My son will be repeating the 4th grade...


I had a conference with Little Butterfly’s homeroom teacher today. The story’s the same: he’s really bright, but he just can’t seem to turn in any work.

His report card has gone from a D average the first nine weeks to a C-minus average the second nine weeks to a D-minus average the third nine weeks. He isn’t improving despite a concerted effort on the part of his teachers and his stepdad and me, a couple months of Adderall XR, and repeated discussions with the child about how he needs to step up and take some responsibility for his own education because his teachers and I can only go so far.

**He struggles in Reading.**His reading level should be around a 4.7, which indicates a reading level sufficient for the seventh month of fourth grade. Instead, he’s at a 4.2 level. It’s not because he can’t read, though. It’s because he reads the individual words instead of the whole story so that when it comes time to test out on a particular book, he can’t recall plot points or themes or characters. The kid read “The Bridge to Terabithia,” and when it came time to write a few sentences about the book, he wrote, “Jess had a friend who lived next door. They both liked the same teacher.” I didn’t think it was possible, but that might be worse than the description of the movie that came out this year.

**He struggles in Math.**By the fourth grade, at least in our school district, students should be fairly familiar with their multiplication tables through 9. Little Butterfly is still counting on his fingers to get through the 3’s. The 4’s are very tough for him despite many drill sessions. The 5’s are easy for him because of the obvious pattern, so I’m not sure that even counts. The 6’s, 7’s, 8’, and 9’s are challenges he’s just not ready for. He still can’t grasp the concept of “borrowing” in subtraction. Division? Fuhgeddaboutit. He can’t figure out multiplication. How’s he going to do reverse multiplication?

His social studies grade is horrible. I spoke to that teacher today. She’s not his homeroom teacher; I happened to catch her in the hallway by the office. She told me that he has failed to turn in most of the papers she has assigned this nine weeks. One of the assignments was to color a map of the state, and fill in such items as: state flower, state bird, and state motto. He didn’t do it. He has an F in that class because of all these missing assignments.

My husband and I have been talking about Little Butterfly’s struggles for a few days now because I scheduled the conference sometime last week when the teacher sent home a sheet. He keeps telling me that we aren’t doing enough. We aren’t spending enough time with him and his homework. We aren’t putting enough effort into this underachieving kid. I’ve been saying that I’m willing to work with him all the way up to a certain point. I told him I can’t make my child care about school. I can’t make my child want to do better. (I’d like to express my gratitude at this time to WhyNot for pointing out in another thread that misappropriated guilt is a common pitfall for parents of underachieving children.)

I’ve been thinking his problem is, at a minimum, three-fold: he’s immature for his age, he has ADD tendencies, and he lacks motivation. I would rather approach this from all different angles.
[ul]Having him repeat the fourth grade is for the immaturity.[/ul]
[ul]By upping the dosage on his Adderall from 10mg each morning with a 5mg booster as needed to 15mg in the mornings and the same 5mg booster as needed, we may start to see some improvement as far as the focusing and organization.[/ul]
[ul]Enrollment in summer school may help with the motivation problem; he’ll either catch up on the stuff he’s missed all year thereby bolstering his confidence level or he’ll hate it so much he’ll be motivated to perform because he won’t want to do summer school again.[/ul]

As his mother, I don’t want him to be overly embarrassed about this. I’m pretty sure the kids on the playground will take care of that. I explained to him that in reality, he probably wouldn’t have actually flunked, but that because his grades didn’t look good, he was going to get, as I put it to him, a “second chance at success.”

Have you considered one of those tutoring companies? I don’t have any experience with them, but I do have experience with “that kid” and it is frustrating. I wish I had better suggestions for you. Maybe one of the tutoring companies has a technique that will work with your boy. Good luck.

Have you considered switching schools (along with repeating 4th grade)? Then he doesn’t have the “held back” stigma on the playground - and there are fresh teachers that may be able to approach his learning in a different way.

ETA: what is it with these types of posts that makes people say “Have you considered…?”

I’m confused about the timeline. Am I misreading it, or did his grades drop form a C to a D- while he was on the ADD drugs?

My son’s kindergarten and first grade teachers were sure he had ADHD and we were faced with the possibility of having him evalated. But, as we understood it there was a lot more involved than just getting him on some prescription. He would have been getting individualized attention at school, too. Is there anything like that at the schools in your area? I also know that there are a number of centers in our area that work with kids–tutoring and techniques for helping them keep on track and so forth.

Sorry I’m being vague about the specifics, but we were fortunate in that my son seemed to “get it” by the end of first grade and is doing very well now. It helps that his current teacher raised 4 boys and doesn’t consider them to be alien creatures. My point is that I don’t think they should get off just throwing some pills at you and leaving you to figure out the rest.

You’re welcome.

That is a bloody fantastic attitude, frankly. And, as hard as this is now, it’s far, far better that he repeat fourth grade than sixth, or eighth. The younger the better, when all he probably needs is a little extra time to catch up in maturity and work ethic.

We’ve been having some further challenges around here, as well. WhyKid’s grades started slipping again, and I sort of gritted my teeth and put on a detached face until my husband (an academic and a stern task-master - we are NOT on the same page about this “his homework is his thing” ideal) pointed out that we’d never been very specific with him about what he “should” be capable of. He knows we’re happy when he gets A’s, and unhappy when he gets D’s, but the whole middle ground was a little bit of a no-man’s land.

So I sat him down. Again. And this time said, “You know, I think you need to know what you’re capable of. According to those horrid standardized tests, and according to the IQ tests you took for your IEP over the summer, you should be getting all A’s and B’s just by turning in your work. You should be able to do that without studying extra, or even trying very hard, 'cause you’re smart, like me. So just to let you know, if you come home with anything less than a B, I’ll know it’s because you made that choice, and I will be disappointed. Still love you and all that, but one of the consequences of not choosing a higher grade is disappointing your dad and me. Just thought you should know.”

So maybe (have you considered? :smiley: ) think about how specific you’ve been about your expectations. I know my mother always ever only said, “You could do better” when I was getting A’s and B’s, making me feel like she’d never be satisfied no matter what, so I didn’t try at all. Maybe he, like WhyKid, just heard “you could do better” as “no matter how well you do, I’m going to think you could have done better.” Which, if you think about it, is exhausting and frustrating. Which boss would you respond better to: “Smith, we need to increase productivity by 13% in the next quarter. I know you can do it, based on your skills and previous work.” or “Smith, dammit! Try harder! You can do better than this!”? Me, I’d work a lot harder for the first kind of boss.

Just how prepared are you to involve yourself in his homework? Something that worked for me when I was a kid was a little pad of paper, where, every day I wrote down the assignment for every class. I then had to have the teacher sign the pad to confirm that I had the assignment correct. Then, I would show it to my mom when I came home, and when I was done with the homework, show her the finished work. She never checked for correctness, just to see that each assignment was done. I had to put my work in my school notebook after this review, and then I had it all done ready to turn in. It took about 2 years to get it through my head that the amount of effort and unpleasantness I experienced in not doing my work was much more taxing than just doing the work.

I also had a tutor with math. I’ve always been hopeless at math. but the tutor helped with my assignments, so I had that second presentation of the material. Helped a bit.

Visual Spatial Learner - Please research this subject.

I found this about a month ago and it explains all the freak stuff that has given me problems, and certain talents for 40 years. I think you may find this to be something you owe yourself and child to read. The page had a list of 30 things that decide if you are or are not one. 29 of them aplied to me.

That’s enough links these three are ones I read and found a good starting point. It’s up to you to make sure the school provides the instruction it’s suppose to. It sounds like their putting you off, and hoping you’ll go along with it. It’s the end of a school year now so use the time until next year’s classes to look into what will be of benefit, and make sure it’s there next year.

I took my daughter to a tutor for a couple of years when she was in second and third grade. The guy wasn’t affiliated with any of the chains that I see advertised, but he did help her a lot. Her problem was mainly that she’s dyslexic, and the school’s approach simply wasn’t working for her. She graduated high school, community college, and regular college cum laude.

If he really does need to grow up a bit, especially if he’s one of the younger students in his class, repeating fourth grade might be the best thing for him. He really does need to master his subjects before moving on. I don’t know whether summer school would be good for him or not. My niece had to go to summer school a couple of times, and she decided that she would rather work hard when she’d have to be in school anyway, instead of slacking in school and then missing a great deal of summer fun.

At the therapy center I work for we offer a comprehensive cognitive evaluation given in a one-one-one environment which assesses a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes these are coupled with psycho-educational evaluations which detail how any blips on the learning radar your child experiences can interfere with his actual learning experience. If needed, a pediatric neurologist is called in to examine the child as well. This is all done is a relaxed, casual, kid friendly atmosphere where the child is comfortable giving it his/her all so the results are amazingly accurate.

After the testing has been completed the parents, psychologists, a social worker, teachers, doctors and any other necessary parties all attend a staffing (without said child) and discuss the results and the recommended course of action to help the child succeed. That may include cognitive therapy (educational therapy in a one-on-one setting a couple of times per week), behavioral therapy, an adjustment in medication, parental education, or any combination of the above.

Most of the time, health insurance will cover the majority, if not all, of the evaluations. Medicaid will also cover a good bit of the expenses if health insurance is not available.

Your child may be a genius, but if just one area of his brain or body is misfiring - even slightly - the frustration can be devastating for everyone. In the short time I’ve been there (2.75 years) I’ve seen kids BLOSSOM. If services similar to these are available in your area, please consider having a full workup done.

That’s really excellent advice, Adoptamom_II. Great advice from Harmonious too. I would get your son evaluated. Please don’t take this to mean I think there is anything ‘wrong’ with your son, but it really doesn’t sound like it’s just a problem with poor study habits to me. He’s having trouble across the board and it might not be his fault, or yours.

I’d think about some sort of program like Adoptamom_II spoke about and in enroll him in a summer program. Truthfully, if it’s at all possible for you I’d seriously consider changing schools like someone else mentioned. School must be hell for him and it might be even worse if he has to stay back and attend the same school. Would it be possible to change schools even for a year or two?

Being unmotivated can be the same sort of thing as depression; if it’s chemically based, all the lectures in the world won’t help.

You do realize that ADD is often comorbid with other conditions, including learning disorders? Has he been assessed for anything other than the ADD?

He could also have dysgraphia. Some poor souls are afflicted with multiple issues.

As I understand it, parents and teachers of ADD students work out arrangements where the teachers help the kids write their assignments in a notebook which goes home to the parents who can help the kid ‘remember’ the assignments that need to be done and then the parents sign the notebook when the kid’s done the work.

All of those things are ADD-related. Insufficient motivation is a hallmark trait for ADDers, and people with ADD are usually emotionally behind their peers. So it’s not three problems; it’s aspects of the same problem.

This may not work if he’s having trouble with remembering, focus, etc.

I don’t know if you’ve had much time to research this stuff, but there’s tons and tons of information online about helping kids with ADD succeed in school. Here’s one section from LD Online’s great website

I am not a pyschopharmacologist, but, as one who studies it a bit and reads some articles, I feel compelled to tell you the following:

Be extremely careful before upping your son’s medication. Please please please consult a professional, or, better yet, consult two. The effect of such medicine in the long-term development of a child’s brain is largely untested. It may fix your child’s problem, or it may not, but the side-effects and consequences of either can be bad. IMO, it can also instill a feeling in your child that “medicine solves everything.”

Again, my point is really: Be careful with psychopharmaceuticals.

What does the kid do when he should be doing his homework? Do you have a sense every day what his homework is? Does the teacher write up anything to let parents know?

I just finished student teaching in a fourth grade classroom. The teacher sends home a weekly homework list every Monday, and by Monday morning the list is also on her webpage. Every Friday, she sends home a list with each child of the homework they didn’t turn in the previous week, and the parents must sign and return that list. Every parent should know exactly what’s expected of their child.

True, she’s a marvel of organization (and I’ve learned a ton from her in that regard). Not all teachers are that on the ball. Still, if your kid’s suffering primarily from an inability to turn in homework, it sounds as if he needs help in this area. It may be that the homework overwhelms him, especially if his organizational and time-management skills stink. We set up a plan for a girl in our class who had similar programs, and she went from turning in almost no work to turning in most of her work.

Was she bribed? Absolutely. She got rewarded for turning in her work above and beyond what most kids in the class got–because that’s what she needed in order to develop some good habits in this area. Do what works.


I second getting you son evaluated. It is amazing, and scary, the sorts of easily correctable issues that can slip by unnoticed and wreak devastation upon a young student’s efforts to learn.

Just be cautioned that it can be difficult to determine if “experts” actually know what they’re doing. An example from my mother, who is a private tutor and educational diagnostician: A huge number of her students have eye problems. They’ve all had their eyes checked too, but nobody noticed. I’m not talking simple near-/far-sightedness, but more issues with eye-tracking and the like. The problems are usually easy to fix, especially if they’re caught early, but often no one who should have noticed ever did notice. The kids get labeled stupid or unmotivated instead.

I found that every subject I did extremely well in and enjoyed, all had teachers that taught in a specific way. The ones I had extreme troubles getting a good grade in, all taught the common way, which made it Hell. I never could finish written tests in time, so even though I know the material well, my grades were dropped down like I didn’t know the material. To finish a test I really needed about 15 minutes longer than most of the class to get it in written format. Spending two weeks on a subject you learned the first day, doesn’t help the attention span. I did puzzles and drew a lot during the class time, because I knew the material and I wanted to scream as the teacher repeated the same thing over and over every class for two weeks. I get pictures in my head for most words. Somebody here asked how you picture a calander. I didn’t respond, because they meant the layout of one. I imediately thought of a circle with arrows, like on a weather map, because that’s what I see every time I see or hear the word. I stored it that way because the year repeats in a cycle. It takes time to translate stuff like that into words for other people understand. I picture circles like that in a circle patern for the term life. Many calander years in a repeating cycle. That’s enough examples of how your kid maybe thinking differently. Go get the evalualions done, but you can experiment with methods listed on those sites, while he awaits testing.

What does he do instead of his homework? You might try having a fixed time in the afternoon or evening that is devoted to nothing but studying. A parent should monitor this and the child should be in an open area, such as at the dining room table or something, instead of in his room. No TV, no music, no distractions.

You might also take away privileges and tell him that he can earn them back via his grades. But if he earns them back and the grades fall again, poof go the privileges. Get the concept of actions having consequences over to him.

You may find if he’s a Visual Spatial Lerner that he’s sensitive to noise. Being in a room with any noise will distraxt him, and he needs something making a cover noise to concentrate. I can’t concentrate without certain types of cover music to block people talking and external noise. Conventional wisdom goes out the window, so find out if he is a Visual Spacial Thinker. You’re approach to teaching will be completely different from methods most teachers use.

I have nothing great to add to the excellent advice above so instead I shall provide some comfort. My 18 yr old stepson had many of the same problems you describe at that age. He has ‘language learning disability’ as well as a serious case of ADHD, or rather HAD a serious case of ADHD. When he hit a growth spurt around three years ago he just plain grew out of th ADHD. No more meds, behaviour quite nice, etc. A real joy to be around.

In fact he’s much less of a pain in the butt than many other teen agers I’m familiar with.

He’s not a stellar student to this day but it looks like community college and a good life awaits; he has a great attitude and he’ll do well.

Oh yeah, he repeated 4th grade too. We handled him real gently and it worked out great (maturity was an issue too)

Good luck to you, just wanted to say it can and does work out well in the end.

Does your son have an IEP (Individual Educational Program) or, if not, has he been tested for it?

With luck, the Multi-Factored Evaluation (or something similar) used to determine whether your son qualifies for an IEP should point out the areas of specific learning disability. Beyond the “these are the subjects he’s failing,” it should indicate the phenomena that interfere with his learning so that his instruction can be tailored to his learning abilities and he should not be held to standards it is physically impossible for him to meet. The “Iowa” (Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)) does a reasonably good job of indicating potential performance, but it does not measure actual ability to do specific work in specific contexts.) Since your son is already on medicatrion and continues to fail for reasons frequently realted to physical conditions, your school should have already been offering to provide an MFE.

My son showed almost identical educational problems at the same age. Unfortunately, his psych/behavior issues masked many of the educational problems so that we could not address (or addressed in irrelevant ways) his actual Learning Disability. (This is continuing to follow him through high school where he finally got his math up from early grade three level at the beginning of grade nine to nearly eighth grade level in grade ten, but his psych/behavior issues still interfere with our discovering his actual deficits or impediments.) We still don’t have a genuine LD diagnosis, since he shuts down when he knows he is being tested, (psych issue), but at least we now know that he has LDs and the teachers are better prepared to work with that rather than concentrating on behavior and missing the point that there is stuff he cannot learn (amid all the stuff he refuses to learn).

A formal IEP–provided you are, indeed, working with it–should also reduce the sort of comments you reported from his teacher about your lack of involvement. If you are doing your floundering (untrained) best at home and the teacher has no experience dealing with actual LD kids, he is going to label the child and the parents as “just lazy” because he does not see the effort, only the lack of results. If your son repeats the grade and you have any options, I’d get him into a different classroom than with that teacher.

Regarding the meds: is your doctor in General Practice or Family Practice? Or does your doctor have specific training in neurology or related fields dealing with kids suffereing these problems? (Setting aside the whole brouhaha of excessive or fad prescriptions for the moment, a lot of kids with mild symptoms can be treated fairly effectively by the local GP/FP–many (we hope most) of whom stay current on the actual research on the topic. However, once a kid begins to fail despite “standard” treatment, it might be a good idea for a professional to see whether the correct drug and dosage are in play, here.)