When Smart Teenagers Tank at School

My 14 year old son was homeschooled until the 5th grade.  At first they wanted to put him in remedial classes because his spelling and handwriting were atrocious, but then I got the teachers to look at the content of his writing (what an original idea!) and they agreed to let him catch up on his own.  Within a year he was being recommended for the AIG program.

He’d gotten almost exclusively A’s until the first semester of his freshman year in high school (this past semester.)  His grades included a couple of F’s, and the rest weren’t much better.  I feel like there could be so many reasons for him to have done a reversal, not the least of which are normal teenage hormones and adjustments.  Other possibilities:

  • His only friend being a kid prone to getting into trouble with the law as well as repeating his freshman year in high school
  • Playing football and trying to adjust to that schedule while being new to the reality of high school academics
  • Taking honors classes when he specifically asked to be allowed to take college prep instead (which I verified later with a teacher at the school was not due to academic concerns on his part, but rather social, so now I have to wonder if I made the right choice pushing him into them)
  • The fact that we live in a tiny  house where three young children run around screaming with high energy, which does not give me much time to give him attention nor does it make for a good study atmosphere, even in his room
  • Receiving a Playstation 3 for his birthday last summer and becoming completely addicted to it
  • Receiving texting ability on his phone in the middle of the semester (on last month’s bill the total texts sent/received for just his phone was over 17,000!!!)

I’m sure if I sat here long enough I could make more excuses.

Here are some things I plan to do to help him more next semester:

  • email all his teachers to let them know I’m involved and want to be notified at the first sign of slipping and told how I can help
  • ask him about his homework and classes every day, even though it will annoy him, and ask to help
  • I’ve posted a copy of his previous academic excellence award on the family bulletin board to remind us all of how high he’s set the bar for himself
  • Severely limit video game play
  • Hopefully (fingers crossed) we will be in a new house soon with enough space (including one room that will be an office/library for studying and quiet activity) that calm concentration becomes more than a pipe dream

I’m hoping for another reversal so that this past semester is just an anomaly, a bad blip on the radar.

Thoughts, advice, experience to share?  Any strategies for this new semester that I’m overlooking?

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2 responses to “When Smart Teenagers Tank at School

  1. Work alongside him and see if he has anything to say: do the dishes together or something, but DON’T make eye-contact and listen rather than try to fix what he is telling you. It might not happen the first time you do it, but make it regular and he will open up.
    We still stay with our nine year old son when he goes to sleep, this is the time he tells us the things which are on his mind.
    Hope it all works out for you.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion!

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