View Full Version : Difficult transition to public school

01-04-2013, 07:44 PM
So, many of you know that my daughter, who has homeschooled from grades 1-6, started Junior High school this year. It hasn't been easy, and I find myself wondering what I could/should have done differently to prepare her. I don't really think she's struggling with the material that's being taught. I think the real problem for her is managing her assignments/workload. Let me give you a few examples:

They were working on a big project in math. It was a geometry project and each day, the teacher would give them more instructions on what to add or incorporate into their projects. So the first day it was something simple: draw a building with certain requirements. Each day, they were to add on to their drawing. Well, somehow my daughter fell behind. She didn't quite hear or understand the instructions, so she didn't know what to do. She was embarassed so she just sat there, hiding her work. Each day, she fell further and further behind because she hadn't done the previous day's tasks. After a couple of weeks, they were supposed to hand in their project and she had....NOTHING DONE.

In her drama class, they are supposed to keep a "reflections journal." After every activity or unit, the teacher assigns a question of some kind that they are supposed to write about. Well, my daughter was keeping her reflections on loose-leaf in a binder. The teacher gave her a journal to use instead. She lost it back in October. In the meantime, she's been either NOT writing the reflections or just putting them down on scraps of paper in no particular order. Apparently, this journal is the basis of the grade for the course, and my daughter has almost nothing to hand in.

I don't find out about this stuff until it's been going on for weeks or months.

Anyway, I can't even imagine how I could have prepared her for this in our homeschool. She's not used to having to "hand things in" or having to keep track of things "for marks" or even being responsible to someone else. I'm not exactly sure how to help her, other than hounding her for details about what's going on at school. I suppose this falls under the general category of "being more responsible" and "asking for help when you need it" and "dealing with problems before they get out of control."

Stella M
01-04-2013, 08:01 PM
This is why I am happy dd is not going to be at school this year.

That doesn't help you though. You are right, you can't prepare for this particular aspect of school.

Could you have a weekly meeting with dd to help her look over what needs to be done and help her allocate her time to do it ? My dd started timetabling her homework/assignments and that seemed to help her keep up.

Fwiw, dd had issues with speaking up when she was behind or didn't understand something as well. She thinks it's mortifying. She was also conscious of not wanting to be the weird home schooler who didn't know stuff.

Anyway,we never did deal with it all that well, so no real advice, just empathy with the frustration.

And remind yourself she's got a few years to get to grips with it all...it's a big change...

01-04-2013, 09:03 PM
There's a great book called Smart But Scattered that would give you some routines and tips to help you help your daughter learn to be organized. It's written to help parents of kids with ADHD, but I'm sure the routines would be fine for a typical kid.

01-04-2013, 09:40 PM
Binder check. Every day. That's my middle school teacher advice.

01-04-2013, 09:41 PM
Gah...who would even consider that a JOURNAL would be the basis of a grade in a DRAMA class? My oldest (who went all the way through public school and has graduated college), was HORRIBLE at keeping himself organized. He would have failed those two classes for sure. The one thing that he always had on his side was his ability to talk to teachers and schmooze them. :p He never failed a class.
Is there a way to get her teachers to communicate with you more? Are they not checking on these assignments until the very end? I bet she isn't the only middle schooler to have issues with this.

01-04-2013, 10:10 PM
Binder check. Every day. That's my middle school teacher advice.

Elaborate, please? Her binder usually looks fairly organized: there are dividers, there is stuff behind each divider. What am I looking for?

01-04-2013, 10:16 PM
Could you have a weekly meeting with dd to help her look over what needs to be done and help her allocate her time to do it ? My dd started timetabling her homework/assignments and that seemed to help her keep up.

I have done this with her, but not regularly. Honestly, this year turned out to be a lousy year for her to start school. I started a new job, and the position I found involves teaching 3 evenings a week. Then, my brother had his transplant surgery in September, and I spent more time in his city than my own city that month. Then, my parents had their mega-accident at the end of November, and I literally dropped everything from then until now. We only had about 6 weeks of "normal" in the whole fall term. Maybe if I mention that to the teachers, they will take pity on her?

I'm hoping we can get the new year off on the right foot. She is feeling quite lost and miserable about it all, and is on the fence about quitting altogether. One part of me wants to sing for joy, but the truth is that we haven't been able to give school an honest chance. It's been too crazy here.

Stella M
01-04-2013, 10:44 PM
It doesn't help that too much homework is assigned, too much of what is assigned is low quality and there is limited communication between teachers about how/when/what to set.

I know my dd really needed hand-holding with this stuff. Hopefully this coming year will be smoother for you and your dd can get a chance to 'do' school in a 'normal' way.

It isn't her, or you...it's just life at school. All you can do is your best to help her do her best and let things fall where they may.

Accidental Homeschooler
01-04-2013, 11:19 PM
It seemed like in our district junior high is the time to learn those organization skills before high school. Even kids moving from elementary to junior high school can struggle with it. So I wouldn't think it is a hsing thing necessarily. I am reading the smart but scattered book now and finding it helpful as far as how to teach my dd7, who has an LD that affects executive functioning, those skills. I think one of the points the book made was that people (parents and teachers) often overestimate the abilities of middle and junior high school age kids to be organized and plan ahead. Can you talk to her teachers and let them know this is something she is struggling with and ask for help? I always found that the ps teachers my older dd had were willing to do that. They want their students to be successful too. Your dd certainly isn't the only one. I would try to approach it as a learning opportunity as much as possible.

01-04-2013, 11:22 PM
I think you just sit down, go through every piece of paper and talk about every assignment every day. If she's determined to keep it from you, then there's nothing you can do. But if it's that she's dropping the ball because she's lost bits and pieces, then hopefully it comes up. When I used to tutor after school, I would just go through each class and every bit of their backpacks and binders. Oh, the things that would turn up...

Agreed that a journal for a drama class is silly. Writing across the curriculum. Sigh.

01-05-2013, 07:24 AM
Every middle schooler, high schooler, college student and adult struggles to some degree or another with prioritizing and completing tasks. My experience with the schools my boys are in is that the staff is well aware of how much of a learned skill this all is and they are working hard to make sure the students learn these management skills. I'm not going to get into content or value judgement about whether we should be teaching our children these management skills or not, that's a different topic altogether. She is in school for now and figuring out the best ways to support her are what I'm going to focus on.

Absolutely talk to the teachers, the guidance counselors, the administrators and your dd. Any one of the things your family is going through would be hard, that you are dealing with all of these is almost unbelievable (I really hope 2013 is a better year for you.) You aren't looking for pity, you are looking for appropriate guidance and support. You want them to have critical information about your dd so they can help her. She probably wants to do well, but she just doesn't know how. Schools have lots of ways of dealing with this, from a five minute check in with a teacher or aide before or after school to make sure everybody knows what is expected to guided study halls to individual instruction.

Your dd also needs to hear that she is not alone. Middle school is a tough time to be in school (While, BOO probably would have been fine if I'd started him at his academic level, I'm really glad I started him in 6th grade instead. He is the belle of the ball at his school - I called him a rock star the other day and he told me "No I'm more of a fairy princess, same thing really - everybody loves me and is my friend but I'm easier on the ears."), the whole puberty/self consciousness thing is rough. So letting her know that even if they've always been in school, the other kids are struggling with the same things she is. You can be honest when you find assignments silly, I do that with B1 a lot, but tell her to look at it as a way of figuring out what does she want to get out of that class and how can she meet the requirements with a minimum of effort. Learning to ask for help is really important. I actually rewarded ES when he started school - he got chocolate when he went to a teacher for help before he was lost. (although like Teri's son ES is really good a schmoozing so this wasn't too hard for him. Still chocolate always helps.)

It's really frustrating but you will all survive.

01-05-2013, 10:37 PM
So my kids' school (private school, except for the middle one now) has a binder that they give the kids in the beginning of 5th grade (it's called "The Student Planner" . Every day in every subject they write down what they are working on and when it's due. So they can go back to each day and see it. In 5th the parents are required to sign it to say "we saw it!", but it's up to the kid to make sure the parents see it. For bigger projects that won't be due for weeks, they get a monthly "here's what we're doing and when it's due" and write it in their binder. There is one online specifically to help ADD kids learn this skill, it's can't remember the name off hand, but I remember it was something that looked very nice.

Just google "middle school student planner"

I also at the this age had to talk to the teacher and ask her to shoot me quick emails about long term assignments. Because Tyler would be too nervous to let anyone know he was behind, I made sure the teacher knew this and it helped a LOT.

01-06-2013, 05:45 PM
I strongly agree with the binder suggestion. Often we assume kids are going to pick up organizational systems but they may not know where to start. Often this is a skill taught in 6th grade for kids who attend middle school so if your child is entering public during high school they may need some extra help.

We had really good luck with the SOAR method. SOAR Study Skills: Susan Kruger Woodcock: 9780977428007: Amazon.com: Books (http://www.amazon.com/Study-Skills-Susan-Kruger-Woodcock/dp/0977428001) Here's the website. StudySkills.com: #1 Resource for Study Skills and Study Skills Curriculum by SOAR Study Skills (http://studyskills.com/) You don't have to buy a bunch of stuff. You may be able to get the book from the library or piece together what needs to be done from a free preview of the book. The key is that there is very little complexity to the system - everything has a clear place. It may take some follow up to get her using the system but I've seen kids with organizational challenges do well with it.

01-11-2013, 04:48 PM
There's a great book called Smart But Scattered that would give you some routines and tips to help you help your daughter learn to be organized. It's written to help parents of kids with ADHD, but I'm sure the routines would be fine for a typical kid.

There is also an edition written of Smart but Scatter specifically for parents of teens. I'm only on page 20, but so far its pretty impressive.