asynchronous high schooler

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2000
asynchronous high schooler
13
Tue, 11-13-2012 - 12:13pm

DS started highschool this fall. Our challenge is that his work speed is significantly slower than that of his peers.  He routinely does 4-6 hours of homework a night - seven nights a week.  Others in his grade/courses spend slightly less than half that much time on their coursework.  Of course, if DS steps up from honors classes to AP in the future, we hear that the workload doubles again -which is not possible in DS's case because there are not enough hours in a day.

DH and I have asked DS to consider stepping back and taking lower level courses.  His responses are that a) I will have no peer group in those classes and b) the classes I'm in now are taught way below my cognitive level so I can't imagine how bored I'd be in general education classes.  We had a 504 meeting with the guidance counselor and teachers.  The teachers for whom he routinely does the most daily homework said "If he can't keep up with the load, he should just selectively skip some of the homework and get Cs.  He needs to stop thinking of himself as an A student." DS feels that it is unjust that he should receive Cs in classes that are actually too easy for him and in which he understands the material completely - just because he does not read or write quickly.  We asked if he could have routinely modified homework assignments - especially with respect to routine outlining and nightly writing prompts.  The guidance counselor's response was that DS should self-advocate on an assignment-by-assignment basis.  Honestly, this would mean DS e-mailing four teachers per day, every day, and asking that the day's assignment be reduced, then hoping to get a response in time to have an impact on that evening's plan of work.  

Any advice on next steps either by DS or parents?  We are at a loss.  DS says he is fine continuing 30-40 hours of homework per week for the rest of high school, and taking mostly honors and very few APs in the upper grades.  But DS has some health concerns.  If/when medical treatments begin again, there is no way he will be able to continue at this pace.  Even if all remains good medically, he is bound to hit the wall at some point.  The school views DS as not in need of accommodation because he is not failing, so it is pretty clear that there is not much they are going to be willing to do.  DS is very frustrated with the amount of work.  He says "None of it is difficult or mentally taxing.  It's just cumbersome."  He feels extremely proud of himself for keeping his head above water.  I just can't help feeling that it's an extremely unreasonable expectation on a child that he have this much homework.  The teachers say that it's not uncommon for students to have this much homework in high school and that DS needs to get faster or get used to accepting lower grades.  

 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Tue, 11-13-2012 - 4:15pm

Holy cow. My heart goes out to him. Can I just say (possibly not for the first time) just how much I love your kid? Is that okay with you?

Has he been formally identified as 2E? Being in Canada I don't really understand what a 504 meeting is vs. an IEP or whatever other procedures and policies you have to deal with. It seems to me he's experiencing a classic twice-exceptional dilemma: his intellectual gifts (and exceptional work ethic!) are allowing him to compensate for his disabilities and challenges such that he appears to be doing fine, needing neither additional support nor additional challenge -- while in fact he would probably benefit immensely from both. Your post is so clear and so poignant. Is there anyone at the school to whom you can express exactly what you wrote in your post ... and be heard? Would additional testing showing a 3-4 standard deviation discrepancy between strong and weak scores, or a massive verbal vs. performance gap be helpful? 

If you really feel you're at a dead end with the school, two possibilities (besides switching schools) occur to me. First ... what about dual enrolment? Would a community college course be less focused on grades-for-homework-completion and more focused on mastery? Second ... what about providing him with accommodations at home, even if they won't allow them in school. Things like Dragon Naturally Speaking, or reading aloud to him rather than leaving him to read, or scribing for him? Does he struggle with writing mechanics, such that having his own laptop and touch-typing would be helpful? Would an audio recorder be helpful in class, or at home, to aid with transcribing his ideas or lectures?

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Tue, 11-13-2012 - 7:51pm

I absolutely love his response and his tenacity.   I don't have great advice for you but I would not stop with the answers you've already received.  A 504 plan should allow accommodation for allowing extra time for tests and should allow for modified homework.  The simplistic thinking that he needs to be able to work faster to keep up is just misplaced.  You need to keep looking until you find a knowledgeable person inside or outside the school system who can convey a 2E kids for dummies lecture.

 I'm very sympathetic.  My dd is not 2E but she is a very, very thorough and thoughtful kid who distills, distills, distills until she's synthesized material to her satisfaction.   She takes an enormous amount of time to write anything and tells me that she always needs extra time to complete tests at school.   I don't know if this is true for your ds as well, but I'm guessing that for him, like dd,  putting him in easier classes wouldn't change that, at least not in all subjects.  DD would certainly continue to take hours to write papers and to annotate her reading.  History tests would still take more time than what's allotted.  The only difference would be that her papers would stand out even more than they already do.   It sounds like your ds already has a really good sense of himself and understands that moving to lower level classes is not the answer.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2000
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 9:36am

Can't tell you how much it helped to hear some love for DS just now.  Thanks.  We may try again with naturally speaking.  We were able to demo it a couple of years ago and he had no interest, back at that time.  I already read to him and do typing while he dictates.  That's factored in to the 30+ hours of homework.  Without at-home assistance, he'd be falling even farther behind.   We may sit down with the guidance counselor again and see if there's anything else she can recommend.  All of the textbooks are online this year.  I pushed for, and received, hard copies of textbooks yesterday.  DS was able to shave 45 minutes off of his history homework last night by having an actual book, as opposed to the online version.  Not only is the online version flaky (it freezes up all the time), but he seems to lose his place looking up at the screen, then down at his outline, then back up.  Side by side worked much better, marking a finger on the place with one hand while writing with the other.  That saves about three hours a week, right there.  He ought to be able to shave off an hour or two a week from the math now that he has a textbook.  If you think of other possible accommodations, please recommend.  Even when we go in and ask for something specific - like a requirement for shorter papers, less writing on outlines, it has been denied.  So changes at home may be all we have.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2000
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 9:40am

Can't tell you how much I appreciate the point about speed issues persisting regardless of course level.  DH and I were thinking that, at least DS would be able to keep up with the homework in lower leveled classes. You are likely correct that DS would continue to have the same challenges with reading and output, but with zero chance of academic stimulation.  I may prepare a follow-up to the 504 meeting and cc the teachers with some sort of recommendation about a meaningful reduction of homework.  Still thinking on how to present it in a way that might gain acceptance.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 10:10am

I am saddened and appalled when I read what your son is experiencing in HS. I had two dds go through a very well-respected US high school (2nd is graduating college in May, in 3 years, due to all her AP credits, even with double major/minor/honors college certificate). They DID NOT do 4-6 hours of homework a night. I think that is insane - what kind of life would they have had??!!  And the response from his teacher to just skip homework and get Cs is ridiculous!!!!  My oldest had accommodations in HS due to being 2E (anxiety issues) and she had an IEP in spite of being PG and always carrying over a 4.0.

I'm incredibly impressed that your son is willing to do what he is currently doing in order to be in the "right" classes, but something has to change. It's just too much. Personally, I would stop sending emails or nice notes and hire an educational consultant at the same time you formally request re-evaluation. I don't make this recommendation lightly, but the school just doesn't seem to be getting it. There is NO REASON on earth that your son should be doing 4-6 hours of homework. Stop asking the guidance counselor and start addressing this as a violation of your son's rights. I just feel so awful for you and your son - you're making this herculean effort that you shouldn't have to make.

Another good resource is the Davidson gifted forums, which has a 2E section and a lot of knowledgable folks.I know you must be tired, but keep fighting because your son deserves to have classes at the appropriate cognitive level at the same time his other needs are being addressed. The two of you shouldn't have to work in tandem for hours each night. UGH!!!

Good luck

Theresa

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 11:04am

Gosh, poor kid! I really hate the direction AP's have gone. SOOOOOOO much busy work than many of the kids really don't need to gain mastery.

I'm not sure it's possible for him now but maybe something to look into...I don't know how it would work in your area but personally, community college classes have been fantastic for our DD. They go through material much faster but SO MUCH LESS HOMEWORK (at least in the math and sciences.) Plus, a semester is equivalent to a year of high school. DD goes through a special program so we don't have to pay for those classes but we know others that do it on their own (though pay for it.) The issue might be peers. My own DD sort of likes that no one interacts but maybe that wouldn't be what your son wants. Anyway, I know, not a solution but perhaps a direction to look. If he could even just replace a high school class or two with a community college class... get the challenge with a fraction of the assignments.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-17-2004
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 12:26pm

I, too, am upset at the school's response.  Your son is CLEARLY an intelligent and highly motivated young individual.  2E's fall through the cracks of the system all the time.  It's frustrating.  I agree with the recommendations to contact Davidson, check out the community college classes, and the education counselor. 

In addition, I would recommend an OT to help with your DS's fine motor delays.  He will not qualify with state services since he is so cognitively advanced.  So this will most likely be private.  But your insurance should pick up most of the tab.  Call around to see. 

Another area I would research is Vision Therapy to help with the reading and the losing his place things.  It also helps a lot with visual motor, spatial, etc.  This may also help with the handwriting issues as handwriting is also a spacial activity.

I really hate to suggest putting MORE on your DS's plate.  But you might want to consider the priority of your DS's time.  Is it better to have him spend such an enormous amount of time on things that don't actually help him or is he better off working on things he can improve?  To make time for the therapies, I would seriously consider the college classes, homeschooling for a year, or a year with online classes. 

If evaluations show your DS would benefit from OT and/or Vision Therapy, these therapists would also have suggestions on 504 items or IEP which would help reduce the homework load for your DS.

ETA:  I meant to ask, if your DS is spending so much time on homework, how is he doing with the social/emotional aspects of teenage life and high school?

Hugs to your boy.

Karen

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2000
Thu, 11-15-2012 - 2:38pm

Thanks for the responses.  Sorry if I get cut off, I am having trouble staying connected to ivillage for some reason.  Community college is not an option for DS.  In our school system, you would have to take and pass all of the high school courses, taking extras in the summer to move beyond their highest level offerings, before they would consider you taking a course for credit elsewhere.  Even then, they offer out-of-level online courses for students to take in the school library before letting a student go elsewhere.  

With respect to OT/tracking issues, we have not purused and it hasn't been on the front burner.  DS's challenges are as a result of neurological inflammation caused by an autoimmune condition. It is not believed that OT will result in any significant or lasting benefit. 

We were scheduled to have educational testing and subsequent advocacy two years ago, but a number of lengthy hospitalizations for DS resulted in our postponing/canceling those appointments.  

We sent all of the teachers and counselors letters this morning and will see if anything comes of it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Fri, 11-16-2012 - 9:43am
Amen to the comments above. You need to have the educational evals. and advocacy stat. What is the autoimmune conditions, Behcet's? (If so, I know someone who might be good for you to talk to.) Gwen

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Fri, 11-16-2012 - 4:23pm

It seems like the 504 is the way to go.  If he has a documented medical issue that makes it difficult for him to do the homework, there should be accomodations.  I understand the school may have concerns about reducing the workload for honors classes, if other kids are doing as much work.  If you are asking for modification to homework, but not to tests, then that argument does not apply.  He understands the material and does not need the level of homework required to learn the content.

I would also really look at how your ds works.  Is it all his inability to work quickly, or are there other things going on.  Is he a perfectionist that has to correct everything?  Is he doing much more than the teacher actually wants (writing five lines for a definition when one will do)?  Does he go off on tangents or look up extra materials to be sure he completely understands every nuance?  Not trying to imply that any of these apply to your son, but learning to do "good enough" can be a great skill (and really critical as life gets more complicated).

I hope the teachers respond in a positive way.

 

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