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How do you get kids to do their homework?

Original post made by Desperate Mom, Terman Middle School, on Mar 4, 2008

We have tried everything and I mean everything. We have been working for years with this problem. We now feel that it is not worth the tension in the family and are ready to call it quits. Most weekends we would love to take off and do something fun as a family but we wait and we wait for Collin to finish his work.

In elementary school we were able to see what work he had to do and to monitor whether it was done or not. Long ago we gave up on 'quality' work we just want it finished at least. Now in middle school I can't even figure out what work he has to do even if many of the teachers are using in-class. Ironically Collin gets mostly A's on his tests but his grade is lowered significantly because of the missing assignments. And the A's doesn't help him to understand why he needs to do the homework.

I would love to have some natural consequence when homework assignments are not turned in. A lower grade means nothing to Collin. And Mom harping on him isn't going to do it either.

You don't know how close I am ready to say, "OK no homework in this house, it's not worth it".

If you have ideas that worked with your family, I would love to hear about them.

Thanks,
Desperate

Comments (51)

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Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

In middle school, my older kid missed some assignments because he couldn't see the stuff written on the board -- which is when we discovered some near-sightedness that had to be corrected with glasses/contacts.

But way back in kindergarten, we started the family rule, "No TV until your homework is done." That was extended over the years to include no IMming on the computer, no games, put the cell phone away ... basically no screwing around until the homework was completed.

The first few times the kids got projects that stretched beyond overnight, for instance a report that was due in 2 weeks, I would help them plan out their time and figure out the timing of intermediate steps that would ensure progress rather than an all-nighter to get it all done at once. Then I got out of the way.

When the kids got to college, these skills were hugely helpful. Of course the first thing they did when they were out of the house was try to do their assignments with the TV on, but they found that didn't work very well, so off it went.

I think it would be difficult to change bad habits if they weren't established from the start, but it can be done. My kids had multiple AP classes and lots of after-school activities through high school, but seldom missed an assignment.


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Posted by ADHD parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 12:27 pm

As parents of a young ADHD child we are reading up on the subject of homework hassles in anticipation of the workload ramping up substatially in a couple of years. I know that you say you've "tried everything", but, you might want to do a specific Google search on ADHD teenagers and homework or look at some general books about ADHD adolescents.

No, I am not saying that your child has ADHD. However, homework completion is one of the big struggles that ADHD kids and parents face, so there is a lot of material out there on this topic. I think that much of the homework advice directed at parents of ADHD kids would easily translate to a non-ADHD child, so it might be worth the research.




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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 12:42 pm

I tried the "no free time until homework done" rule and it really didn't work in my house. When the kids came home, they were hungry, tired, needed a long trip to the bathroom, etc. etc. and then to start homework just meant it dragged out for hours. They moaned because all day they had had someone telling them "time to do this, time to do that," then when they got home they had me telling them to "time to do this, time to do that". Instead if I could give them a break for a couple of hours, then give them their instructions, it worked much better. Now we try to eat dinner at a consistent early hour and they know it is homework time, then when it is done they may have some more free time if there is still time. They work well with this pattern and if you haven't tried this then do try it. I know the same thing doesn't work for everyone, but mine just didn't like being told what to do straight after school. They can live with it after dinner.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I agree with the above parent about timing, my kids also need a break after school. Homework after dinner works a lot better.

Looking at it from your son's standpoint, if he gets A's on tests without doing homework, why should he bother? He needs another incentive besides grades, maybe working toward something positive if turns in homework consistently he gets a something special?

I also have a child with a learning disability. There's an interesting article in the CAC Spring newsletter about taking a break from homework and giving the responsibility back to the school for it getting done (only works if you have an IEP for your child). Page 6 Web Link


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Posted by parent of 2 children
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

We used multiple carrots to get our kids to study.

Rule was all homework had to be attempted, not even trying was not an option. An honent try with a poor grade was acceptable.

If I had to do non-homework things to support the kid, I would. I used to tape favorite shows, so they could be watched after the homework was done. I would run errands to get last minute supplies. Stuff like that.

I told them all that I would figure out how to pay for any university they could get into in the continental United States and where they went was their choice.

I would also tell them if they decided that they didnt want to go, thats ok, too. Just make it be their choice and dont limit their options, but not even attempting the homework. I think said that once to each child. I also told them if they got a scholarship that they got to keep the proceeds that I would still foot the whole bill.

What worked for my kids might not work for all though.

oh to pull my part, I started saving for both of them at birth.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:27 pm

You can't bleed for your kids. Sing and dance and enjoy life, and occasionally explain why his failure to apply himself will preclude his joy later in life. When he asks when dinner will be ready, tell him you don't want to be bothered.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Homework is often the biggest waste of time going. If a child knows his subject and is passing the test, great. Most homework seems to be busy work and designed so that those who are weak at the subject have a chance of getting their grade up. Crazy. If they know the stuff they should be getting As. If they don't do their homework it shouldn't prevent them from passing the class if they pass their tests with flying colors.

My 7th grader, in the past week has spent hours coloring in ABC books for an English class. He would rather be playing baseball with his team rather than all this extra homework. Should I tell his coach that he can't come to practice because he has to color in flowers on 26 sheets of paper for English homework?

If the homework actually taught them something I would be OK with it, but sometimes it is too ridiculous for words.

PS I am helping him with his coloring, I would rather him out getting exercise at baseball practice.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2008 at 4:56 pm

For some parents, helping with homework is the first time they have had to understand a subject.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:06 pm

I do agree, some of the middle school homework is surprising - more like what I'd expect from elementary school. In the last year, my 8th grader has had to make brochures, make posters, create a dance routine, build a model out of various household items, etc., all for academic subjects. At the same time, I can remember only one or two true essays or research papers. She spent many hours selecting fonts and colors and gluing things together vs. learning facts/concepts and organizing lucid written work.

I expect (hope?) these kids get a rude awakening in high school when they have to produce a well-organized research paper, which my kid has had very little experience to date.


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Posted by High School Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Terry

Just you wait.


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Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 6:28 pm

A routine is very helpful... Trying to stick to the same kind of routine every day.

I agree that kids need a break when they get home.

With my son, who is in middle school, I let him have a snack and then do what he wants for 20 minutes to 30 minutes (that's usually video games). We actually put on a kitchen timer to know when time is up. I use the kitchen timer a LOT, as a matter of fact, to limit his "screen" use.

Then, it's homework and no more "screens" (TV, video games, computers...) until all homework is done (except computer as needed for school projects).

It works... It worked for my daughter too who's now in college, although I must say that after middle school I pretty much lost control over her schedule. Still by then she had pretty good habits.

Good luck!


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Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm


Interesting to read the other posts here. Unlike what is reported by some other parents, I am happy to say that my son (6th grade at JLS) has not had any silly coloring, busy-work type of homework this year, or very little.

Most of his homework has been smart "thinking" homework.

I guess I should consider him lucky.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:16 am

I disagree with comments that homework is useless. I disagree with the parental comment that my child is so brilliant on tests that s/he doesn't need to do homework assignments. The homework I have seen in PAUSD (4th-11th grades, Duveneck, Jordan, Paly)has generally looked useful and practical. We put the responsibility for homework right in the hands of our students from an early age - we have that expectation and do not hover but are available in case one of our children wants to touch base and discuss something in their homework.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:25 am

To Duveneck parent

A lot of homework is useless when all it involves is busy work. My 7th grader does well in tests and does not need to spend several hours in the past week coloring. What would be useful would be a research project delving deeper into the subject, not a pussyfooting activity designed to help the underachieving students get a better grade.

If homework was designed to complement the classwork in a way that each student could learn more on the subject, then I would be behind it. When homework in a subject is testing whether or not the child (not the parent) understands the mathematical or scientific procedure that has just been taught in the classroom, then I would agree with that too. When homework is a waste of time, then it is just a waste of time.


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Posted by PA Dad
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2008 at 11:01 am

Parent -- when your child gets homework that you consider a waste of your child's time, what's your response? Do you go to the teacher to ask why it's being required? If you do, what response do you get?


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2008 at 11:39 am

I had a long exchange with my kid's teacher, who'd assigned homework aimed at preparing my daughter for certain tests.

I pointed out that she was at 100% before the homework, so in her case the homework seemed to have no point. The teacher said she still wanted the homework done. I suggested the teacher let her "test out" of the homework, but that was a no go. She wanted the work done. After several more persistent exchanges, the teacher agreed to accept other, more challenging homework--if I, the parent, prepared it.

At least that homework had a point--for some kids. I cannot fathom coloring in middle school.



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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2008 at 11:41 am

Parent, I have not encountered the coloring homework you are describing. I have experience with two kids at Duveneck (minimal experience there but it was good), Jordan, and Paly. My child who is currently at Paly has high quality homework. While I might have other complaints about Paly ;) the fact is the HOMEWORK has almost always been a great learning tool and there are some fine teachers at Paly! I wouldn't worry about the high school level. Your story about the middle school level is still strange to me.
I would get one or two other parents together, then request a respectful meeting with the teacher in question. But realize your experience is quite odd.


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Posted by Been There
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2008 at 12:24 pm

We had the same issues with our son. We were also pretty desperate, until we figured out it was ADHD. You might want to look at this article from a Yale Medical School faculty member:

Web Link



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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Speaking as a parent who spent an hour helping color a map last night...there is a lot of busy work in both school and homework. Coloring maps, coloring flashcards (even in high school), etc. Though the majority of my high school child's homework is valuable.

As a district, we seem to spend a lot more time on presentation (a beautiful poster, a school assembly, wax museum, book in a bag) then research and in depth thought. I found many elementary school projects - such as book reports - to be perhaps 20% analysis of the book and characters and 80% coloring, drawing, find object that my character might have, rewriting because the teacher said the handwriting was too messy, etc. I believe teachers often underestimate the amount of time it takes many children to complete these tasks.

In middle school, my son had to make a Halloween costume for a Math project. In theory, the idea was you had a limited budget, had to measure fabric perhaps, etc. In reality, the "math" portion took about 15 minutes out of a project that took 8-10 hours. The teacher just said it was her tradition to do the project.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I want to put in a balancing comment about when to do homework. Several posters above find evenings easier, and I think this is what most people do. As has been pointed out, different things work for different people.

I personally found in my life that taking that break after school and doing the homework in the evening was the EASIEST thing to do, but when in college I learned the discipline to just get right to my work in that afternoon period and just get a lot done, my performance went through the roof. And I had a much more sane life. Of course, in college, there is still work in the evening, but in grade school, it is possible to get everything done in the afternoon.

I do face resistance when I encourage my child to get work done right after we get home from school (which, by the way, is usually after playing with friends for an hour or more). But it's worth having our evenings as a family, it's worth never having any last minute work to do at the end of the week, it's worth the truly free play time afterward. I'm trying to ingrain the habit of getting right to the work, and not leaving it until it's late - I think it helps also so that people learn to put their own limits on the scope of their work rather than on last-minute deadlines.

Anyway, as has been pointed out, different things work for different people. My child is no different when we get home, hungry, tired, and I do give a snack, but then I encourage finishing homework before anything else. The sooner the homework is done, the more time there is for other things.

You may be able to get some help from the school psychologist to figure out whether Collin is the kind of kid who works best with tough love (i.e., can you just hire a tutor/babysitter and take the rest of the family for fun outings on weekends if he is going to choose dawdling over his homework, perhaps if he no longer wields this power over the family he'll stop it), or if he is digging in because he feels disrespected and not trusted (do you need to get out of negative ruts and express your confidence in his abilities to do things really well despite appearances/ focus on the right support so he can do that to get his work done right after school, faster and faster, and reward him in appropriate ways, perhaps even just with confidence and praise). Different kids have different needs, some kids feel really undermined by too many sticks, some never respond to the carrots.



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Posted by anotherPAparent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:34 pm

When I was in high school, there was a loosely-enforced school rule that said that we were not allowed to participate in after-school school activities unless we had a C average or higher. I am not sure if this applies to you, but if it does, then consider trimming (or even eliminating) after-school activities, at least for awhile, to make room for some free/unstructured time after school. Another thing that works in our house is setting a timer. I have the kids sit down a the kitchen table, books open, then set the timer for 15, 30 , 45 minutes depending on the homework. I tell them to give it their best effort for that time frame and when time is up, then close the books. I have them sit there under my watchful presence so that they will not be tempted to drift away to the tv set or computer. Having some sort of carrot/reward system in place can also help. Thanks for starting a topic that is of concern to all parents and good luck.


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Posted by Lower Elementary Parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:09 pm

We feel especially frustrated at the level of homework required for a very young child. We have had several years in a year of row of less than stellar teachers, last year the master was out all year. As a consequence we are spending hours "teaching" things at nights and on the weekend, and buying many supplementary state standards workbooks to teach concepts not presented in our public school classroom.

I do not understand why below the grades of fifth grade say, the teacher cannot just teach concepts during the day without requiring an hour of homework nightly. When parents work it makes if very difficult starting lessons at the return home at 7 pm plus the child is very tired.

Can't the schools teach the concepts on site without requiring so many extra hours outside of school?


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Posted by rw
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Einstein failed algebra. Some of the most successful people in the world never went to college or dropped out. Homework is useless. Let your kids play and be happy. Just let them find something they love and support them in their pursuits. Pushing and worrying never got anyone anywhere but mad.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm

"Einstein failed algebra"

Thats an urban legend. Einstein never failed any math class.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Actually, I thought Einstein was a late speaker, but he was a gifted math student.


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Posted by midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Einstein is overrated.


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Posted by Let them do it
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:40 pm

When my kids came home with more and more homework in 4th grade, I started to help them do it, and then realized it was their turn to do homework - I had already done 4th grade and all the rest of them. I stopped monitoring their time and what they did and let them face the consequences for not doing their homework. Teachers comments, grades and their own self-esteem was enough to keep them doing their homework. Now they come home and manage their time and do their homework. I ask if they have homework and help them make time for it by encouraging quiet in the house. Isn't that what it's all about- self-motivation, self-management. Sure there are times when they don't do their homework and THEY get to go face the teacher and the TEACHER disciplines them with grades or those nasty looks we all remember. If they can't learn to budget their time while their in school, when will they? Isn't elementary school and middle school all about learning how to do things before the grades count? In fact, isn't it essential to learn the boundaries of not getting stuff done when it doesn't really count? I'd recommend letting your own kid be responsible for remembering what their homework is, and getting their homework done, especially past 4th grade. Let them fail, let them get zeroes and Fs, better now than later! Are you really willing to set the timer for them when they go to college and have to navigate this and the rest of life on their own.


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Posted by a mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I agree. This is why I think homework before 4th grade is a bad idea, because kinders and 1st graders for the most part need help at least organizing the work, and the consequences that motivate 4th graders are meaningless to much younger kids. But the expectations and habits develop around homework as family work. I think until 4th or 5th grade, the work should happen IN school.

That said, my parents never got involved with my homework, and I had the highest ranking in school my whole academic life. (I didn't get homework until 5th grade.) Nevertheless, I wished that my parents - who were good parents - would have been at least somewhat involved or shown some interest. It would have meant a lot to me even if they had been no real help at all.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2008 at 9:44 am

If homework is causing tension in your family, you need to do something different. Maybe calling a moratorium on homework this year is a good idea. Grades in middle school don't matter. If he gets A's on his tests then the idea of homework as practice is impractical. If his grade is lowered to a B due to missing assignments, then let that be okay. I hope you can believe that middle school grades don't matter. If you find that you need to defend your child's academic prowess, when he gets to H.S., then you can show the "powers that be" his tests and prove to them that he knows the material(that's what matters!). When my son entered the Connections Program at JLS in 6th grade, all of the homework battles went away because there was very little homework, if any. Kids are in school all day, so when they come home, the last thing they want to do is more school. Middles School should not be little High Schools. High School will come soon enough. Give them a break for now.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2008 at 9:48 am

I agree with this entirely.

Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and even sometimes 3rd and 4th grade homework seems to be designed as a family project. Kids at this age get to expect the parents to sit down beside them and help. Whether it is reading the instructions at the top of the page or actually helping with hands on work, the kids start to expect parental help. This lesson in doing homework then becomes the normal expectation for higher elementary and middle school.

Giving homework to younger kids only teaches them that homework is something they need help with. Whether it be finding out the supplies to tidying the desk or kitchen table to enable readiness, the kids learn that homework needs parents.

If there is no homework given until 4th grade when kids are doing a lot of work by themselves in the classroom, they will readily assume that the same should be done at home.

This was how I did my homework. I went to my parents if I had a problem, but otherwise, it was my job to do it in the same way that it was my job to make my bed and clear away the table.

If kids learn that they can do it by themselves at school and need parents to help do it at home, they have not been given the independence that many of us are aiming to teach our kids.

Give them homework that they can do by themselves and take a pride in and they will benefit from it much better in high school and beyond.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2008 at 10:50 am


Last weekend the WSJ had and interesting article about schools in Finland.
Students consistently out perform other nationalities in math science etc, yet student have little or no homework.
USA scores way down the list.

England has faced the reality that many students are just not cut out for academia so they are implementing a vocational stream in high schools.

Every student will have to be in school till 18yrs but those who are non academic will do trade apprenticeships.

Germany has a similar program and those who take the vocational route often earn more than college grad.

We should face reality and implement vocational streams here.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2008 at 11:08 am

Having grown up and done some of my schooling in England, I would add to Jane's comment about vocational teaching in high schools.

I do see that it makes sense, but it would have to be done in either of two ways. Either you test the child and then lead them in the right lane, or else you find out the ambition and leaning and then put them in the right lane.

These two scenarios in my opinion work badly as we all know of people who bloom late. If such a system were to be introduced, I think it shouldn't be an either/or system. If kids are in school until they reach 18, those learning trades should still learn some academics. No, I don't think they necessarily should be pushed beyond their abilities in say math or science, but I do think that they should still be challenged in those subjects and have to spend some time studying them. Maybe a system could be worked out that they do what amounts to half and half. In other words, a class of 2 hours per week in math and science and then the other 2 hours of each class time could be spent learning their trade would make sense. This means that if they child did bloom late or suddenly really wanted to change emphasis, they would not feel that they were too far behind or so out of the loop that they could not change if that was what they wanted to do.


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Posted by Natacha
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2008 at 11:27 am

Dear Desperate:

I have had my moments of feeling desperate too when it comes to my kids and their homework! Please check out two homework videos at www.bestlifevideos.com - Volume I. Setting the Stage for Homework Success and Volume II. Homework Solutions: A Parent's Guide for K-5 examine the parents' critical role in helping their child to become a successful, independent learner. Each video features three experts, including a psychologist, teacher, and assistant principal, all giving tips and advice. I realize your son is in middle school, but I feel these videos could really help you to figure out how to make homework at your house less of a hastle. Best of luck! Natacha


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Posted by It's tough work.
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Coming from Palo Alto, I was prepared for college in terms of work, but absolutely not in terms of reading. Just tell your (high schoolers, it's not a good subject for middle schoolers) that college will be easier. If they put in the hard work, they'll be rewarded.


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Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2008 at 3:59 pm

To "tough work" ... that was certainly my kids' experience when they got to college. My older child earned an honors degree in an extremely technical field, and said that Paly was harder than college.

My kids were all really busy with extracurricular activities. Some of them took place right after school and some in the evenings. They had to use their limited time at home to get their homework done ASAP so that they'd have time to relax in the evening.

My older child has an interesting job and recognizes that the ability to power through 8 hours of tough work is a skill that also has to be learned. This kid enjoys having evenings free, just like in high school.


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2008 at 8:25 am

My kids both went through PA schools and went to UC's. The amount of homework varied from year to year and a lot of it was busywork. It just depended on the teacher. Both kids did 4-5 AP's their senior year and were extremely busy with jobs as well as sports, too. The critical skill of time management was the best gift they could have graduated with. It helped them immensely when they got to college. I've heard many parents say their kids find college easy after going through the PA school district. I tended to lay off my kids and let them figure things out for themselves. Also, their friends were so competitive they were actually in a similar group of motivated students.


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Posted by Giving Up
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2008 at 9:43 am

Well I have been having the same issue with my son who is now 17 years old. It first started in the 3 grade and has never gotten ant better. I am to the point now where he needs to step up and do what he knows is expected of him. He is not getting any younger and has messed up so bad he will not graduate. Not turning in your homework drops your grades so he brings home all F's. I need help I have another child in the home and I fight with her to do her work as well.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2008 at 10:01 am

Giving up

My heart goes out to you, I can hear your concern.

It sounds to me that you may be a single mother. From my own experience with sons, boys need a strong male influence in their lives. If the father of your children cannot or will not be a good role model, then find an uncle (real or adoptive) who can take this on. This relationship needs to be one of mutual trust and respect with times of fun together but also of discpline - not punishment, but a description of how to discipline the students life between school, home, relaxation, friends and the necessary things that have to be done in each category.

If you can't find someone in your own circle to help out, reach out to one of the many organizations, churches, big brothers, etc. that may be willing to help.

Good luck.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

Giving Up,

I'm sorry to hear about your son. I second Parent on finding a male role model--Big Brother's worked well for some kids I've known.

Also, there's the GED, followed by community college. Is there something he likes to do? Training for a trade or vocation. A lot of people who don't like writing make excellent skilled tradesman--carpentry, plumbing. Sales, if he's social.

Also, depression can be a big factor in poor school performance. Might help to see if that's an issue.

Best of luck.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 8, 2008 at 2:28 pm



A vocational option in high schools would provide the opportunity for those who are not academically oriented to succeed.

The value of 4yr liberal arts is very much overrated in both economic and human terms.



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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Dear Giving up - I don't know where your son goes to HS, but call the counselers at the school for advice. Not everyone thrives in a tradition school setting, if the issues started in 3rd grade (when you have to read to learn instead of learn to read) he may also have a learning disability. There are alternative schools and programs such as the Middle College program at Foothills, getting his GED and working, etc. The addition of a male role model is a great suggestion too - there may be a local mentoring program, the Boys and Girls Club in EPA may be a good place to start. I wish you the best of luck.


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Posted by careerclusters
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2008 at 11:25 am

To Jane and resident,

Has PAUSD looked at small learning communities for Gunn and Paly to address the growing need to move back to vocational education. They appear to be working in TX where there is a large Hispanic population

Web Link


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Posted by Doting Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Kids need to be happy to have an interest in school, otherwise they feel like slaves. Be sure that the student has time to hang out with friends occasionally and the family gets out to restaurants or outings occasionally. I agree with giving them a break after school. My son is earning straight A's in 6th grade but his homework load is huge...2-5 hours of work per day, on average, because he has group projects and book reports in addition to overnite homework, some of which he doesn't even have time to touch because of the load of overnite homework. It seems to me that it would be difficult for a child to achieve high grades if there is no parent to turn to for help. Some of the math is not easy! I graduated from Paly and am amazed at what the kids are learning in middle school already. It was much easier going through school here in the 70-80s! If it is too much homework for the child, consider moving out of Palo Alto! Why try to compete with these children if your child is not interested in academics? If he attends an easier school, it will be better for his self-esteem and happiness.


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Posted by Shocked
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2008 at 1:37 pm

"2-5 hours of work per day"

Seriously? For a sixth grader? That's out of whack. No way do sixth graders need to be doing that much. Must be busywork.

I've begun reducing my kids' homework in elementary. We just opt out of the pointless stuff. Teachers were not happy, but my kids are tops on tests, so the teachers can't say much.



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Posted by Think
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 9, 2008 at 1:55 pm

My Terman 8th grader has generally had 1-2 hours per night through middle school, with maybe one larger project every month or two. She does the assigned work plus the occasional extra credit. 2-5 per night would be a pretty different program than my kid.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Now that I reflect back on it, my kids had different homework experiences through their Jordan years. One had much more than the other. Depended on the academic teachers (they had a little overlap on these teachers so that was consistent -- Science--). They took the same electives, so that wasn't a factor.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Doting mom -

6th grade should have a maximum of 1 hour a nite homework per pediatric guidelines (10 minutes per grade). In 6th grade, they only have 2 main teachers - talk to them asap - either they are assigning too much or your child has some other issue.


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Posted by Middle School Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Doting Mom

If you 6th grader really is getting that much homework, make sure he understands that a group project means he only does part of the work. If he is doing all the work on his own, the rest of his group is getting away with doing nothing. It may be that he feels that they will not do as good a job as he can or something else. Do talk to his teachers about this. Most 6th grade teachers are partnered together and as there are only two teachers for academic subjects, they should be aware of what the other is doing when it comes to projects. I would get a meeting with both of them together and a list of all the homework your child has done over the past month or so and sort it out.


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Posted by Doting Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2008 at 5:38 pm

OK, I've got everyone hyped up with the "2-5 hours of homework" comment. I have to say that in general, he has about 2 hours of homework, but there are days where it is 3 to 5 hours when he has a test the next day, overnite homework, plus finishing math or social studies packets due. I think that sometimes the teachers purposely overload the kids so they can learn time management while their grades are less important (they don't submit to colleges yet). I am really happy with his teachers--he is learning a lot. The other parents say that their kids are spending a lot of time on homework too. And none of the work is "busywork", it is all learning--practical learning also. He also plays a spring sport, so will have to learn time management now. To "Palo Alto Mom", one hour of homework for 6th graders is very little--that's leaving only 40 min. for homework, assuming that the student also needs to read at least 20 min. per day for quarterly book reports.


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Posted by giving up myself
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I've tried everything to get my 12 year old to study and do his homework. Break after school and homework later but then he was to tired when it came to doing the homework and turns into wwIII in my house. So now we do it right after school. He won't study for tests and thats a war as well. I take after school activities away til his grades come up. I don't know where else to turn. Meetings with teachers didn't work. We involved him in on the game plans that he agrees to but as soon as something don't go his way it wwIII again. He throws big 2 year old temper fits that my other children see and they think it's ok to act that way. He threatens me with children services. Turns his dad against me which he is my step son and his dad works away. I have to call his grandfather to calm him down and straighten him out. He is heading down the wrong path of trouble and I know I can't give up but he's going to give me a nervous break down. I have other children in the house who are younger than him who need my attention too. They are 8 who is a straight A student and a baby who is 2. I agree they get to much homework but he won't even let me help him he would rather not do it at all. He hates school and just wants to hang out with his friends who are bad influences on him. He has gotten in trouble in school nothing major but still. When I asked a teacher that he likes to speak with him he told the teacher th f-off. He don't hear this from home but the kids he hangs out with and that's what he told the teacher. It just slipped. He is very smart and when he applies himself he gets A's but he just plain don't want to do it. I'm ready to ask the teacher to hold him back because we don't have middle school they go right to high school. I know he will flunk with this attitude. So if anyone has any suggestions please help. This is just some of the things he puts us through.


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Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Tough situation GUM, but not that abnormal. Does he have anything that genuinely interests him (sports, theater, music) etc.? Seems to me he needs a creative outlet. At his age, it's difficult (imporssible?) to truly relate how important studying and doing well in school is. I didn't figure it out myself until it was nearly too late. Seems he might need a older male whom he respects to (A) relate the value of a good education and (B) help encourage him to find a good creative outlet.

Students who balance studying/homework with extracurricular activities (such as playing music, creative writing or athletics) that they genuinely love end up being very productive adults.


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