November 14, 2008

Fourth Grader

I don't mind telling you that Rob has been driving me CRAZY recently. It is some comfort to be able to swap stories with my friend of many years Astarte, whose fourth-grader is pulling some of the same pre-adolescent stuff. Rob has been sighing, eye-rolling, door-slamming, talking about how things are NOT FAIR, acting like I am the only mother in the world crazy enough to insist on at least every-other-day showering, etc.

Also, we have forgetfulness/carelessness issues. Almost every day SOMETHING is forgotten at school: his coat, his lunchbox, his clarinet, his homework folder. He left his clarinet at school for THREE DAYS last week, then came home saying, "The good news is, I remembered my clarinet! The bad news is, I forget my lunch box. And my coat."

This week it came to light that he had lost his clarinet practice book days and days ago, and had just been TOODLING AROUND during practice time, and that furthermore he has not been practicing the songs even when he DOES have the book, and also he's been including the setting up and putting away as part of the 30 minutes he's supposed to do.

So since he wanted to act like he didn't understand he was supposed to use his PRACTICE BOOK when he PRACTICED, I've been sitting with him during practice time to make sure actual practicing is taking place. I'm not musical and can't read music, but even I know that when you play music you're supposed to play it on a beat, not "as fast as you can"; and that if you don't know the whole song, you can break it down into smaller parts; and that if you have a song to learn you should PRACTICE PLAYING IT as opposed to saying, "I don't know how to play it." In just two sessions with a non-musical coach he's gone from "Hm, maybe the poor guy has inherited my musical ability" to "Hey! He can play SONGS on that STICK!"

But here's the situation that's stressing me out most of all. He told me yesterday that in school this week they're doing a writing exercise in class, where they do three 45-minute sessions (one per day) on a larger writing assignment, with an outline and a draft and a final copy. They've done two of the in-class sessions so far, and he has NOT YET CHOSEN HIS TOPIC. This makes me hyperventilate. I think, "Why didn't he tell the teacher he's having trouble??" and "Why isn't the teacher CHECKING at each stage of this new thing??" and "Why doesn't he just PICK A TOPIC???" and "OMG is he seriously just sitting there staring into space while everyone else is writing??" and "What is he going to do NOW??" Today is the last 45-minute session, and he said to me that he was pretty sure he could just do the final copy. Yes, but he's supposed to be learning outlines and drafts, and also he STILL DOESN'T HAVE A TOPIC.

It is very hard to know where to draw the line with these things. At what point is is, "Well, he needs to learn to sink or swim; I'm not going to be able to nag him about his homework when he's in college," and at what point is it, "He's in fourth grade and still needs to be taught good work habits"? And then I look warily at the FOUR MORE CHILDREN I'm going to have to go through this with.

Don't be ridiculous: I'm always going to be a cute baby, not an eye-rolling pre-adolescent.

44 comments:

Shelly Overlook said...

OMG that "always going to be a cute baby" is getting so grown up!!!

This post has me totally dreading the coming years even though I am miles away. Surely WE weren't this annoying, right?? RIGHT??!!!

Jill said...

Gah Hi Henry! Who's adorable? Who is? You are!!
Ahem. Right. Homework. Bleh. I have no advice on that front, but I will continue to squee over your baby for awhile.

Nowheymama said...

I am floored by the amount of homework my FIRST GRADER brings home, and I am casting a wary eye at her younger siblings, spaced two years apart. I see all homework, all night long in my future.

Mairzy said...

Probably not all your kids will exhibit Rob's particular drive-you-crazy traits. I mean, they'll have their own, but at least you should have some variety. :)

I was the type of kid Rob is, although not as dedicated to it as he seems to be. And I'm raising a son who's shaping up to be the same type of person. We do make it to successful adulthood, in general. But I feel like writing my mother apologetic notes every week or so as I remember my childhood. Only I never get it done because I can't find a pen.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids but I tutor 4th and 5th graders and Rob sounds pretty typical to me. If I were tutoring him I would "strongly suggest" (ie make the choice for him) a topic that was workable. In my experience kids/boys that age are rarely able to sit and focus for that long without an adult sitting there and making them focus. As they get older the ability to work on their own will develop but for now I think he needs a little help and that is not unusual in any way. Not sure how to fit that in with all your other family responsibilities, but you do such a remarkable job juggling things. Please tell us how you handle it since you are my own personal role model/supermom.

Bug-N-Bee said...

Awww....look at Henry! What a sweetie!

As for the less fun stuff...yeah, we're there too and Caleb is only in 2nd grade. We often have to just force him to do homework, or whatever. In fact, I signed him up for an extracurricular without asking cause he won't do it otherwise.

Natalie said...

I'm also a little surprised that the teacher isn't checking progress, since this is such a new thing?

Alice said...

my parents definitely forced me to do my homework if i was slacking off as a fourth grader. there was OH SO MUCH eyerolling and GOD, MOMs, but the good news is that i ended up with a really great work ethic and literally did all my homework during all four years of college.

hmm. so the moral here may actually be "let him be, so he isn't the only dope who doesn't realize you don't have to do ALL your homework in college."

SarahO said...

Hmmm. Well, does saying that it doesn't get any better...or it might get better.

I teach fifth grade and they are ALL forgetful. Some of it is on purpose (like forgetting homework at school) and some of it is just learning to juggle the many things they have to learn. We use a planner every day. I have the kids write what they need to do and when. That includes stuff outside of school! I'm a big fan of natural consequences, too. If they forget their homework, then they stay in from recess to do it. It's not a punishment. They don't get a lecture. They just need to get it done.

In terms of the writing assignment, I'm sure the teacher is somewhat aware of what is going on. But, she/he may not have been able to get to Rob yet. I teach 55 fifth graders Language Arts each day. (Two classes of 28 and 27.) In a 50 minute period it is impossible to get to everyone. By the time I give the directions and the lesson, we are down to 30 minutes of work time. That's a minute to spend with each student if it were divided evenly! It is never is divided evenly. There is always someone who needs a lot of help and takes 15-20 minutes of extra instruction. I try to scan the room and make sure everyone is working and take note of anyone off task...but, sometimes I just can't. I try to collect their work periodically for writing to make sure they have something, but it might be at the final draft stage before I catch someone who hasn't done a thing! That's where natural consequences come in. They stay in from recess and we work on it.

Anyway sorry for the huge explanation! In summary, I think it might be a good idea just to zip off an email to Rob's teacher so she/he is aware that he hasn't even started it yet. It will put him at the top of the "needing-attention-queue". And all of this is so totally normal.

Hotch Potchery said...

You know my kid that just got a 32 on the ACT? Well, when he was 4th-8th grades we were sure we were going to have to support him for life because he did not do any homework until he was in the 9th grade. He would end up bringing home C's on the report cards because he would have 0's in all the homework spots...he would "forget it" on the floor in his room. It drove me nutso, since the older kid did everything she was ever asked at school. We threatened, cajoled, and finally the only thing that did the trick? If there was a zero ANYWHERE on the report card, no video games for the next grading period.

Kids are hard. Good luck with the report.

P.S. I still ask EVERYDAY if he has stuff to be working on at school.

Rolling Off The Edge... Together said...

My fear of pre-adolescent/teenagers set in the moment the egg and sperm met four years ago... OMFG FOURTH GRADE THOUGH!?!??!

drowninginlaundry said...

Maybe he should pick forgetfulness as his topic.

Or how to annoy your mother with pre-adolescent eye-rolling. He obviously has THAT down pat.

Ahhh the things I get to look forward to in another 7-8 years.

nancy said...

As the fellow mother of a fourth-grade boy, I have no advice. Just sympathy. If you find a way to cure these issues, please post so we can all benefit!

On the upside, my second-grade daughter finishes all of her homework at school and turns it in before she comes home. So at least I only have to fight with her brother.

Mommy Daisy said...

I was going to say the same thing that Anonymous said up above. This is pretty typical in 4th/5th graders that I've worked with. They don't seem to care as much and need more prodding to get things done. I see this in a school setting and with tutoring at an afterschool setting. It will get better. I think you're doing the right things by checking in and encouraging him. I wish all parents were as involved and caring as you are.

Swistle said...

You guys are making me feel SO MUCH BETTER!

brenna said...

I don't have an advice, I'm just glad that my fourth grader isn't the only one like that!

Saly said...

You've just succeeded in giving me the nervous tummy. Someday I will have a fourth grader, and teenagers. OMG, I'm panicking now...

And tell that Henry to stop growing!!

Meredith said...

I taught fourth grade for 4 years and I think that this age is a huge transition for kids. All of a sudden, they aren't little kids anymore! But they want to be!

The writing assignment sounds like preparation for state testing in the spring. We had to do these - we call them "On Demand Writing" in my state. Basically, on THE BIG TEST in the spring, the kids are given a broad topic...like, "Tell about a time you were proud." or "Write an article describing your favortie teacher." They then have 90 minutes (in my state) to brainstorm ideas for the topic, write a draft of their piece, edit it, and write a final copy. We would practice all year by breaking up the task into pieces over a few days.

I would DEFINITELY email the teacher to find out what this is all about. Also, remember the parent-teacher contract: I'll believe half of what my kid tells me about you if you believe half of what my kid tells you about me.

Also - is there a possiblity that he regrets signing up for band? Lots of kids don't realize just how much work it takes.

Good luck! By the time Henry is 10, you'll have this down the way you do making baby food and caring for toddlers.

Gwendolyn said...

I'm not having school issues with my fourth-grade daughter, but we are already starting with the eye-rolling and the pre-teen attitude. It drives me nuts, becaue her teacher keeps sending me notes telling me that this is the "sweetest child she's ever taught" and as I'm reading the note the sweet child is screaming at her brother to "STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!" Cracks me up every time. Apparently, she's saving all the attitude for us. I guess I should be grateful. :o/

Lisa said...

I have a fourth grader that sounds very much like yours. Thank goodness my sixth grader is so type A, firstborn-ish that he's never given us a moments grief about homework. In fact, last week I told him not to worry about an assignment and to come to the movies with us and he refused. The eye-rolling, back talking, nothing-is-fair fourth grader is doing his best to drive me crazy. He's never sure what is expected of him with his assignments. He loses everything--in fact the next lunchbox is on him. If he weren't so darn cute and still snuggley I don't know how I'd stand it.

Danielle-lee said...

My sister is in 6th grade, and that is my mother's BIGGEST problem these days: She's not doing her school work, and my mom doesn't know when to get involved. It's so frustrating! Good luck. I wish I had some good words of advice for you!

bananafana said...

I just got a little twinge in my stomach thinking about homework and my oldest is 3. Please let them stay under five forever . . ..homework *shudder*

Shannen said...

HA! I have a 13 year old girl and you have not even come close to just how crazy your gonna get over the eye rolling, foot stomping, demanding diva behavior. And I have TWO MORE YOUNGER GIRLS...help! Oh, sorry, this was your cry for help :) I can relate.

shoeaddict said...

HENRY! Your nose is SO CUTE! And that smile/smirk- oh goodness...

Anyway, it's stuff like this that makes me nervous and we are just at the conception stages.

Be sure to follow up and tell us what you did so I'll know!

Erin said...

Oh honey. This makes me hyperventilate. Which I'm certain is not helpful to you.

I have no clue here. I am DOOMED.

Devan said...

Don't be ridiculous: I'm always going to be a cute baby, not an eye-rolling pre-adolescent.

_________

If only that were true. *sigh* Good luck with the pre-adolescent stuff. I'm taking notes.

Michelle said...

Oh, I feel for you. I know I'll be wondering that same thing. I definitely want the independence and cause and effect to sink in, but ... they need some help to learn HOW to do these things first, right? When you figure out where that line is, will you share with us?

nicole said...

He is delicious.

And I have no idea on the homework front, as my oldest is only in first grade and her homework is mostly reading, which she loves.

Amanda said...

You've been tagged. Check my blog to see what you have to do!

bluedaisy said...

Isn't one round of "terrible twos" enough? Apparently not! I don't have any helpful advice but I do wish you luck and MUCH patience!!

bluedaisy said...

BTW, I think the teacher should have been monitoring student progress on this assignment since it is happening during the school day. Also wondering if you are hearing the whole story- no offense to your son. One of my nephews is 10 and my SIL often consults with his teacher just so she can get a handle on what's really happening. It isn't that my nephew is lying, it's just that his 10-yr-old perspective is a little skewed.

Anonymous said...

Swistle -- you are the best, so I will do my best to give you advice here. I'm a 6th grade teacher and can totally relate. Perhaps the most comforting part of this situation is: You are not alone! Totally normal behavior for this age and it will probably continue until about 7th or 8th grade. Sorry to be a downer there. But, your best bet is to implement a plan like saraho was talking about. Maybe you could have an incentive chart at home and when your precious darling brings home all of his supplies he gets a sticker. At the end of a week, if he he has five stickers he gets a special reward. You can even have different rewards/consequences for the number of stickers he has accumulated that week. Eventually, bringing home his supplies will be second-nature and you will no longer have to use the sticker chart. It will teach him responsibility NOW so you won't have to worry about him when he's in college :)

Niki said...

I have an 8th grader who forgets his books, backpack, glasses, lunch money, homework (when he does it) all the time. He rarely does homework but then aces all his tests and maintains a solid 91-92 average. If he did home work he would have 100% in all subjects. This kid kills me.

Astarte said...

Josie forgets EVERYTHING, including the foam pumpkin that her teacher said they had to decorate and use as a prop during their oral book reports. I cannot remember things for her, so I don't even try. She has forgotten her violin two weeks in a row, and her teacher sent home a nastygram about it. Yesterday, when we were making quickbread, her job was to grease the pan, and when I pointed out that she had missed all the corners, she went to get the baggie she had used with the crisco - FROM THE TRASH. ARGHGH!!

Seriously, I think they're all morons. DH assures me that this is normal. I am not so sure. The only think I AM sure about is that *I* will probably be reduced to Moron by the time this is all through.

Pann said...

ARGH. I feel your pain, here! My 3rd grader (girl) is such a pre-adolescent already, and has a lot of the staring-into-space-and-not-getting-things-done problems.

A call to his teacher seems reasonable to me. What's going on? He shouldn't be allowed to get so far behind without a heads-up to the parent!

desperate housewife said...

I am so scared of this age. The cute is melting away, leaving awkwardness, the beginnings of body odor, and a complete lack of responsibility-taking. There's a reason that pre-adolescence is considered the "gawky" stage. You just have to love them through it, I guess. Lord knows I was one clumsy mess for a few years there...
Anyways, I'm sure he'll get it. I like the idea of natural consequences rather than nagging, in theory, but it would sure be hard to do in practice!

babytoddleretc said...

Hey there! 5th grade teacher here.

While I agree that all kids at that age struggle with organization, there are some things that help.

For one thing, what sort of system does he have in place? Does the teacher have them write down their homework at a certain time of day? Does he have a planner, a home work notebook and folder? If so, I might suggest putting together a checklist for him to look at as he packs up at night and in the morning (notebook? check!, clarinet? check!, folder? check!)


Also, have you spoken to his teacher about this? If not, I think I would. I would just check with him/her to see if he/she has any suggestions or strategies. I know that I would want to hear from you.

Finally, some sort of reward/punishment really, really seems to work. Is there something that he could work towards? I know I JUST finished parent teacher conferences and I set-up quite a number of home/school partnerships. One that stands out is a boy who is begging his mom and dad to be on the travel baseball and soccer team in the spring. If he isn't consistent with his homework or classwork then this isn't going to happen. I met with his parents on Thursday night and already mentioned it to the student on Friday morning. It is early to tell but I already saw an increase in his level of responsibility.

Good luck! Being a parent is tough!! I think the 1st has to be the works. Because after that, you will have a better idea of what to expect.

Mary Kate

babytoddleretc said...

BTW, It is possible that the teacher is doing an 'on demand' writing piece (basically a writing assessment) and is purposefully not giving direction. Again, this is something I would check with the teacher.


Mary Kate

Omaha Mama said...

Look at that cute little Henry getting all smirky! Holy moley that is one cute baby!!!

Kelsey said...

I do think there's some room to let natural consequences play out. The nice thing about fourth grade (grade school in general) is that as long as children are grasping the basic concepts being taught, there is no long term damage of a poor grade now and then. I think children are more likely to use our "helpful suggestions" when they perceive a problem and ask for help. It's so difficult to know when there is a need to interfere!

Rob does sound very normal in his forgetfulness, etc. I don't think you need be unduly worried. If you start to fret just spend some time with that adorable baby!!!

Farrell said...

I can hardly wait till I get to that same point.

Susanica said...

What a cutie!Your baby isn't a baby any more--just about the cutest toddler I've ever seen!

So about your eldest...Maybe if you threaten to tie the clarinet and the book together and make him wear them to and from school every day he'll reconsider his ways. Probably won't work, but I bet he'd be shaking in his eye rolling shoes at the very thought of it! -Monica

Minnesota Matron said...

Sweetheart, we're a blink away from 13 with two more kids to go. Those years ahead are long and- lovely. It'll be fine :-). But I get it.

t2ed said...

Just wait for the "You're not the boss of me" line.

That's a classic.