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How to help perfectionist little boy with homework

(20 Posts)
islandofsodor Thu 08-Oct-09 11:50:23

Laying aside the fact that I don't beleive in homework at primary level and the school are well aware of my feelings.

ds has found the transition from reception to Year 1 quite hard. he is very bright, I was told last year that he is the best boy reader they have had in the school for 4 years but he is very set in his ways, everything has to be perfect and he likes to do what he wants to when he wants to.

he is coming home from school very tired, not wanting to do anything other than lie on the sofa and watch TV, he doesn't even play with his trains anymore.

He was sent home with a sheet where he had to write a sentence about himself. Dh and I work Friday evenings and Saturdays so he went to his grandparents and on Sunday we went out to a museum for the day for dd's birthday treat so Sunday night we tried to get him to do his homework and he wouldn't. As he was very tired I left it.

Monday (dd's birthday) I tried to get him to do it again and he got all tearful and said he couldn't think of 4 sentences. I said just try one and gave some suggestions "but I already did that on the computer" (I assume during an IT lesson?)

The teacher spoke to me last night about the fact he hadn't done it and had missed out on a housepoint so I tried again this morning (he gets up very early so I thought start of day instead of the end when he is tired.

Total meltdown, he was insistent he had to do 4 sentences not 1. He can't see through the process only the end result. He wouldn't write down what his favourite toy was as "everyone knows that already" and I will get into trouble for not writing 4 sentences if I only write 1.

In the end he started to write my favourite cuddly toy is my lion. Asked me how to spell favourite and got two letters mixed up. He sobbed then that it was wrong and his teacher would say it was "silly writing".

I am so tempted to say sod it, he is not doing it but I know that will only make it harder for him.

He loves reading and writing on his own terms and is perfectly capable of doing work at this level (in reception he wrote unaided a lovely little story about trains) but he can't seem to get the concept that as long as he tried it is OK. If you ask him a question about anything it is always I forgot or I don't know.

Fennel Thu 08-Oct-09 11:54:43

I would say sod it, and I don't think that will make life harder for him. my dds haven't always wanted to do their homework, in our school the yr1s dont' get homework but my dd2 at 6-7 was very resistant to doing it, she found the work easy but just didn't want to do it. So we didnt' make her. now she's 8 she's self-motivated and gets down to her homework without any help or nagging, so letting her not do homework at ks1 clearly didn't ruin her work ethic.

he's only 5, too little for homework.

islandofsodor Thu 08-Oct-09 11:58:18

I went in to see the headtecaher over dd's homework, she always wanted to do it but we had problems in fitting it in at the times it was set for various reasons.

When I mean it will make life harder I mean that he gets upset when the teacher asks why he hasn't done it/he doesn't get a housepoint etc.

thedolly Thu 08-Oct-09 12:01:03

I help the children by clearing a space on the dining table. When they have got their things out and are ready to begin (and I have made sure they know what they are supposed to do) I set the kitchen timer for the required time.

DS in YR1 so 10 mins
DD in YR4 so 20-30 mins (depending on what time she got home from school at)

Most schools have a policy on how much time should be spent on homework and this is what I reinforce. It is difficult if they haven't managed to finish by the end of the time but I reassure them by putting a note in the dairy that the right amount of time was spent.

I too am not a big fan of homework at this level but at least this way they are learning how to manage their time smile.

seeker Thu 08-Oct-09 12:12:21

I would say sod it. What possible way is it benefiting a tired 5 year old to do work that under other circumstances he could do easily?

And I would be a bit cross about the housepoint thing too - unless there are lots of housepoints handed out every day and missing out on one for homework not done really isn't that big a deal.

islandofsodor Thu 08-Oct-09 12:14:15

Well to be fair housepoints are given out for lots of things.

He so wants to please his teacher, but gets lost in perfection so that he can't work out how to start (and if I try to tell him how to I'm wrong).

bibbitybobbityCAT Thu 08-Oct-09 12:20:59

Before now I have written in my dd's homework book that I felt she'd done enough homework for the week and the teacher commented back "quite right, homework isn't compulsory". She was in Year 3 at the time though.

I think you need to explain to your ds's teacher that the homework is stressing him and please could the teacher actually write in the homework book what is required, rather than just telling the children. So the teacher would have written "write one sentence about ..." and not "write four sentences about ..."

Children in Year 1 really should not have to worry about any of this imvho sad.

MollieO Thu 08-Oct-09 12:24:22

Does he have to do that every night or can he do it over a number of nights? If the latter could you do one sentence a night that he could spend time getting right. I'm a perfectionist and trying my best just doesn't cut it, it has to be right.

Ds (5) is a bit like that and will insist re-doing work if he isn't happy. All I do is encourage and facilitate. In ds's case it was lighting candles at the dining room table for him to do his homework (we have electricity but he likes the candles grin).

claudialyman Thu 08-Oct-09 12:29:05

Sounds like he's getting very anxious about making mistakes and not doing "good enough" work. Being so tired when he comes in from school can be a sign the schoolday is more stressful than it should be for him. Sounds like that is worrying you.

I know what you mean about not wanting to annoy the teacher and "make things worse for him". I would actually try to turn things around with his teacher. Ask to talk to her as you are worried about how stressed and anxious he gets and you would reaaallly apreciate some advice from her. Then show very willing to do anything she suggests (ie if she suggests doing the homework on sat morning dont go into why it mightnt work, give it a go. just act very receptive and she becomes more his champion and less on the defensive.

That puts her in the position of being the one to help him, ie appeals to her as the expert. This should at the very least lead to more reassurance and appropriate praise from her in the classroom and she would be much more aware.

BTW I think the whole idea of homework at that age is wrong, unless its a fun task they do. And there are ways to help a child who gets caught up in perfectionism. Will have a think and get back to you later

MollieO Thu 08-Oct-09 12:32:52

claudialyman I tried that with ds's teacher. She said it didn't matter and then wrote a letter saying how ds was completely lacking in motivation hmm.

stealthsquiggle Thu 08-Oct-09 12:32:53

You need to talk to the teacher. My DS was like this in school (didn't have homework other than reading/spellings) and would have occasional complete meltdowns because he couldn't think of anything (translation: what he could think of didn't meet his self-imposed standards) to write for diary.

I recognise a lot of your decriptions - if he can't do it right he dissolves completely, says he's rubbish, if I try and help then I "don't understand" etc etc.

His wonderful teacher talked to me about it in YR, and make great play with DS about how much it didn't matter, and she and subsequent teachers came to understand that DS sets far higher standards for himself than they could ever set for him and they have coached him out of it - last term's report said that they did not have a single meltdown (he has just started Y3). They praise what he does and probably point out errors far less than they do with other DC, and have now started to encourage him to go back through and correct his own work before he shows it to them.

Sorry - that was rambling - just empathy, really!

Merrylegs Thu 08-Oct-09 12:33:25

"He so wants to please his teacher, but gets lost in perfection so that he can't work out how to start (and if I try to tell him how to I'm wrong)."

Then you should tell the teacher exactly that.

It's not that he isn't bothering with the homework - it's that he's bothering too much. Perhaps she can talk to him about her expectations of him. He might think muddling up letters is 'silly writing', she might just be pleased he's done something. Rather than tell you he hasn't done it, the teacher should be speaking to him. If he's struggling with homework but is otherwise bright, she needs to find out what is going on with him.

But also let his teacher know that you are trying to help him too - if they are 'well aware' of your feelings towards primary homework, he may be falling at the first hurdle (ie - 'we all know what islandofsodor thinks about primary homework. No wonder islandjunior is struggling.)

It's tempting to say 'sod it', but it is obvious the school expects it to be done and he will be penalised for not doing it.

MachinesAreGo Thu 08-Oct-09 12:41:38

Sounds like your ds is worried about 'failing' in his work. Maybe the expecatations of him at school are high; he is seen as 'the bright one', and he doesn't want to lose that identity?
Perhpas the school could do some circle time on how trying is important, it is ok to make mistakes etc etc? You could also reinforce this messgae at home.

MachinesAreGo Thu 08-Oct-09 12:43:47

Obviously, perfectionism in spelling isn't my problem blush

Fennel Thu 08-Oct-09 12:45:32

yes, I would write that in his homework book very assertively (we have a good line in non-apologies for lack of homework in this house). IME the teachers are fine with the people who are generally supportive of school work but not wild about homework. Often the teachers aren't that keen on homework either. Our yr2 teacher only sets it because parents ask for it, so it's a bit circular.

dd1, last year when she was 8, had to write an essay on why homework was important (after she'd missed several weeks of handing in homework, she actually does it but forgets to hand it in, every week, without fail, she has a memory like a sieve). She wrote that recent research demonstrates that homework for primary school age children is ineffective and irrelevant to academic progress (which is true, that's what the recent studies on it do show).

That was the last time she got penalised for lack of homework grin

mussyhillmum Thu 08-Oct-09 13:33:45

Hi. Your son sounds very much like mine. He got to the point where he wasn't willing to try anything for fear of not doing it "correctly" - particularly if it involved writing! I tackled this by explaining to him that mistakes were a "good" thing - that if people never made mistakes, they would never learn how to do things properly. We made a special sticker chart for his mistakes. Every time he made a mistake, he was given a sticker to celebrate that he was learning. He still has his moments - particularly when faced with open ended pieces of writing - but he is much more willing to have a go at things! Good luck - I know how hard it is to hear your very able child do himself down.

claudialyman Thu 08-Oct-09 15:02:59

mussyhill thats a lovely idea, a mistakes reward chart. turn the whole thing on its headwink

mollieo thats a sad lack of understanding coming from a teacher. hope your son doesnt have that particular one for long

islandofsodor Thu 08-Oct-09 20:48:48

His teacher was off sick today and I don;t do the pick up or drop off tomorrow so it will have to wait until after the weekend.

Thanks for the advice.

MachinesAreGo Sun 11-Oct-09 21:20:16

Let us know how it goes, IoS smile

islandofsodor Sun 11-Oct-09 22:03:34

She was still off sick Friday (so no homework set this weekend), I'll have to see if she is back in tomorrow.

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