Homework in High School

Parent Q&A

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  • My husband and I have been going crazy, trying to get our 14 year old daughter (freshman in high school) to write down her homework assignments every day in class.  She is extremely resistant to this idea for some strange reason. 

    She has 4 classes; has 3 A's and 1 B on her report card, so she's doing well in school but there have been occasions where she didn't turn in homework because she "forgot" about the assignment or didn't realize it was due that day. 

    I purchased a few of those tiny notepads with the spiral thing at the top and she's been reluctantly using one of them but I have to ask her every single day to write it down.  I wonder if I should let it go...am I fretting about something unnecessarily? 

    How do other people's kids track their homework?  Or do they even do that?

    This is the perfect example of a manageable challenge that your teen needs to master herself to help her to prepare for life on her own one day. Let it go and look at it as an opportunity for her to develop some organization skills of her own. She is clearly doing pretty well! She is 14 and should be responsible for all her own homework. I don't even think you should ask about it. Instead, think about the fact that she will go to college in 4 years!! Keep focused on making your relationship good and strong. Be the support she needs, keep the communication open, give her unconditional love. Don't nag about homework. 

    Both my kids struggled with this to varying degrees (we're almost done with high school fortunately), and it was quite frustrating as a parent because I would see what could have been an A turn into a B because of not turning in HW. We're in SF so systems may be different but all the HW assiignments should be listed on line, however not all teachers are good about that. Also if they write the HW on the whiteboard a lot of teachers nowadays allow the kids to take out their phones at the end of class and photograph this although why this is better than writing it in your notebook is beyond me. Taking notes is a super important skill for high school and college that may be hampered by excessive orientation to devices. But the bottom line is, when your kid develops her own motivation to do her best in school, she will get it.

    This sounds frustrating for you, I'm sorry.

    If your school has an online grade book, most high schools do, this can be an excellent tool for tracking assignments.  Caution: avoid obsessing - use for a once a week check in at most, let your teen manage it day to day.
    Many high schools also hand out paper planners at the beginning of the year (a little late for that this year, but keep in mind for next).
    There are also a number of mobile phone apps for tracking assignments which your teen may be more willing to use than a paper planner or notebook.

    High school is the time for teens to take responsibility for themselves and gain increasingly more independence.  It's common for even the strongest students to miss or forget assignments occasionally.  I high recommend not getting into a power struggle over this.  It make take your daughter seeing the consequences of her decisions to change.  I say this having two high schoolers - one highly independent, organized, and motivated; the other the complete opposite with ADHD to boot.  After years of scaffolding the challenging one, he became resistant. I backed off, his grades dropped dramatically.  Ours is a far end of the spectrum situation, and resulted in move to a better fit school when my teen now accepts the support of an academic coach for these types of things.  If done lovingly but firmly, most teens will learn from consequences experienced from the real world (school and dropping grades), much better than from parents (home and nagging and/or "consequences").

    I highly recommend  "The Blessings of a B-".

    Take a deep breath. Your role is now to counsel (not manage) your teen.  Good luck.

    I think you should let it go. Your daughter has great grades so she is obviously doing fine. Freshman year is a big transition and this is how she learns, by making mistakes. Your daily reminders are stressing her out. My daughter is also a freshman and I never check her assignments or grades before they are final, which are all online for me to see if I want to.  Y'all are doing great!

    Hi, there. I don't know how your daughter's school approaches this, but in Berkeley each student is provided with planner at the beginning of the school year, starting in middle school. They have all the school holidays printed in, are laid out for the week, with a section on each day for each period, plus handy tables, contact information, and student artwork. At Berkeley High, parent donations (via BHS Development Group) pay for every student to get a planner. By the time high school rolls around, a planner is a necessary item these days. If the school doesn't provide one, I would buy one for her, and I would approach your school's PTA and other leadership to discuss how important this is for student success. I hope this helps!

    My son was terrible about this - he either wanted to rely on his memory (maybe) or (I think more likely) he wanted to forget about the assignment because he didn't want to do it.  Unlike your daughter, he had Bs and Cs because he would also forget about tests.  I looked up his homework online every day and bugged him about it, for a long time, which I now regret doing because I think it hampered rather than helped his development of skills in this area.  After a year of managing everything on his own at college, he is now MUCH better about remembering and managing deadlines. He still doesn't really like to write stuff down, though.  Maybe suggest that she send herself a text message at the end of class with the assignment? Somehow using one's phone is more palatable to a teen. They seem to hate paper a LOT. 

    My 8th grader reluctantly writes down some of his assignments in a planner that pretty much everyone in the school has (school sold them for $8 at the start of the year). Teachers are good about telling kids to write down assignments though it still doesn't always take. When he forgets to turn in an assignment and then gets an 80% instead of 100%, I talk to him about how sad it is that he missed out on all those easy points because he forgot to turn in the assignment on time. It seems to be slowly helping the forgetting. I'm not sure he'll ever remember to write down most of his assignments. I'm okay with it because he generally doesn't forget to do his assignments, just occasionally forgets to turn them in.

    Honestly, if I want compliance on something, the only way I know I will get it is if I tell him I will take away his phone if he doesn't do it. If your daughter were my child and I really wanted to make sure she were writing down all her assignments, I would check her notebook every night and if she didn't write down her assignments or turned in something late, I would take away her phone for 24 hours. It doesn't seem like this rises to the level of her needing to do that though since she is doing relatively well in school.

    My daughter, high school senior, has used a weekly planner notebook since 7th grade. In her public middle school the weekly planner system was required and each teacher would check to make sure the students were writing down each assignment and due date. This fortunately got my daughter in excellent planning habits. I recommend trying this out to see if it helps.

    I sympathize! My kid has never used the BUSD-provided tracking calendar, even in middle school when his teachers actively encouraged the habit. He's a junior now at BHS, and still way off in organizational skills, but is very slowly improving. He has a tutor, Kevin Arnold https://www.berkeleyparentsnetwork.org/recommend/org/kevin-arnold, who has worked with him for a couple of years on both writing and organization. He's been a good support system, but it's been slow, as my son is pretty resistant to change. I agree with a few earlier posters that constantly nagging your kid can easily end badly, especially if they are [as mine is] not at all interested in parental 'advice'. We've tried having him take a picture of whiteboards, asking teachers to send weekly assignments via email, special 'turn-in' folders, sitting at the front of the class... all without much success. Our system now is that when he has a certain number of missing or zero point assignments that are detrimental to his overall grade in the class, and the grade is still down after 2 weeks, he loses internet access until the assignments are taken care of or the grade improves. So far, it's worked better than anything else we've tried. We don't argue about it as much [it can be really hard for me to stay quiet about stuff!], and he seems to recognize that he is responsible for getting his online access back. He has talked with his teachers about his problems with losing and forgetting assignments, and all but one allow him to turn things in a little late. And I'm not super strict about it; if he puts in a great effort on something and it shows, I'll turn the router back on for a bit. I think he needs to see that even small steps in the right direction help a lot. Good luck. 

    It's been many years since my daughters were at Berkeley High, but one of the tools they used (just prior to the advent of a google or outlook calendar) was the Organizer, a date-book, spiral bound paper planner where they could write their assignments, deadlines, notes, etc. It is a habit that stays with them to this day, despite their hot phones. OK, there were social notes, TV and movie lists, and non-school activities, but colored pencils, stickers and highlighters enlivened the entries. The Organizer was distributed to each student and it was a common habit for many students. Their book, their responsibility, their habit. And if they failed to meet a deadline or turn in an assignment, their failure. I think the teachers were in on the gig too - reminding students to write it down. High school is the time for students to get with the program, develop the habit. Gosh, I've used that word four times!

    Ask her what would help her keeping track of homework.  Maybe a notepad is not the best tool for her, I hated those myself.  She might prefer a calendar planner or an app.  There are some amazing apps now that link to a program on your desktop and to your calendar.  If she has a smartphone and uses its calendar function it should be pretty seamless to incorporate school assignment into it.  It is great skill to develop for college too.  I would not do the monitoring for her but get her the tools that work for her to help her keep track of them herself.  

    We have the exact same struggles with our son who is a 9th grader as well.

    I know that he has aptitude for being organized based on how he approached his work in elementary school up thru 6th or early 7th grade, but it has been downhill since then culminating in many missing HW assignments and a project by the end of 8th grade.  His middle school really emphasized the use of daily planners so we let him try to figure out how best to use it to keep himself organized for most of those years.  But after so many missing assignments in 8th grade, we instituted a no-tolerance policy for missing HW's in 9th grade by the end of a grading period, or there would be serious consequences.  

    My husband and I have always emphasized best efforts, and not grades, but that is so subjective and hard to judge.  But, I explained, one clear indication of best effort is 100% success rate with take home assignments.  At a minimum, he needs to keep track of and do those assignments.  Fortunately (for all of us), he got the message and figured out how to stay on top of most due dates, largely in his head -- while there were a few hustles to work out a missing assignment here and there with his teachers (and a missed orthodontic appointment!), he has managed to keep his official HW record in perfect order.

    One last thing I'd say about pushing him to use a planner -- he has a full extracurricular life with sports and music but I've told him that I believe that he could use help not just with keeping everything organized on a daily basis but with being able to plan ahead for quizzes, tests or other major assignments.  He did very poorly on a test recently because he had only started studying the night before.  So with 3+ weeks left for school, we are now requiring him to pick any calendar system and (with my initial help) use it to map out what he will need to do to prepare for all of the last quizzes, tests, projects and final exams.  He may not end up liking whatever system he chooses but he can start something new in 10th grade.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Homework loads for various high schools?

Sept 2014

I have been reading about the large amounts of homework that children are getting in school and wondering how much is assigned by different college prep schools. If you have a moment to write in with your experiences (if your child was doing college prep, as that is the case we are wondering about) that would be great. We are wondering about the schools listed below, in particular. And the specific question is how much homework is there on average, i.e. how much a night/week? I've been reading that even in the past 5-6 years that the amount of homework given has ramped up drastically, across the board, so experiences from the mid 2000's are probably not relevant. If you have compared any of these, even better! If there is one you really like that doesn't have much homework, it would be great to hear about it also (my question is for a child with many outside interests).
looking ahead

Maybeck Sophomore Parent here -- in our experience, the homework load at Maybeck has been manageable. My daughter is bright and a diligent worker and generally manages to handle the work load without major drama. Every Maybeck student has a free period in their schedule, and she takes advantage of that time to get work done. She has a very heavy extracurricular schedule -- often at rehearsals for 3-4 hours every weeknight and all day Saturday, but she has become an excellent time manager and can get her work done without working all night. I hear the work load increases as the kids age, but so far so good. Maybeck Mom

My child just graduated from Lick-Wilmerding this year, and I can't say enough good things about the school. As for your specific question about homework load, I think that the school does a great job of providing a very rigorous academic environment and challenging classes without burning out the kids. One key is the block system. Classes meet every other day for longer periods. Teachers love this because they have more sustained teaching time with fewer transitions for getting to and from class, packing up books, collecting assignments, etc. My student liked it because on any given day there were only 3-4 classes where homework or tests were due. He got excellent grades, played sports and took a very challenging course load, but never did things like stay up past midnight on school nights.

We visited several high schools and Lick really stood out as a place where they value learning as opposed to achievement. One school in particular seemed all about their stats: how many kids scored 5s on the AP tests, how many got into Ivies. Bleah. Lick is where they talk about what the kids can do when they graduate: write a 5-page paper in Spanish on the Cuban embargo, make a table, conduct high-level physics experiments and explain them. Some kids are burned out by the time they get to college. Lick kids are fired up and ready to go. Lick Parent

I had two kids go through College Prep (one graduated in 2009, one in 2013). Neither found the homework load crushing. The older kid was not super engaged and did the minimum to get Bs. The younger one was completely engaged, loved the academic environment, and did much more work. But he is pretty sharp and was efficient -- e.g., he always finished his math homework in the time the teachers gave to start homework in class, and he is a very fast reader so he could whip through reading. With that, he estimates he did 1.5-2 hours/night -- more when projects or papers were due. That is probably on the low side. He says some of his friends put in 3+ hours/night.

A lot depends on what style student you have. College Prep kids are all really smart, but even among them there are kids who can whip through stuff that comes harder to others. If your student is a grinder, who spends a lot of time to master material and get tasks finished, the homework load may be very heavy. If your student is efficient and masters new material easily, it's not bad at all. Mom of Big Guys


Need suggestions about 14 yr old Who Doesn't Like to do Homework

July 2012

I am a single mom with a very intelligent 14 year old daughter with ADD who doesn't like to do homework. She is talented in so many ways - beautiful voice, spectacular athlete, very mature socially, recognized as being intelligent and capable of very good grades, and beautiful. However, every semester starts the same way. She begins the semester working diligently. By the third week, she decides that homework is not necessary. She then lies to me and says that she is doing her homework and turning it in when she is not. Finally, after numerous confrontations, I put on the brakes and curtail social activities and Facebook. She begins working and gets on the honor roll by skin of her teeth. As she will be entering 9th grade, I need to put an end to this self-defeating, high maintenance behavior. It is wearing me out. Any suggestions short of expensive therapy are welcome.

I, too, had a homework-hating ADDish kid a few years ago. One thing that helped was hiring a ''homework helper'' -- a slightly older high school girl who came to our house two or three days a week for a couple of hours. They would sit down together, get organized, and actually get some work done. It's much much cheaper than tutoring -- I think I paid $10/hour. My daughter didn't really need tutoring, she just needed someone to keep her focussed and motivated. It also lifts the pressure off the parent -- you can stay out of it. If your daughter says she doesn't have any homework, well she and her ''helper'' can sit together and review, or read ahead, or just chat. The point is to have the structure, which then becomes routine. Once the routine becomes habit, the kid can become her own Helper. No more homework wars!

Teenager lying about homework

Oct 2011

I know I'm not the only one out here dealing with this, but I am at such a loss I would love to hear from you and know how others handle it. My nephew moved in with me in Jan, and we just moved to Berkeley, where he now attends BHS. He is a smart kid, but is a terrible student by virtue of just blowing off homework or failing to turn things in. We have talked about it, I've helped him, gotten him help, sought out the counselor, emailed all his teachers. But the bottom line is, as soon as I stop policing him, he stops working and just lies that he has done the work and doesn't need help. I love him, want to see him do well, and need him to understand that you can't just float through life. School/homework is his job right now, and he needs to do it! This is about personal responsibility, and fairness to those around you who are working hard to support you.

He lives with me because him mom (my sister) died when he was 8, and he wants to know his blood family better now that he is older. He came to live with us at my invitation. I am a single mom with a younger child, so I am not primed for dealing with teenager issues. Because of geographic distance, I've had nothing to do with raising him for the past 8 years, saw him only during the summers. So I'm stepping in late and trying to redirect him. His guardian did not support him academically, or discipline him much at all. I know that his hatred of school has to do with losing his mom and having to go back to school immediately, but beyond identifying this and trying to address it I can't do that grief work for him. He's not ready to do it. The fact remains that he has two years left of school, and needs to get through them. The bigger picture though is becoming responsible for himself, not relying on others to take care of him or bail him out.

I have tried to avoid punitive measures, because I don't find them to be effective. However, the x-box was gone weeks ago, the laptop is mine as of this morning. The phone is next. I'm out of ideas and don't have much of a support network here myself. Any feedback would be appreciated. out of ideas

Oof, I feel for you. We became surprise foster parents to a 13-year-old last year. He has a lot of behavioral issues and after an extensive psychological eval, has been diagnosed with PTSD, grief and depression. We learned rapidly, as you did, that he wasn't doing his homework, or wasn't doing it well, and that it was very hard to motivate him. Like a lot of kids who have been neglected and abused, he didn't care about anything, so threats to take away his new computer were met with sullen ''okay, do it'' answers.

Your nephew might not think he can skate through--he may not have the skills, he may have learning issues, he may be too depressed or too grieving to function. It's hard to know what's really going on in his head, isn't it?

So what can you provide? Rules, consistency, structure. A few ideas based on what eventually worked for us:

* Find something that's an incentive. For us, it's online video game time. We set a weekly limit, and subtract or add time as a reward for good behavior. When you find it, work it.

* Expect to be on the homework permanently. Consider getting after-school tutors for M-Th--we scheduled ours for 1-2 hours per afternoon. We used a county-provided tutor, a relative, and a friend to cover 4 days/week. The burden of homework arguing then shifts to the tutors' shoulders--and your nephew will probably behave better for them. Set up whatever systems you can with the teachers so that you know his standing at all times and what assignments are coming up. If you know there's an essay due on Friday, there's less to discuss.

* Try to stick with the natural consequences attitude. ''Oh dear, you didn't do your essay this week and it's due Monday, so you have to stay in this weekend and do it. That's too bad. Maybe next time you can plan differently.''

* If behavior is a problem, try small consequences. We finally started using 1-2-3 magic practices (good for our 4-year-old) on our teen. ''Okay, I asked you to stop doing that. That's 1. You're still doing it, that's 2. Okay, you did it again, that's 3, take a time-out in your room.'' Better than taking away large items, grounding him off the computer for the day, etc. this is way harder than we expected, too

* Emphasize your house, your rules. Phrase things positively: ''in our house, we take care of our responsibilities, which includes homework.'' Don't get into a lot of arguments about it. If he persists, say you're done talking about it and walk away. Use 1-2-3 if he continues.

* Get a therapist for him. I hope there's some funding for this, perhaps from the guardian. Look for a good one (our first one was useless) who specializes in your nephew's issues. You can make going to therapy a requirement of living with you.

* If there's funding, consider psychological testing to clarify what's going on with him. They can test for learning disabilities, strengths, grief, etc.

Your love and attention can be a powerful incentive for him to do better. You must matter to him or he wouldn't ask to live with you. Use that as leverage. You will live up to his expectations (be loving, kind, maternal, safe) but he must live up to yours (taking care of his responsibilities, trying hard, etc.).

This is worth it. It's only two more years. Hang in there. And ask the moderator for my email if you'd like to chat. this is way harder than we expected, too

You might consider seeing attachment therapist Virginia Keeler-Wolf (510-339-9363). Even a few sessions might help with perspective on how to address this time period with your nephew. We have very similar issues with our adopted daughter and find Virginia's assistance invaluable. Sounds like you are on the right track. parent of 15 year old

I battle the same problem with my high school freshman, and am stressed constantly by the need to be so vigilant. I'm also a single mom with a couple of other demands on my time:) One thing that has been working is that there is a requirement that my son spend one hour a day EVERY day (weekends included) on study. If there is homework to do-- that's what gets done. If not, then surely there is some reading, vocab review, work on a long-term assignment...The idea is that there is no way out of that hour, so he might as well put it to good use. Helen

I'm not a psychologist, but I think you both need to get to a counselor, together would be best, and open up the communication lines. He's on a different wavelength than you, that's obvious. He would be under normal circumstances, solely because of his being a teen-age boy, but there's all this other, unfortunate background life history of his that has created what you are now dealing with. You are a saint to take him in and invest so much emotional effort to help him out -- maybe when he's 50, he'll understand and appreciate that. In the meantime, he's got a lot of problems through no fault of his own. I say you should bring his favorite pizza home for dinner, then after he's had some, explain (again, I'm sure) that you love him and want to help him, and are just as frustrated as him, and would he agree to go with you to a counselor or someone trained to deal with these situations, because you feel you both need a fresh approach. You took on a lot and I salute you. Good luck. Wishing your nephew the best in life

From my experience as a parent and teacher, I think many teens do need an adult to help them keep track of all the assignments. They look all grown up but they don't think like adults. Either you can sit down with your nephew for an hour or so a day and help him keep it organized, and do some of the homework; or you can hire a tutor. Taking things away is unlikely to lead to homework completion; instead consistent monitoring leads to finishing homework. If his guardian hasn't been helping him academically all along, you could think of him as having the homework habits of a much younger child, and needing an adult to help him learn to structure work completion. In the long run you will have done him a great service if you can put in the time, or hire someone to put in the time with him. I do my own paperwork alongside my teen, not a a punitive thing, but just to help us both get done what needs to get done. It actually turns into reasonably good time together, and I hear about my teen's day and classes. a teacher

Getting my 15 yr old son to do his homework

Oct 2010

Does anyone have advice on how to get my son to do his homework? School has barely started and he is already failing every class due to not doing the home work and/or class work. He likes his school and has a good attitude most of the time. However, he stays up late and is difficult to get up in the am in order to get to school. Then I find out that he is only doing a fraction of the assignments. All he wants to do is skateboard, eat, text and go on facebook. Suggestions??

We had a similar issue with our daughter. The problem was too many distractions and too much texting. Our solution has been to talk to her about it, and about how her grades had declined. That she had to take things more seriously. That her grades had fallen and needed to rise back up.

We also cut down on the number of scheduled, and un-scheduled, activities she had. This included things like gymnastics and ''study dates'' which turned out to not be that at all.

We enforced. Phone calls, texting does not happen until homework done and checked.

Fourth, more involvement in her homework.

All of the above involved nagging and only a percent of it helped, and at first, much of it was resented. Overall, it has and has re- instilled the importance of this. And she is getting better feedback from teachers and from us. sam

I would cut out the activities that are wasting time like texting and Facebook. I can't think of a good reason why a teenager needs a Facebook account. Get him a dumb phone that doesn't do texting. Or just take away his phone until his grades are up.

I would say no skateboarding or other extraneous activities unless his grades are up.

I would arrange a conference with his teachers and ask them for advice.

Here is a book we've used: ''Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager'' by John Rosemond

Here is the amazon listing: http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Proofing-Fostering-Responsible-Decision-Teenager/dp/0740710214

Some quotes:

''Short of solitary confinement, you can't guarantee that a teen won't use drugs, shoplift, drink or crash the car. In the final analysis, teens must protect themselves.''

''He offers a compelling alternative by urging parents to be 'mentors, who realize they can control the parent-child relationship, but not the child.'''

That is so true. You can only really control the parent-child relationship with a teenager. Read through the comments from parents on Amazon. They are very interesting. Ultimately it is up to him to do it. Good Luck. Parent of Teens

Teens can have a really hard time managing the distractions that are constantly available to them. It helped our son to take the distractions away so that he could focus on his work.

Our rule at home is that you can't do the fun stuff (text, Facebook, video games) until your homework is done. We installed SafeEyes, a computer program that blocks access to the internet. Parents can control which sites are allowed or prohibited. We won't turn on Facebook and youtube until the homework is done. If texting is abused, then ask him to turn over his phone until homework is done.

This approach has worked well with our teen, who is now a senior and has really learned how to get his work done without supervision from his parents. We don't need to manage his internet access and phone any longer. Good luck. Anon

I have a 15-year old son too. I put a filter on his computer. I know it is harsh but I used k-9 which is free and as long as he can't get onto your email it should work (you can always set up a separate yahoo email acct for it). You can ban Facebook and whatever else you want (I ban porno). My son asked me to ban utube videos as he was getting distracted by them. Have him sit where you can see him and take away the phone until the homework is done. I don't know what school he goes to but if the homework is posted online, then look at it every day, if not, get in touch with the teachers and find out how often they give homework and what you can do. Don't listen to him when he says he doesn't have any if they say he is supposed to. You have to be a little harsh. You could even take away the cell until his grades come up. If you want to talk to me abut it you can email me. kr

Skateboarding, texting, and facebook are privileges. Have your son show you his HW before he does any of it. If you work and get home too late for him to skateboard, he can do it on the weekend (provided he did his HW). You need to set priorities and decide what is important. YOU are the parent

Wow, I don't want to sound like John Rosemund, but the solution to this one seems obvious, if painful to me: take away the phone and the computer until he is getting whatever you deem the minimum GPA to be. And I hope you have made it clear that he better have some sort of life plan for after he finishes high school other than camping out on your couch for the rest of his life. don't be afraid to be tough

How about trying this:
- get home ealrier in the afternoon, so you can help him get started on his homework.
- have a set of rules: Can't do facebook, text or skateboard until homework is done.
- must show you what homework is due the next day and what longer term assignments he has.
- Set up consequences: If homework isn't kept up with, then computer, phone and/or skateboard will be taken away for ''x'' days
- If he gives you a hard time about it, then computer, phone or skateboard will be taken away for the rest of the evening.
- no texting, computer, etc after ''x'' time at night - 9 pm? - on school nights.
- set up the computer so that you can keep an eye on his use (walk by and be able to see screen), and be able to have it turned off by ''x'' hour on schoolnights.
- If he gives you a hard time about leaving the hosue for school by time ''x'' then there will be similar consequences. (but if he skates to school, you probably don't want thim to not have his board.
- see if there is a place afterschool where he can get tutoring and homework help as he may be newly challenged with this year's work.
- hang in there and get his pattern changed now.
- good luck. anon mom

Your letter sounds like many of the letters I receive. Has your son ever been evaluated for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Primary Inattentive Type)? If you're interested, just drop me a line at michael [at] practicalhelpforparents.com and I'll send you the latest Practical Parent newsletter which covers this topic and behavior similar to what your son is demonstrating. Many thanks! Michael

We took a whole different approach with our extremely bright, ADHD, ''quirky'' son. He was miserable in high school, thought his classes were a waste of time, didn't see the point of homework. . . He took the CHSPE, got the equivalent of a high school diploma, and is happy now taking classes that he finds meaningful at a community college. Hard as it is to go against popular advise, we decided that for him, trust was more important than sanctions. He says taking away his computer and phone wouldn't have accomplished anything anyway. He'd read more books and we would not be able to contact him. Now, unlike last year when he was in high school, he is happy to spend time with us, both at home and going out. We let him be him and it's working for us. Relieved mom of a happy teen

14-y-o spends hours on homework, not getting enough sleep

Dec 2008

Homework and Bedtime Help: Problem 1: My 14-year-old, 9th grade son, wastes countless HOURS on his homework every day! He often doesn\x92t understand the work, but usually won\x92t ask me for help or let me help him. Even when he accepts help, he isn\x92t attentive or assertive enough to get it done in a timely manner. Problem 2: He also takes an hour or more to get ready for bed, which occurs whether or not he has been doing homework or another activity. My son is chronically exhausted from getting minimal sleep and is exhausted every day in class. (I\x92m exhausted too, but whatever.) Problem 3: My son can\x92t get up or get ready for school on time and is tardy for school EVERY day (and getting later every week). The school administration is very concerned about his fatigue, study habits, grades, and attendance, as am I. My son\x92s grades are far from what they need to be (2 D\x92s). He has an IEP, but it was recently determined that he doesn\x92t have a learning disability anymore). I used to think that my son had ADD, but have decided that it is probably more just a lack of interest and motivation in academics (and life in general outside of electronics), social anxiety and passive aggressive stuff. These are chronic, lifelong problems. I have tried countless measures, both positive and negative, but NOTHING has ever worked. Please share any and all solutions and ideas!! amy

You might try hiring a ''homework helper'' to come to your house and sit with your son a few times a week while he does homework. It's not exactly tutoring, more like coaching, encouraging and supervising. I did this with my daughter for a while, she is borderline ADD and profoundly uninterested in academics. We hired an older high school kid (Albany H.S. has a list of available tutors) and it helped for a while. As for the fatigue, tardiness, etc. you might approach it the way you would with a young child with sleep issues -- soothing bedtime rituals, a regular routine, maybe even rewards for going to bed on time? anon

That sounds really hard, and the subject resonates with me because I have a teen son who also takes a long time to do his homework, get ready for bed, and get ready for school. Here are some of the ways that I have dealt with it. First, he has a firm bedtime of 10:00 on school nights. I believe strongly that sleep is important to teens' ability to deal with school and life, and I want to make sure he gets enough. If he knows that his lights have to be off at 10, then he can't waste as much time on homework and getting ready for bed.

The fact that your son is late for school every morning means that this is an option for him. My son would be late, too, except that I have to get out the door to work and take him to the bus. I can't be late, so he can't be late. It's not an option. You need to find a way to not make it optional to show up to school on time.

The homework issue is harder. It seems as though he is having a hard time budgeting his time and figuring out how to use it well. He might be overwhelmed by his workload, and so avoids it by wasting time. Try working with him to make goals during the evening: by 7:00, you'll finish your math; by 8:00 you'll finish your science assignment. Make sure he takes real breaks in between accomplishments, so that the work doesn't feel like an undifferentiated mass.

Your son needs you to set some limits for him, so that he can learn to set those limits for himself in the future. A tired kid who has the school on his back for tardiness isn't going to be able to figure this out for himself. Good luck! Been There, Still There

I could have written your post two years ago, when my son (now 13) was in 6th grade. It would take him hours to do his homework, he could not organize anything (much less himself), and getting him out the door was a struggle. He started feeling like he was a failure, and defensively shut us out. We were very anti-med, but were no longer willing to let our philosophical/political view keep our kid from a possible benefit. So we tried ADD meds (Focalin). It was nothing short of magic. Within days, he had executive function. He was on top of his work, got homework done quickly and well, remembered to put things in his backpack. He went from Cs to straight As. He felt more confident socially. One side effect is some difficulty getting to sleep, and mornings are still a challenge because he has not yet taken his meds. But it has been an unmitigated success, and we just regret we did not try sooner. Your son may not respond as ours did, but if it helps, you will know right away. Doubter no more

You don't say what your son's learning disability was...but it sounds as though he is still suffering from something that impedes his output. In my experience, most kids succeed in school if they can. There's little payoff in the kinds of behaviors you're describing. Has your child been evaluated for ADHD? His problems are consistent with the problems kids with ADHD Inattentive Type often experience. I suggest that you visit the website chadd.org to obtain more information. Linda

We've gone through this too, and it ended up being a sleep disorder. My son sleeps poorly, it takes him a long time to settle in, and we too were late every day -- sometimes as much as an hour late, which made me want to pull out all my hair because I was always late too. What we finally did (and it's extreme) is cancel his first class of the day on the advice of his psychiatrist. He does better when he gets that extra sleep and the shorter schedule eases strain all around. We're going to try and make classes up in summer school. Sometimes I think we push our teens to accept a schedule that is unreasonable for their physiology. Maybe not just teens but all of us need more sleep??? Ann

Honors student can't stay focused on homework

October 2006

Do we need some kind of executive skills tutor or other help? My daughter began High School this fall and is not completing her homework and turning it in on time. She tested into 4 honors courses so there is MORE homework assigned now than she had in Middle School. She is very bright but has difficulty with some of what I have recently heard called ''executive skills'', like the ability to break projects down into the necessary sub-parts and then complete each of these and then rebuild it into the final project.

Because of the recent phone calls from a couple of her teachers that she is not turning her homework in on time (this school will not accept late homework after 2 days, period) I made it my business over the weekend (she worked both Sat. & Sun to complete one project that should not have exceeded 2 - 3 hours IMHO) to closely observe her and this is what I saw... she cannot seem to stay focused on the project or homework at hand. She becomes distracted by: myspace, e-mail, computer solitare, etc., anything except doing the homework(!) The homework does not appear to be too hard... just too hard to stay focused and get it done!! Her procrastination is really starting to frustrate me and my husband as well as her grades are going to seriously be impacted by her not getting the homework in on time. Other parents please advise me.. is she just lazy or is there something else going on here? She seems to have very high expectations for herself and says she wants to go to a top college but if she does not start to get it together and find the skills to stay focused and complete her homework in a timely manner, I fear for her future
Homework Nightmare

The answer to helping your teen focus on homework is simply to unplug the internet. Our bright child ran into problems last year completing homework and turning it in on time. During a candid conversation she told us that the distraction from the internet was the reason she was unable to complete her work and that we needed to ''unplug her''.

The results have been remarkable. With limited internet access her grades have improved to normal and she is back on track. If she needs internet access for a project she asks for the internet cord and then returns it when done. (Sometimes I have to retrieve it and remind her it was her idea).

Try it and I think you will be amazed at the difference. Possibly it can be returned when her homework is completed. Good Luck! Unplugged in Walnut Creek

Your message sounded so familiar! My son is also a high school freshman, with similar organizational challenges. I have two bits of advice for you. First of all, consider having your daughter assessed for an undiagnosed learning disability. My son is very bright, and always earned good grades (mainly A's, a few B's). It was only when he enrolled in a very demanding middle school program that some significant organizational challenges emerged. His teachers suggested an assessment, and we found out that he does have executive function deficit. It is related to his processing speed and working memory. He has a very high IQ, and we would never have suspected that he had any kind of disability had we not had him tested. Often, really bright kids with subtle disabilities can compensate without realizing it, and do well in school. They may not even realize that they are working harder than they should be. These kids are often diagnosed in high school or even college, when increased demands make compensating impossible. Secondly, my son has benefited enormously from the programs at Student Organizational Services (www.SOS4Students.com). They are located in Walnut Creek, but work with students from all over the Bay Area. My son took ''Nailing Ninth Grade'', a fantastic 2-day summer workshop designed to help kids prepare organizationally for high school. SOS has many other programs, and also offers one-on-one coaching, and study space consultations (where someone comes to your home and evaluates the student's study area). The coaching service is very popular, and has a long waiting list. The workshops fill quickly as well. The SOS staff is hip and great with teens, plus they know their stuff. They have fabulous ideas for kids and parents about organization and time management. I can't recommend them highly enough! Good luck Another Ninth Grade Mom

You were wise to observe your daughter. The behavior that you describe sounds like pretty classic ADHD, which is often overlooked in girls until high school. If this wasn't what you were hoping to hear, join the club. I resisted the idea that my son had it, until he started to falter in school. I would suggest that you make an appointment with Dr. Brad Berman who is an excellent behaviorial pediatrician. Jocelyn

We went through this too. I was convinced it was just laziness on my son's part but that ended up not being the case. We had him evaluated (we paid for it -- about $5,000 but I've since found out you may request that your school evaluate your daughter and many public schools will do this free of charge) and discovered my son had a learning disability that affected his concentration as well as his organizational skills. We're still working on this with him, but it's helped him -- and us -- to understand that he's not being willful but is sincerely unable to focus on tasks without some guidance. I would pursue getting an evaluation and see if that brings anything new to light. Best of luck to you!
Mom in Same Boat

I feel for you -- we spent last year in homework hell with our bright 7th grade son. The calls from teachers about unturned in homework, all of it. We got frustrated, thought he was lazy, but soon realized there was more to it. For one thing, he was starting to get depressed about his poor performance and the negative feedback. We decided to do some learning disabilities testing. That took a long time, from deciding to learn more about this last April or so, to having gotten some results last week.

But I'm very glad we did. Most of the people I talked with along the way thought he sounded like he had ''executive function disorder,'' the kind of inability to break projects into bite size pieces and organize time and paper that you describe.

The people at Children's Hospital who did the testing were wonderful throughout and spent over an hour explaining the results in detail, and they clearly had gotten to know and understand our individual child very well. In his case, the results did not show Executive function disorder, but rather ''ADHD without the H.'' Which really does fit, a daydreamer sort, distracted not by external things but by stuff from his own mind.

We are not sure yet what the next step is, we are both resistant to medicating, but feel like already this has been a huge help. The docs at Children's met separately with him, and explained it all, emphasizing the areas where he scored really well. Be aware, this took more time and cost more money than we first imagined. But it was so helpful. One thing all the professionals emphasized, which really echoed my gut, is that kids want to do well, the don't just blow stuff off in most situations. They are not lazy anon mom

Our son sounds very similar to your daughter. Very bright, easily distracted....homework is the last thing he wants to do. Makes everyone anxious, makes me hover over him. Not good. It takes him 3-4 times as long to complete projects and assignments as it ''should''. We've recently had him tested, he's 16 and received a mild ADHD diagnosis, so we are going to try to get support and accomodations from his school. We often try new techniques at home...rewards for timely completion etc. If there is something your daughter loves to do (a sport/instrument/etc) you might be successful in using that as the carrot. It often works for us. Fortunately my son has many passions, so getting school work done so that he can go to a lacrosse game motivates him. I recommend you have her tested privately. Best of luck
been there

I am both a parent of a child who had great difficulty with focus (coupled with high intelligence and ambition) and a professional educational therapist. I suggest that you eliminate all the distractions to see if your daughter still has trouble with focus. I think there is a mistaken notion floating around among young people that you OUGHT to engage in all these activities simultaneously and that there is something wrong with a quiet, calm environment. It is difficult for anyone to be productive when her attention is being constantly diverted and concentration is fragmented. Try an experiment: track how long she spends and how much homework is accomplished in an environment that supports concentration. Delete the solitaire, lock out the My Space, put the phone away, shut off the TV, put some classical music on the stereo and turn on a timer for one hour segments of time. Go over the assignments with her at the beginning and end of the homework period to make sure she understands and completes the work. If you try this for a while and your daughter still can't get her homework done, you might want to evaluate for AD/HD. That's what my kid had, and thanks to prompt intervention, she has been a successful student whose self-esteem was restored with the knowledge that she wasn't lazy or dumb. We found the strategies and structure that she needed to be very productive and is thriving in college (though she still needs the strategies and the structure)

My daughter has been working on this same issue for the last couple of years. she seems to have it under control but can spend way too much time sitting at the table supposedly studying/doing homework - like most of her weekends. She also gets distracted by the computer - which she started out using to listen to music but was easily drawn into watching video clips. We talked to her about what she was doing all that time sitting at the table and she realized that she was spending a lot of time pulling up the music she wanted and then getting distracted. She's very self motivated and doesn't like to get behind in her school work = so we didn't have to push her. She realized herself that the computer was distracting her and she wanted to do other things besides sit at the table ''working''. She now leaves the computer off while she's doing her homework. Another trick I've tried is turning on background instrumental music for her (we're currently using George Winston's CD ''forest''). This was something I started doing in college. You just need to get the right kind of music - instrumental jazz and classical work pretty well. We also try to set times for the assignments - although she sometimes goes over time it makes her aware of the time.

Our high school-age son has the same focus problems. He was diagnosed with ''executive ordering'' problems when he was 9. It was easier to get him to focus on his work when he was younger because we could sit with him and re-direct him. Now that he is in his teens our son is very resistant to any help from us. He didn't need a tutor, so it was hard to figure out what would work. We were advised to hire a ''hip'' young college student to be a mentor. My son interviewed the applicants along with us and really like the young man we hired. 2-3 nights a week they went through my son's backpack , checked his calendar,and wrote out a work-schedule before doing their homework together for a few hours. The guy that we hired functioned as both (for lack of a better word) a ''re-focusser'' and a role model. He was a really wonderful addition to our family. (and took a lot of pressure off us!) Maybe a young woman undergraduate that your daughter connects with might work. Been There

Dear Homework Nightmare;

Here are four thoughts.

First, my 12th-grade daughter, who had a year or two of homework issues, and she had the following to say in response to your post.

''Get her into an extraccuricular activity which sucks up most of her day or week. She'll shape up naturally because she doesn't have all the extra time to fool around, and she'll be more motivated because she'll be with other kids and the peer pressure is definintely felt. sports and club kids get some of the best grades anyway because they are generally happier, and this makes them more responsible, because they feel like they actually have an impact on whats going on in their lives.''

Second, testing into four honors courses and taking them may be a bit too much. Talk to the counselor about cutting back. With so much homework, she may not know where to start. Also, the ninth-grade is such a variable year for most kids that this is not a disasterous harbinger of things to come. You may just need course correction, no pun intended.

Third, your daughter may need help. May I recommend Maggie Jacobberger, out in Lafayette. (925-878-5202, and Maggie[at]ivyenrichment.com, www.ivyenrichment.com) If not a convenient location, then she may be able to recommend someone else.

Fourth, there are how-to-study books, and I am an expert in how these do not work, if your kid really doesn't want to use an improvement method. (I am batting zero for three!) Anyway, I've read several, but not all. The best one I found was ''Study Power,'' by William R. Luckie and Wood Smethurst. It's origin is a program at Harvard to get bright students who are failing to overcome study habit problems and succeed. Luckie and Smethurst moved to the Atlanta area and have been successful with their method. Like all such books, they say right at the beginning to not proceed if you really do not want to work at this. I did not listen, and put my kids through this and one other book. Both experiments were complete and total failures. Your mileage may vary.

Good luck, Nathan

Parental control of homework

Sept 2000

My older daughter (17) can have the TV or radio on while she's doing her homework and, although I can't do that kind of stuff, she is perfectly capable of it. However, my younger daughter (soon to be 15) is not and it totally slows her down, but she insists that it isn't a problem. In addition, she gets really defiant). You can't tell me what to do!!!! Last night she had on the MTV music awards and then called her friend while she was doing her homework. I told her she needed to get off the phone. You can't tell me what to do. Oh, yes I can. Anyway, she was doing her homework from 8:30 - 10:30, after which she took her book and went to her room to read and stayed up until 11 or 11:15. My initial take on this matter is to make it really clear to her that she is to do her homework without the TV or phone and really establish with her that she is still a child and will do what I tell her to do (goddammit!). However, I was talking to a woman at work today who said that she's really old enough to suffer her own consequences and all we can do is to tell her that she's responsible for herself and her success or failure. It was an eye opener and I think I agree with her. However, of course, I'm concerned that Amber will not be able to succeed and that part of my job is to help her to establish good habits that will help her to succeed. At what point do you relinquish this kind of control? When do you allow them to make their own decisions? I don't know what to think. What do you think? Toby

I, too, had the same problem with my 14yr. old last year. The radio was always on when she was doing her homeword and she would talk on the phone or watch TV. I left her to her own devices, and she proved to herself that it just doesn't work. She failed English. Now she will have to make it up sometime before she graduates, which translates to an extra english class for one semester. It's just more work for her in the long run. But you know your own daughter. This may work for her and may not. My daughter has to learn her own lessons. I guess I'm lucky that she does learn. At 14, who's the boss? I told my daughter that she has to come home, do her homework ( without music, etc.) and then she can do whatever she wants, talk on the phone, watch TV and and listen to music all at the same time if she wants. END OF CONVERSATION! Anonymous

No matter how much your daughter doesn't want you interferring, stay with it. Maybe you can compromise -- part time with TV (on her easier subjects) and part time without on her more difficult subjects. Do the without TV, etc. 1st while she is still fresh.

What the other mother said is good in theory but it might set your daughter up for failure (especially since you know your daughter). When do you not control what they do -- when they go to college and you aren't there.

Hang in there. Your daughter is spirited and you wouldn't want it any other way. I think a compromise situation usually works best. You are respecting their opinion but you are also doing what feels right to you.


I have generally followed the consequences route with my two sons (one just graduated and one just starting BHS) but there are exceptions. The problem with consequences is that some of the possible consequences are too damaging. For a person early in HS the event of a few low grades may be sufficient to give them what my husband and I refer to as a reality dose. But later in HS when college issues are at hand, a failing grade may mean dashed hopes for the future, not getting into a school the young adult wants to get into.

An example of consequences that are too serious would be a young person who refuses to wear protective head gear while biking or roller-blading (it isn't cool). In which case, I've intervened by taking away the bicycle or blades until there was compliance. I will not have my son in a hospital with head injuries for the sake of natural consequences.

Regarding tv/radio/phone and homework perhaps you can work out a deal. If your daughter keeps her grades at a certain level then you will not interfere. If they go down you then could restrict the use of other distractions until they are up again. You have to be willing to seriously follow through however. How do you restrict TV if it is in your home and available? On this issue, unfortunately, once we had to buy a lock which fit on the electric cord and turned the power on or off with a key. When our sons came home from school the TV was on off and did not go on until homework was shown to be done. The fortunate side of this was, we did it when they were younger (in late grade school and middle school) and by HS they knew we were serious. If you tried it in HS it might just make your daughter furious. I think the prove it to me attitude would work better.


My sense is pressure ( control) can lighten up when things get done on a reasonable timetable ( not so late at night that the kid is exhausted and functioning poorly the next day) etc. I control phone time ( I pay the bills), lightening up when I feel a good faith effort is being made to follow through on responsibilities. We just shifted from a very relaxed middle school to a tighter high school. My daughter seems to be relieved by the tighter framework and is responding well to it. Having pondered this a lot I am now convinced more supervision ( if not control, exactly) is a good thing - my 14.5 yr old cannot yet handle all this on her own, doesnt have the self control, etc. She needs a lot of support - and that seems to mean my not controlling exactly but helping keep track of what needs to be done, tuning in a lot for status reports on how things are going, providing incentives if things get done on time for the ostensible bedtime of 10 pm. ( she doesn't always make it but the guideline is helpful, it keeps things for going too late or makes that more the exception than the rule). I would not allow tv or phone calls while homework is being done. If a call comes in while she's doing homework I take a message or, if she wants to take it - I try to show some flexibility but also let her know I am mindful of the time, what needs to be done, and that one cannot do two things at once. I'm sending this message because it has taken me a while to figure out that it is too soon to let them take all the consequences - seems to me.All feedback is welcome. suzanne

Teen won't do boring homework

See also: School not Academically Challenging


My daughter is in the 8th grade at Albany Middle School and has developed a pattern of not doing all of hr homework in several subjects and when I find out, we struggle to get it all caught up in a flurry of activity. Some it she says she was not aware of (one teacher found she was reading a book most of the class) and others of it, she says she didn't realize there was another section to it, etc., etc. Mostly she claims lack of consciousness but when we had a serious talk recently she said that she isn't interested in doing the homework though she realizes her grades will be affected by this and she does care about her grades.

This pattern began last year when she had mono for two months and missed so much class it was almost impossible to catch up on everything. She took the tests and passed most of them with flying colors so I think she feels she doesn't need the homework. We're going around in circles and I don't have the energy or the will to carry a whip to MAKE her do her homework, partly because I'd have to check each day with her teachers to see what homework she has and I'm usually at work or in school at that time. One of her teachers and I have arranged to have the teacher sign off on my daughter's planner that she has in fact copied down all the homework given so that I can check it in the evening. Clearly, not getting the homework affects some of her skills in math and writing, although she can usually pass tests well and it will affect her grades (it sure did last year). I'm worried about how she's going to progress through high school and on to college.

This is not a problem during the summer when she takes ATDP classes. She got an A+ in high school Japanese. And yes, she's very bright and she's bored with homework she sees as uninspiring make-work. And of course she's a teenager now and her friends and their interactions and being a counselor to them all is much more satisfying that homework. A lot of other kids are having the same problem but that's no comfort. Anyway, I really don't know what to do. I'm sure others have encountered this problem before and I'd be happy to hear any solutions.

I hear from my son who is maintaining a 3.5 or better and tests very high on the yearly standard tests that homework is a joke for the most part . He does it somehow but I seldom see him do it at home. I assume he does it because his grades are not low, in fact they are rather high.

Here is my own personal bottom line. I have one son who just graduated BHS and the younger who is one year ahead of your daughter now in 9th grade. If you labor through homework, following up to see if it is done and checking it, ( I've known some who practically did it with their sons or daughters) you may well give her the message that school is for YOU not for her.

Instead, I have followed a line of initial and intentional neglect. That is, I won't micro manage homework. I am willing (especially in the earlier middle school and freshman years of HS) to let my son get bad grades if that is the consequence of his choice to neglect homework. I also am ready at a moment's request -- from him --to pitch in and help so he never feels he is in this alone. However it is clearly under his area of responsibility. If you do this early, by later high school teenagers are beginning to get the message that their basic life choices really do mean something, really do have consequences, and are important and are their own. In my view later parenting is one of support, listening, and establishing (requiring sometimes) mutual respect. It means a terrible risk of letting your child fail for a while....as long as the failure is not life shattering. It also means that you are good on your word and really will be there to help when asked.

It is SO hard to call this one because you do not want to let a downslide in grades and attitude continue into real alienation and depression. Often the teenager's lack of attention to some detail in their life is an attempt to prod for parental reaction. Taking homework out of the arena of dispute may mean that your daughter will simply pick another area to prod for your attention. What is then happening is more an issue of a youngster looking for a way to get reassurance that, though they have gone past the childhood stages of interacting with their parents, the parents still love them very actively and sons or daughters still have claim to their parents time, interest and attention.

My older son did this attention grab (will you REALLY support me) by setting up last minute panic attacks about school and tests and even social engagements. And yes, I really did drop everything and help. Because he asked. And yes it cost me something real with my own schedule, yes he did it several times until he was really sure I'd be there. We then had to work on the meaning of respecting each other's time and obligations by better planning (on both sides). We are still in this negotiation process with the older son. Life and growing up takes time. Adults tend to forget how many lessons are part of growing up.

This approached worked for us. I would even recommend it. My sons are responsible and lovely people in my own opinion. I was told at the very beginning of having children...raise them to be some one you would enjoy being around as adults. Not bad advice. It still holds.

[Please submit anonymously as my son might not want to be identified]

Hi, I had a similar problem with my son when he attended Albany Middle School two years ago. Like my son, your daughter sounds very bright, but extremely bored, not only because of the difference between her ATDP and AMS grades, but because she knows just how much homework she can get away with not doing, and still pass her classes. Perhaps at this point, not writing down her homework assignments has become a habit, but putting all your effort into whether or not she does her homework is not going to improve her attitude about her schoolwork. If she is choosing to read over listening in her classes, she is most likely not being challenged.

I've already gone on and on about what I think of AMS on this newsletter, but if you want to know more, please feel free to e-mail me! Just briefly: When my son was in the 6th grade, he was getting by at AMS, with a B average. I think that because he has learning disabilities, he was never encouraged to push himself academically. Fortunately, we moved to East Oakland and my son started the 7th grade at Bret Harte Middle School. They listened to me when I told them my son was bored in school and needed to be encouraged to excel. He had the talent, but not the motivation. Now in the 8th grade, he is in Geometry, 2nd year spanish, and the honors core class. His english teacher from last year still continues to encourage his eclectic reading choices and often lets him borrow books from his private collection. (previous choices include: Origin of Species, Sophie's World, Plato's Republic, Marx for Beginners, Capitalism for Beginners--next he plans to read the Communist Manifesto and Catcher in the Rye.) Last week, he brought home his best report card yet, 5 A's and 1 B (he missed that A in spanish by about 20 points!) and now has a 3.83 GPA. Not bad for a kid with three different learning disabilities!

I think there are 4 factors that made the difference for my son:

1) He and I are no longer the only ones who believe in him. All his teachers value his intelligence and give him plenty of praise and encouragement.

2) I made sure that he is an active participant in his education. Anyone can be a passive student and just go to class and let mom talk to the teachers when there is a problem. Instead, I taught my son to advocate for himself whenever he is bored, is graded unfairly, or doesn't understand a class policy or the school work. If he can't resolve an issue for himself, he goes to his resource specialist next, if it involves his LD. I only get involved if he can't fix it himself. This is his education, and he has taken ownership of it. He is never arrogant or rude to his teachers, but he won't take no for an answer!

3) The MESA summer Academy. I can't say enough wonderful things about this program and the excellent teachers who dedicate themselves to their students. 4) He set goals for himself for highschool and college. He plans to take math classes at a community college during the summer, so he can take differential equations by the time he's a senior. He wants to attend MIT, Berkeley, or Stanford and major in Biochemical Engineering.

Girls are very different than boys at this age, but as a teenage girl, she really needs to get in touch with her own power, just as boys do. However, butting heads with you about homework is a waste of energy. Take another approach to the problem and address the real issue, if you can. You may not have to take as drastic a step as changing schools, but perhaps it's not a bad idea! Speaking for myself, I turned to my friends, drugs and alcohol for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was boredom. When I finally dropped out of high school, I went to community college during what should have been my senior year, due to the advice and encouragement of my probation officer (Mark Smith, thank you, wherever you are!) and did quite well. Although I stopped going to school when I met my son's dad, I did eventually find my way to UCB and am now preparing to apply for graduate school. I swore I would do everything possible to help my son avoid the difficulties I had in school. I really hope this helps! I'd be happy to talk to you further if you like.


My daughter started slacking off on homework in middle school. I decided to let her experience the consequences of her actions and thought she would come around. She is very bright and has a lot of common sense. She learned how to bring her grades back up to mediocre just in time for semester grades and then back off again, letting them fall. Eventually, in high school, she got far enough behind that she couldn't keep it up, and certainly couldn't get ahead. She fell into a cycle. The worse she did, the lower her self esteem, the lower her self esteem, the worse she did. At this point she resented my intervention because she had been on her own with this responsibility.

I jumped in anyway. I began overseeing each assignment, I enlisted grandparents and tutors, I required weekly progress reports from teachers. It was ugly. It did feel like my education. After much battling on the subject she began to do the work in order to get her family off her back. It took a full year to get her back on track. Now, finally, she has begun to do the work because she wants to ... because her accomplishments feel good to her. We are all still closely involved. She still needs us. She still needs someone looking over her shoulder. When she occasionally drops the ball she doesn't let on that she needs help and she slips behind. I have to be there to help her realize it's been dropped and help her pick it up. She appreciates the help. She now believes that she has choices in her life. She didn't before.

I do believe that my initial approach might well work for some children, but it didn't for my daughter. The key, I think, is to pay very close attention. Don't hesitate to become involved. Support feels different to each of us, find out what your child needs. Please list this anonymously. Thank you.