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I want to help my sons, but I have NO IDEA what they're doing

(107 Posts)
JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 21:33:36

I'm so sorry - I don't really know where to begin.

I'm not from this country - my home country (USA) had a very different way of doing things, and that was decades ago. Also, I work away from home every other week, so I am not around as much as I should be. DH is the stay-at-home parent and I'm afraid he's not able to help much. He just says that everything was different when he was there and he left school right after his GCSE's or whatever they used to be called. He's not likely to be very engaged for a variety of reasons like depression and social anxiety.

So, I am trying to get my head around things. I am ashamed to say that I let things go their own course. I went to some parents nights and I read the school reports (I had to ask what the numbers meant.) But I am not here.

DS1, who is in year 10, has entered adolescence with a vengeance and retreats to his room. He is bright but a bit lazy. We got a call from his maths teacher saying that he has done NO WORK at all in weeks. No assignments completed and his exercise book is mostly blank. He's not paying attention.

There is no textbook. I have managed to log in to the VLE and the MathsWatch websites (DS didn't know how to log into MathsWatch!) I'm trying to get a grip on what he is supposed to be doing. If there were a textbook like I had at his age/level, I could flip through to see where the class is and flip back to the point where DS seems to have lost track and then we could work through the difference over the half term, or at least attempt to. There are five assignments on Mathswatch and that is all there is. I assume his exercise book is supposed to contain the notes of the daily lessons but it doesn't. What is there is illegible chicken scratches.

I have also tried to figure out what he's doing in other classes. I'm not sure what he is doing in Science or History or Literature or Spanish. Again, textbooks would be helpful. Like, if the current Spanish chapter was dealing with a particular verb tense or whatever.

There are "resources" on the VLE and they link to various pdf's and scans of revision material.

Obviously, DS1 isn't exactly keen to fill me in on everything. We want to tackled maths, first, but I need to know what he's supposed to be doing in all the subjects and try to keep an eye on what he is doing. There doesn't seem to be an awful lot of homework. He's not being sent home with a page of quadratic equations to factor or whatever.

DS7 is in year 7 and I gather he's a keen student who is applying himself diligently so there's probably nothing crucial with him but I still wish I knew what they were doing!

What do I do? Where do I start?

OP’s posts: |
JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 21:35:24

*I meant to say that DS2 is in year 7. I don't have 7 sons!

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BartonHollow Thu 14-Feb-19 21:40:21

Can you make an appointment to see his HOY?

For your DS in year 10 he's in his first year of GCSEs but it's now numbers not grades

He'll be doing both coursework and work on the exams at the same time

There's different syllabus depending on the exam board used by the school

If you can find out the exam boards you can find out what he should be learning for that course quite easily through online or buy buying associated workbooks

Good Luck thanks

snozzlemaid Thu 14-Feb-19 21:42:10

If you can find out what exam board they will be taking their exams with you can buy revision guides. My dd had lots of AQA books which covered all of the topics and worked well for revision.

Judashascomeintosomemoney Thu 14-Feb-19 21:55:55

Is he at independent or state? Only asking cos no idea what an independent does but my DDs state school gave us a comprehensive list of text books that are required for GCSE courses so we could either buy or borrow. Sounds like you have a much more fundamental issue if he isn’t doing any of the required work though.

Ylvamoon Thu 14-Feb-19 21:58:17

Talk to him! My DD is in y10. And it is really tough going. Lots of tests to revise for and course work to complete.
There are moments when she is just overwhelmed with it all.
We have developed some good coping strategies including a weekly activity to help her relax.
I would also make appointments with all his teachers, and let them know that he is struggling.... and find says to help him.

Ylvamoon Thu 14-Feb-19 21:59:43

... Ways not says!!

AssassinatedBeauty Thu 14-Feb-19 22:12:33

As previous posters have said, if you can find out the exam boards for each subject then you can find out the syllabus he is supposed to have covered. You may well be able to work out from the VLE what they have covered so far. Then you can find the right revision guides or workbooks which should help.

See if you can speak to his teachers, at least for the core subjects ( English, Maths, Science), and ask them to go through the syllabus and indicate what has been covered to date.

JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 22:18:47

I have just sat with him and gone through his school bag. I have a better idea of what they do. He has the Maths GCSE revision guide(s) - 3 volumes. I will try to get more information on the other ones. I only just found out this afternoon that there are different exam boards and I am trying to Google with ones he will be taking with, but I'm not finding anything. I know that his maths books are published by Pearson and say "Endorsed for EdExcel"

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BartonHollow Thu 14-Feb-19 22:23:04

EdExcel is a Maths exam board
AQA is usually the standard for English

EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:26:56

Ok. Tutor here. You ( and he ) have got this. Don't panic!
Firstly. Ask the maths teacher if she would kindly provide the scheme of work for the maths they have covered so far this year. This is a summary of the topics they have done. Also check with her if your DS is being taught the higher or foundation syllabus and which exam board they use for maths. It sounds like they are doing the Edexcel ones. It isn't critical at this stage as for maths, the content of the syllabus is exactly the same for all the boards ( it is only the style and number of papers that differs.

AssassinatedBeauty Thu 14-Feb-19 22:28:13

EdExcel and AQA offer exams in all subjects, they're not just for specific subjects. There is also OCR as well.

JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 22:29:05

Unfortunately, his maths teacher is off sick since October. There's a maths teacher who teaches a couple of days a week and then there's a supply teacher the other three days. I did speak to him today and he wasn't very easy to communicate with (he talked over me, mostly repeating that he was only a part-time substitute and that my son wasn't doing anything. I will try again, armed with better questions.)

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EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:29:16

Then, cross reference the scheme of work given to you by the teacher with the revision books you have and you should know what he should have been learning in class. This will give you a starting point.

EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:31:18

The scheme of work should be available in school. Ask the head of maths or head of year if you don't get any joy from the teacher. The revision books may well say foundation or higher on them so that will answer that question for you.

JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 22:31:45

Yes AQA is recommended for the revision of Combined Science. I'm going to have to nail down every subject he's taking. It will be a while before we can afford to buy them all, anyway.

Apparently there is an English exam this summer, but he doesn't know if it's English Language or English Literature.

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EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:33:50

Ok. Then when you know what he needs to catch up on, you need to divide the task into 2 bits. Taking in and understanding followed by practice practice practice! To revise maths you need to do maths.

Alondonleerie Thu 14-Feb-19 22:34:48

Just ask the teachers which paper specifications he will be taking. There should be a lot of past papers kicking around which you may be able to have a look at. Ask which textbooks are being used if you need the detail, but revision books normally suffice. My daughter has her textbook online, so they don't have to carry them round for HW purposes. You can also search online for and purchase the syllabus, if it is not freely available. But that is also generally included in revision guides. You shouldn't need to ask the teacher to provide that.

JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 22:34:56

In maths he's on the "higher" whatever.

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JustGettingStarted Thu 14-Feb-19 22:35:49

What are "papers?"

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BartonHollow Thu 14-Feb-19 22:39:13

So for certain subjects usually Maths and Science they Set by Ability

Those in "Top Set" will sit a "higher" paper as opposed to "intermediate" or "foundation" if you are sitting a lower paper, you won't make the top grade but hopefully still get a pass.

EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:39:25

You can use quite a few free websites to help with the taking on and understanding. Mathswatch is one, lots of people like Khan maths and I particularly like CorbettMaths. They have little videos to watch to explain things.
Corbettmaths has also got a vast range of practice questions listed by topic that you can print out for him to practice. Most also have answers. There are also '5 a day worksheets' for different levels which are good for a quick practice of random topics. Start him on the foundation ones of these and move up if they are too easy!

titchy Thu 14-Feb-19 22:39:48

Past papers? Just exam papers from previous years?

BartonHollow Thu 14-Feb-19 22:40:00

The "paper" is just another term for exam booklet

EducatingArti Thu 14-Feb-19 22:40:37

Papers are the examination papers he will actually sit when be does his GCSEs

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