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How can I shake of the past and help my son? (Very Long)

(22 Posts)
AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 15:40:59

I could have posted this in parenting or primary school but I only ever really post on Relationships, feel like I know the regular posters and that my problem fits here.

I have one ds aged 7. Having one child was deliberate on my part. I know that my reason (singular) for this deliberate decision is selfish, flawed and tainted by my own experience but it is too deep to over ride. The reason is simply that I didn't want to recreate the family dynamic I grew up in where my mother adored and revered my sister and made it very plain that I was a huge disappointment to her. It was very painful and isolating and although I still live with the legacy of her favouritism, the exclusion, the bullying, the scape goating and other negative stuff it isn't as painful as it once was.

However, this week an issue has arisen with my ds which has left me floundering. I have relived lots of old painful past events and I am left wondering if I have the skills to help him through his school days.

Essentially, I was not an academic child. This angered my mother intensely. I went to a private school where, from the age of 7, we were tested twice a year, autumn and summer, on all subjects. These exams took place over the course of a week and were preceded by several weeks of revision. Revision at home consisted of me and my sister sitting down with all of our exercise books, learning what was in them and then having to regurgitate it word for word to our mother who would ask questions. Frequently, I would not be able to remember a thing when questioned, even though I had just read it. Frequently, my mother would respond to my incorrect answers with a hard, prolonged, rap on head with her knuckles or I would get hit in the face with the exercise book or screamed at or have all my books thrown across the room or all of the above.

I know now that there are good reasons for my sieve like short term memory, I know now that there is a high chance I have dyscalculia. I know now that I learn best in practical situations where I can talk through the topic with others. I do not learn well by rote and I do not learn well by sitting at a desk copying from the board. Back then none of this was apparent, I was just "as thick as too simply "a very lazy girl". I was letting her down and showing her up etc.

One thing my mother insisted on was that our school work was immaculate. For me this meant I was often not allowed to do my own homework. All through junior school, if there was written homework to do, my dad would devise and write it on a piece of paper, I would then be called to sit at the table and told to copy his words in my own hand into my exercise book. If I made a mistake I would get the usual knuckles to the head/thick as two short planks combo. Dad would also do accompanying drawings which I would have to trace and transfer also into my text book. It's seems so fucked up now and I can trace a lot of my least my favourite traits to it - procrastination being one of the worst, I still waste so much time putting off work for fear that it won?t be perfect. I am also plagued by this idea that everything has to be either right or wrong, black or white, there is no in-between. Throughout my life I have always sought out jobs that require little input from me, situations where I can hide behind stronger more charismatic people who will basically tell me what to do. I have always avoided responsibility like the plague.

So, to the real problem. My lovely ds, now in Year 2 is bringing back more and more homework. He really struggles with reading and writing but he loves school and is motivated to learn. I do not want him to be turned off from the joy of learning and the acquisition of knowledge. I do not want him to feel like I felt. So, I put absolutely no pressure on him at all. I back off. If he doesn't want to read his school books I won't make him. His current homework for example is to keep a diary. We don't do it every day; I won't force him to do it if he doesn't want to. When he does want to, we sit down together and I ask him (I do not tell him) what's going into the diary for today. I let him think it up and let him write it down.

Frequently his writing is illegible and his drawings also. I know that mostly this is because he really does struggle with holding a pencil and gets muddled with forming letters but I also know that sometimes his presentation is poor because he isn?t trying.

Anyway, I look at his work and whatever he has produced I smile and I say "very good darling" and I want to cry because deep down I feel that it isn't always very good and that perhaps if I was a little firmer with him he could perhaps produce something better. But I can't be firmer with him because I am scared of going too far and screaming at him in the style of my mother (I can so feel it in me sometimes). The end result is I have no idea how to help my son with his school work. I have no idea how much firm to be with a 7 year old who has problems with literacy (way worse than mine as a child).

The whole school work thing has such negative connotations for me that I back away completely and leave it to chance. I don't know what to do for best and am really lost. If anybody has any insights I am desperate to hear them.

BTW dh is dyslexic and his view is that I shouldn't worry, that I really should lay off ds and that his literacy skills will come with time. I just have no idea.

If you read all of that thank you so much. If you made of sense of it thank you even more.

ilove Wed 24-Jun-09 15:44:01

Is your son left or right handed?

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 15:44:15

Typo alert:

"as thick as two short planks" or simply "a very lazy little girl" (mums mantra's to me)

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 15:45:33

ilove he is mostly right handed but left handed when using a knife and fork. It took a long time for it to work through but he does now write with his right hand.

ilove Wed 24-Jun-09 15:53:59

ok. If he were left handed it would be easier - for me! lol.

What do school say about his abilities? Are they concerned? My DDwas just tested for dyslexia in school, and found to be clear. She is simply a "slow starter".

cestlavielife Wed 24-Jun-09 15:56:51

speak to his teacher - if he needs extra help or may even be dyslexic like his dad, then the teacher should be identifying this and offering extra support.

you need to speak to his teacher - if there are concerns, then school, initially, needs to act. this is called "school action"

they can seek support and advice from educational psychologist or literacy support in the borough. they can refer him to have him assessed by an occupational therapist - the is he left or right handed issue may be signs of dyspraxia . how he holds his pencil etc - there are special grips and things which can really help.

all these things can be helped.

an OT can do an assessment of his fine motor skills and set up a programme to help him improve. special grips for pencils etc - make sure he sits well, a supportive wedge for his chair, using a sloping writing desk - these can all help.

that becomes "school action plus" - bringing in outside people who can help and advise.

if he is doing fine in relation to his peers then you can stop worrying.

but if there are specific issues that he needs help with then you need to get the ball rolling - so speak to his teacher.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 15:57:47

Nope. His teacher is not concerned. I have raised it with her simply because of dh's dyslexia but she said that 7 was too young to make an accurate diagnosis and that he is probably also a slow starter. Basically, to leave it for a while but keep a watching brief.

AMumInScotland Wed 24-Jun-09 15:59:38

What does his teacher say about his work? I think since you are unsure yourself in how to approach this, it might be an idea to be guided by what the teacher suggests. You could bring it up with her in terms of "how can I best help him?". It might be that practice doing things like dot-to-dot puzzles would help his coordination, or making collages - sticking bits of pasta onto card for instance. Or the teacher may feel that it's just something which will come in it's own time, and isn't worried about it at all.

If you think he's not trying properly with his homework, you don't have to criticise him for it, but you could say things like "How about adding a little bit more to that piece of work?", or before he starts "This last one was a bit squashed up, wasn't it? How about putting a bit more space between your words this time?"

I can see that you are terrified of repeating the same pattern, but there are ways of suggesting improvements without him feeling "got at".

MadameDefarge Wed 24-Jun-09 16:03:13

cestlavielife is spot on.

I also know how you feel. Happily after OT input my ds handwriting issues have been addressed.

But also, he is only year two, cut him slack over the writing neatly, but encourage him to do the homework.

being able to finish a task is much more important than how well its done, at this stage. gentle encouragement, bribery works wonders.

And I do understand that feeling. Ds now does his homework with exp because I get so frustrated at his lack of application with me - when I know how hard he works at school! My background was no support at all from parents, no interest, no input, so I floundered, never having developed those skills.

So I have backed off a bit, and we will restart when I have got to grips with my ishooos around homework.

AMumInScotland Wed 24-Jun-09 16:03:35

X-posts there. If the teacher isn't worried about his work, then I don't think you need to fret too much yet, but you could still encourage him to spend time on things which need a bit of coordination, to help him along. Assuming he doesn't hate that sort of thing of course! And find ways to suggest improvement without criticism. Think about your own life - are there ways that people suggest things which don't make you feel criticised, but encourage you to try something? Think about how they word that, and their body language, and try to do the same.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:05:55

cestlavie - x-posted with you there. The school is definitely taking no action on that front. I think verbally and in terms of his level of understanding he is equal to his peers. In terms of his handwriting he appears to be behind. He is currently a Yr2 in mixed Yr1/2 class and the standard of handwriting from the Yr1 kids in his class is much higher than his. Last week they wrote stories which were posted on the wall. The littlest Yr1's had written lengthy passages with coherent sentences with full stops and finger spaces and evenly sized letters. DS's work, which didn't get a spot on the wall, was, well, huge and sprawling and illegible. He manages about three sentences then gives up.

He seems to make a meal of his letters. He has been taught cursive writing and he starts his letters in random places adds extra connecting strokes and cannot manage to size his letters evenly.

Flyonthewindscreen Wed 24-Jun-09 16:12:18

I would not pressure your DS to do homework he doesn't want to do, 7 is much too young for that. As you say he loves school and is motivated to learn and you don't want him to lose that. I also have a yr 2 DS but we are in Wales where the emphasis is on learning through play in KS1 - he never gets homework, only a couple of reading books per week. I don't think there would be any harm in your gently trying to encourage your DS to do his homework or to make more effort in his presentation skills when he does do work though. Your DH is right, his literacy skills will improve with time and his school would be raising it with you if it was a real problem.

I can see that your DS's education must raise a lot of issues/pain from your childhood and I'm sure there are much more qualified people than me to comment on that but you are not your parents and I'm sure you and your DH are loving parents capable of finding the right balance between pushing a child through education too much or too little.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:16:29

MadameD - thanks for your post I think asking dh to do more on supervising ds's homework to dh is possibly oneway to go. I do find myself sitting there seething inside, worrying what the teacher will think of the work, worry that she will think we are shit parents. All of which is nonsense but a legacy of the past. It's also interesting to here about your parents lack of interest and the impact it had on you.

muminscotland - I do tell myself over and over again that he is only 7 and that I should chill out. I just don't want to let him down, but I would be letting him down more by making this into too big an issue. Thanks for posting.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:21:18

KamR. To be honest the diary is only the second major bit of homework he has ever had. Thinking about it, the book he has been given to use as his diary is almost identical in size and paper quality to the one's I used to have as an 8 yeard old for homework projects. I think that might have partially triggered the awful memories.

It's good to hear people saying that 7 is too young for homework and pressure. Instinctively I agree with that but my past personal experiences are obscuring my instincts and telling me I'm wrong. I have to work hard to over ride those negative pre-programmed ideas.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 24-Jun-09 16:22:36

Hi Accio,

Re your comment:-

"His teacher is not concerned. I have raised it with her simply because of dh's dyslexia but she said that 7 was too young to make an accurate diagnosis and that he is probably also a slow starter"

Tsk!!!. They'll be telling you that in 4-5 years time as well!.

Many teachers are simply not taught enough or properly about dyslexia and or dyspraxia at teacher training college. They would not recognise it either even if directly presented with it.

As his teacher is unconcerned I would consider talking to the SENCO at your son's school about your DS and what they can (well should) do to help him more with his literacy difficulties. They may consider putting him on SA plus but this can be limited in scope. It very much depends on the school. I would also ask your GP to refer your DS to an occupational therapist as they can be helpful in these circumstances. I would say you rather than school make such a referral as you know its been done then. Some schools can take an age to do such a thing if they don't forget to do so in the first place.

If he is determined to be dyspraxic I would consider getting him private tuition with someone skilled in teaching children with literacy problems. Children with dyspraxia and or dyslexia are certainly intelligent but they cannot fully access the National curriculum as it stands because they need to be taught differently. They are at a disadvantage to start with.

BTW can he ride a bicycle now, can he tie his shoelaces, is he a very messy eater. How does he find PE, does he find it difficult?. If he is having or has had great difficulty with those types of things, this can also point to dyspraxia.

Do consider visiting the special needs forum as well on these pages (they are nice, very knowledgeable and most importantly don't bite!!).


modmum Wed 24-Jun-09 16:35:42

How is he with throwing and catching? Also with things like tying his shoe laces? Also recognition of left and right, number smybols (eg I could count and add up but could "link" the symbol "8" with the number for a long while)(Now have Maths degree so all con be conquered.) These are all possible signs of dyslexia/dyspraxia and dyscalcia.

Dyslexia (my problem) can now be "spotted/tested" for at 3-4 years old by the experts, I suspect the others can be. So if your worried about any of these check their websites for reassurances/tips on the way to go.

As for helping him with homework - you know all about how not to do it and are aware of what not to do so can stop yourself if you feel it happening. Keep up the gentle encouragement. How about trying non-homework reading and writing together? Both of you (all three of you if dad has time) doing seperate diaries (everyday!) or reading then writing book/story reviews?

If dad can help it will show that reading/writing isn't only something mum and teachers (that is girls) do.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:38:17

Hi Atilla. Thanks for your wise and sensible post. I tend to agree with your assessment that the teacher's may still be fobbing me off further down the line! Ds's teacher I think is perhaps too unconcerned - I will speak to her again tomorrow about the dyslexia test the school SENCO offers. If it's there and available he might as well go through it.

cestlavielife Wed 24-Jun-09 16:44:00

agree with attila - is is far too easy to say "wait and see"...

far better to assess (properly, not jsut teacher) and see if he DOES need help - than wait then say oh yeh, he really does now, we should have started two years ago...

you have mentioned some very clear issues - trouble holding pencil, writing issues which may indicate specific problems which he needs help with.

this is not about intelligence - his understanding is fine as you say - but you dont want the other stuff to fall behind. at seven - is good time to assess and see whether extra help needed.

have him properly assessed, ask GP to refer to community OT - there is a very nice assessment called the ABC movement battery whih my daughter (hypermobile joints, motor delays) found fun to do - and it very clearly shows if there are any gross or fine motor issues going on.

it involves things like following a track on a page with a pencil, cutting things out, drawing a stick figure etc. everything is scored and they can see if any difficulties.

seven IS the right time to assess properly.

and given his dad's dyslexia that should be more reason to assess now.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:48:30

thanks modmum. I have now had a good look through the link that cestlavielife provided to the dyspraxia foundation. Looking at the information in there, I think it cannot be ruled out and will be showing the website to dh tonight with a view to trying to get an OT referral as Atilla suggests.

Thanks all.

Just typing that and getting it all out my system has helped enormously. Apart from the dh, I've never told anyone any of that old stuff before or put it out in public. It's been a shameful secret for me and for some reason I feel better for putting it down in print.

AccioPinotGrigio Wed 24-Jun-09 16:53:42

Interesting info cestlavie about the community OT and the testing. I am resolved to pursue it. Thanks

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 24-Jun-09 18:11:52

Hi Accio,

Cestlavie is certainly spot on with her comments.

Am glad to have been of some assistance here with regards to your DS. Dyslexia and dyspraxia are very common problems and many schools do not readily recognise children with such difficulties.

Do keep us posted as to developments.

You are your child's best - and only - advocate. Never forget that!.

with best wishes


dizietsma Wed 24-Jun-09 18:54:29

I think that your DH has the right idea.

Also recommend you check out this book,The Homework Myth, it will reassure you that this is nothing to fret about.

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