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When your child can't do their homework - what are the options?

(33 Posts)
Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 11:20:12

I have a 12yo in Y8. He is dyslexic, uses a laptop but still obviously struggles with certain things.

He has a large project to complete this weekend. He's only had a week, and it involves writing at least 7 newspaper articles about a topic and putting them into a document that looks like a newspaper.

He's got to read all the background info and then write the articles.

He can't absorb the information.

He's asked me to read it out loud to him, which I have, and I'm trying to talk through it with him. Then I've suggested some bullet points to break it down. He's still really struggling.

What should I do? Should I sit with him for several hours, prompting and suggesting what to write? Should I do nothing and let him tell his teacher he just can't do it?

It's not reading itself which is the problem, its processing and organising the information. It feels like they are testing him on something he simply can't do. And I don't want to do it for him as that proves and achieves nothing. Yet he is compliant and wants to do it. Giving in nothing would seem like a bad move as his attitude is good.


MsMermaid Sun 24-Jan-16 11:23:59

That sounds like a massive project if he's only had a week to do it, are you absolutely certain he has only had a week and has understood the instructions.
Personally, I'd get him to do one article then write a note explaining why the full project was too much for him. As a teacher, I'd accept that.

freshcleanair Sun 24-Jan-16 11:25:08

Just write a letter saying he couldn't do it?

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 11:29:52

I met his teacher the other day, he was very nice so I may be able to write something but I'm afraid he'll get a detention - yes, I think it's correct that he has just a week to do it. There are optional extras (writing adverts and cartoons etc to fill the pages)

It's something I'd have got into at his age from an art and design persective, but I have similar issues with absorbing written material - I can stare at a paragraph and read it several times, taking in nothing.

It's a processing thing.
I think it is a big project for that amount of time, too.

I think I'll sit with him and try and help a bit but let him do most of it, if he can stand to - but it will take us all the rest of today and we have other things to do, too, like buying new football boots as his have just dissolved and going food shopping. And we have a toddler climbing over us wanting attention every time we sit down together.

Surely they should be able to do the work alone.

MooPointCowsOpinion Sun 24-Jan-16 11:47:45

Ideally he should have attempted to start the project the day it was set, then talked to the teacher the next day about his difficulties with the work. They could then have adapted the task for him.

I think your only option now is to help him with the facts, then have him do most of the work, while adding in a note to explain why it's difficult for him.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 11:51:18


Yes I agree looking at what he's got to do is always a good idea - I made him do that on Thursday I think, we had a look together.

Friday he was just exhausted; he had a friend's birthday yesterday which invoved some travel, so that was out though he had a try at it in the evening.

I think he could have done it over the course of the week but he would have had to spend every evening on it to do a good job, and I don't think he's got the mental capacity to manage that.

I may write a note, thank you for the suggestion.

kjwh Sun 24-Jan-16 12:39:54

Use the "how to eat an elephant" method that can be used for any task or project that is so huge you're put off from even trying and can't start it.

Break it down into management chunks. In this case, that's to do it article by article, i.e. 7 small articles rather than a newspaper. So, concentrate on the first article and forget everything else.

He had a week to do it, but is now down to the last day, so realistically, the whole newspaper just isn't going to happen now. So accept that and move on.

Spend as much time as you/he needs to do the first article. Make it a masterpiece. That will give him confidence, which sounds to be a major issue, and then you may be able to move on and do another 1 or 2 articles, but realistically, anything more than 1 is an achievement.

Write a note or email the teacher to explain the problems and that the article (or 2 or 3) that he has produced is all he could achieve in the time available.

Don't just give up and let him hand nothing in at all. That's defeatist and will do nothing to give him confidence. Hopefully the teacher will appreciate his dyslexia is contributing to the problems, may be able to provide more support, and hopefully will be impressed at what has been achieved.

TeenAndTween Sun 24-Jan-16 13:03:16

DD1 found these types of homework very difficult too.

What subject is it for? Does he know the expected time to spend on it?

I used to look at the homework and decide what I thought the main 'learning' element was mean to be. Then I simplified/facilitated so she still met the learning even if the rest of it was not done.

e.g. 'make a Hindu Shrine plus leaflet (RE)'. Decided that the learning was understanding what was in a shrine and what it was for. So DD made a list of what was needed and why and typed it up. I facilitated formatting. Then we worked together to make the shrine.

With hindsight I would have been even stronger with the teachers about her difficulties (although I always indicated on the project feedback sheet what help I had given). She eventually was assessed as having dyspraxia in y11.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:14:04

Thank you, there is some excellent advice here - the trouble is that I'm having to do nearly everything. He will try and put an article together with literally no knowledge of the subject. He will phrase it badly, spell it badly, repeat himself and not answer the question.

I've found a wiki page and we're reading that together but it is very hard for him and I have ended up practically dictating what he ought to write.

It turns out that they have not studied this subject at all in class. It's the women's suffrage movement, and they are currently doing Oliver Cromwell hmm

So we both have to read up about Emmeline P, about Emily whatsit at Epsom and the hunger strikes and the Cat and Mouse act, and also about the RPA of 1918, what caused it to pass through parliament, what its impact was and some Vox Pops from women of the time - and then we have to present all this in a newspaper format.

I'm sorry but I don't really understand what it is testing apart from his knowledge of how to find a page on Wikipedia, and his ability to comprehend an entire topic which they haven't discussed, by himself, and then put it into perspective and context within a few hours.

It's bizarre, isn't it?

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:15:17

I mean it's basically asking ME to set aside several hours in which to teach all this to him. And explain it, which isn't that easy unless I read a fair bit of background myself.

I don't have time for this.

DoreenLethal Sun 24-Jan-16 13:16:39

Homework should be about reinforcing info, not about learning a whole new subject. That's the job of the teachers.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:21:40

Well yes Doreen that's what I thought too.

Artandco Sun 24-Jan-16 13:26:42

In future though he needs to start it on the day it's set.
It's 7 pages. So research, and do one page/ topic every night is reasonable. And easier to hold information if just on one thing and completed straight away.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:29:18

But Art&Co, they haven't learned a thing about this topic. It's something they have got to research entirely by themselves, well, there is one info sheet about it, but that doesn't contain all the information they need.

(Nothing about the RPA for a start, or its background)

I'm not sure what the point is. Unless it's just to make them research something? A page a day is very, very difficult and something of an achievement for my son.

I feel like I may as well do home ed if I have to tell him all about it myself.

titchy Sun 24-Jan-16 13:31:19

He probably needs to hand it in with repetitive phrasing, spelling all over the place etc. Otherwise his teacher has no way of knowing that he doesn't have the learning resources for such a homework.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:32:32

This is it Titchy - his intentions are good, but if he does it himself, it's going to be dreadful. And they will think he didn't try iyswim.

Pipistrella Sun 24-Jan-16 13:33:47

It would be like sending him to a posh party or something wearing ripped unwashed jeans because I didn't think I should help him.

Just because he can't do it himself, it doesn't mean he doesn't want to.

But then a party isn't the same thing as a piece of homework. I just feel so sorry for him.

enderwoman Sun 24-Jan-16 13:39:51

The teacher will know what his normal work is like so he can't hand in something so perfect that it screams it was written by you.

Tbh I think he should have broken it down to a page a day (I have a y8 and she certainly wouldn't have done all pages on the same day) but it's easy for us to say that in hindsight.

I have a primary school child who's currently doing a project on something he has to research himself and we've found videos on the Internet to sink in more than written work.

My kids learned never to use Wikipedia for research as the information can be edited by anyone. BBC Bitesize is usually good for the main points on a topic.

enderwoman Sun 24-Jan-16 13:40:38

Is History set? Can he move down a set where the homework is easier?

titchy Sun 24-Jan-16 13:51:10

You can always email and say this genuinely was his best effort, but that his processing issues meant that the homework she set wasn't actually accessible to him.

PurpleHairAndPearls Sun 24-Jan-16 13:52:37

Do they make any differentiation for your DS at all, generally? If not and this is the tip of an iceberg I would be asking for a meeting with the SENCO to get this sorted. Does he has have EHCP/any support etc ?

If this is a one off (leaving aside the "checking each day what HW you have for a min) I would absolutely let him do his own work, help him with research, small amount of written work, incorrect spellings etc etc. I would (if you have time) go through with him, talk him through the corrections he needs to make and get him to rewrite it etc. I would then put a note in the planner either asking for a chat on phone or face to face with teacher or explaining DS has done his best with the task and he has brought the "before and after" so they can see how much time he needs to spend on a task to get it to the correct level, please could they reduce the tasks accordingly? A discussion would definitely be helpful.

I'm not a teacher but have DC with SN at secondary and this is what I did if problems arose. The teachers need to differentiate but sometimes "whole class" tasks are handed out willy nilly and they forget how much more time everything takes. I also made a point in Yr 7 at looking at their planners each night and seeing what HW they had and explaining (I could say this in my sleep grin) if they do a task when it's set they won't risk leaving it til they get other tasks and it's unmanageable. "Only English" one night is fine until three nights later they have English, maths history, IT etc etc <sigh> I seem to have beaten it into them a few years later wink

One DC has dropped a couple of subjects on the basis they'd be better off spending more time on the more "important" subjects (and their SN meant they really struggled with the dropped subjects) but I know a lot of schools don't like this. I'm also not a great fan of large amounts of HW and agree it should be for reinforcement but a lot of it seems to be for "private research" these days.

As long as my DC did their best in say an hour, they would take it in as completed as it is and explain, with note from parent if required.

The SENCO may be the best person if this is an issue with more than one teacher. Good luck

BertrandRussell Sun 24-Jan-16 13:55:44

I would email the teacher tomorrow- does she know that's he's dyslexic?

knitknack Sun 24-Jan-16 14:17:19

I'm a history teacher and there's no way I'd set a homework of that much depth on a topic we hadn't studied! I DO sometimes set projects but they'll always be on the topic we are studying and always over a whole half term, with detailed guidance about how to break down each task and when to have completed them by.

IF your son has recorded the homework correctly and IF he's not been given any guiding documents, then I'd be emailing the head, plus the senco or head of year/house.... That's an unacceptable homework, in my opinion!

not to mention it seems a bizarre jump to go from Cromwell to the Suffragettes!

littledrummergirl Sun 24-Jan-16 14:39:44

I would be asking why it hasn't been differentiated or fully explained to him.
My ds2 had a similar issue with one teacher. He was given 3 detentions for not completing homework he had no record of and didn't understand. I told him to do the detentions as he should have asked for help and then wrote letters to his senco re the teachers failure to follow the plan that was in place. I felt that Ds2 was being set up to fail and told them in writing.
Ds2 has had no problems since.

On an aside while this was going on his head of year then wrote wanting to discuss his detentions as 3 was "concerning". I didnt reply as i felt that was really not a conversation that would begin or end well. hmm
Write to the school.

ChalkHearts Sun 24-Jan-16 14:47:03

The problem is not that his hw is too hard / long.

It's that he's not working at a Y8 level in terms of processing and possible other things.

If you want him to pass his GCSEs you need to really think about how you want to play this.

How you or school will teach him these skills.

For his GCSEs he can't say he can't do it.

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