Part-time school

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    A bit of quick background - difficult child 3 is almost at the end of Year 9. Our school year finishes in three weeks. difficult child 3 hasn't completed the course material for most subjects although he's come close with some. Any work he has left to complete, is not going to count towards this year's marks. But because the content of the course work is needed for his exams NEXT year (Year 10) he at least needs to be familiar with it all.

    I mentioned a few days ago in the Good Morning thread, that we'd had a meeting at the school about difficult child 3 and how he's just not keeping up, especially in some subjects. It was a quick meeting as we'd already thrashed out a lot of the basics in phone calls.

    This is a correspondence school, the head office is right in the heart of Sydney, in a tiny oasis beside the CBD. There are occasional optional study days in at the school but they only have about three classrooms (the library computer room plus one big room which can be divided) which are shared by a mainstream elementary school attached to the site. The teachers each have a desk, a phone and a computer. Walking through the back rooms of the place (which I've done twice, for meetings) it looks more like walking into a business office (partitions everywhere) than walking into a school.

    We met in the "playground", we sat at one of the picnic tables in the sun and talked. We had half an hour to deal with the problem. Thankfully, difficult child 3 was already in agreement.
    So we have decided - after a difficult year with difficult child 3 putting so much effort into subjects like English, trying to give his teacher the subtleties that were wanted - we're going to put English on hold for a year. In fact, he will do his next year over two years. Next year is Year 10, which for us is a year where your grades have to be assessed on a level playing field across the state. difficult child 3 is motivated to work, but is so distractable and highly strung that he just can't get the work done in the time. I do think his English teacher was asking far too much of him, but if she hadn't, she wouldn't have triggered this crisis which has led to this solution.

    Now, difficult child 3 is talented with Maths but when choosing his subjects leading to Year 10, he was not permitted to study Maths at the top level because he just wasn't getting the work back in time. I was sad about that; so was difficult child 3. Now that we've cut the workload in half, we've asked for and finally been told that we can put him back on the top ranking Maths. BUT - he has to catch up on the extra work he didn't do this last year. So over the holidays, difficult child 3 will have to work on his extra Maths so it's all ready to be posted back for the beginning of the new school year.

    We left the meeting with a list - the core subjects (the compulsory ones) have been split down the middle. difficult child 3 also has two optional subjects. Usually the suggest if a student is struggling that these electives be dropped; but in this case the electives are what keeps difficult child 3 going, and they really don't take him long. He has completed his electives easily.

    So next year difficult child 3 will be studying Maths (top level, hopefully, if he can keep it up); Science; PDHPE (which is physical education, not easy to study by correspondence!) and his elective, IT/Software. He will sit the public exams for these subjects at the end of the year and then they will be done.

    The following year he will study the rest of the work - English, History/Geography (one exam for both subjects), Career Education and Electronics.

    We're hoping that giving him a break for a year will allow his brain another year to mature. We also kept Maths & Science together because often these subjects interlink.

    Part of what we are trying to do, is make it easier for difficult child 3 to show what he is capable of, in each subject. So far, he hasn't been able to do this. Academically he should be top of his year in most subjects, but he has to be able to get through the work in order to do this.

    The school is doing what they can to help, bending over backwards. They are applying for all the Special Provisions possible (use of computer; extra time in exams). PDHPE (physical education) is going to try to incorporate the work difficult child 3 does on the Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit and Wii Sport. It was funny - Year 12 had a Study Day in the main classroom where the Wii is kept, but difficult child 3 had brought his data along to upload to the school's equipment. A PDHPE teacher volunteered to help him, so we did it during the lunch break for the study kids (because they were Year 12, it was most important to not disturb them, Year 12 is the final year in our school system. These Year 12 students have only just begun their new school year, it is the one year that begins early). difficult child 3 and the teacher had half an hour only. difficult child 3 is so familiar with the Wii that he was quickly scrolling through the various windows and getting to what he wanted. The teacher, also familiar with the Wii, was left floundering. A couple of times he stopped difficult child 3 and said, "What are you doing?" or "How did you just do that?"
    With difficult child 3 saying, "You do it this way," they got a lot done. At one point difficult child 3 was saying, "I will send my data over the 'Net to the school's Wii to show my workouts," and the teacher was saying, "We can't go online with the Wii; the school's protection software won't allow it."
    difficult child 3 said, "Let's try."
    He didn't do anything without permission, but all the way the teacher was saying, "It will let you get so far, then it will stop you." The Wii screen then dimmed a bit, the teacher said, "I told you," Next thing the bar came up, indicating a software update happening.
    difficult child 3 said, "No worries. It's working. Once the update's done it will be able to read my data."

    Unfortunately they ran out of time, but the PDHPE teacher left it all switched on and downloading in the background while the Year 12 class came back from lunch and got back to work. We had been using their interactive screen which doubles as a blackboard in the main classroom.

    With all the effort going into this, hopefully this will work. difficult child 3 will still have to spend as much time as he already does on his schoolwork but hopefully now he will get more completed and be able to keep up.

    The downside to this - we will have to continue this for the next three school years; they will be done over six years. He will be 20 instead of 17 by the time he finishes his high schooling, but it will be the only way to get him matriculated to university. With capabilities like his especially with IT, we think he needs to have this door left open for him. But perhaps taking the extra time will allow his social maturity to begin to catch up. difficult child 1 did better taking longer, although with hindsight we should have got him into an apprenticeship instead of pushing him to complete schooling.

    I was asked to write a supervisor's report for the school annual magazine. Not all supervisors are parents, but with a Distance Ed student studying at home, generally the supervisor is a parent. We are not teachers, we are facilitators. It can be challenging, but it can also bring you much closer. In general the children get far more work done this way than in a mainstream setting, I think this is the case also with difficult child 3. But in mainstream he was getting NOTHING done, so even though he hasn't been finishing work, at least he's been getting most of it done.

    Needless to say, I was very supportive in my report.

    Yesterday I bumped into the man who taught difficult child 3 for one term in Year 6. This man is now retired from teaching and is therefore more able to speak openly. He has been very sympathetic of the abuse difficult child 3 has suffered in mainstream (at the local school, not the highway school where this man taught) and was also very understanding of the need to pull difficult child 3 out of mainstream and enrol him into correspondence. It was good to talk, for him to comment on his observations of how far difficult child 3 has come, the last time he saw him a few months ago.

    He said, "Whatever you're doing now, it's working, he's doing very well on it."

    So on the one hand, I want to assure you all - it IS possible to get good support form a school, it IS possible for flexible education to make your lives easier. It can work. But it requires a lot of input from all concerned, as well as a fair bit of time in terms of years. difficult child 3 has grown in confidence to the point where I can now leave him to work alone, although I still need to supervise and monitor his output and help him liaise with his teachers.

    So wish us luck!

    Oh, and one more thing - a few weeks ago difficult child 3's Special Education teacher sent us a link to help him with essay writing. It fits in with our curriculum although it is more designed for our elementary school kids. difficult child 1 used it to help him write his wedding speech!

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2008
  2. wakeupcall

    wakeupcall Well-Known Member

    How wonderful that the school is willing to let him be. We all have to realize that not all people in this world learn in the same manner or at the same speed. I won't say my difficult child has a "flexible" schedule per se, but he has literally NO homework and hasn't had for two years. At that time I started refusing to have our home as a battleground. difficult child has always made really good grades and is doing grade level work, just no homework. After eight hours of school he is all done and can't spend one more second with the restrictions of school.

    Good for you....GOOD for the school system. I hope it works for him!!
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Our correspondence system has also meant that we have no homework battles - it all gets done during school hours. Or another way to look at it - it's ALL homework. Also, it won't go away if he ignores it, because it all has to be done. If he chooses to spend hours on it over the weekend, say, it will mean he's got free time during school hours during the week. It's putting the choice back onto him, to organise himself with his schoolwork in the manner that suits him best.

    Homework - I increasingly believe it shouldn't be handed out as a routine thing. Schoolwork should be better at reflecting what happens in life - we take work home from the office when we have a backlog, or we need some chance to work on stuff undisturbed by work colleagues. It shouldn't be a regular thing, it should be OUR choice and it should be something relevant, something necessary. Free time is vital for our health both physically and mentally.

    Working at home during the day, we have so much more freedom for difficult child 3 to work in his own way. He prefers to keep working on one subject, for example, and not keep changing. He works better when he's left to keep going, so often I will feed him at his desk, so he can keep reading his notes while he is eating. He finishes his meal and gets right back to writing, often he's had his "lunch break" without a break, eating in about twenty minutes (a hot, home-cooked meal). If I'm baking, I can drop a few biscuits beside him with a cup of coffee and he is happy to keep working. Once school hours are finished, he is ready to go play with friends who by this time are just themselves getting home from school.

    We'll know in the next couple of weeks how he is going on this new program - once he finishes his current Maths pages, we will begin the 2009 work immediately. Once the backlog of advanced maths arrives in the mail, we'll add that to the list. He will have a lot to do over the break!

  4. Jena

    Jena New Member


    Wow, it sounds like a great plan. I agree with the way you are handling it, it makes perfect sense to me in regards to giving him the break now with the english and allowing him to show what he is capable of in regards to the other subjects.

    The school sounds great, they really do. Taking the time to work with you on this issue at such length and depth. That's very cool about the wedding speech as well!!

    I hope for continued success with the rest of his school year. Keep us posted.

    it's nice to see for a change a school working so closely with a parent this way for the better of a child.

  5. ML

    ML Guest

    Marg this is a great plan and it make perfect sense. I would feel good about doing something like this for manster.

    Your son is truly thriving and it is heart warming to see how far he has come. I feel so blessed that you share your experience strength and hope with this support group.


  6. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Interesting. It never occurred to me that you could split up things like that for an entire year. I'm glad you can make it work! And I'm glad difficult child 3 is in agreement. Way To Go!

    I like the "Writing Fun" page. I bookmarked it.
  7. wow ists really nice to hear that you have ahd a break through with the teachers... my difficult child 1 isonly 9 and i find homework sets him off its not that he isnt bright its just after school he is like a fire cracker... I am glad to hear of headway maade withink the schol system i have had far to many battles tahn i should have and its a constatn source of annoyance and stress to me... I hope your sons new plan works well and htat he can have a successful year because of it
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Mamabear, if you're having such a struggle with homework, and especially if your child is already struggling, talk to the teachers about either reducing or eliminating homework, at least for a while, to see if it helps with behaviour and hopefully self-esteem. Sometimes even a not-too-bright child can do better when they begin to feel more of a success in some areas.

    There is increasing evidence (research-based) that I've been reading that claims homework makes little to no difference on a child's academic success. And that's for PCs who aren't struggling.

    A kid needs a break from school. A kid who finds school stressful needs that break even more.

    Parents shouldn't be fighting school battles on the home front. Home should be a refuge, a happy place. If school can be happy too, that is wonderful. However, for many of us it is not reality. So at least let's work on what we CAN control - home.

  9. Marg I owe you a huge thank you for giving me the push to talk to teh teacher... I just got off the phone with her and she agreed that maybe homework can be discontinued ... I feel so relieved right now his teacher this year is the best hes had since kindergarten for the last 3 years we have had huge battles on the school front and now all i had to do was pick up the phone i was soooo shocked there wasnt an arguament or a belittiling comment it was sooooo nice anyways thanks again so much for your advice... :D
  10. Ropefree

    Ropefree Banned

    Mamabear: I agree with Margrerit. And even the bright students when any pattern is going wrong in the home around assigned work. Especially for the work that is a big part of a quarter grade. What amount of time is needed beyond the full time school hours? And can that be done in parts where the teacher is making certain that the learner is doing what is desired for a good grade. It isn't that much differant than holding the little hand to demonstrate how to make a letter. The "lesson" is does the learner REALLY "get" it. When a child does know they can be all enthusiastic and do it. Then they take on their work. It can turn. A child can loose all that ickyantihomework and just do it on their own. When a child is empowered from their inner motivation. It takes confidense. And the self esteem issues that are clinging to kids like a byproduct are where it did change in my son as a younge learner.
    Children are learning. ANd teachers are learning, too. Is what I think.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    A tip for those who are finding homework a bit of a hassle, who successfully campaign to stop it at least for a while but are still concerned about how the child is doing - find some home-based computer tuition, preferably in the form of a game. A computer is non-judgemental, it's a really good way to help a student who is self-conscious about struggling. Make the game available, but also encourage rather than push, the child into doing it.

    We dealt with it by having limits on the basic shoot-'em-up computer games (not after dinner) and made an exception for the educational games. As a result, our games-mad kids happily played the educational stuff and learned, as a result.

    It will depend on what your child is struggling with, but we found some good games were the Carmen Sandiego ones (we helped, to begin with, played them as a family) such as "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" (a good Geography one; you can get a US-based one too, not really relevant for us); "Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?" (history) and so on. They are in the form of interactive detective stories. There are some good maths ones but ours are probably out of date now; we used to play "Number Maze" (Great Wave Software) which was brilliant for kids who are doing well at maths as well as those who are struggling. we also had "Outnumbered!" which was faster-paced but in some ways simpler. A lot of fun.

    Whatever can successfully build confidence, is what works.

    Mamabear, I'm so glad you had a win on this. I hope your daughter finds it as much of a relief. Do make a point of telling your daughter that you and the teacher have agreed on this, because you both hope it will make things easier for her. She needs to know you and the teacher are both in agreement, and she needs to NOT feel that she has "won" in any way by being so difficult. This is simply a choice you and the teacher have made on difficult child's behalf; the question now is - Will she continue to do as well as she is already doing? Or will she slip behind at all, for not doing any homework? It is now in your daughter's best interests to keep her standard up by concentrating in class, asking for help if she finds the work confusing at times and learning to actively move TOWARDS the scary stuff, not away. You and the teacher are doing this because you have faith in her that she will do better this way.
    You could also talk to her in a week or so after this, ask her how she feels about schoolwork and whether she feels any disadvantage to the no homework. There is nothing that says she can't choose to read her notes by herself; but it is now HER choice - a wonderful, freeing thing for a child, a wonderful gift.

    One of the things we've found with difficult child 3's correspondence lessons - it is ALL homework, but because he does it during school hours in a quiet environment, he works much more efficiently. Only recently has it got too much for him; what almost all parents have found, when their kids start this system, is that they get ALL their work done usually with time to spare. But if they were in a classroom doing the same lessons, they would take a lot longer.