odd one or two GCSEs early, just like state schools. I've just never come across all GCSEs being done a year ahead. What do they do after they have done their GCSEs? I can't believe they spend 3 years on the A level syllabus.

We are doing the rounds of senior schools next term so I shall add this to my list of questions. smile

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 15:07:34

bico there are some selective schools that do it that way, yes. The whole cohort, take all their GCSEs in year 10.

Then there are some schools where the whole cohort take some GCSEs early. Very often maths.

Then there are some schools where decisions are taken on an individual ad hoc basis, pupil by pupil, subject by subject.

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 15:08:41

I think the schools where the entire cohort take early do A levels early. Perhpas an extra one or two?

These would be super selectives chools though, with a very able cohort.

sittinginthesun Thu 27-Jun-13 16:48:17

We're still at primary school (eldest is year 4), but I have always believed that the best students are those who drive themselves. So the most important thing to encourage is a love of learning.

If the work becomes a chore, then they will simply not engage, or will quit as soon as they are old enough to make their own choice.

AnnaBBB Thu 27-Jun-13 16:50:16

WF....I think even the most superselectives are not in favour of taking a lot of GCSE's early except in specific subjects like maths ...wonder which ones you are thinking of...can you name them?

Also, some of the posts here are confusing GCSEs with academic me, doing them early by a year or two is not relevant... much of GCSE is rote learning to the test rather than a holistic education with real understanding or depth ...otherwise you wouldn't have seven year olds able to do maths GCSEs which some have after intense coaching at the likes of Ryde might be remarkable (in that not many 7 year olds would tolerate such intense coaching or put in the time required) but doesn't mean they are maths geniuses...if they were then they would all go on to win a Nobel prize but at some stage ....unless you are really gifted at maths you will plateau to the same level as a maths student doing it at a normal pace...and the fact that you did it at seven doesn't mean you will reach Oxbridge level at 14 and even if you do, it doesn't mean you will become an Einstein (which is why all these Mensa promotions of a 3 year old having a larger IQ than Einstein make me laugh) .

The kind of pushy parenting I am referring to, is the kind that is practised to give your already able kids that competitive edge and then maintain it involves spending considerable time on education outside school so that they have little time for much "free time" for pure child play because everything is focussed on improving themselves ...many parents do that in many of the superselectives, let's face it and so it becomes a bit of an arms race. If you really want to be top in maths then you have to compete with the Asian/Chinese kids that are doing hours at home every weekend because culturally (generalising but you get the point) that is valued more than say drama or kicking a football about.

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 16:57:20

Colyton for one.

And I don't think they sit early for kudos, but quite simply because they DC are ready and it would be boring to do another year of the GCSEsyllabus.

britishsummer Thu 27-Jun-13 17:13:58

Full boarding schools deprive parents from time with their DC but have the advantage that they free up the DC from the extra work of pushy parenting at least during term time

AnnaBBB Thu 27-Jun-13 17:42:19

yeah but don't you imagine that some still do it over the long holidays (2 months over summer, 4 weeks over Xmas, 3 weeks over Easter) ....I know one who freely said she covered the whole next year's syllabus twice for 2/3 subjects for her DS over the summer ...they didn't stop even on holiday ...then it was sending him on intensive maths and latin courses. I am not saying it's evil...I am just saying it raises the bar for everyone else if they want to stay at the top...just like that thread that is discussing predicting Oxbridge in year 7 after some CAT can see some parents going well "why hasn't the teacher said that about my child in Year 7"...pushiness can be infectious just have to look at the amount of private tutoring that is going on from a young as 7 for some to pass entrance tests.

Bonsoir Thu 27-Jun-13 17:59:31

I doubt you have to be a pushy parent to get reasonably bright DCs to do GCSEs early. Back in my teens I did French O-level and English Language O-level a year early with zero specific preparation (I was schooled in a different system, abroad) and got As in both. I remember them being pathetically easy.

britishsummer Thu 27-Jun-13 18:05:40

I have certainly heard anecdotes of some Asian children who do summer schools to cover extra material. However during the term time the children must be choosing themselves how much effort they put into their homework and whether they take any notice of the teachers' feedback day to day.

Bonsoir Thu 27-Jun-13 18:07:13

DC can have tutors after school during term-time - I know some DC who have tutors 3x a week.

(IME it doesn't make them top of the class, however).

britishsummer Thu 27-Jun-13 18:10:58

Sorry Bonsoir, my post was about DC at full boarding school in response to Anna.

Bonsoir Thu 27-Jun-13 18:19:34

Oh OK.

Bonsoir Thu 27-Jun-13 18:21:08

I know for a fact that children at boarding school have tutors during the holidays - here in Paris the tutor agency that provides English tutors for my DC during term-time does a smashing trade in tutoring for DC back from English boarding schools for the holidays. Not even Asian!

Chandon Thu 27-Jun-13 18:40:13

It is about finding the right balance.

So many (all?) on MN have naturally bright and motivated kids. Or maybe that is jst how it feels to bitter old me wink

My oldest is average and ....lazy. Sending him to a private school in year 4 has meant he got pushed more, at home and at school. He is now MORE engaged and he has learned that if he works hard enough he can actually do very well. This seems to have motivated him. Being in a more competitive environment ( loads of pushy parents) have made him sit up and pay attention.

So far so good.

Now for secondary I am facing the choice of the good but large state school ( with tutoring as he would net get the SEN help he gets at school now), the selective independent (he could get in as he is catching up so fast) or the friendly nurturing non selective independent.

It is a tough choice. I think he would prefer the small nurturing non selective one, but I think he mght do better ( and be pushed more) at the selective.

He is 10, so need to start making up my mind.

I am surprised anyway, how being more pushy and being in an environment where more is expected of him, he just rose to the challenge ( they lifted the bar....and he just jumped higher). Kinda dangerous NOT to push enough as well.

I sometimes think that it is my own laziness that stops me being a pushy parent. Easier to sit in the sun, read a paper and watch them play than to sit down and make them do (more) work! I am trying to be honest here...

What do you think, OP?

AnnaBBB Thu 27-Jun-13 19:04:45


that is exactly the dilemma I am facing's takes a lot of energy being a pushy parent ...and part of it is how long can you keep that up ...I know in some of the schools we are thinking of, he is going to need to be pushed ...not tutoring as such but organising, prioritizing academics over free time at the weekend's the balance that's hard's all very well saying it's all down to raw ability and IQ ...but some kids have that already and still put in the extra hours or go on extra courses or have 1:1 tutoring ...hard to decide at ten isn't it but once you go that superselective / competitive route I wonder if that's what's entailed ? You do wonder if they will turn round at 24 and say where was my childhood- all I remember was having my nose to the grindstone ?

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 19:09:54

To be fair though, once they're in a highly selective school, you can let them do a good deal of the pushing.

The standards expected will be high, and your DC will fall in line (usually)...

I don't feel much cause to supplement what my DS does at school at all. He's pushed there, and I don't need to worry too much, other than keeping my eye on things.

DD's school is much less pushy academically, so I feel the need to be much more hands on IYSWIM.

Chandon Thu 27-Jun-13 20:04:27

Wordfactory, out of curiosity, what schools are your DC in ? ( grammar, comp, indie?)

Pythonesque Fri 28-Jun-13 00:04:53

Chandon I know exactly what you mean. My eldest is 10, and has always been bright but not internally motivated. Even when she was little, she needed to see others doing something first, then, bingo, she found she could do it. I really recognise what you say about raising the bar and they jump higher!

We've been lucky in that the one thing that did motivate her was wanting to sing in a choir so this year she started boarding at a co-ed prep with plenty of expectations for her to come up to. Her previous (independent, girls) school had a reasonable academic reputation but only raised the bar high enough to get them into the senior school and at least a quarter of the year group were just treading water. Now being at a prep postpones the senior school dilemma a couple more years ...

britishsummer Fri 28-Jun-13 01:38:46

Self motivation can definitely appear much later in some people, even post school / further education for some very successful (and happy) people including Nobel Prize winners. However might it not be postponed further in some cases by a child relying on their parents or school to step in and push them when needed? It could be a bit unnerving testing that theory in certain competitive environments such as London. Some children are naturally competitive as well as bright and usually do very well in school environments since they are happy to put that extra effort in to be the best. Others just don't see the point until their interest gets sparked but as a parent you just don't know when or how that is going to happen. You do know however when your DCs are stressed and not enjoying life though, so there is always the option to change.

wordfactory Fri 28-Jun-13 08:39:03

Chandon both my DC are in independent schools, but they are very different beasts.

DD's school is not very selective at all. There are certain SENs they can't accommodate, bit girls of all abilities attend.

DS' school is absurdly selective.

TanglednotTamed Fri 28-Jun-13 08:57:39

My DC are very young, but DH and I have already talked about this. We both went to Oxbridge and have a LOT of high-achieving but really very stressed and unhappy friends - no achievement is enough, and they feel something undefinable but crucial is missing from their lives.

DH and I are both working in fields directly related to our degree subjects (which were a passion for each of us), but which are not high-paid (although perfectly good enough), nor high-flying/glamorous. We are both extremely happy, and feel a sense of fulfilment in what we do, which is wonderful (I changed career in my 30s, after being much more high-powered, but rather unhappy).

With that in mind, we believe very strongly that it is important for our children to really enjoy their school years, to have a well-rounded approach to learning, and to pursue learning because of an inherent love of it. The primary school we have chosen fits that bill. It's small, friendly, with a strong focus on pastoral care, good manners, and a wide range of activities. The two who are there currently absolutely love it, and go off every day looking forward to their activities. The school also gets very good results, as it happens.

We've begun looking round at secondary schools. At the moment, there's one in particular we're favouring. It doesn't get the best results in the area (although every year some children go to Oxbridge/med school etc. However, again, it has a strong focus on pastoral care, extra-curricular activities, music, drama, sport etc.

I see absolutely no point in taking GCSEs/A-levels early. Far better to spend extra time on a wider range of activities. One of those might turn out to be a driving passion that is really important for future happiness.

It's early days for our DC, but we think they are bright. We also believe that we have the capability to notice if they are falling behind their academic potential, and put in measures to help them. We want a school where they will flourish, be really busy, interested, and productive, and enjoy themselves hugely. I think good results grow naturally out of that sort of environment, and more importantly, so does lifelong satisfaction.

(though perhaps I'll be back in ten years time, with completely different views, it is still early days)

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