11+ study nightmare (very long post)(12 Posts)
I have a 10 year old boy who, like lots of parents, I want to get in to a good secondary school and am willing to go private if necessary. He is a lovely boy – kind, funny, sporty, popular at school with his friends and the teachers. He has always had a tendency to set the bar high for himself on certain activities and then be very down on himself if he fails to reach those goals. I have been told by someone obsessed with education who ran an afterschool club, that he is bright and I should push him. I initially thought that if I was willing to go private I could just pay the fees and he would be in. I then realised that he would have to pass exams to get in, in huge competition with other boys, many of whom have been privately educated from day one. My son goes to a small faith-based primary school that was outstanding when he started but, with the arrival of a new headteacher, has declined from No 1 in SATS in our borough to third from the bottom. He is very happy there however. He has always had good reports in parents evening (including when it was outstanding) and in his latest a couple of weeks ago the teacher was singing his praises, saying how he loved to be challenged in his work and that if he can’t do something, he doesn’t panic but calmly applies himself until he can do it. She said he was at the very top of the middle set in maths but the next day she moved him in to the top set. Her feedback was amazing to me as it’s the opposite of what I experience at home when I try to get him to study. He is being tutored twice a week in English and Maths (two hours total) and they give good feedback too although he is expected to do a lot of work between tutor sessions. When I try to get him to this work however it is torturous and feels like its becoming toxic to our relationship. I get lots of groaning, sulky voice and half arsed attempts at his work. He also wants me to sit with him while he does it, where I end up spoon feeding him through the questions as he gives up as soon as something becomes difficult. I feel my anger increasing as this goes on and it usually ends up in a dispute. Me furious, him in tears and apologizing – and then it all happens again next time. On the advise of his tutor I gave him an 11+ sample paper a few weeks ago, just to see how he would do. He did badly, giving up on questions that, when we went through it together afterwards, he could easily do, and scrawling ‘I don’t know” at various points. All in all, in complete contrast to the feedback I receive at school/from his tutors. Now, him doing homework is a low point in both our days. I literally dread it and wonder if anyone can advise me on what I can do to improve things. I’m not a Tiger Mum. He has oodles of time every day to do what he wants to do: looking up prank videos on You Tube, gaming, playing football. He sees a lot of his friends and I take him on outings e.g. to car shows because he loves them. In other words, I think he has a really nice life. I also try rewarding him for good effort (Match Attax cards; special outings) but when he knows he’s performed badly after one of our rows he volunteers to give up rewards of his own bat. I’ve also spoken to him very honestly about schools i.e. how he’s got to try his hardest to get into these schools as he’ll be up against lots of boys who’ve been privately educated. I’ve also said that that this might well mean he doesn’t get into some of the schools we apply to but all I ask is that he does his best. The aim of this is to emphasis effort over achievement but maybe I’ve scared him off?? I’ve also discounted some schools I’ve visited as the children there seemed too academic and humourless (he loves to have a laugh). He, himself, wants to go to a good school but the way we’re going I can’t see it happening I’ve no doubt that should that happen he’ll be devastated. I feel I really have to get him into a good school as I can’t bear more years of this sort of thing i.e. pushing him at home; I need the school to do it for my sanity and the sake of our relationship. For context, I’m a single mum who had a challenging, working class upbringing but got myself through university (six years of it) and am now a high earning professional. His childhood is so privileged and peaceful compared to mine which I think also infuriates me when he makes such little effort.
Sometimes it is hardest for us to accept help from those closest to us. When I was at school my best friend and I had an agreement that I would tutor his sister in maths and he would tutor mine because if we tried to help our own sisters it just lead to arguments. Does your son have a friend whose mum you could make that sort of arrangement with?
Well, I just went through this with my now 11 year old dd. 12 months of hell. Spent hours with her doing papers. Lots of shouting, tears, arguments. We got through it. No advice except to say that I think this is quite a common scenario.
Honestly this sounds like a dreadful way to live for both of you. Stop it. If you can pay for private school then just do that. This will not get easier if you hothouse him into a selective school. Please enjoy his childhood with him instead of resenting what you feel is his 'easy life'.
DrudgeJedd - I can pay for private school (just about) but I can't get him in without him passing the exams. I don't feel I'm hothousing him, just trying to see what he's capable of if stretched - which he doesn't seem to be at school (did most of his Easter homework from school in half an hour this afternoon). I've told his tutor to tell me straight what level he's at as the last thing I want is for him to scrape through the exam and struggle at the bottom of the class feeling awful. The most important thing is that he thrives wherever he is. The feedback I get from her though is that he gets everything very quickly. At times I have done as you say and just left it, hoping for the best, but then my anxiety about him going to a local comp (most of which are very poor) rears it's head. We do enjoy our lives together for the most part, just not the homework part. Maybe you're right though and I should back off.
Not content - I suspect it's not unusual but just awful. Glad to hear you survived!
MrsMortis - thanks for the tip. My sister is good at maths and volunteered last week to help out. Unlike me she has the patience of a saint. On the down side she lives 60 miles away. Unfortunately there are no parents I could do a swap with. Most of his friends at school are being tutored too as the parents can't do it.
Is his tutor setting and marking his homework? You're presumably paying quite a bit to outsource this element of preparation and he's doing two hours a week. In my experience he should be answerable to the tutor for the homework/papers and not to you, especially as he doesn't work well for you.
I understand your want to get him into a "good school" , but why does that equate to private?
If he is as bright and hard working as you say, he will do that anyway, and it will be encouraged anywhere, because the teachers will see that in him..My youngest son is extremely able, and he is encouraged and nurtured by his good but " bog standard" comprehensive. He's well on track to achieve As in his A levels, and is being steered towards Cambridge....All without any tutoring, which I think is totally unnecessary. My elder children went to the same school,and received the same good education and are both at university.
Do you really need to give him all this extra pressure?
Unless it is a super selective school, otherwise, you can be relaxed a bit. The local independent school in our town is a very good school.It takes children from state school on the top 25%-30% I would think. If you DS is in top set, then there is no need to push him too much. I don't think children from a state school are in big disadvantage compare to private school at this point.
I think you can talk to him first, let him agree he need to do some extra work to get ready for the entry test, so he can get into a lovely school.
Then make a plan, 20 minutes is quite enough everyday. You can let him do math one day, English the other day, and VR or NVR on the following day.There are 10 minutes papers from Bond, all you can split a sample paper into 2. It's fine he makes mistakes at this stage, but you do need to let him do the work independently, you can sit beside to do other things. If he see any question he doesn't know, then leave it, do the next one. These session should be timed. Then you can go through the answer afterwards. Help him with all the unanswered and wrong one, he will learn from this. You should keep calm, making mistake is nature, he will improve gradually.
When is the entry test? A few months before the entry test, you can ask him to do the sample test under the actual test time. But I think 1 paper per week is quite enough, say normal 20 minutes session every day, but put one day aside for a whole test.
It is normal children won't like to do extra work, as there is not much homework from primary school, children don't have the habit of doing it. Once your DS get used to do some everyday, I think he will be fine.
But do not show any disappointment or angry with him even he doesn't do well, you should reward him for doing the extra by praise him.
I diy tutored my eldest, now 13 for a torturous 3 mths (completely underestimating the amount of work to cover/prep). DC1 was however, academic and self motivated enough to do the daily prep/cramming leading up to the exam and thankfully got the offer. DC2 is of a different mettle and having learnt my lesson, I have just started with 9 mths to go. I've chosen to do 30 min sessions x 2 for maths plus 30 mins x 2 per week. This is most probably very little compared to others (DC1 was doing 2hrs daily albeit over a much shorter period of 3 mths) but I don't want it to be the main focus of family strife for a year! There is a tiny bit of school HW plus fitting in of instrument practice and other activities like swimming, guitar & piano. Complete break for the Easter hols. What will be, will be. It won't be the end of the world not getting a selective school place. Our exams are next Jan - only sitting 2 (outside London). I don't envy my friends & family who do live in London. My nephew sat a 10+ exam in Jan and didn't get an offer. I didn't dare ask how many they were entering him for next year.
Has he seen the schools? I found that was useful. There was school A which she had to pass an exam for and school B which was a banker. It meant that she knew she preferred school A but would have to work hard but at least school B would be ok in her moments of self-doubt and panic.
the last thing I want is for him to scrape through the exam and struggle at the bottom of the class feeling awful.
I really wouldn't worry about that. There will be children who have been in private schools since they were 3 AND tutored since yr2 a few hours a week who will take those spots once the extra support is taken away.
Thanks to everyone who responded to my post all those months ago. Update: things have massively improved as I got him a new tutor. It turns out that his reluctance to work was because he was so scared of his tutor. I knew she was tough but because she got brilliant results I made him stick with her (v poor judgement on my part). Turns out she wasn't just tough, she was brutal (and unbalanced): constantly calling him a girl's name during their lesson, telling him his posture made her feel sick, rolling her eyes when she had to explain something more than twice etc. When I found out the extent of all this (big failure on my part that I hadn't realised before how mean she was and how this was affecting him), I told her we didn't need her anymore. My boy's responses was to burst into tears of relief and cling on to me, thanking me repeatedly. How bad is that? I now realise that this so-excellent tutor gets her 100% results because she is so brutal to those who aren't in the top 10%, they drop out, leaving her with all the top kids who were going to do brilliantly anyway - she can then take the credit for their success. To be fair she does do good work and kids do succeed but, as another of her pupil's mum's said, 'only if your child doesn't have a nervous breakdown first'. My son is now with a wonderful tutor (half the price!) and doing great: getting on with his work and enjoying it (most of the time).
I'm really shocked at the behaviour of the tutor. I would actually consider reporting this to someone as it's unacceptably cruel treatment. Your poor son . I'm glad you managed to resolve things.
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