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new, considering homeschooling for failing 8th grader

Posted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:50 pm
by Mkat

My name is Melissa and I'm the mom of a bright, amazing 14 year old who is about to fail 8th grade in the public school system. It's been years that he's been on the line of failing and every year is getting more difficult for him. He has not been diagnosed with any learning disabilities, we've explored that repeatedly over the years but he does have some markers for Asperger's Syndrome but not enough to say definitely that yes, he has that. He loves learning, but hates school. Therapy has revealed that he's been bullied by students (which I knew, but not that so much of it isn't physical but emotional) and teachers (which I did not know) and my guess is simply that school is not a safe place emotionally, that he feels no impulse to do what the teachers want because he gets nothing out of it, and that he just sort of shuts down.

His teachers don't get why he's failing all the time, and in the end most just shove him in a corner and cut him out of classroom activities. This is NOT acceptable to me. He doesn't even TRY to do his homework half the time, he just gets difficult to deal with. He is now calling himself "lazy" or "stupid." It's breaking my heart.

We've visited a few alternative schools, and he just doesn't fit that model either since most kids there have distinct issues like anxiety disorders or severe depression, at others the kids were severe behavioral problems and delinquency. My son doesn't fit into these categories (ha, as if kids could be so easily categorized!).

So, I'm exploring STARTING homeschooling for the first time at the 8th grade level with a very beat down kid who's failing right now. He's very open to try something other than ps. Is this a choice that any of you have gone through?

I really appreciate already reading so many of your stories and how you handle things. Thank you.

Hi there :)

Posted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 3:07 pm
by jadey
Hi There :)

I know exactly how you feel! My son was failing 7th grade, I ended up pulling him out of public school three weeks ago. (He was in a private christian school from K-4 grade, at 5th grade he entered public school.) Even though it was this late into the school year and only a few more months of school left, I could not leave him in public school. Myself, I work in the public school system so this was a very hard decision for me to make. These past 3 weeks, I have seen my son do more work than I have seen him do all year long.

However, to my surprise I learned that my son was no where close to where he should be in math. He seems to be working on a 5th grade, perhaps early 6th grade level. Other subjects, he appears to be at level- which I am quite thankful for. Hearing your child call themselves 'stupid' is just heartbreaking and I have heard that quite a bit the last few weeks where his math is concerned. I have decided to try Math U See because it does not identify grade levels, but works on mastery.. thus, hoping that he will not feel inadequate because he is working 2 grade levels lower than what he is suppose to be.

Every child is different. They all have unique ways of learning. You are your child's primary advocate and you know your child best. I really do think that you will see a vast improvement in his work as well as his self-esteem. I know that I did with my own son! I wish you the best of luck! If you decide to homeschool your son, let me know as we would both be entering grade 8 curricula we may could swap ideas :)

Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:37 pm
by Mkat
Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's so easy to feel so alone. I just appreciate you responding.

I'm getting to the point of just pulling him out now, even so close to the end of the year. I just can't see what he's getting out of it...others say that he's learning to "finish what he's started" or learning the "consequences" of his perceived laziness. But I know, I KNOW, that this is more than laziness. It's been every year of his school life like this, only now it's worse as school gets more rigid and more difficult. Like your son, I know for a fact mine has to be behind on his learning levels. There's no way he's on target, I think. But I'm having him tested next week to find where he really is.

I'm leaning strongly toward homeschooling, but getting some dissent among family. I'll need some major confidence and resources to back me up if we do this, but I'm a research-oriented person...I can get that!

Thank you so much! I'll let you know what we do!

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 5:57 pm
by Matt Conrad
Hi Mkat. Sorry to hear your son is having trouble in school.

I've seen a lot of stories like yours. It's all too common for the next chapter to be something like "I took him out, but it's not working! He doesn't want to do lessons. Every day is a constant struggle to get him to do anything. I didn't think it would be like this."

Coming new to homeschooling with a teenager is tough. It's also tough when a family is trying to get a child "caught up" because he's behind his peers.

I recommend taking a "schooling" holiday right from the beginning. He's going to be tense and scared and probably defensive. Don't load a bunch of tasks or expectations on him right away. Spend some time doing things together than you can both enjoy. Basically, try to get comfortable around each other and give yourselves time to decompress and destress.

(You may want to look up "deschooling" for further discussion of the idea above.)

Don't feel like you need to recreate a whole school day at home. Some homeschoolers do this, but most don't. It's going to take some flexibility and willingness to experiment to find out what works for you and your son. It's OK to make changes as you go.

The other big piece of advice I have is, try to find a local group of homeschoolers you can connect with. It's harder to find homeschooled teens than younger hsers, but it will be good for him if he can find some peers, and it will also make a big difference in your morale to have other moms you can talk with face to face.

I will say, when I read things like this: " . . . I'm the mom of a bright, amazing 14 year old . . ." it makes me think you guys will probably figure it out and do OK.

Welcome to the club, and good luck. :)

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 3:46 am
by Lily
I think at his age, it would benefit you both greatly to read the Teenage Liberation Handbook. It approaches the next four years as education with a purpose: life. It would be a way to help him put some meaning back into what he's doing, and give you another perspective of schooling. I agree with Matt, I wouldn't even try to recreate school at home.

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:03 am
by Jazzy
I agree with Matt's suggestion. I would probably pull him out now and do some deschooling - what will you accomplish by leaving him in for the next two months - especially with the bullying. (Check your state's laws first, though.)

The Teenage Liberation Handbook is a great suggestion as well.

I would suggest talking with your son about his interests, his preferred style of learning, his goals, etc. Look at different types of programs together to see what he's drawn to. In areas like history, science and literature, ask him what he's itnerested in learning more about. Go check out a curriculum fair.

The thing you don't want to do is re-create school at home, and when homeschooling, there are many ways to avoid doing that. Once he gets that zest for learning again, I bet he'll catch up in no time.

Good luck!


Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:09 pm
by Mkat
Thank you all!

Oh NO WAY do I plan on recreating school at home. It's clearly not working and I have no intention of forcing that model. I want him to like learning! I've been reading about deschooling and think that's a way to go...however, how do you deal with naysayers (family) who think that if we pull him out and deschool that we are "giving in" to his perceived laziness/lack of effort? Or that we are not teaching him to reap what he sows?

Thank you for the book recommendation, I'll be getting that right away.

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 8:10 pm
by Matt Conrad
Note that "deschooling" and "unschooling" are two different things. Just pointing this out in case the terms get mixed up. I'm suggesting some deschooling because it sounds like your son has had a rough time at the public school. What your homeschool looks like after that is up to you.

. . . how do you deal with naysayers (family) who think that if we pull him out and deschool that we are "giving in" to his perceived laziness/lack of effort?

Depends on who that is. If it is your husband, you ought to try to come to some kind of common understanding. The goal here is to help your son, and that probably means doing something different than what has worked poorly for the past several years. Homeschooling will go much better if both of you are pulling in the same direction. Reluctant spouses do often come around after they see the difference in their kid(s), so even an "ok let's try it", if done with an open mind, is pretty good.

If the naysayers are not husband or other see-them-every-day family, tell them to go (expletives of your choice deleted).

Ok, that may not be an option. But dealing with occasional naysaying is part of the package of homeschooling. Maybe you can explain your thinking to some of them. (You are not "giving in to laziness", you are taking him out of an environment that Was Not Working.) Others will never understand (or want to understand) and you'll have to either avoid the subject or push back when they pick at you.

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:54 pm
by lessons from home
You are to be congratulated for your willingness to be an advocate for your child. Your ability to see possibilities beyond the typical school model for your child is, in my opinion, exactly why you were blessed with an exceptional child. He needed a parent who was willing to look beyond average and find the perfect fit for his educational needs.
Public schools were started in the 1800's to educate orphans and create a group of people who could work in the new industrial factories. They were not and still do not, exist to help students become the best they can be.
I'm willing to bet your son is creative, curious, intelligent, imaginative, intuitive and sensitive. That would make him a right brained learner. Schools are set up to teach to left brain learners (logical, step by step, fill in the blanks of workbooks all day long and like it type of kids)
What is your son interested in? As you de-school him for the near future, can he go to the library, or get on-line and indulge himself in learning whatever it is that sparks his imagination? That way you can still assure the nay-sayers that he is learning without forcing him to open a text book and put pencil to paper.
You may enjoy this article about a young man who dropped out of school to pursue his interest and has done very well for himself: ... ssiah.html - be sure to read his educational background on page 2
Here's another:

I wouldn't put too much stock in what grade levels he tests at. Tests are a measure of how well someone takes tests, not how much they know. There are a great many very intelligent, high achieving, successful people who are terrible at taking tests.
My daughter is one of these. She barely passed her homeschool courses but now she's a licensed EMT in our state. If the motivation is there, they can do the necessary class work. As it happens, my daughter, at only 18, is extraordinarily level headed and competent in an emergency. She knows exactly, step by step, what to do for her patient. And she brings an atmosphere of calm and confidence into a usually emotional situation. It is what she is gifted at.
Let your son explore the possibilities, find what excites him, and he, too, will flourish.
Stay in touch, let us know how it's going and how we can help :D

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:00 am
by vmsgirl71
I thought I was so alone in this world with my son and as I read your post, I find that I am one of thousands. Your story reads just like mine with the difference being that we are aware of my sons learning "differences". I don't like to use the term disability, because what makes a unique way of learning something a disability?
In just the last few weeks I have learned so much and am so excited to get my son back on the path of learning the fun way. He actually WANTS to be a social studies teacher, but his dream dimmed greatly over the last year and he has changed over to computer analyst or musician. He has excelled in private guitar lessons..where he failed "band" because he had to sit and wait for the instructor to get to his group....once again one on one lessons vs mainstream classroom.
I hope we can compare information and find if whats works for my child could work for yours and vice versa.
I really feel empowered now after reading your thread. THANKS!!

Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:08 pm
by Mkat
vmsgirl71: I'm so happy to hear this is working better for you! I'm happy to compare notes!

I think we are pulling him out next week, to allow him to see his friends in this way for a few more days and for me to gather some things like a journal so he can track his interests for a few weeks.

We will definitely be deschooling for a couple weeks at least and then evaluate what the next step is, it might be time to dig in with some interest-based learning or he might need a bit more deschooling time.

Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 5:49 pm
by vmsgirl71
Yep...tomorrow is the big day for us.
A few of his friends are sad he's "leaving", but I said to him, heck those are the same boys he sees at the local Christian Academy when he goes skateboarding!! So they're not going to miss him too much! KIDS!!

I am very excited to begin!!


Posted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:18 pm
by Lorelei Sieja
I'm just catching up on some posts, as I haven't been here in a while. I wanted to add my two bits to this thread. Thank you for homeschooling your son! I remember sitting in 10th grade world history class. The boy right behind me was more than a little behind. The teacher ignored him completely. She never called on him. he never participated in discussions. I discovered that he was also illiterate! He was a sophomore in a major high school in Madison, Wisconsin, and he was passing (barely) but the school had failed to teach him the most important lesson of his life! Well, behind a faith in God, that is, but that's not the public school's domain. For Public schools, teaching reading should be the single most important lesson taught, and retaught, until mastered! But this boy couldn't read. it about broke my heart. He dropped out of school the next year and I never saw him again.

I would encourage you to look at "Moving with Math"
For your son, if you feel that he is missing some basic concepts in mathematics. This program is perfect for helping an older student fill in the gaps. Briefly, they teach everything with pre-test, then teach ONLY what the student didn't get right, then post test to make sure it was learned, then quick daily reviews to maintain. It would be possible, say, that your boy missed a few basic concepts from second grade, although he can do some fourth, and eighth grade math. With this program, you can teach only what he missed, and pass him through several grades in one year. Also, there are no photographs of fourth graders in the fourth grade level, no wording to tell your child what level the math book is, so he won't feel "dumb". I used this program with my fifth grade daughter when I pulled her out of public school. She was a very bright little girl, who was failing in public schools. I retaught concepts she had missed, and she whipped through the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6th grade books in one year. She eventually completed Saxon's advanced mathematics before going to college. And this from a child that had been tracked into the "low level learners" group for remedial reading and math! Grrrr.

Good luck, and I wish you and your son all the best!

If you need even more encouragement, try reading "Home school Burnout" by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. They feel that many boys would do well not to even START formal schooling until age ten. It may help you feel that you are not behind. You and your son are just starting at a different level.


Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:53 pm
by Mkat
Thank you!

It's funny you mentioned second grade math, because that's exactly where he starts missing math concepts according to one pretest he took this week. I'll check it out. I really appreciate the suggestion!

His last day is Monday!!!

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:16 am
by vmsgirl71
you'll be so happy that you made this choice. it's only been one week for my son and he is so different..just not having that constant weight on his shoulders. It's so nice to hear a smile in my sons voice let alone see it.
You'll have this too.

As a side note? He's been out for a week....I received and email from his Spec ed teacher asking why he has so many absences??? 1. all teachers were notified that day of his leaving..2. I also had emailed her 1 week and 2 days before I pulled him. Apparently she does not read her memo's or emails..... and that was his Spec ed teacher.... how disturbing is that??