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Year 5 Homework meltdown - help!

(30 Posts)
Whippet Mon 03-Oct-11 10:37:41

DS is 9 and in Year 5.

We always knew Year 5 would be a 'step up' from Year 4, as they begin to prepare for 11+ exams, but I think it has been quite a big step for DS.

He has about 30 mins of homework per night. Maths tends to be fine.
But anything where he is required to write a reasonable amount (e.g. book review, or comprehension work etc) is causing him to have a complete meltdown.

So far this term we have had
- being vague about homework in the hope that we won't make him do it
- saying that he 'doesn't have to do it all' (although when I check , he does)
- massive tears and tantrums, where he basically just shouts "I don't know what to do/ I can't do it"

I think what he has to do is reasonable for his age/ ability. It is usually set out quite clearly (on a worksheet, or he has copied it off board into homework diary etc) so I just don't understand why he is being so panicky and emotional about it all sad?

When he starts to argue/ protest about not being able to do it, Dh or I begin patiently - trying to focus on a bit at a time/ pointing out that he's done it before etc, telling him to just try/ offering to explain it if he doesn't understand etc, but he really does just get SO worked up, and shouts at us, coming up with excuse after excuse - it's all "yes, but..." and "no but," and " but I can't".

It's as if he just won't even begin or try!
It then usually ends up in a big scene where DH/I get increasingly frustrated (and sometimes a bit angry sad) and Ds just gets more and more random/ angry/ aggressive to us shock.

We've tried 'leaving him to it' but he just faffs around and doesn't do it. We've tried sitting with him, but it's painstaking, and then he just tries to get us to tell him what to write (he's quite sneaky about this).

We need some new strategies - this isn't working. Can anyone help or make suggestions?

I'm going in to chat to his English teacher this week, but in the past when I've spoken to them they've just said not to worry/ he's doing fine etc hmm.

betterwhenthesunshines Mon 03-Oct-11 12:25:31

My DS is also Yr5 with a similar amount of homework. I try to get him to come in, have a snack / 20 mins off-time and then come and sit and get on with it as I'm finding that a 30mins homework is actually taking much longer ( finding a pencil, going to the loo, disappearing upstairs, blankly straing at the page....) and we also have to fit in tea, bath, reading with younger DD etc

It sounds like you're trying lots of sensible things but maybe too much, not very consistently?

Is he just tired? Maybe talk to him and get HIM to suggest a time when he's going to get on with it. Some children like doing it ASAP when they come in, or having 30mins playtime first. The if he doesn't settle down at his chosen time, telll him the next day you will have to be in charge.

It sounds as though he's avoiding the writing homeworks. Sometimes a blank page can be very daunting. You could ask him to TELL you first what he wants to write, or helping up do some kind of plan (just a few short notes or words) or mind map so that he knows how to start... and how to continue.

I know it's their homework and not for parents to do, but I do think they need some guidance how to approach a piece of work so that they CAN get on with it by themselves. Hope this helps <will keep watching for other good tips!>

Takver Mon 03-Oct-11 12:58:22

I can't help much, but you're not alone!

DD is very similar - a maths sheet, or a very specific piece of written work is fine, but any long or ill defined pieces of writing lead to exactly the melt down type of scenario you're describing. So for example 'write a poem about the moon' was fine, especially as there were quite particular instructions 'make it rhyme at least in part, think about the emotions' etc. But 'research and write about the moon' would have been a disaster (too open ended).

I don't know what level your DS is writing at - DD is currently being assessed by the Ed Psych for possible dyslexia; although her reading & comprehension are good (well above her age) her writing skills lag way behind, and I think this is at least part of the problem. But it sounds like you've already talked to the teacher and generally your DS is ok?

Luckily dd has much less homework (only twice a week), but I've found that it is very much better so far that it is regular and on defined days. Last year when she got very occasional bits of work with a long time scale to do them was much worse. So I think routine can be helpful, once you get it accepted.

planetpotty Mon 03-Oct-11 13:10:42

Dont have lots of experience in this as my DC are small but my DSD used to be a bit like this over her homework and what we did (and it worked wonders) was to really focus on her attitude (rather than the quality of the h/work so much and that came later on) sit up straight, no moaning, and kept on and on and on that all the flapping, huffing, puffing, tears, etc just made the homework take longer. It took a lot of patience and telling over and over again and being very encouraging of he work she was doing well, and explaining learning and working was hard but its always worth it and (for now!) we have cracked it.

Spending 5 mins making a plan of how she was going to do the homework and what was expected of her whilst she was doing it at the begining helped to, it seems a lot of the time she did not actually understand what she was supposed to be doing adding to her frustrations.

Know this is what you are probably already doing so I would say keep at it, stay firm and I think they are just trying anything to avoid it just like I did smile

Snowballed Mon 03-Oct-11 13:22:26

My Ds Yr5 also hates the writing, especially when its vague. So what I do now is ask him what he wants to write, write it out for him in rough and then get him to copy it into neat. It's not ideal but I know his spelling is good so I'm not really helping - although by writing up what he dictates/wants to say, he somehow thinks I am doing it for him and likes that.

As for the amount of homework, my heart sinks for him. I don't ever remember doing homework in primary school and so I agree with him entirely when he argues that they shouldn't get homework.

I've just introduced a new system too, of getting to do something he wants (i.e. PS3) by earning time credits for things like doing homework on his own initiative (i.e. without me nagging). He used to get time taken away and didn't seem to care but if he has to earn every minute, it seems to get him more motivated.

Whippet Mon 03-Oct-11 13:28:00

Takver - the senco has seen him a couple of times and says that he isn't dyslexic, but he does seem to have a problem with focusing and also working under time pressure.
His handwriting is not great either. After yesterday's meltdown we had a chat wth him much later (when he was calm) and tried to get him to explain what his feelings were which led to all the tears and shouting. It sounds like it's anger and frustration... he says that he knows what he wants to say in his head, and in fact he can even say it to me conversationally, but as soon as he has to put it into words on the page he says he just 'loses his place' and gets worked up. sad

planetpotty Mon 03-Oct-11 13:28:08

Common theme seems to be too much homework for family life maybe also that homework sheets not always explaining exactly what needs to be done. Sometimes the explanation of what the task is, is harder than the actual work!

Takver Mon 03-Oct-11 13:59:08

Whippet - one thing that has really helped dd is that DH has spent one to one time with her pretty much every morning for the last year doing 10 - 15 minutes writing practice. Initially she just did handwriting practice (she was still struggling then with forming letters) and then for maybe the last 6 months working through a spelling programme.

It has been very slow, but it has helped her I think. At least I am sure a year ago that even writing a six line poem would have been melt down territory, whereas this weekend she asked how to spell a couple of words but otherwise was able to make a pretty good effort of it unaided. Of course next week's homework may be a different story. . .

Other things that her teachers have tried in school with her have been using a mini whiteboard for a draft (so that she's not committing herself to anything - she can just rub it away if it all goes wrong), using egg timers to try to 'pace' a piece of work. When she's got really really stuck I've also at home got her to tell me what she is wanting to say, then written it down myself for her as 'bullet points' that she can work back up into proper sentences.

I remember the HT (who is the SENCO) also suggested using a dictaphone so that she could record her thoughts then work from that, though I think they decided against it as she tends to get very distracted anyway & I suspect that the machine would be too much of an added distraction for anything to get done!

planetpotty Mon 03-Oct-11 14:03:11

LOVE the whiteboard idea smile

Whippet Mon 03-Oct-11 14:09:40

ooh yes - whiteboard sounds like a good idea - I have an A3 sized one I could use!

I think he just needs tools and techniques to help him organise his thoughts, give him confidence, and get him started...

I think at the about the same age DS1 got into using mind-maps?

It's mostly his 'can't do' attitude which is causing all the problems at the moment, and the fact that he seems to be rejecting all DH & I's attempts to help him (which I'm sure we could, if he's only let us!)

Takver Mon 03-Oct-11 14:16:47

I think maybe the 'can't do' needs unpicking. For dd it is certainly about a fear of failure; she's a real perfectionist, so things like a whiteboard / working on scrap etc do help.

Hence maths is fine - she may moan a bit about it, but she knows that there is a definite right answer, and so long as she works at it she can reach that answer. (Unfortunately it still takes her a very very long time, which is a constant issue in school, but that's another story!)

We absolutely have the thing of not being able to help - again it is partly because dd knows that it is meant to be 'her work', and also about the fact that by the time she gets stuck she's often in a real tizzy already.

They do a lot of mind-mapping in school, but so far she doesn't seem to find it helpful. However, we've had an initial meeting with the Ed psych, and she did say that making them work well is a technique that you really need to be explicitly taught.

Whippet Mon 03-Oct-11 14:29:09

Takver - it all sounds v.v. similar!

DS is also a perfectionist! He wastes too much time rubbing out and correcting, and in fact his English teacher has said to take away his ink corrector, and that she only wants to see crossing out (which he hates...)

we have an added problem in that DS1 is very bright and able, and I think DS2 is always comparing himself (even though we try hard not to...)

I think DH & I just need to work hard at being very, very patient!

DoubleMum Mon 03-Oct-11 14:36:49

This post could have been written about my 9 yr old DS. We are having a similar struggle coupled with a long term struggle with lack of motivation/just generally not trying at anything except building lego!
I wish I could tell you something that had worked but we haven't found it yet...just to reiterate that you are not alone!

Bramshott Mon 03-Oct-11 14:51:18

Sorry, to hijack, but Tavker - could you tell me what spelling programme you've been using with your DD? DD1 is in Y4 and really struggles with spelling and I'm trying to think of things to do to help her.

OP - hope you can find some useful strategies to use with your DS.

Takver Mon 03-Oct-11 15:05:18

I'll have a look at what the books are called & post later, Bramshott - I know there is one set that is repeated practice of spelling patterns, plus another book which works through 'rules'. It definitely seems to have helped dd - definitely at the level of - for example - knowing that every syllable has to have a vowel in it.

sarahfreck Mon 03-Oct-11 15:29:08

I think this is a common problem. Do you think the following might work?

Explain that you will help him get organised and do the work, but getting upset etc doesn't help as he still has to do the work in the end.

Then explain that you are not going to allow his homework to take up so much time as it is not fun for you, him or the rest of the family. You will set a kitchen timer for 45 minutes (15 mins more than the time allotted). At the end of that time you will take his homework away and he won't do any more. If he has wasted time screaming and shouting he will have to explain this to his teacher. If he has tried hard for 45 minutes but not completed the work you will send a note to explain this to the teacher, but not if he has wasted time.

Then spend as much time as he needs to help think through and plan work. Use a whiteboard and other ideas people have suggested. If he starts to throw a wobbly, walk away and say you will come back and help when he calms down but meanwhile he is using up his homework time.

Let his teacher know the strategy so she can back you up with a "homework must be done" message.

Bramshott Mon 03-Oct-11 15:29:22

Thanks - that would be really useful.

Takver Mon 03-Oct-11 17:18:05

Bramshott - both books are from Schofield & Sims - the spelling patterns ones are these, and the 'rules' one is this one.

DH looked at quite a few books but these seem to suit DD quite well. I suspect tbh that simply working at it a little every day with one to one help has been the main thing though, and probably any structured series would have done fine.

SE13Mummy Mon 03-Oct-11 23:40:39

I think 30 minutes a day is a lot of homework for a Y5 child. I say that as a Y4 teacher. If the children have worked hard in class they will be tired and need time to relax, play, unwind etc.

I'm not a fan of homework for homework's sake as I've yet to see any positive impact in class - I set learning log projects that can be completed over a number of weeks/in an evening/not at all and send home a maths sheet so parents know what we've been learning each week. If parents want homework they have it but, as I tell them all, the children work hard all day and I want them to have time to be 8/9 too.

If your DS isn't getting round to the homework, for whatever reason, just write in the homework diary that he hasn't done it and you are aware of that. Leave an e-mail address for the teacher and ask him/her to contact you. Your DS will probably be asked by the teacher why he hasn't done the work and will then be given something more suitable or perhaps a compromise will be reached i.e. if writing is a terrible struggle maybe he'll be let off written exercises if he does X amount in class that day or perhaps he'll be asked to do handwriting instead. I wouldn't force your DS to do the work as it won't inspire him to work hard and will become an ongoing battle for which life is too short.

Of course, there may be other reasons that he is choosing to react to being asked to do so much homework.... maybe he doesn't like the idea of a secondary school where he'll always have to work extra hard to keep up.

madhattershouse Mon 03-Oct-11 23:48:30

My son was exactly the same, he has now been diagnosed as Dysgraphic. He can't spell, letter formation is difficult and a blank piece of paper sends him into a frustrated anger bout! He can dictate, which he did to his tutor and come out with highly intellegent answers, but ask him to write it down and POOF, it's gone. Would it be worth checking with the SENCO? It took 2 years of asking before it was finally diagnosed.

wellwisher Tue 04-Oct-11 00:19:33

I don't think it's a good idea to write anything for them at this age - too helicopterish and doesn't help them to develop the skills they need. Can you maybe get him to write something - anything - "in rough" before he does it properly? You could even start by getting him to write a stream of consciousness - not allowed to stop or re-read until he's filled half a page (for example). It's much easier to edit something you've got in front of you than to fill a blank sheet of paper! Probably won't take any longer if you balance out the screaming and shouting time you'll (hopefully) save...

piprabbit Tue 04-Oct-11 00:42:23

I think my DD (y3) is shaping up to have similar problems - I'm trying to keep it all very low key at the moment (but she doesn't have a lot of homework, so we have plenty of time).
These clips on Parentchannel.tv might give you some new ideas.

www.parentchannel.tv/video/homework-blues
www.parentchannel.tv/video/homework-overload-9-14

madhattershouse Tue 04-Oct-11 00:47:27

wellwisher I don't feel it helicopterish at all. My son is now in yr7 and we have been told to allow dictation and sign it off as his words by the teachers in senior school. Homework is important BUT if you put them off studying completely by stressing children out, forcing them to struggle on, it does more harm than good - their words not mine!

madhattershouse Tue 04-Oct-11 00:52:54

Sorry wellwisher that came across as confrontational, which was not my intention. But it is better that children don't get stressed out by homework. I have had long talks with tutors and they all say dictate if needed, time out at about 20 minutes and then sign the work to say they did the time but did not finish. Pushing too hard only creates problems.

yawningmonster Tue 04-Oct-11 09:40:18

sorry I haven't read all of the comments but has anyone suggested doing mind maps with him. Just basically writing down the main idea and then any ideas that jump out from there. This can help to give children a visual map of the ideas and they can then formulate the flow of what they want to say if that makes sense?

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