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I am a useless parent. How much 'extra' do you do with your child?

70 replies

tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 17:18

I am feeling a real failure - I really haven't done much 'extra' with ds1 outside school as regards academic work (he is Y2) and I think all his friends' parents have. We've obviously done his reading books and he is a good reader, but now I find the others have all been having coaching of one sort or another - some Kumon, some just extra work at home.

Now I feel like I've let him down - I've got him some workbooks which he loves doing (and tbh he HAS done this sort of thing before - the Gold Stars type) - he's doing the Letts ones. Dd is reception - should she be being coached???

I really don't like the idea of them having to work hard at home as well as school, but what REALLY worries me is that the 'coached' 'kumon' children are put in a higher group because they're naturally a bit further on, having had more teaching, and they then get stretched more, and ds1 misses out on what he COULD and SHOULD be doing.

Any advice? The G&T threads on here recently haven't helped either - really make me feel like I should be doing more for the kids. Their out of school activities tend to be gym, swimming, music etc.

OP posts:
motherinferior · 01/10/2007 21:06

I keep thinking I must find a Ballerinadancing class; at the moment DD1 does a danceish sort of class after school on a Thursday and swimming on a Sunday - DD2 has recently been so utterly terrified of the water that I'm going to give her a break. TBH I am much, much more concerned at this age about them doing physical stuff, and maybe music than anything academic. I want my girls to feel confident and happy in their bodies and to have that as a given, in order to lay a good foundation for the horrific potential of puberty and adolescence to ruin all that.

tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 21:34

marina, that all makes so much sense - and I do agree - what totally panics me every so often (like today ) is that actually it is the children of the pushy parents who DO do the best, because they get ahead, and then are stretched more by the school, and it's impossible for our normally bright but not pushed children to stay on terms. And I DO think it's good for the kids to be stretched in school, but I worry that ds1 in particular will 'do ok' when he should do better than ok, because he hasn't got all these extra skills gained by extra coaching...

does that make sense? Or am I wittering?

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seeker · 01/10/2007 21:39

But if all the coached ones are so far ahead, what are they going to do when they reach year 6 and they've done it all already? They can't move to secondary school earlier! You ds sounds fine - there is SOOOO much more to being 6 than school! So long as your ds is working and learning and enthusiastic (or reasonably so) about school, then I'd relax!

MorocconOil · 01/10/2007 21:49

Yes those poor children may be top of the class, but at what cost to them? The pressure to succeed must be immense. Where's the fun in just being a child? Would you really want that for your DC?

tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 22:02

no, I wouldn't. But it REALLY bugs me that my kids could lose out because others are being pushed.

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seeker · 01/10/2007 22:07

Why will he lose out? Won't he just be working at the level he's at? Or am I missing something?

snorkle · 01/10/2007 22:14

I suppose the all important question is: if you coach a young child like that, will they continue to stay ahead indefinitely or will things even out again once they stop the coaching? I suspect it's usually the later - in which case your ds will gain valuable playing time now and not lose out in the end.

Coaching at that age is best saved for kids that are struggling I think.

tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 22:15

seeker - I know he probably won't. What I mean is that if some children are working at an artificially raised level, they will be the ones to get stretched - and a 'bright' but not 'brilliant' child could be left to do 'ok' instead of 'well' - because the profile of the class is changed artificially. It's really hard to explain what I mean!

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tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 22:16

snorkle - playing is all to the good imo!

MI - your post earlier down was fantastic - that is so true for girls. I want to find either an Irish Dancing or Tap Dancing class for dd.

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kookaburra · 01/10/2007 22:18

I agree with previous posters that home is for playing, with or without friends.
They will have YEARS ahead of the rat-race -just let them be children!
I used to teach in Japan, and Kumon reminds me of the worst of the Japanese system of rote learning. Would never let the DC near it!

snorkle · 01/10/2007 22:22

A good teacher should stretch all the children. So you are concerned that say your child narrowly misses being on the top table (perhaps because some 'top table' seats are given to coached children) and so is top of the 'middle table', then they might not be stretched. I think a good teacher should gear the work being done on the tables to the abilities of the people on them so it shouldn't be a concern. However, possibly not all teachers do.

EmsMum · 01/10/2007 22:24

I'd rather have a relaxed kid than a stretched one twang....

Seriously - I don't understand parents pushing children in subjects which WILL be taught at school. Learning about - I dunno what they do in Kumon - decimals a term or a year ahead of their peers is really not going to make much difference once they hit secondary is it?

Gym, swimming, music - things which are either not done or not done enough in school are exactly the right things to spend some of their precious time on. The rest - read, watch, play and mootch.

Marina · 01/10/2007 22:24

Tortoiseshell, honestly, the teachers see straight through this sort of parent-driven pushiness.
IME they'll hand out extra reading books etc for the sake of the child, but it is not a calling-card to success at 11 plus.
So, if a child seems to be doing well at all these extracurricular activities, there is a good chance that this is superficial and in no way related to capacity for independent thought and learning.

Skribble · 01/10/2007 22:26

I don't do academic extras with kids but they do other stuff like scouts. brownies, dance, drama etc etc. I think these kinds of things are good to develop all their skills.

I did consider axtra tuition for DS 2 yrs ago as he was struggling with maths, but the teacher he got the next year was fantastic and something clicked.

I think unless they have a specific problem leave them to work at the level they are at but encourage and ensure all homework done to best ability.

Marina · 01/10/2007 22:26

But actually, having posted that, I do understand your concerns. Easy for me to say - we betrayed our roots and went for the non-selective independent route we were so concerned about the excessive cramming that goes on round our way for 11 plus in the state sector

NKF · 01/10/2007 22:27

I think it's good to encourage children in their interests. But I've noticed that if a child's interests are academic, the parents are labelled pushy. If it was football classes, it would be seen as positive.

MorocconOil · 01/10/2007 22:28

I have thought the same with my DS1. I know if we made him do extra work he would be under so much pressure and this would make him unhappy. Instead he spends his time pottering, playing, thinking, watching TV but not feeling pressurised. He knows we want him to try his hardest at school and that's enough pressure for a 7 year old.

He may not be top of the class, but he's doing well, and I am proud of him for trying hard.

jodie84 · 01/10/2007 22:30

My dd has only just started school, but I wasn't intending to do anything extra with her

Marina · 01/10/2007 22:33

NKF, but, there is a big difference IMO between eg taking your ds to see Roman villas, starting Minimus with him, because he's really interested in Ancient Rome, and bombarding a preschooler with flashcards so that it can't help being able to read fluently at four, before Reception starts.
I've said we don't do much with the dcs that I consider "pushy", but dh and I both have a keen interest in history, the arts etc, so it's inevitable that our family time and outings reflect our natural interests. It's the artificiality that's the worry - a bit like growing lettuces in nitrate soup

Skribble · 01/10/2007 22:35

NKF thats true as well, I suppose it all depends on what the child is actually interested in. Fine line between encouragment and pushyness.

Bink · 01/10/2007 22:37

My two (ds 8-and-a-half, dd nearly-7) have just stopped doing Kumon (ds English, dd maths) - we started it for similar reasons to Jellyhead (& for ds), & it seems to have broken ds's logjam about writing. So it was definitely remedial rather than stretching.

In fact we stopped it partly because the "rote-ness" of it was taking over & I thought it might be squashing their original thinking. (Not likely, really, with my two who have never struggled in the originality dept, but that's a separate story.)

We do do lots of extra stuff at weekends, partly because I work too much & want to do things with them whenever I can, but also because galleries/theatres/outings etc. etc. are just such fun with them now. It's not about coaching, it's about seeing life & culture through their eyes. Eg I went with ds to the Wellcome Collection on "The Heart" and we both had a fantastic time. We're going to Paris at half-term and I can't wait to do Arts et Metiers with them.

Separately, I completely whole-heartedly agree with MI about physical things - ds does an after-school sports club (which is, in fact, overtly remedial) and dd does ballet. Both do swimming. The importance of yer gross motor/motor neurone development thing seems to be the huge advance nowadays in understanding child development.

singersgirl · 01/10/2007 23:12

Every house I go to seems to have workbooks lying around. If they are anything like my house, most of them are empty. I think the whole 'child rearing' and education industry feeds people with the fear that they need to 'do more' with their children - I don't think you could even buy workbooks when I was a child, but every petrol station sells them now. Every book shop has shelves of 'Help your child with this and that' and 'Read at home' etc.

I started DS1 on Kumon maths last term when he was nearly 9 to see if it would help with concentration. It has worked as far as that goes, though it is very dull rote learning.

Other than that, my boys do swimming, after-school drama and karate, and DS1 plays the trumpet.

singersgirl · 01/10/2007 23:15

And of course the Kumon is partly for 11+ purposes, as at least 2 of DS1's best friends had started it in the course of the previous year. Then, like TortoiseShell, I got twitchy and began to think I was letting him down because he wasn't getting the extra....And so the cycle continues.

tortoiseSHELL · 01/10/2007 23:58

Have been trying to rationalise my thoughts.

Here is my problem - I feel that every teacher will have a mental 'profile' of the class - the bright ones who need stretching, the ones who need extra help and the middling ones. And I worry that my children who are bright, but not brilliant will not be stretched to their full potential, as they will be 'pushed' into that middle section of the class which will do 'ok'. And that would be fine if that were where they really were, but I suspect that lack of 'coaching' for want of a better word might push them there. And it's all very well saying 'they will have a happier childhood' but as marina says, the stress of secondary school is ALREADY looming, and our schools are NOT good. And I want them to feel excited about school, and learn what it's like to work hard and achieve, not to coast along in the middle, which is certainly what I worry ds1 might do - he'll do ok without much work, but could do much better with a bit of stretching.

Does that make more sense?

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ChantillyLace · 02/10/2007 00:20

LMG - my style of teaching! I do loads with dd3 and did with dd1 & 2 but make sure it's stuff they hardly notice so they're having loads of fun too! Like the water play (and can be done with sand), playing with scales in kitchen and weighing things and baking and making things and walks in the parks at all times of year to note the differences and collect things to make seasonal picures with, counting with money in shops blahblahblah! Telly is for the evenings when she chills before bedtime. We do trips to the zoo and local garden centres to see the fish and reptiles and then finding out about them, 'spot the ........' games in the car on long journeys, etc and other things I can't bring tomind cos it's late and I need my bed!!!

Now not sure what my point was to begin with!!!!

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