Should I home school this barely passing child?

My grandson just got his final 7th grade report card, and it was very poor – mostly Ds after having started the year with Bs and Cs. I have been paying for about 5 months for his attendance at Sylvan Learning Center, an outside educational tutoring service, and they say he is at a 6th grade level.

I am considering home schooling but know very little about it. It would mean his moving in with us, but before I even discuss this with his mother, I need some answers.

Have you tried home schooling? What would be my first steps? How much time would this take on a daily basis? What are the pitfalls? Is it successful only if the child is already motivated? How do you overcome the pushback from the child? Did you eventually give up and why? Were you successful in turning a situation like this around?

What is the reason they give for him failing?

(Full disclosure: I was homeschooled, or more accurately unschooled.)

Homeschooling is not a “fix-it” solution. Some kids do start to flourish when taken out of the school environment, but some flounder. Would you consider homeschooling him if his grades were excellent? If not, why do you think it’s a good idea now?

If he’s at a 6th grade level, and he’s in the 7th grade - could he be held back to repeat the 7th grade? Or is that just not done any more?

What role are his parents playing in his life? I’m confused as to why you are wanting to make these decisions for them.

If his grades were good, it would be obvious the situation was working; there would be no need for a change.

I don’t know if it’s a good idea now; that’s why I posted the question. I just know the current situation isn’t working and want to look further into one possible avenue.

I was wondering the same thing.

If he has always got good grades then it might be something outside of school that is the problem, or bullying, or hormones…
what does the child say himself?

His mother has said she’s tired of cajoling him, or whatever she’s been doing. She says he’s old enough to know what his assignments are and to get them done without her riding him.

I say that approach is the same as abandoning him.
I must now abandon this thread and go to work. I’ll have to catch up later.

Not necessarily. I had excellent grades before I started home education, but I was also very unhappy and very bored. Home schooling was the best thing for me. It also allowed me to start having a healthy social life outside of the pressure-cooker environment of the classroom–but some kids love being with thirty of their peers all day, and would feel stifled without that interaction. If he’s one of those, he might very well resent being taken out of school.

If you are seeing home education as a way to drill him into a “high performer”, I would strongly advise against it. It won’t work, and will make you both miserable. If you think he would be happier and more well-adjusted being home educated, though, then by all means give it a try. Well-adjusted kids generally do better in all things.

Who you are is almost as important as who the child is when deciding to homeschool or not, IMHO. I am a huge supporter of homeschooling, seen many children through the process, but I do not homeschool myself. Why? Because I’m lazy. I know how it would turn out - endless days of my daughter playing in her room while I surf the 'net.

So, assuming first that you’re motivated enough to do it, there are some options you should be aware of. First, and my favorite, are homeschool groups. These are groups of homeschooling families who often put together either activities or classes for their combined children. Many homeschooling families use groups either to get their kids social exposure or to teach subjects they’re not willing or able to cover thoroughly at home. For example, my goddaughter’s took a bunch of theater classes with their homeschool group, taught by one of the dads who was a theater professor at a local university. They learned set design, lighting, directing, sound, acting - all the things his college students were learning - and put on a show at the end of their “semester”. Practical theater, in particular, is a subject that most homeschool households aren’t equipped to teach, but put a few families together and you’re good to go.

Second, you should know that, in every state I know of, even if he isn’t attending the local public school, he still has a legal right to access there. If he wants to join the soccer team, he can. If he wants to take Driver’s Ed class there, he can. If he wants to go to Prom, he can. If he wants to take the SAT or ACT to make the college application process less complicated, he can do it through the school. There’s no reason at all for homeschooling to negate good use of school resources.

And…about college… don’t fret on that account. Universities have certainly gotten used to homeschooling now. They offer several avenues for admission to homeschooled students, often viewing portfolios instead of report cards or asking the homeschool educator for records of subjects studied if they have them. I haven’t heard a “trouble getting into college” story from homeschoolers for years.

As for curriculum, there are four basic options there, although many homeschool families use a blend. First, you can continue the curriculum he’s been following at the public school. They will provide you a printed or electronic version, if you like (and it may be on the website already). Second option is to use a curriculum created by an outside source specifically for homeschool families. Beware: many of these are written and published by religious fundamentalists, and are of dubious quality. Do your research before you buy. Third option is to cobble together some curriculum of your own, using the library, the internet and the ideas of the two of you.

Fourth option, which I find the most fun personally, so I’ll give it its own paragraph, is to use no curriculum at all, and teach as the day takes you. Got to go to the bank? Bring him along for a lesson on balancing a checkbook and how compound interest works. Teach him the formulas and have him figure out how to best invest $25, or $100, or $100,000. Is the best choice the same for large and small dollar amounts? Why or why not? History - what was the first bank in the world and why did it form? Why did it fail? Economics - What exactly is inflation, and is deflation better or worse? English - read or watch The Merchant of Venice. What point of view does Shakespeare have of bankers? Writing - draft a speech or persuasive essay as part of a campaign to encourage young people to save more, or not use credit cards. Computers - create a blog to post your essay to. Art - check out the architecture of the bank. Does it have a vault? Where? How did the architect balance out a bank’s needs for security and aesthetics?

The internet is your greatest resource. There are hundreds of websites you can find through google for homeschoolers’ support, curricula, ideas and even legal issues. There are also homeschool conferences, many of which are posted at this calendar: Homechooling conferences are great ways to meet local homeschooling families, find homeschooling groups and examine the latest homeschooling guides, curricula and support materials. They can also be a great way to talk to homeschooling families about exactly the sort of questions you have here, to help you decide if homeschooling is right for you and your grandson.

When I was young, my school had it so that when you moved from 3rd to 4th grade, instead of getting one homework assignment at a time, you would get multiple, with multiple due-by dates. For whatever reason, I simply could not remember which books I had to take home that night or when I had to get things done by, etc. For like two months, several times a week, I was made to sit still on a bench during recess and lunch as punishment for missing a homework assignment. I’m sure that my grades that semester were pretty bad due to this.

And then I got used to the schedule and got my memory up to snuff and it was no longer a problem for the rest of my life.

Personally, I’d focus on getting the kid to adjust to the new system of having to schedule himself. It’s definitely a skill that’s needed in the real world and his mom is right that he shouldn’t be reliant on others to force him to do what he needs to be doing. Leaping in and homeschooling him just makes him more dependent on someone making him do his schoolwork.

The only place I would worry is whether he cares about his falling grades. If he’s living in hog heaven with not having to do his homework anymore, neither his parents nor his school is punishing him for failure, and he doesn’t care whether he’s ruining his future or not, then he won’t get himself turned around. So, you do want to determine what he’s feeling and whether getting turned around is something that will happen. If his mother won’t make him do homework, and he’s a lazy bastard without that sort of pushing and that’s not going to change, then you are possibly better to homeschool him and force him to do his work. There’s a good chance that he’ll come out the other end a lazy bastard even still, but at least he’ll have an education.

Have you tried bribery (seriously)? A recent study showed that paying kids to attend class, behave well, and complete homework assignments on time improved grades (vs. paying for grades themselves).

  1. Why are you qualified? My concerns about homeschooling is that people who have no background as teachers or in education think they can teach. Not everyone can do that. If you are or were a teacher at some point in your life, then I would be fine with that. Not knowing you, I’m going to make some stuff up now: Let’s say, for example, that you are a high school graduate and then worked as a secretary for 30 years. How are you going to teach chemistry and physics? Foreign language? Geometry? Advanced algebra? Do you know enough biology to catch a frog, dissect it, and teach the kid all its parts and functions of those parts?

  2. If the momma has trouble motivating the kid and has to hound him to complete the work within the context of a supervised classroom, how in the hell is Gramma going to motivate the kid to do the work when he thinks he’s on summer vacay?

  3. Again, why is it your place to make these decisions for the parents? What other options are they considering? Why aren’t they in here posting for advice?

  4. Consider web-based school. My sister pulled her kid out of the public school because he simply would not do the work. He’s very smart. He pays attention in class and aces the exams. But he wouldn’t do or turn in the homework, so his grades sucked. The local school district had an internet school program: kid logged on for x number of hours a day, completed y number of assignments, paced himself, and did the work on his own schedule. He worked full time while he did this. Now in this particular case, he didn’t finish. He ended up dropping out, getting his GED and is now in college at a technical school.

I don’t think the traditional public school learn by rote memorization thing is for everyone and alternative education options are just as valid as the old-fashioned way. But the alternatives aren’t for everyone either. Some people need the structure and pressure. Some people perform much better when in control of their own choices, and the content areas they study.

I suggest that perhaps the kid is just bored out of his mind and would buckle down and do the work if presented with topics that interest him or light him up. My nephew hates reading and writing. But he got through his Freshman Comp class with a B because passing it meant he could learn to be a race car mechanic. Maybe you just have to find the right carrot. Or maybe you should sit back and let his parents solve their own problem.

Really and truly, without knowing WHY he’s doing poorly, it’s impossible to know what’s best for him. There may well be a learning disability (he needs to be tested), there may one or more social issues, he may be depressed, it may be he lacks study skills.

I recommend lots of summer activities together, if you have the time: card games and hikes and gardening and video games. Buy an old junker and pay him to help you restore it, or something like that. Anything that puts the two of you together and keeps you out of eye contact. Then just talk to the boy about everything but school. Try to figure out what’s going on. DO NOT SUGGEST ANY CHANGES for a long time–several weeks, at least. Do not offer any advice. You are trying to figure out what’s going on–does he feel like he can’t succeed? Does he feel like it doesn’t really matter? Does he feel like he’s not the sort of kids who does well in school? Does he get easily frustrated when he works? Does he have friends? Do they do well in school/care about grades?

Once you have a clearer picture of what’s going on you can think about things like homeschooling, switching schools, moving him in with you, putting some structures in place to help keep him organized. But you are really putting the cart before the horse, I think. You need to know more first.

This post says two important things.

  1. Holding a kid responsible for doing his homework is not the same as riding him. It is as simple as requiring that he do the homework - and show it - right after school or dinner and before he does anything else. That’s parenting 101.

  2. If you work, how do you propose to home school this kid? Schooling is a full time job. A really motivated and smart kid can do a lot of the work himself, but this kid doesn’t sound like someone who you can give an assignment to and have it done an hour later.

Dogzilla has an excellent point. While everyone has the knowledge (but perhaps not the skill) to teach at the elementary level, junior high and high is a different story. How’s your algebra and geometry? My wife and I have five degrees between us, and we could probably do it - except for language.

Finally, has he been checked for any sort or learning disorder? Could his problem be that he is having such a time doing his assignments he’d rather put them off? He might be just lazy or adolescent, true, but it is worth checking.


I would love to see this study, especially in since I am currently reading “Punished by rewards” a book with a ton of research showing what a fantastically bad idea this is.

Damn. The teachers can knock themselves out, but if the parents aren’t going to make the kids do their homework, all is lost.

Mom need to make him do his homework or there should be no TV, no time at the computer, no playing with friends.

My mother used to come in and feel the television set to see if it was warm.

I hated homework and had to be forced to do it until my senior year. Don’t expect kids to act like grown ups at his age. His brain is not even fully formed.

Home schooling is worth a shot for at least a semester to see how things go. At this age you should be able to handle subject matter just fine.

Good for you!

Random thoughts:

  1. I agree that homeschooling can be awful if parents aren’t teachers themselves. Imho, homeschool is only an option if the parents can truly give a better education then the local public schools. Seriously, teachers usually spend years learning about how to make lessons and conduct a class. Qualifications to homeschool a child should, imho, be higher than for regular teachers.

  2. It sounds like the child in question has a learning disability. Sylvan is a pretty serious program, and if they can’t get the kid up to snuff in 6 months, he’s pretty far behind.

  3. Yes, rewards are a horrible idea. The research actually says that rewards are far worse than punishments. Example 1: I offer $10 to wash my car. If I change my offer to $5, fewer people will want to do it simply because I offered $10 first. If I had offered $5 first, I would have gotten more people to accept. Example 2: Teenagers stand outside a man’s house and yell insults at him. He goes out, and says, if they come back tomorrow, he’ll give them $1. Eagerly, the children accept. After the next day of abuse, the man says he’ll give them 25 cents. The children accept. On the third day, he tells them the price is now 5 cents. The teens says that’s not worth it, and never return again.

Not sure how to say this sensitively, but have you considered he might just be a little bit thick? There’s no shame in that, and if you put too much pressure on him you may end up just pushing him into depression without achieving anything.

Identify this early and perhaps you can help him to follow a more vocational path.

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