33 answers

Help! My Middle School Son Is Slipping Bad.

My son just started the 6th grade and his grades in two classes are terrible. He has always been very sound in academics. He is going from all A's to a D in social studies and and C- in Language Arts. I know he is not truthful about the social studies homework. He either lies about it or will do it and then not turn it in. He says he forgets??? You would not believe how much homework he does and then does not turn it in. I realize that middle school is all new to him, but this is so different than him I am very concerned. Socially I think he is doing better than in elementary so I do not think this is the problem. How independent should I let him be. Should I let his grades suffer while he works this out? Or will this damage his confidence enough to hurt his schooling in the years to come?
ADD ON: I just wanted to add that he does have a planner given to him by the school. I check it every night but we are still struggling with his part of filling it in.

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Hi E.~ You are not alone! I advocate for students K-12. My "new" 6th graders are also slipping. I have found that organization is a big issue. I have gone through and re-organized some of the student's binders- labeled each folder on the outside and inside (things that need to be done-things that are finished). I have seen a big improvement in just a couple weeks. I even made them go through every single piece of paper in their locker! Teacher contact is also a big help and teacher's really do appreciate it. E-mailing is the best way to contact teachers. Good luck!!

Hi E., not only is it a BIG adjustment to going to several classes a day (and yes, it is easy to forget), but I found at this age, the alpha male joggling begins. They are all going through puberty and jockeying for "alpha" male status! My suggestion is be open to talk about this stuff as well and try to develop a routine he can follow so he forgets less stuff. I started having my boys put homework stuff directly into their backpack as soon as class is over. That way they don't have to look at their locker at the end of the day and try to remember what they need to take home. The drastic grade change sounds more like a personal problem than an academic one. Is someone harassing him? Maybe he doesn't fit in? Don't get me wrong, but in my experience, when my boys grades really fell, it was either problems with other students or a girlfriend. My 17 year old was being harassed at school and was telling no one. It wasn't until I was switching schools for him that I found out. His grades changed drastically then also. I know my kids (all 6 of them) never fit the "box" and sometimes it proved difficult for them to fit in. Hope this helps you, L. S.

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My son is a Junior now and went through the exact same thing. He was always an A student and when he got to middle school things changed drastically. He could never find anything, couldn't remember to bring things home or take things back to school, and his grades in a few of his class suddenly slipped. I felt like there had to be a "fix". There really wasn't. After talking to counselors and other parents I found that at that age kids go through a major "hormonal" change that effects a lot of how they perceive what is going on in their life. My son was so emotional if he thought the teacher didn't like him or give him respect he didn't try in that class. It wasn't so obvious at the time - but a lot of the answers came afterwards. I couldn't figure out how my son could be missing every organizational gene he was born with. They will out grow it. Every friend of mine said he would and I didn't believe them because this lasted through all of middle school. when he got into HS it was like I had my kid back. His grades are back to all A's - he is happy - his teachers say his is a model student with all of his homework turned in and on time - he is organized for class. It was like a light switch that went on and off. It is hard as a parent to experience this and deal with it. My son is my oldest so I can't imagine going through this again with my daughter - but as she is in 6th grade I am starting to see similar signs - though not as extreme - though my friends tell me to wait -there will be changes with her too. So good luck - try to be patient - and as a parent you may need to step up to the plate and help them try to be more organized. I am not saying there may not be something else going on with your son, but you may find it is as simple and normal as this. Hopefully it is just this stage and trust me, with patience and guidance from his family he will get through it.

1 mom found this helpful

E.,

If your son is having trouble remembering where he put his homework and what needs to be turned in you might want to check out the Student Control Journal from the FlyLady website:
http://www.flylady.net/pages/control_journals.asp Just toss the cover page, he probably won't want his friends to find the flylady in his binder! =)

This journal is designed to be put into plastic page protectors in a three-ring binder and folders added for each class. Notebooks at the front of every folder can be used to keep track of class notes for each subject and then put back into the binder. Homework goes directly into the folder to take home, comes out only to be worked on, and then back into the folder to turn in.

With your help the journal can help him break down his new academic load into 15 minute blocks and baby-steps so the work doesn't seem so overwhelming. FlyLady also has an Office In a Bag you can purchase at the website, click on FlyShop. This OIB is designed to fit over a three-ring binder and has places to put all his school supplies that he will need for classes. You can purchase one in blue or black and it is sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse a teenager can put it through.

I liked the post from the teacher, I think she has a great idea of paying for grades. He pays if they are low, you pay if they go up.

However, if this doesn't work you might want to talk with his middle school counselor - that is their job - and also speak with each teacher, the classes where he is succeeding and the classes he is struggling in. You might find that there is a classmate who is picking on him and the classes they share with your son are the ones he is failing.

Good luck!

-C..

Not sure if his school offers PowerSchool, but it's an online tool for parents and teachers to communicate. You can see how he is doing, all grades, in class work and I believe it also shows his homework so never again can he say no homework tonight Mom, when he actually has work!

I see you have received numerous responses but I will respond hoping that this helps. My child went to middle school in the 6th grade as well. Now an eighth grader, the problem was organization and accountability. My child had the work done and not turned in, forgot about it, lost it so on and so forth. What worked for us was an assignment book. My husband and I met with the assistant principal and all the teachers. The teachers would be responsible for signing the book each day stating that assignments were due or turned in and my child was responsible for giving them the assignment book daily. Having to have the assignment book worked in two ways. One it created a sense of accountability for all involved as a child can not fail by themselves. Secondly it encouraged my child to remember to turn in the work on time because who wants to carry around an assignment book if no one else has to.
Best Wishes

Hi E.,

I have a 6th grader as well, and yes they have lots of homework. But as a mom, I communicate daily with his teachers and check on-line to see what their assignments are. Not that I don't trust him, but I won't to be sure he's on point not missing a beat. 6th Grade sets the tone for the remainder of his Middle School years.

Get with his teachers, then he will know you mean business, and will soon get down to business himself.

Be Blessed!!

This does sound serious as he's obviously capable of doing the work and getting good grades. I'd explore going to a counselor and getting to the bottom of why he's not interested in following through at school. He might be using this to scream for attention to some other social issue.

HI E.
I always look at food first, good stuff in seems to get better results. Is he taking a multi vit? And eating foods w/ omega 3 & 6, or getting a supplement for them. There needed for proper brain function. Here's a nice medical link w/ more info
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

Other than that how about a folder that the homework gets put away in, and then into the backpack? Or some sort of routine that works for you guys. Elementary school seems to have the routine built in. So maybe he's needing that direction. He's a smart kid, sounds like he might just need some help getting adjusted. Maybe you could e mail his teacher about all this, so he/she has more history. And knows your trying to help.
Good luck, A. H

I would have him evaluated right away by a doctor for ADD. A lot of these kids are very smart and not hyperactive, but this forgetting, not focusing thing is what happens when the work gets harder if it hasn't been noticable all along. There are medications that can be very helpful even though no one likes to use them. Is it better for him to be doing poorly and thinking he's not as smart as the other kids? I would do this ASAP before he begins to make some poor social choices out of a diminishing self-esteem and frustration.

This tends to run in families. I can sure trace it in ours! And a high IQ can be wasted when a kid can't get it together.

Hi E.,

I don't know what school district you are in, but most schools around me are having their parent-teacher conferences now. This has to be addressed with his teacher's, get their input. That is a huge slip of grades and can't be ignored. There is a range of things that could be causing this, form him just not being organized, to a slight learning disability that is coming out now. Lot's of times in middle school, when the workload goes up, organizational problems arise. He may just need some tools to help him organize, or may need more help. It's true that 6th grade grades won't last with him forever, but if he has a problem, that problem will last forever.Also, why doesn't he care about his grades? That needs to be explored also. Our district has a computer system that parents can check tos ee daily homework assignments, grades, etc. Check to see if yours has one also, and if they do, access it daily. If he knows you are on top of it, it might give him the motivation tot urn his work in. Good luck.

My daughter was in 6th grade last year and was very, very forgetful. It took my mother to remind me that kids get forgetful during puberty. Finally, I went through her folder every evening to make sure she turned her homework in and to make sure all homework was completed. After a while, she grew frustrated with this and became more responsible. Also, most schools have a website where you can track all the homework and find out what he is missing, etc. Good luck!

I know it seems overwheling, I have a 14 year old that is going through some of the same things. One day is normal the next is hell. I have been reassured that things will calm down, middle school is the worst. I even hated it when I was young. My son is also lying about homework and assignments. I have done a few proactive things to help, I contacted all of his teachers through email I gave them a summary of him for them to get to know him and warned them of some of his not so great traits so they can be aware of them. I also made it very clear that I felt late/missing assignments are unacceptable and I want to be notified of any. I would stress that I am behind them 100% so that they know they can call for reinforcements anytime. Keep in close contact with the teachers and they will be very grateful.

Have a meeting with him and his teachers. Explain to him that every time he does not turn in an assignment on time, he will still have to do the assignment and have the teacher give him an extra assignment for punishment (they always have extra work pages that can be done). Once he realizes he will have to do double work as punishment, he should start turning in the work the first time to avoid anything extra. The teacher will also recognize that you are concerned and involved in your childs education.

I really wish all the schools would implement this idea rather than suspending them for 3 missing assignments in a row. When they are suspended, they still have to do the work, but don't get credit for it, and they have lost out on a day of learning, which puts them further behind; this is the way they do it at our schools.

Check with the school counselor. It could be just an adjustment to middle school. But the middle school IS a combination of many elementary school kids and he might be learning some bad habits from new acquaintances. See about tutoring somewhere. If he's lying, make him accountable for lying. If it continues he will lose privileges and extra cirricular activities. Do not accept it. Accept a C at the least, A's at best. Offer a reward. Ask what it would take to get him to be more conscientious of his studies. Offer to help out. Don't allow him to get away with it tho. You'll regret it.

Wow, 30 responses! I usually read through and see if I have anything different to add, but too many! NEVER GIVE UP ON HIM! I had those same grades at midterms with my eldest and the same problem with homework. The organization thing was key for him. He's super bright and discovered how "uncool" being smart is. So sad!!! But so true for boys especially these days. Just remember, they're really insecure but craving independence. So be a partner and safe place for him. Not letting him get away with it, but really trying to understand and see life through his eyes. Get him to come up with solutions, after he's defined the problem. A book I always recommend is "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids will Talk" Faber. We don't get the straight A's I know he's capable of, but now that he's in High School, he's so much happier. Even the MS principal said they are much more concerned with getting them through logistically than academically in MS. Its a jungle out there! The more dad gets involved in that empathetic way the better, too, although that was not easy for my husband. He is very critical.

Hi E., My son did the same thing. We tried a couple of different binders and came up with an accordian binder to help him... all homework goes in the section labled for that class, and when completed it goes in the very front of that section. I often checked his planner and his binder with him. "looks like you had math homework, is it done, let me see" If he couldn't find it, I made him put it back in the front. This worked for us, but we struggled a long time with it, then it jsut stopped one day. In 8th grade he started making more of an effort and when I asked him about it, he said that he really wanted to go to college. Maybe you can find something that will motivate him. Otherwise, that will help him "find" his work, and you can set aside time with him so that you are paying bills or something and he is right there with you doing his homework, if he doesn't have any, then he has to read for that 30 mins. Can't hurt.

Hi E.. I'm a high school science teacher. I can tell you my opinions from the classroom and as a parent. First as a parent: do not think your child needs less supervision. Middle and High school ages are the formative years before adulthood and your child needs you more than ever! As a teacher: I want you to research the book/DVDs "Love and Logic" by Jim Fay. It has very useful strategies that will help, and you my use what you are comfortable with at home. Always offer your son choices and tell him the good and bad consequences of all choices. Help to stear him towards the right choice. This will lesson the disciplinary feeling and let your son own some responsibility (do it with everything!). Set up a routine for nightly homework/studying. Let him have some free time but it must be the same time each day after school. Use Saturday mornings as "get it done" time and the afternoon as freedom. Your son will/needs the routine in order to establish good habits in organization, time management, and neatness, this will hopefully translate into feeling confident as well. Now also, many children are actually afraid of success and may feel that a parent's expectations are too high to reach. So don't over pressure your son for great grades. Instead ask him what grades does he want and what grades feel good to get. You need to show him that achievement has many forms and that since he is adjusting to a new school, he needs to adjust his goals too. Please, get him into an school team sport if possible. These go far in helping the adjustment and pent up, physical frustration. Take a deap breath, HUG your sons and tell them often that you always LOVE them and want them to find a way to make themselves happy. This goes a LONG way.

Hi E.,

I dealt with the same kind of problems over the years with my older son and yes they started in 6th grade also. One of the things that worked best for my son was a progress report notebook. He was responsible for writing down all of his assignments every day and taking it to each of his teachers for an initial or a signature. This also gave the teachers an opportunity for any feedback they want to give you. There were clear consequences laid out ahead of time if he did not bring the book home signed by each of his teachers. You just have to be consistant and make sure you ask for it each day or it won't work. I would contact each of his teachers ahead of time also and let them know that this is what you are implementing and you expect that they will cooperate. You will probably run across at least one teacher that will tell you he isn't struggling in their class and it isn't neccessary for them to take the time to do it. Explain to them that it is being done for all classes regardless of his grades and consistency is key. If they still refuse, talk to the principal or the counselor. You can also explain to the teacher that it is your son's responsibility to bring it to them so there is nothing extra that the teacher has to remember to do because you understand that she has so many students to keep track of. If you feel that every day is too much, you could start out with a progress report every Friday instead and see how it goes. I just found that making him think about it every day kept my son more focused. Get creative with the consequences, whether it is no television for the night or whatever if he doesn't bring it home.

Good luck!!

T.

If education is a top priority explain that his grades slipping are unacceptable. As a teacher I have seen this happen and I can offer two effective strategies. For both set him up with a deadline with measurable results. For example by the end of this quarter your grades need to be at a B- or better. And then explain that you want him to handle school on his own but if he can't do that you're willing to help him, (that is if he can't (or won't) pull his grades up). My first suggestion is to make your son pay for his poor grades. If he knows that for every C or D he owes Mom and Dad $20 or $30 he's going to remember to turn in that homework. The other suggestion I have is a bit drastic but works WONDERS! Take a day off work and walk him through his day. Play it off as mom is being "helpful". Take notes in all of his classes. Remind him to turn in his work. It only takes one day with mom or dad in school to WANT to take on the responsiblity. As a teacher, no one at school is going to mind a parent showing their child that they will be held accountable for their school work. I have seen both of these work and it teaches kids you want them to be responsible but you are still his parent and will help him succeed if he won't do what's expected of him.
Overall no one is going to look at his middle school grades on a college application or at his high school grades for his first job. Kids do stupid things and grow up to be responsible adults. But kids do need to know that they need to be responsible for their work to survive in the adult world. I wish you the best of luck.
J.

Hi E., not only is it a BIG adjustment to going to several classes a day (and yes, it is easy to forget), but I found at this age, the alpha male joggling begins. They are all going through puberty and jockeying for "alpha" male status! My suggestion is be open to talk about this stuff as well and try to develop a routine he can follow so he forgets less stuff. I started having my boys put homework stuff directly into their backpack as soon as class is over. That way they don't have to look at their locker at the end of the day and try to remember what they need to take home. The drastic grade change sounds more like a personal problem than an academic one. Is someone harassing him? Maybe he doesn't fit in? Don't get me wrong, but in my experience, when my boys grades really fell, it was either problems with other students or a girlfriend. My 17 year old was being harassed at school and was telling no one. It wasn't until I was switching schools for him that I found out. His grades changed drastically then also. I know my kids (all 6 of them) never fit the "box" and sometimes it proved difficult for them to fit in. Hope this helps you, L. S.

This is just a thought and the first thing that came to my head.... MAybe it is a "cool" thing with him. Maybe there is pressure from other kids in the class. I was an all A student and when it came to my reading class in 7th grade I purposely failed my meap test reading section so that I would have a lower reading level to have to read from a list a books (for reports and tests ) This idea was all thought up by some brilliant boy in our class! Talk to his teacher and find out if he has some confindece issues or maybe some bullying issues.

The same thing happened to my son. It's adustment, however I had to stay on my son. It got even worse in 7th grade for him and I, but he is now in 8th grade and doing great. You must stay in touch with his teachers via email. We ended up having meetings with the teachers and counselor. We worked out a strategy that he would bring home his daily journal with his homework written in it, he would complete his homework, I would sign the journal and then he would take the journal to the teacher the next day after turning in the assignment and the teacher would sign the journal. This helped. He was accountable each day.

Good Luck!

E.,
Is it possible for you to contact his teachers. Maybe keep in touch with them via e-mail. They could let you know almost immediately if he misses any assignments.

If he knows you have an avenue to keep tabs on him it may make him a little more motivated to get things turned in. You could make sure there are consequences at home if he doesn't meet his responsibilities.

My son is in 7th grade this year and he was just starting this, at conferences I was made aware of it, and they all encouraged the e-mail approach, you are stepping back a little, but hey lets face it they are still kids. I believe the more involved a parent is the better a child will do in school. Good luck!

E. -

When my brother (who is now 19) was in middle and high school, he did most of the same things your son is doing. He'd do his homework, then not turn it in. We found out that the other kids at school were teasing and alienating him because he was very smart and always got A's and B's, while they got lower grades. The teasing bothered him so much that he would make himself look less smart so the other kids wouldn't tease him. My mom put him in advanced classes for a while, which helped because he was surrounded by like-minded people, but she eventually couldn't afford it anymore and he went back to public school. He just had to deal with it and realize in his own sweet time that it was okay to be smart.

My brother still copes with it sometimes. He graduated from high school a semester late, and took a year off before enrolling in classes part-time at community college because unfortunately my brother is terribly unmotivated.

I don't know if my post helped you at all, but I wanted to lend you my support because I know what you're experiencing and I hope your son can overcome this bump in the road. Peace and God bless.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of middle school students who will do the work and then not turn it in! It is beyond our comprehension, as adults...but it's certainly not uncommon. It doesn't necessarily mean your son is turning into a bad student...you may just have to come up with creative ideas to help him get everything in on time. Middle school brings big changes...its tough on kids!!

L.

Hi there E.,
I just came from school conferences last night and you are not alone! My son included. I spoke with many parents all who say their kids have the "I forgot to turn it in disease". I have been giving my son a reminder in the morning right before he leaves for the bus to turn in all of the work that he worked on so hard the night before. But if that doesn't work, Try having just one folder for all completed work that goes to every classroom. That way he never leaves it in the locker. Organization is HUGE in middle school. And unfortunately something that many kids lack. Its a big adjustment to have more than one teacher and to have to remember to do everything on their own. But as mommies, as much as we want to help them, we also have to remember that they have to learn to become independent too. (can't we give them shrinking pills to keep them with us forever?) Stick with him after school and stay on top of getting the homework done, and let him be responsible for turning it in. I check the planner every night and make it my sons responsibility to fill it out during each class so I know what is going on. and I can communicate with his teachers that way if needed. Good Luck. And remember to praise him often. It really does go a long way! L. B.

Hi E.~ You are not alone! I advocate for students K-12. My "new" 6th graders are also slipping. I have found that organization is a big issue. I have gone through and re-organized some of the student's binders- labeled each folder on the outside and inside (things that need to be done-things that are finished). I have seen a big improvement in just a couple weeks. I even made them go through every single piece of paper in their locker! Teacher contact is also a big help and teacher's really do appreciate it. E-mailing is the best way to contact teachers. Good luck!!

If your school doesn't have an online tool to check when assignments are turned in, ask the teacher to give you an update weekley. THen if assignments aren't turned in, he would do them again, turn them in (even if they don't count for a grade) and I would have my son grounded for that weekend. If you don't curb this habit, it will get worse. Middle school is a time to grow up and that's why it's so difficult. He needs to be responsible for getting the work done. He may be too social and then I would give him the out that my kids have to tell their "cool" friends that don't get straight A's,....I'm a mean mom. That's okay with my as long as my children can get their school work done and learn to be responsible.

My son is a fifth grader that already struggles. So, while he could get better grades, he doesn't. I have to monitor him constantly. I only say this to say ~ when he gets to middle school he is going to be overwhelmed! They have so many teachers and new responsibilities. I will have to help him learn the time management skills that it will take.

Has your son tried a planner? Do you check it regularly? If he is allowed to slip now, there will be no make-up grade. Does he have a counselor at school? There may be something else going on here. Follow your gut and keep on him. As a hormone filled pre-teen, he isn't going to care so much.

Good luck!

S.

NO! He is a child and you should most definetly not let him figure it out on his own. You as the parent need to step up and in and make sure that everything is being done that can be. You should be looking at his homework, helping with it if needed and communicating with his teachers, it seems that you need to have a sit down with your sona dn his teachers. What he does not need at this point is independence. You need to supervise not only the homework but making sure that it gets to school and that the teachers know that for some reason they need to be more involved with making him give it to them. As for why...there could be many reasons and I would take this all very seriously. It could be a cry for attention or maybe he does need some tutoring or extra help in these areas or it may even be more that that. He is at a very impressionable age...look at those that he is now surrounding himself with and see if in there lays the problem.

Good Luck!

I'm sorry, I don't have any help but wanted to let you know that I could have written your request myself! My son sounds just like your son. His school has a color coded binder system and I am constantly reminding him to turn in his work. Nothing seems to work. Fingers crossed for both of us that this finds a way to work itself out ;-)
H.

I do not know your son...I only know mine...so I will tell you about mine. He did the same thing for a few years (junior high years). He would actually do his homework and not turn it in...all the time. I didn't understand this. His grades were pretty bad. Now I know junior high is the hardest time in a childs life, but they still need to do and turn in their homework. I would actually ground my son from the time I got his progress report/report card until I got his next progress report/report card. During that grounding his grades would always be much better. Than of course he would slip again. So back to the grounding. Now I did let him off grounding during the weekends...he is a kid after all. Now that he's in high school...he does all his homework and turns it in too. I wouldn't say to completely blow this situation off...you need to do something, but I wouldn't worry too much because he will more than likely mature and this problem will resolve itself (with a little bit of help from you now). Good luck!!!

I would start incentives for good grades and consequences for poor grades. If he falls behind then it is going to be really hard for him to catch up. He is going to need what is being taught in school now to build on in the future.

I feel like you just wrote that about my son! He is very bright and most of the time has no problems understanding the information. He will forget to write things down in his agenda book (sometimes the "forgetting" is on purpose if it is an assignment he doesn't understand or doesn't like), he will lie and say he doesn't have any homework and he constantly is losing work that he has already done and often has to re-do assignments because he has lost them. The last one is the biggest issue by far.

His school is really irritating me!! The teachers and counselor are acting like he's the only kid in 6th grade who is dealing with this. I'm in the school all the time and I see so many other kids (mainly boys) dealing with the same issues!

They want to label him ADD. I know some of you are going to say "have him evaluated"... my response is no. I know my child, and he is not ADD (I'm a nurse, I know what to look for). This is a child who, a week after the school said they want to evaluate him, we took a road trip... 12+ hrs in the car... that boy sat in the back the entire time reading a book! No, I am not basing the fact that I don't think he has ADD on ONE piece of information, (nor am I in denial) but on the fact that I KNOW my child! I'm using that only as an example. Someone who has ADD can not just "flip a switch" to turn it on and off... it is a disorder... they can't control it! I refuse to label my child because the people at his school are being too lazy to come up with creative solutions.

We check his agenda book against his school website everyday (this would be a LOT easier if all of the teachers actually updated it... until the end of 2nd trimester, there was one class that the most recent grade was from September because the teacher doesn't update it!), and we go through the list of assignments that he needs to complete. We remind him every morning to turn his work in, but things get missed. The funny thing is that lunch money and permission slips ALWAYS get in on time... hmmm.

Everyone I've spoken to has said 6th grade sucks and that 7th should start getting better. I'm counting on it.

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