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Gifted teen, lazy as hell, would like teacher advise on how to push him

(43 Posts)
TheSunIsStillShining Tue 17-Nov-20 01:09:08

1. I need some practical advice and ideas on how to push my son to do better. He has ideas and plans, but he is as lazy as any normal teen. + added complication: because he is so bright he had never had to work for anything in terms of learning. Now he actually admits this and wants to build up a work ethic.** We need to build that. I don't want to break him by pushing too far, so asking advice from experience teachers on what works or not.

2. would need pro/con mostly from teachers on why you would or wouldn't push a gifted kid to do gcse/a-levels a year or 2 earlier if they were clearly capable of doing so.

Background (knowing myself it'll be long, sorry in advance)

I have a profoundly gifted 15 year old boy who is charming, lovely and an ass at the same time. So typical teenager in almost every way. No emotional barriers or developmental issues ever. We are a normal (i think) highly educated middle class family. Both me and my husband have multiple uni degrees in various subjects, but we are no brain surgeons (civil engineer and humanities subjects), so nothing extra here either.

Our kid is profoundly gifted in terms of academic stuff. He gets concepts sometimes before you finish the explanation and then can apply them as needed. He lost 1 mark on his mensa* test.
Because we believe that being very bright is a potential and not something that gives you a free pass, we have never put him on a pedestal or anything like that, he doesn't even consider himself to be way too bright. He sees that he is quicker than most, but doesn't really care. Doesn't see his talents.

He is in a private school where they say they are ahead about a 1 year of state schools. I have no way to verify as I have no other kid to use as a control group, but it doesn't seem like it

He is not attending school atm due to covid, but he is keeping up with the class and has his place.

My dilemma is that more and more it comes up in conversations with him that he is questioning the pace that they are at and is asking me if he could go faster and to help him. Until now they never saw the textbooks, got handouts for each part they were being taught. But now we had to buy all and he sees how slowly they are progressing. And as he has no irl interactions/distractions feels that it's very snail pace.

For obvious reasons he will not be sitting gcses in 2021, but he wants to work towards them as if he was. The issue might be though, that if he does that, what will he do next year in school?

Pls. don't suggest to talk to the school as we have had so many conversations about this with them. Their main argument is that they are not pushing him up one year group is because their syllabus is about enrichment. Imo it's bs. I think they should be pushing him to breaking point and not giving 80% on an essay where he even steers away from the actual task. I said that he will be lucky if he gets 50%, but what do i know...

I'm from another country, totally diff educational system where this would be treated very differently.

*yes, i know it's just one facet, don't want to over emphasize. He did it because he wanted to then totally dissed the invitation to join them smile

And it doesn't help that whenever/wherever I want to ask about this I get hit with the stealth boast comments. Being very bright or having a kid who genuinely is can actually be a pain in the arse when it comes to talking anything kid related almost.

**we want to support him as we fully agree. But we were the same and until uni neither of us had to actually study, ever. Meaning that we learnt the very hard way by flunking a semester each. So can only help him with grown up tips and not teenage things.

OP’s posts: |
BlackeyedSusan Tue 17-Nov-20 01:17:44

how about learning something else in addition to school work? another language? He can then develop study skills and work out how he learns best.

what do universities look for in addition to academics? what outside activities?

TheSunIsStillShining Tue 17-Nov-20 01:37:25

He is learning outside of school. German, drums and guitar. But so far all come easy and are for fun, so don't want to really push on that front.
HE has no idea which uni he wants to go, mostly -atm- it's MIT and Stanford. But I think MIT appeals because of it's prestige and Stanford because he saw my photos from last year when I went for a work trip and fell in love with California smile

OP’s posts: |
Nomaigai Tue 17-Nov-20 01:42:36

Can you change his school? How selective is it? One way of sorting this would be to make sure he's with a cohort of students where he's not that exceptionally bright. As PG he'll probably always be one of the top students but in some schools (thinking for example Westminster) he won't be the only one.

The problem with doing exams early is what comes after that? Some people push to college/university early but that is do much more than just an academic experience.

thirdfiddle Tue 17-Nov-20 01:53:17

School are right. Doing exam syllabus faster is not the way he's going to be challenged. It's just a larger quantity of easy stuff.

Finding the gcse courses easy gives him space. If he wants to get into a top university he's going to have to show commitment and interest in his subject way beyond the content of any school courses. Forget the gcse course, it's too easy and not relevant. Read around subjects he's interested in, try to find out more, find ways to push himself outside and beyond, maybe pick a specialism within the subject to investigate.

If he's doing a language for example, can he follow a radio station or podcast in that language, read a novel? Any of those would teach him more than next year's textbook. Maybe he will end up flicking through next year's textbook to find a verb tense - more likely he will take off with a dictionary and become a proper independent learner.

Or for something like history, there's so much he could read, digest, have opinions on.

More reading/listening around will help secure best chance of a good gcse grade but also help him investigate possible A-levels and beyond. And make him an independent thinker and learner.

Hercwasonaroll Tue 17-Nov-20 03:53:10

I think they should be pushing him to breaking point and not giving 80% on an essay where he even steers away from the actual task

This part of your attitude towards his education is unreasonable.

He definitely shouldn't be pushing for early entry either. Even though he's learning the syllabus, he will need teacher input to get those top grades and refine his, exam technique.

He will be missing the enrichment side of activities by not being in school. Nothing you can do about this really.

UKMT and nrich are good websites for maths. School are right that enrichment of subjects and depth of knowledge is what he really needs. Studying for the FSMQ may be an option for maths too.

borntobequiet Tue 17-Nov-20 04:30:29

Free courses in everything under the sun here
If he’s really that bright, he needs to find something that fires his imagination.

TrashedMammoth Tue 17-Nov-20 05:37:13

I'd get him doing some sort of research. Apply his knowledge etc.

That's what he will need to do in the future

Tackle stuff that's unknown.

Don't just learn the language, apply it in really hard situations. Translate something.

Look into creative stem stuff. How do OkGo make their videos and can he plan the times for his own?

TrashedMammoth Tue 17-Nov-20 05:40:52

Get him to learn about history methodology through some well known seminal works and see if he can apply it to certain topics.

A fried described a gardening/ botany course as "really hard core" due to the science involved; she had exams to do as well. Then he could earn some cash doing gardening? I think it was based in Edinburgh and is long distance currently.

endofthelinefinally Tue 17-Nov-20 05:48:26

I think bright kids need to find interesting, challenging things outside school. School work is just incidental to some clever children.
Learning another language, writing music, playing instruments, coding, doing an extra online course in something that interests them is better, IME. School work is very limiting and more of the same is just boring for some kids.

Athrawes Tue 17-Nov-20 06:09:08

School in the UK is about so much more than academic success. My guess from the cadence of your language is that you come from a country which has an extremely competitive education system where success is judged purely on exam grades?
Success in the UK and similar countries us judged on a studentb using their time in school to develop a more rounded personality. He should take advantage of wider opportunities, drama club, sporting experiences, volunteering in and for the community. These are experiences which will enrich his academic education, look great on his CV and expose him to a different group of people.
In lockdown what is he doing to help his community? Maybe he could offer online tutoring to local kids who are less advantaged than him, for free?
Get him to join Scouts and meet some people outside of his school friendship group.
If you are only interested in his academic success, sign him up for an Open University course in something that he isn't studying at school. If he is aiming for medicine, have him study history or art.

sashh Tue 17-Nov-20 06:17:26

He needs more breadth and, depending on how he is, social skills. Some very bright children do not know how to interact with their peers.

Some of David Crystals books would link well with language learning but also introduce him to linguistics.

For maths there are maths competitions he could enter, you could also get second hand OU books to work through. The OU also has some free resources.

Can he explain things to you? That's a really good skill to have and is something more than just doing a maths problem or writing an essay.

May be he could have a Youtube channel explaining things?

There is a company (sorry the name escapes me) that sends you clues to solve a crime, sort of like an interactive Cluedo but done via internet and post.

reefedsail Tue 17-Nov-20 06:21:05

Is he in Y9 or 10? I agree with PP, if he's in Y9 send him to a much more selective school.

reefedsail Tue 17-Nov-20 06:23:12

Also, if you are in the UK the schools are not closed. I'd definitely send him back.

bravefox Tue 17-Nov-20 06:38:03


Free courses in everything under the sun here
If he’s really that bright, he needs to find something that fires his imagination.

Was going to say this, but you have beaten me to it!

SansaSnark Tue 17-Nov-20 06:43:11

2. would need pro/con mostly from teachers on why you would or wouldn't push a gifted kid to do gcse/a-levels a year or 2 earlier if they were clearly capable of doing so.

Doing a GCSE or 2 early is no big deal but most unis want at least 3 A-levels taken in one sitting, and all A-levels have to be listed on UCAS. If he does one early, then the 3 A-levels later on, that's fine, but if he gets a rubbish grade, he still has to list it on his UCAS form, which might be a disadvantage when it comes to applying to uni.

I think there are other ways to stretch bright students without putting them in for exams early.

Pipandmum Tue 17-Nov-20 06:43:12

At 15 he must be Y11, and if in England should be taking his GCSEs this school year (unless born early in the year and has just turned 15 and in Y10?).
My daughter is in Y11 and a few friends have taken one or two gcses early (so in y10) - usually in their native language. They had to do the tuition in their own time. Another student decided to take one or two a year early 'for the challenge', also self taught.
But the facility to do that makes no difference if your son isn't motivated. You say he is lazy, yet he complains the class isn't moving fast enough. And if in a private school why no textbooks?
Surely he himself can only provide motivation to do extra work (or even the work required). He should be pushing himself - if he feels unchallenged then surely he is bright enough to find things that do challenge him? It doesn't matter how smart you are if you can't be bothered to exercise your brain - and that has to come from within, not from the school. But it does sound like he needs to be in a more selective school.

Piwlyfbicsly Tue 17-Nov-20 06:46:51

I don’t try to challenge that your child is so bright. But in our day and age the opportunities for learning and applying the knowledge OUTSIDE of school are endless. From free or paid courses to endless sources of information on pretty much every single thing he’d want to research. What is the issue? Why do you want him to start everything early or “push him to the breaking point”? My child is extremely bright in science related subjects, so he is reading a lot/researching some subjects that are 1/2 years groups higher. It doesn’t make me think of “pushing them to the breaking point”.

BefuddledPerson Tue 17-Nov-20 06:47:38


I think bright kids need to find interesting, challenging things outside school. School work is just incidental to some clever children.
Learning another language, writing music, playing instruments, coding, doing an extra online course in something that interests them is better, IME. School work is very limiting and more of the same is just boring for some kids.

I agree with this. If he can get A* without much work, he has the freedom to explore other things. So I would focus on the non-school.

Happiness is very important to all ability levels and intrinsic motivation is so much more valuable than extrinsic. So encourage him to find his own outside interests.

Mistigri Tue 17-Nov-20 06:48:00

It's hard to understand from your OP whether you are mainly worried about a "work ethic" or whether your main concern is to get ahead of the academic curriculum.

In my opinion concerns about work ethic in very bright kids are usually overdone. And it's not something that necessarily needs to be worked on by accelerating the school curriculum, because usually to provide a real challenge to exceptionally bright students you'd need to accelerate by more than a couple of years - which is generally not a good idea unless its completely student-driven (ie independent study) rather than parent driven.

My bright but certainly NOT profoundly gifted son was accelerated by a year at his (not in the U.K.) school but still coasted all the way through high school - in fact to be brutally honest in three years of high school I rarely saw him open a book at home. However, he did work very hard, consistently and spontaneously on a couple of activities that were outside the school curriculum: programming and music, two activities where a motivated teenager can make extraordinarily fast progress if they put in the hours (for eg DS did the equivalent of grade 8 in piano in a single year).

He learnt far more in terms of "study skills" from those two activities than he was ever going to learn at school.

He is now in higher education and work ethic really isn't an issue as he knows perfectly well when he needs to step up the effort in order to master something, and he has plenty of "stamina" built up from hours solving programming challenges or perfecting Chopin études.

Twizbe Tue 17-Nov-20 06:48:34

If he wants to go to uni in the states - tell him to get a part time job as his enrichment. Uni in America is EXPENSIVE, he could easily go to uni here so his desire needs to be paid for somehow. Getting a Saturday job in a supermarket etc will teach him a very different work ethic, social skills and highlight that sometimes it takes more than just brains. It will also allow him to save towards uni.

Other option would be to learn something practical. I've often found that highly academic people are a bit rubbish at practical things. Get him to learn how to cook, build a shed, iron etc

Graciebobcat Tue 17-Nov-20 06:49:05

Surely the whole point of going to private school is so that they can focus on the individual needs and know individually how to help him and get the best out of him? It doesn't sound like education worth paying for if they are not doing that and it isn't academic enough for him. In my area the grammar schools get better results than the fee paying schools.

TheSunIsStillShining Tue 17-Nov-20 09:17:01

Thank you everyone for your thoughts!

OP’s posts: |
mumonthehill Tue 17-Nov-20 09:27:55

He can learn things away from school and sit additional GCSEs as an independent candidate if he really wants to do more. My ds did extra GCSEs outside school. I would echo what others say that if he is bright then he should focus on the extras, such as a good work ethic, volunteering, learning skills. It is easy for bright kids to coast and my ds did this at a level and it was a shock to him in the end. However he is well read, well versed in politics etc these are excellent skills to have and a good basis for expanding his knowledge and experience of the world. Academic success is just one part of being successful.

HighRopes Tue 17-Nov-20 09:35:34

I’d be looking for a different school. IME, hitting university and then learning how to study is a real problem for DC like this, as both you and your husband found out. Better to move for A levels to a highly selective school where the pace is fast, they go above, beyond and around the curriculum for fun, and where the students are expected to also work hard at something else (music, sport, drama, whatever) as well as the academics.

You didn’t mention friendships - does he have friends? Because that will affect whether he wants to move, and he will need to want it and put the effort in if he’s to move to somewhere very selective. It might actually be the challenge he needs for this year, actually.

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