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: 05-27-1998
Sat, 12-22-2012 - 11:15am

I'm going to try not to rant and rail against this outrageous and all too common trend in public school honors classes. But yes, we have so been there! My daughter said many of the things your son is saying, basically, that it's the quantity of the workload that's difficult, not the material itself. And I hear this all the time, mostly from gifted kids who must be in honors/AP classes to get anywhere near the challenge they need. And these are kids who do not have issues with processing speed, so I can't imagine what your son must go through every day.

My daughter was a mess sophomore year. I won't go into the gory details, but at one point, she was thinking of dropping out and applying to an early college program just so her school work would have more meaning.  She ended up transferring to a small Christian school that is perceived as less rigorous (meaning, it has a more balanced workload and fewer AP offerings, but is not intellectually less challenging) and is thriving there. I know private schools aren't the answer for everyone, but I do want to encourage you if you are thinking along these lines at all.

We got a lot of grief from friends and even family for pulling our kids out of a school ranked at or near the top in our state and sending them to a school no one had even heard of, but I can honestly say it was the best decision regarding their education we have ever made. And in spite of the lighter workload in the AP classes, the school still managed to cover the material, because DD got all 5s on her exams. This tells me that you don't need piles of homework every night to cover the AP curriculum.

In fact, I would argue that having to study for hours each night is the enemy of the gifted high schooler, especially the introverted creative types, who need down time and artistic pursuits to thrive. And I am outraged that your school's officials told your son to selectively skip homework and accept Cs when they should be reexamining their entire HW policy for everyone. Grades should reflect learning, not endurance and stamina.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Fri, 11-16-2012 - 11:55pm
Sorry - I forgot that quick reply no longer does paragraphs. It used to work better for me with my old computer...
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Fri, 11-16-2012 - 11:54pm
Is the taking college courses what the school told you? Or what the college told you? I live in WA, kids here have the option of taking the last two years of high school in community colleges to earn their AA. Home schoolers often do this too - they don't worry about getting a diploma as most colleges if you show you can do college level classes will be fine with accepting you without a high school diploma. Home schoolers will tend to have a diploma from the "family school", usually showing the classes they took at college as their junior and senior year. The only instance I heard of a home schooler getting turned down at university with a home school diploma was when the college wanted the transcript stamped "official" so the mom got a stamp for Office Depot and sent it back. The school my sister attended in MD basically told her the same thing you were told - but the college said she could take all the classes she could handle. So she did, and got a year and a half out of the way early. If your son did this, you might want him to focus on "easy" classes at high school, and more difficult at college. Basically, they can't stop your son from taking college classes if he wants as long as you are paying for it. The teachers strike me as asses, to put it mildly. A bright kid doesn't need to do outlines. A bright kid needs discussion, exploration and application. I am glad you were able to get real text books. But yes, explore getting him tested again, and allow for him to show in alternate ways that he has grasped the concepts. Also see if they will allow him to do work electronically - there are some really great apps out there that may help him. Ones for taking notes, recording lectures and taking photos of the board. (Get permission from teachers before using these!) A talk with an occupational therapist, either at the school or through your medical insurance may be very helpful for determining which things would work best for your son. Regular OT may not be helpful at this point, but the knowledge that they have, as well as having them as an advocate for his needs may be what you need. Sometimes with the schools you need a "professional" to tell the teachers before they will believe what you have been saying all along.
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.

 

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: 04-27-2000
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: 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

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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: 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

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.

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