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mommylovesjo00
mommylovesj... asks:
Q:

My 8 year old has been struggling academically for years.  I'm at my wits end!  Should I keep him back?

I am at my witts end and have no idea what I am supposed to do. He is 8 and in the 3rd grade, but is failling miserably. When he attended preschool and was preparing to go to kindergarden, his teacher showed concern and asked me to consider holding him back. However, at the end of the year when it was time for him to enroll, the teacher said that he had caught up and was cleared to move forward. Within the first few months of him starting kindergarden, his teacher arranged a conference and expressed concern about his accademic level and that my son was in concideration to be retained. But, once again, by the end of that year, he was doing well enough to move forward. Pretty much the same thing has happened in 1st grade, 2nd grade and now 3rd. I am sooooo frusterated. I want to get him a tutor, however I am a single parent with a full time job and can not afford to do so. I have bought him work books to do at home and he seems to be catching up, but Im not sure if its really enough to keep up with the other kids. Id hate to have to go threw this year after year. I believe that if he succeds in school, he will suceed in life and watching him struggle like this is breaking my heart. I can't imagine what will happen if he continues to struggle year after year. How will effect his self esteem? Already, he is now "the class clown" and doesn't pay attention in class and is doing horrible on test. He wont turn in his homework and does his classwork extremly slow. I believe all this is due to his lack of confidence, yet I have no idea how to help him or what more I can do to change the situation. I need any and every piece of advise I can get.
In Topics: Motivation and achievement at school
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Oct 9, 2008
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What the Expert Says:

It is so clear from you post that you love and adore your son very much. With your support, I am confident that your son can be very successful in life.

First, I believe that your son needs to be tested. It sounds like he may have a unique learning style and/or difference that is getting in his way, prohibiting him from accessing the school curriculum. Of course, this is not unusual. The public school system is designed for the "typical" learner, and it seems that your son may need some accommodations or modifications to curriculum, changing the way in which information is being presented to him. However, you and his teachers need to discover what his learning needs are first.

I suggest that you get the ball rolling for securing a special education evaluation for your son. There are a number of ways to do this, but you may start by talking with your son's teacher. Express your wish to have him tested, and follow-up with her in order to make certain that the request has been translated to the special education coordinator. Another option is to submit a written request directly to the school principal. Here is a sample letter:

http://www.ncld.org/content/view/933/456107/

The school must respond with a plan for evaluation or an explanation for why they are choosing not to test. It is in times like this, that you will need to continue to educate yourself on your rights as a parent and dedicate yourself to assuring that school personnel follow through on their responsibilities.

For more on navigating special education, please see the following article:

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Questions_Often/

If, and when, your son is found eligible for special education, school personnel will help devise a plan of accommodations (which may include tutoring provided by the school) to support your son.

Hope that helps. Good luck and keep us posted!

L. Compian, Ph.D.
Counseling Psychologist
Education.com Reference Team

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Additional Answers (8)

momsboys
momsboys writes:
I agree with Laura on the testing and all, however I don't see where anyone has talked to your son.  Maybe he could shed some light on the problems in advance. How does he feel he is being treated in class and also at home, it is not easy being a single parent - been there done that - maybe he feels he does not get enough attention unless he messes up class work. Just thoughts, not saying he does.

But you may think about how/what type of time you spend with him at home, if you worry more about house work and such let it go it will always be there but kids grow and you won't be able to get these days back.
> 60 days ago

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refincher
refincher writes:
I am a homeschooling mom to three; my middle child is the same age as your son.  You are absolutely right to be concerned , involved, and willing to do what it takes to help him, even as a single mom who is probably already stretched thin.  Study after study has shown that the most important factor in a child's academic success is parents who care, and your son has that.  (It is obvious just looking at your photo!)

You didn't mention specifically what he is having trouble with -- is it reading (which affects all subject areas!), math, writing, following directions, completing a task?  Also, observe carefully and ask yourself, is this an educational problem or a discipline problem?  Is he fooling around because he doesn't understand the work, or does he not understand because he is fooling around?  (Of course, the two can feed each other right into a sort of behavioral loop...)  Be very clear with him that school and learning are very important, that not turning in his work is simply not acceptable, that you expect him to pay attention and do his best every day, and that you will be checking in with his teacher regularly.   And then do so.  Don't wait for parent-teacher conferences.  Know what his assignments are in and out of class and have him show you his work every day.  Don't depend on grades to tell you how he is doing; grades can be deceptive.  Instead, supervise him when he studies, look at his work and talk with him about it, be aware of what he understands and what he doesn't, and express your approval when he has worked hard or made an improvement.  It is more important that he learn to face challenges, work diligently, and strive to learn than that he make "good grades"; if he *struggles*, that is *good*; what you don't want is for him to give up and become passive, and that sounds more like what you are describing.  

Workbooks are helpful sometimes, but I think your time and energy may be better spent making sure the classwork/homework he already has at school is done attentively and correctly rather than adding more work.  (Unless you can identify a specific problem which you can work with him on directly.) Other than that, the best thing you can do for him is to turn off the TV and the Nintendo and read aloud to him -- start with a few pages at a time and work up to chapter.  Steer away from pop writing and fluff, and read classic children's  literature like Treasure Island.  Newberry books are great; the book Honey for a Child's Heart also has excellent suggestions.  Help him check out non-fiction from the library on topics he is interested in.  Talk with him about what he reads and have him tell it back to you.  All this will increase his vocabulary, his attention span, and his comprehension.

If he has difficulty reading, I strongly recommend the book Reading Reflex by Carmen McGuiness.  You should be able to get it at your library (if they don't have it, ask about inter-library loan, or check Amazon for a used one.)  It will help you identify specific problems he may be having with reading and explains very simply how to help him overcome them.  If your school doesn't do vision and hearing testing, get these checked out by your doctor.

Boys develop more slowly than girls and tend to need a lot more physical activity than girls.  They are often wrongly labeled ADD or learning disabled when they are young, when what they need is a few more years to mature and integrate.  (Educational specialists Raymond and Dorothy Moore wrote about this in the early eighties; their books are still in print, and many more recent books have addressed the topic of boys.)  Ironically, our country was a great deal more literate back in the days when children were kept home doing chores and learning practical skills until the ripe old age of nine or ten before being expected to learn to read and write.  I'm not suggesting that you keep him him home -- but you can provide opportunities for him to actively engage his mind and body outside school.  Lots of physical activity and active play, learning to cook or do repairs, building models or working with an erector set, and doing chores and taking on responsibilities are exactly how he needs to fill his time.

Best wishes to you both!
Rebecca
> 60 days ago

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KidAngel
KidAngel writes:
Hi Mommyloves jo00,
I hear your frustration Mom and  know that you are truly an invested parent that wants nothing more then get to the bottom once and for all of why your child is not succeeding in school. I used to be a 3rd grade teacher so I can tell you that this is the last grade that we as educators call a primary grade. By the end of 3rd grade a student should have a firm foundation of all skills needed in order to layer more skills in the coming grades. By the sounds your post and this is written from the viewpoint that he has no diagnosed learning disability, then I take the stance that what your child is suffering from is a lack of an adequate foundation that is hindering him from being able to layer new skills properly. These are called "skills gaps" and can only be remedied by a "supplemental educational" program that is designed to first assess the student to see what foundations are missing and then to design a program to fit that need. Schools run on a "curriculum" that word comes from a Latin root that means "to move forward" and that is what schools do. They are not designed to go backward and pick up these skills. As a former teacher I cannot say that the 1 to 2 weeks in the beginning of the school year that most teachers will inter-mingle a review with the new work for that year is adequate enough to pick up all skills missed by students over the years. It€™s more or less a review to stir out the cobwebs from the summer months. Once students have struggled for 2 or more years it is a common occurrence that their self-esteem is lowered and their self-confidence is weak. Poor academics in theory go hand n' hand with poor self-esteem and self-confidence.
Of course I would also agree with getting him tested for LD's, however, I find it hard to believe that you had not mentioned in your post that none of his teachers had suggested testing? I have been involved in more IEP meetings than I care to remember as not all were great experiences. Once the school "team" meets with you and if it is decided that indeed your child does have an "LD" and the school "team' will address the needs, then Mom it will be up to you to STAY ON TOP" of it. IEP's should be reviewed every quarter to make sure that the program design is working. That is the only way to guarantee that you are getting the best results possible for the needs of your child.
My intent was to give you another possible position to look at. I would also suggest that you contact   your pediatrician for a referral to a psychologist that can do the testing in house. Your pediatrician may also wish to do a complete physical to rule that out. Most schools are 3 to 6 months behind on IEP testing. This is a general statement, if your child attends a smaller school he may be able to get tested sooner thru the school.
If I can be of any further assistance to you just post and ask. Stay strong, you will get to the resolution.
I€™m in your corner!
Barbara Antinoro
Educational Counselor
Kid Angel Foundation
Education.com Team
> 60 days ago

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princess dixon
princess dixon writes:
When I was in school (pre-k - college) I all ways had a problem in reading and writeing.  They put me back in 1st grade.  All the test and quizzes all thrugh school was hard for me. To help your son is to get big words in book, us all picture for the words, And say the words out lord and let him look at the picture like 100 time. For 15 to 30 min a day because is will help him out all thrugh school,  And let him be hand on all the time.

I'm 24 in college and I had to fold out for my self the hard way.
keep loving your son all ways.
> 60 days ago

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ChristineL
ChristineL , Parent writes:
I have an 11 year old who struggled through elementary school and is now having a tough time in middle school.  I was also told as he went through elementary school that by the end of they year he has caught up enough to advance to the next grade.

He was in Title 1, Instructional Support and now has IEP teachers in school.

Let me tell you a bit about my son.  First and most importantly, he is by no means dumb. He is a Boy Scout and plays baseball.  We also have talked to him and told him that we DO NOT expect him to be a straight "A" student and we will not push him to be one. But, we do expect him to do his best. But he was also very upset and frustrated with his grades.  I call my son a "hands-on kid."  You give him a project and he excels.  He loves the Boy Scouts and enjoys the camping and all the activities he gets involved with with his Troop.

After failing science and geography in the second quarter of 6th grade and speaking to his teachers and guidance counselor my husband I decided it was time to seek outside help.  After having him tested by one of these centers we discovered that he can read but his comprehension is only at a 2nd grade level.

Somewhere in the 2nd grade he missed something and it's effected him ever since.  

I contacted 3 tutoring centers and they all told me the same thing...they are seeing more and more children with this problem.  I think this should be a red flag to our school district and current academic practices being taugt in our schools. Please understand, I am by no means putting down teachers or schools.  I realize their time and resources are limited but with your help, you son will improve.

My advice is to speak to his teachers and guidance counselors. Work with them to come up with a plan that you feel will best suit your son.  Work with your son at home. Pay special attention to what his homework is and sit there with him to aid him in completing the assignments. Don't do it for him but guide him. YOU are his teacher at home!!

It's to early at this point to know if outside help will aide my son because he just started but I spend 1 to 3 hours a night helping him with his homework and after only 2 weeks from speaking with his teachers, his grade are all now above failing.

I do understand the expese of outside tutoring but I think it's money well spent.  It's an investment in your son's future.

My husband and I often feel that if our son had been held back early in elementary school things may be different.  It may be just what your son needs.  Request that he be tested for a disability.  If there is a problem, repeating the grade can be handled in an entirely different manner.

I know it's a tough decision but please remember, it is your son's future at stake and the earlier the intervention the better.

ChristineL
> 60 days ago

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tamerria
tamerria writes:
I myself am having the same problem. if you get any good suggestings please let me know.
> 60 days ago

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prep629
prep629 writes:
I know this can be frustrating, my daughter is 15 now and this is the first year she has done most of her work and turned it in, I struggled with her from the first grade, first she is adhd, second she doesn't fit in the box schools like to keep students in but I do suggest getting him tested.
> 60 days ago

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misselma
misselma writes:
hi there, i don't know that i will be much help but i to have child in second grade that struggles with school too. I guess I was in denial but i will move forward to have him tested for learning disabilities also they may suggest that he may have ADD I will not allow them to put him on meds but if he needs extra help that is where the testing comes so they can teach him at his level. my advice is have him tested first, I had a reading tutor for him once a week but it began to get expensive for me it made a bit of a difference but i think he needs that help in school too. Hope i helped somewhat.
> 60 days ago

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