Education Question for 11 Year Old

Updated on May 09, 2018
L.R. asks from Georgetown, MA
18 answers

My husband and I have different views about what a "good education" is. Currently, we have three boys. The oldest is 11 and attends public school, but has complained since first grade that he is bored in school and is not interested in anything. Fortunately, he has done well socially so that is not an issue. Academically, he has tested above grade level on standardized tests in both math and reading every year. However, his grades have plummeted over the last two years. He went from getting mostly A's to B's and C's, but he doesn't put much effort into his work at school or at home. I have gone to all of his parent-teacher conferences and have had the same response year after year; he is simply not interested in school, is daydreaming but not acting up..etc. Then, the teacher offers some suggestions which we have tried without any success.

We have asked him what he is interested in and what he thinks he would like to do when he grows up. He has always answered that he either wants to build stuff with his hands or go into some type of computer field. In reality, he is very good at building things, is able to do some simple coding and has a knack at figuring out anything to do with electronics. So, I feel this could be a reality for him.

My husband and I come from very different educational backgrounds. He is an electrician and is fantastic in his field. However, he had lots of hands-on training, but very little academic education beyond high school and didn't excel in his studies during high school. I have a Master's degree and have always enjoyed pursuing education. Both of us are on the same page in terms of our son discontinuing education at the regular public school because it is just not stimulating to him and he is not succeeding there. I am interested in enrolling him in a few good private schools that I have looked into. They offer a more hands-on curriculum but keep rigorous academics. DH believes he would do better going to a trade school and simply pursue his license at that trade upon leaving high school. I agree that that is not a bad idea, but if he chooses to go to college after high school, he may not be prepared academically. Any thoughts on what a better choice is...trade school or private school?

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Wow you are getting WAY ahead of yourself here. By the time he gets through middle/high school he could be a totally different person. There's absolutely no way to tell what kind of college or trade education will be best for him until he is at least a freshman or sophomore in high school.
You guys really need to relax and let your kid actually grow up a bit. Kids go on to college from public high school all the time, even sub par public high schools, even in crazy competitive states like California. Private school may be better for him but it doesn't guarantee anything. Trust me, I've been in the thick of it since my first child graduated HS in 2011.
And honestly if your son doesn't like public school he's going to hate any private school that has "rigorous academics" can't you see that? No matter how hands on they are there will be even higher expectations, more homework, projects, research papers, reading, all of it.
I would never send a non academic kid to a private, academically focused school. That's just setting him up for failure and resentment in my opinion.

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L.H.

answers from Abilene on

He’s 11. Most 11 year olds don’t know what they want to do for a living. How about enjoy him right now? I despise the pressure laid on kids to decide what they want to do, even in high school. They’ve lived under their parent’s guidance for 18 years. Their journey is just beginning. We don’t think it’s wise for them to make serious life long choices (getting married, having babies) at 18, but we think they should know what they want to do for a living. I just don’t get it.

By the way, welders, plumbers, electricians, etc., are in high demand because the majority believe a college education is the best route. They’re making good money and will continue to.

My husband is an inventor, he and I are entrepreneurs, and we are high school graduates. My son is currently building his own car (with his dad) at 14. My dad who’s a civil engineer thinks my husband is an incredible engineer, just doesn’t have a degree. He hated school. He scored well on his SAT and had several colleges pursuing him. He was not interested. He jokes he would love for several of his high school teachers, who said he would never do well, see his patent awarded last year.

ETA: I didn’t realize the possibility another poster mentioned about a trade school/high school. My husband’s invention is a classroom ambulance simulator used for training EMT’s and paramedics. We’ve had the privilege of installing several in high schools in Texas. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for high school aged kids to be able to graduate with something that qualifies them to work in a field of interest. Several administrators have told us that the kids work in their field while pursuing college. One story I’ll share is a young lady who graduated their EMT program. She gained a scholarship to study nursing then decided to be a doctor. She was able to obtain her education through scholarships because she worked her hiney off. Her family would never been able to afford her the opportunities. This is a direct result from her exposure to a trade/medical high school.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I don't think most 15 year olds know what they want to do when they are adults, so it's unrealistic to expect 11 year olds to know.

If he's not doing well, then switch it up. I think learning with his hands and doing a trade is a great possibility, but I sense that you feel it's somehow beneath him. I think an emphasis on "rigorous" academics can be problematic, and put pressure on kids that they cannot handle - which is why they shut down and stop trying. Your husband seems to place no value on college, and may feel that he's turned out okay himself so the same is good enough for his son.

The point is, you don't know. And your child doesn't know. So give him opportunities. It's never too late to go to college, whether it's at 18 or 21 or 30. Let that go. If your child flourishes in middle school and high school, he can adjust to where he wants to go academically. The main thing is to have him engaged in something, anything, and enjoy learning for its own sake without the focus on his adult profession.

I think you all (you, husband, child) should focus much more on NOW and NEXT YEAR and absolutely not at all on DISTANT FUTURE. I have a college degree but have changed fields a few times, finding new challenges I never thought possible. I've never been rejected because I didn't stick with the same thing I chose at age 11. I'll bet, if you both backed off and gave your child much more free rein about exploration and the excitement of learning, he will surprise you. He might focus more and enjoy his youth a great deal more while still building practical and academic skills.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

Rocky,

I see 3 years later you and your husband are still married. Is this a good thing? Have you worked out your issues? If not? YOUR MARITAL issues may be flowing into your son's life. It's all tied together.

At 11 years old, your son knows what he wants to do. That's a start. Why not sign him up for classes to do something he wants to do? Then tell him in order to succeed - he has to learn and pay attention in school. Just because he knows what he wants to do NOW - doesn't guarantee that he will want to be the same in 7 years.

There is NOTHING wrong with a trade school. However, in order to get into the trade school, he still needs to succeed in school. Ask him what he needs to succeed! WHY is he bored in school? Are there any classes in the school that he's in that interests him?

Why not get HIM involved in this? If you move schools and he's STILL NOT GETTING WHAT HE WANTS????? What's the point in a private school? He really needs to start communicating with you and your husband and you three need to work TOGETHER to find out where he can be most successful.

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A.L.

answers from Atlanta on

He is only 11, in 5th grade. That's REALLY young to be directed towards a more specific career, such as a trade school. I didn't even think that such specialization exists in the American educational system. Sometimes kids bloom academically and/or intellectually in high school or even college--you and your husband can't know yet the full range of your son's potential. It would be in your son's best interests to keep his options open by ensuring that he gets a well-rounded education with academic rigor in the style which might work best for him (hand-on curriculum). That way, as you said, he can follow whatever route he wishes after high school--college for careers requiring it or a trade which doesn't require college. I will say, however, that more and more jobs require at least 2 and often 4 years of education after high school, so you need to ensure that he has the academic background to follow those options. Good luck with it.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

What first came to mind is that maybe he is struggling because of a learning challenge. Kids are often properly diagnosed at the onset of puberty.

I think focusing on what he'll do down the road is kind of irrelevant right now personally.

If it were me, I'd have him evaluated just to make sure you're not overlooking something that can be addressed now. Otherwise, he could end up in a private school or trade school down the road, and not be any further ahead.

If nothing turns up, and you feel a private school would offer smaller class size and a more stimulating environment, perhaps it is worth a try. If he likes coding, etc. then finding a curriculum that offers subjects that interest him sounds like a good idea.

As for college vs. trade school - I think you're jumping the gun. Sounds like he is struggling at the moment. I would focus on that now.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

why would a trade school leave your child academically in the lurch?

they do teach academics there, you know.

if your son wants to go to college and finds himself short on something he needs to get in he can take a remedial course at that point in time, right?

both of my sons took non-credit math courses at the community college in order to qualify for the regular credit courses. money well spent as far as we all were concerned.

for me the first order of business for this child would be to get him engaged in the educational process, or to put it more simply, to get him to fall in love with learning.

once you do that, the rest falls into place.
khairete
S.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

If your son is 11, things are probably about to change in school. This is the age where most schools begin separating the students according to ability. This is the age where schools really start challenging the stronger students. I would talk to the guidance counselor to ask about classes for next year and how they work.

My 11 year old is finishing 5th grade. He was still in a single classroom (although, the school district has decided to change how they do 5th grade beginning next year), but in 6th grade they will start to change classes. Each teacher teaches certain subjects. My son was able to choose electives. I don't know if they will begin different levels of math and English and science, as many schools do, but our district prides itself on it's academics, leading me to suspect this will begin soon.

Keep in mind, your son might think he knows what he wants to do, by he's 11. How many times did you change your mind about what you wanted to do? Maybe you didn't. Some people don't. But the vast majority of us changed our minds many times before landing our first full-time job, and some of us have even changed careers entirely since then.

I would back off on the idea of academics vs. trade school for now. Let those ideas stay in the back of your mind to be turned over from time to time over the next couple of years. For now, find out what his school is doing in the next couple of years. You might like what you see.

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Just get him through middle school and let him decide about his future while in high school.

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D.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

oookay.....you are still married to the "man" who verbally abuses you? Did you stop to think that your marriage and its toxicity is spreading to your kids?

He's 11 years old. He's paying attention and learning behaviors from both of you. He might not be interested because he's concerned about his home life.

He's 11 years old. WHY are you projecting his life out and what you expect of him in 7 to 8 years?

Right now? He needs to do better at school. You need to find the reason he's losing interest. Work on the RIGHT NOW and not 7 YEARS from now. WHO KNOWS WHAT he wants to do in 5 years let alone 7.

Take HIM to the schools you are considering. Let him talk to the students and teachers. Let him have a say in this issue. Talk to his counselor at school. He'll be in middle school next year, correct? Find out if he can plan his classes and electives. I know we get that here in PA.

Good luck! You're gonna need it!

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

11 year olds don't even know what the options for a career are. I don't think this is an appropriate question to ask. And he's 11 so either 5th or 6th grade. In my part of the world, vocational school isn't an option until at least high school (vocational high schools). He has 2-3 more years of a traditional school before that is an option. I suggest that you don't put the cart before the horse. Put him in the good private school now, see if the more advanced hands-on curriculum helps him be more engaged. Then re-assess in a few years. And speaking from the perspective of someone who know a little about the building trades (as I know you do too), apprentices with high school diplomas, good grades, and strong math skills are in very high demand. Applicants to apprentice programs who don't have these qualities can have trouble being accepted into good programs. So your son needs a strong academic foundation regardless of which route he goes.

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L.C.

answers from Washington DC on

I see you’re from Mass. You have to get this child thru middle school and then he can go to a Vocational High School - which will set him up for a trade AND college. Mass has excellent vocational programs! You are very lucky in that respect.
Concentrate on today and today’s school work. Sit with him. Make him do it. If he can’t manage to turn it in, then you’ll have to accompany him to school in the morning to turn it in with him.
School is important. He may be bored, but he needs to get thru the easy stuff to get to the harder more interesting stuff. He may need responsibility - you might have him start to tutor some younger kids or his peers who are having trouble... have him volunteer for all different kinds of activities - church, fire house, after school, soup kitchens, you name it. The busier they are, the more responsibility youngive them, the better.
YMMV

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

What kind of a question is that - 'Private or trade school'?
There's no way we can answer that.
Even if you provided a lot more information - 11 yrs old it's a little too soon to tell - many changes occur in middle and high school.

What are his/her grades like?
Does it look like he/she might be college bound?
Does he/she like math and science?
What kind of science? Biology? Chemistry? Physics?
Does he/she like to build things and work with his hands?
He/she could be an engineer or a plumber - both very different career paths.
He/she could be a chef or a surgeon.
Does he prefer working with people vs working with computers and machines?
Why isn't public school one of the available choices?

Even kids with great grades can make it all the way to college and still not be sure what they want to do.
They end up taking aptitude tests and the results help point them in directions which are based on their strengths and preferences.

How about you talk with his/her teachers and guidance counselors and ask what they think of his/her academic career?
And don't forget to talk with your 11 yr old about it too.

Additional:
Thanks for a lot more info!

Tough call but I'd consider trade school to be a fall back position.
It's better to try for college first and if it's not in the cards then consider trade school.
It's much more difficult to try doing it the other way around.

People who haven't gone to college often tend to think it's not necessary.
While some people do prosper in spite of this - more often the lack of a degree means a person will earn less money.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

I would look into STEM schools, they keep a balance of both. We need a basic foundation in several subjects these days, not just one skill. Trade school after school is a great choice but don't limit his options, he is only 11 and this is a point during which many children have issues in school, especially boys for some reason. Both of my boys struggled around ages 10-13 in school and picked back up once they matured a little. 5th and 6th grade are known to be the hardest for many kids because there are a lot of adjustments made in style and curriculum.

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T.D.

answers from New York on

he was testing above grade level on reading and math. he is bored. he needs his classes to be slightly more advance than he is so that he is challenged. i would opt for a school that will provide the college preparation academics and cross the college or trade school bridge when you get to it. he is 11. work on school now and worry about college when he is a junior in high school.
at home though you can encourage building stuff, you can encourage working with the hands, you can have him learn things school does not teach.

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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

I feel that school is a valuable learning tool. But it's more than about knowing how to spell words correctly, knowing about punctuation, knowing geography and history and math. School helps kids of all ages learn how to listen, how to memorize, how to write creatively, how to study, how to be organized, how to access information, how to work as a team with other students. Students learn how to respect a teacher or principal (and ultimately, a boss or supervisor) and how to develop leadership qualities within themselves so that they can one day be the boss, the owner, the lead technician, the supervisor, or the team member who contributes positively to the team.

Even if your son goes to a trade school and studies to be a carpenter, a welder, an electrician, an X ray technician, an IT specialist, a plumber, a mechanic, whatever, he will need to know how to read well, how to learn facts, how to study, how to take in information and use it well, how to respect and respond to his instructor or mentor, and how to progress in his chosen field.

Trade schools are increasingly demanding due to new technology, and expanding fields.

So for now, while your son is young, I would encourage all three of you to get together on what is important. It almost sounds as if your husband is dismissing the value of schooling and academics, and is just saying "he can get a license some day and he doesn't need all this history of Egypt and the life of plants". Yes, perhaps your son will never ever need to know about chlorophyll and how plants grow, but if he listens, and studies, and participates in the science projects, he will learn life-long lessons about enriching his vocabulary, how to study, how to organize, how to prepare for a test or exam, and how to get along with the other kids who are watching beans grow.

Regardless of whether your son attends public school, or private school, or a virtual school, he is going to need to develop the qualities that will ultimately make him a good electrician, engineer, landscaper, construction worker, assembly worker, surgeon, teacher, researcher, or any other career you can name. The successful people in any field have some overlapping qualities, and now is the time for your son to develop those qualities. To allow him to be disinterested in school will be a real problem later on.

My son graduated from a very technical school and is a successful audio engineer. His school did not have courses like Freshman composition, or World History, or Psychology 101. Instead, he was immersed in a very demanding curriculum that was all about audio engineering, with lots of lab work. He loved it. But even in such a tech school, he still had to take a few courses that weren't all about the sound board and the controls and the science of audio engineering. In order to be a well-rounded engineer for live shows and events he had to take some courses in things like music copyright law, which he knew he would probably never encounter again, but he understood that it made him employable and more informed about his chosen field.

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R.B.

answers from San Francisco on

He's too young to be putting him in trade school. He needs his options open. Try a private school with an engaging curriculum.

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E.T.

answers from Rochester on

I seriously doubt any trade school would accept an 11 year old. Our school district has partnered with the local community college to provide some trade school opportunities, but you have to be in high school and maybe even a junior or senior.

He may do better in a school that has more of a STEM/STEAM focus. I would look at that first.

Maybe he can spend weekends/after school shadowing someone who works in a trade. However, I would venture to guess that anything like an apprenticeship he would still be too young. I don’t think child labor laws and OSHA regulations would allow that.

I would also guess that state laws may not allow an 11 year old to drop out of school without a homeschool plan in place (depending on the state). I think most states require kids to be in school until at least age 14 and probably more like 16. I could be wrong, but that is how it used to be.

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