My smart 15 year old son is flunking - what should I do!

Polly - posted on 06/02/2010 ( 26 moms have responded )

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My son has always struggled with being disorganized and not turning in homework. This year as a freshman he has finally crashed and burned - he's just flunked algebra, spanish and english! He is a very smart kid, in fact he just got "commended" on his state-wide math assessment and he has always been an A student in english. I'm so upset and worried and I don't know what to do to help him.
For years, my husband and I have tried to help him be more organized and keep track of his work. Planners, folder systems - we've tried everything. Now that he's in highschool he can't shoot from the hip anymore. I worry about what this will do to his self esteem as well as his GPA. Any advice?

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Lorrraine - posted on 06/16/2010

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I also have a 15yr. old son who crashed and burned this year as a freshman and let me tell you I am at a loss as to what to do about how he handles his studies in school.because every time. I ask if he has homework he always says he does not have any,yet he always seems to be missing some assignments,so I told my son I would not pay for summer school, and he would have to repeat the 9th grade and once he got the credits he needed he could be moved up to the 10th grade.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 06/18/2010

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first of all DO NOT assume that if he's having trouble in school that he has a learning disorder! My son was the same way, super intelligent, but no desire to complete assignments, etc. He just simply did not understand why it was necessary. The school had him tested (without my approval) and labeled him with a "learning disorder" called graphic output disorder. Then they put him on a "program" designed to "help". Well, that was a complete failure! He fell further behind, and his attitude got worse.

As soon as I could, I got him OFF that program! We encouraged him to volunteer at a local museum on weekends. As soon as he felt appreciated in another capacity, his grades and attitude improved. He is now in Germany for a month with his peers in an exchange program. He gets a's in most subjects. The only time he really struggles is if the museum doesn't need him for a week or two. It hurts his self esteem, I guess.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't have him assessed, but DO NOT put all of your confidence in that! Most kids are so over tested these days, and ADHD is a catchall diagnosis. Be careful.

Heather - posted on 09/20/2012

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Oh Man! All of you exemplify what I am experiencing. My 16 year old is identified GT and started having problems in middle school. She was not identified as ADHA with anxiety and chronic depression until almost 10th grade. In 3rd grade, she developed type 1 juvenile diabetes and hypothroirdism. In addition to that we have had divorce, unemployment, homelessness, 2 hurricane evacuations, death of grandma, mom unemployed, underemployed and then dad unemployed. NASA space scientists. Ok. The mocking, the failure to turn in homework, the lack of interest in school unless it is certain subjects then it is A's all over. We have to do summer school, night classes, online classes and now we are in Jr. year and she needs to start thinking about college. Her SAT scores in7th grade offered her entre into any college but the GPA is low becuse the repeat classes are only pass/fail and not a grade. She figured out exactly what 5 of a grade she needed topass and then never did any more work than was necessary--- unless it was what she wanted to do. She mocks me for being on this site saying I can't handle her by myself. Ther are lots more psych issues her and she has been incounselling for 2 years psyche and psychological. I'm worn out. This is not my only child. this one has tested me royally from the inappropriate friends, the sleazy acquatintanences, the cutting, the ear gauges, the multi colored hair the breaking of doors, the slamming of things in your face and all you want to do IS LOVE THEM.

[deleted account]

I feel your pain. Our 17-year-old daughter is an identified gifted student who always did well in school until the last couple of years. We have had to withdraw her from numerous classes to avoid F's on the transcript. We have tried everything to help her and have had numerous assessments that have diagnosed her with depression and anxiety severe enough to prevent her from going to school. The latest diagnosis is ADD, which the psychiatrist says often does not present itself in girls in a classic fashion and that it is the underlying cause of her anxiety. So that adds one more Rx to the mix and I'm still not seeing a lot of improvement. It is heartbreaking to see our kids fail when they have so much potential. Even more than the grades tanking, it crushes me that she seems to just not care. What a waste. I am praying the summer will give us all some time to step back and figure out how to get through the last year of high school. I believe she needs help with organization and structure, but she absolutely will not comply. My best advice as a mom is to let them know everyday that you love them no matter what... and don't ever give up trying to find a solution. Also, take care of yourself because the stress of navigating all of this can be crippling.

Angie - posted on 06/02/2010

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As harsh as this might sound, don't worry about his GPA. With his grades this year, he has probably lost out on a lot of scholorship opportunities. On the bright side, a lot of the pressure is off him now. He's obviously not interested in school so show him the alternative. Find a volunteer opportunity in your community that will include the type of labor that he will be doing if he doesn't get a good education. My son wasn't interested in school either so between his 8th and 9th grade year we had him volunteer. He gets decent grades now but not good enough for a lot of scholorships - a 3.9 GPA. Believe it or not, anything shy of a 4.0 won't get a student much money. Good luck!

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Steven - posted on 06/23/2014

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I work in a unit at the Macquarie University in Australia, along people who are extremely familiar with child psychology. Summer school, medication, and diagnosis? You are dealing with a growing teenager, not a inmate in a psych ward. These things achieve nothing but the alienation of your child, making them feel inadequate, and pushing their confidence in themselves, which is difficult to secure in children this age as it is, further down the scale.

Academia will not always be your child's strong suit, and their talents and abilities await them after they finish. Because of this, as a parent, it is your responsibility to give them space to grow, mature and gain their own impression of the world. Their B- In their chemistry test is by no means any indication of their future. From the words of Albert Einstein, "Everyone is intelligent. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's life thinking it is inadequate."

Dawn - posted on 06/17/2010

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Angie Bachicha Kissner
Smarty Pants -- not really.

Is way off base. Its freshman year and many scholarships are based more on what you are going to college for, your background, interests, and how much mom and dad make. A bad freshman year is not the end of everything and to say so it beyond callus and ignorant.

I agree with the others, have him tested. some organizational issues are not just the kids being lazy but REAL learning disabilities that testing and accommodation will help.

Debi - posted on 06/16/2010

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She use to test me lol but not anymore... She is very smart just gets bored in starts talking when other kids are still doing there work and gets into trouble.. She will be abloe to graduate a lot faster and be able to do so much more.. But however I am not saying it will all be a peice of cake LOL

Mary - posted on 06/16/2010

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thats what happens w/my son.... he gets bored! However, I could never homeschool him as he tests my nerves too much. That being said... I condone you very much for taking on that task! Best of Luck!! :)

Debi - posted on 06/16/2010

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My daughter was having a hard time at school this year I asked her why she said she is bored she is very smart but would not do her homework because it bored her... So this summer I am home schooling her to skip a grade and i might homeschool her in the fall when school starts back as well. The teachers have to many kids in the class room and spend to much time explaining things over and over again because so many dont understand or have missed a few days they have to spend time catching them up..I dont think meds are always the answer I think they are just bored because they already now the info and want something else to do. So rather then my daughter getting bad grades again next year I am going to home school her until they can teach her on her level.

Mary - posted on 06/16/2010

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Good Advice --- I just might be having to use that! I was on my sons butt for 8th grade and he did very good --- but I know darn well what high school is gonna be like. Lorraine, I will absolutely keep your advice in my pocket THANKS

Maria - posted on 06/15/2010

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First thing to think about in a child who is "underperforming" is a learning disorder so he needs evaluation for that. Could be ADHD (even if he isn't hyper as some of these kids just have attention deficit) or an auditory processing disorder. Maybe he is a real visual learner too. Its hard to just listen all day - those kids don't get much from school. I would suggest that you have him go to a teacher or counselor at the end of each school day to get all the assignments written down and then he should look through them all to make sure he has all his materials. Many schools have online assignments posted and you can look ahead and remind him of upcoming tests, assignments. Consider a tutor as previously mentioned. All the better if it is a cute girl. We used a local college as a resource and hired a math major as a tutor. Some kids really don't understand how to study - what's important, so you or a tutor could teach him how to study. Also, some kids can be smart but not really comprehend well or make good deductions. Just this am, I asked my 14 year old son to move a rake that was lying on the lawn. I was mowing and needed it out of the grass. Well, he moved it 3 feet to the right, still on the lawn. He really did not understand that I needed it off the lawn. At first, I thought he was being a smart-aleck but then I realized he just did not get it!
A lot of people have seemed to say don't worry or come down hard on him. I think you should worry and intervene and I really doubt he wants to fail so punishing him won't help. If he is taking drugs or drinking - that could be the problem too. Make sure you know that isn't it.

Angie - posted on 06/15/2010

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My 15 year old son has the same problems (he is also ADHD and refused to take his meds after Christmas). He has been a straight A student until this year. After Christmas when he passed the 1st half of the year he thought he could go to school sleep, act up, and it would be a breeze. Well he has found out that he has no summer now. He has summer school from 7 in the morning till 10 then I am making him work different odd jobs and helping me around the house the whole month of June to pay me back for the $50 that it cost for summer school. He hates it and has said that he know now that he has to pay attention and do his work in school or he will be in the same boat next year. He failed his English and Algrebra. I know he and I need to think about his GPA but at this point I know that there is no reason to worry cause he has already messed all that up. I just want him to atleast graduate. I tried to take things away from him, he didn't care. I even sent him off to Boot Camp for 8 weeks, that helped till he got off State Probation then it has gone back to the same situation (it was other things not just grade for the reason he was sent off). I know I really have not given any advise to you but just wanting to let you know that you are not in this alone. It's not just your child it's alot of them.

Micky - posted on 06/12/2010

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my son is the exact same way- now he is taking 2 summer classes and taking 2 math classes next year- now he has to work double next year to keep up, i hope he gets organized also is on ADHD medication

Ingrid - posted on 06/12/2010

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I understand your situation. I have a son that just turned 16. During his earlier years of school he was always advanced in every subject. He was on the student council and a member of the BETA club. He attended special programs during the summer for gifted children. He just completed the tenth grade and barely passed all of his subjects except Algebra 2, which he failed. He is now spending his summer break in summer school. I am scared of what will happens next. He wants to go to college, but with his GPA getting worse and worse who knows how he will ever get in? If you find an answer let me know.

Stacy - posted on 06/11/2010

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This is not a long speech-u have just joined the crowd!!! LOL! I have tried everything! It's called puberty.....

Naureen - posted on 06/11/2010

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Have the school test him for learning disabilites and ADHD. He may be brilliant in one area and able to keep up with work in one subject, yet totally lost in others. Both my kids have issues with short-term memory and ADHD. Have him tested to at least remove specific possibilities...

Mary - posted on 06/09/2010

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does he have an attention deficit problem that you may not be aware of? My son struggles with those issues --- he IS a smart child -- but he does have ADHD and we have had to choose to medicate him and seen huge improvements. I do understand and respect that everyone is different. Hope that this helps.

Debra - posted on 06/09/2010

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I am going through the same thing with my 14 year old, he has graduation coming up on the 21st of June and now I get a message from his English teacher that he did not turn in 3 of his 4 homework assignments for the 4th marking period, he got a class project that he must do well in in order to pass to graduate to go to H.S. It seems like we try our best and they don't do what they are supposed to do. I told mine he better graduate. He is so disorganized.

Anne Marie - posted on 06/05/2010

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i would agree with reaching out to your son and talk to him if necessary. My daughter is similar very high achiever in school and everything she does. This year she is still passing but not as high grades. We have just found out a friend of hers has made some bad choices and put my daughter in a very hard spot. She may loose some of her friends for it. I have the added problem that she clams up and doesnt want to say anything to me. I find out through other people. You can ask friends parents to ask their children if they know of anything going on, casually. If you suspect something or find something out you can always say. Something like when I was your age.... put yourself in his shoes. I haven't quite got my daughter to open up yet but I know this strategy worked with my older son. I am hoping it will work with my daughter. I have also said to my kids that you will make poor choices, make bad decisions, go places you should never have gone and do things you should never have done. You are a teenager and that is what teenagers do. I just want you to know you can tell me about anything that is bothering you, adn the things you have done. When they tell you don't freak out on them just be there to support them. Tell them you want to know so that if there are any consequences you can help decrease the consequence or help them through it.

[deleted account]

to tell you the truth, I have had this experience and I hated it when the teachers would say. "Oh this is your first teenager...well you better hang on"...well I don't think so...it is too late for the older ones they are adults now, but with the 2 teens that I have still at home, we have turned off the TV years ago,we don't go to movies, we spend more family time, more quiet time, more Bible time...we encourage their passions like photography (for my 16 year old) and horse riding for my 13 year old... but your son may be suffering...there is so much peer pressure and in some instances it is "cool" to be failing....personally, I think what I would do is spend more family time and one on one time with him, also divide the one on one time with your husband if at all possible...I would take the bull by the horns and encourage, build up and bless..if he doesn't have to impress anyone or fit in or feel like he is a failure (if he doesn't want to be) then maybe he will just decide to pull up his socks anmd make better choices. My sister had issues with one of her sons and he got in trouble with the law...her and her husband dropped everything and spent all their time with him...he was shocked that they cared enough about him that they would do that...maybe your son just needs some attention or guidance or to spend time with you (I am not saying that you are not, but more time can't hurt) like a walk, go to the river, the local park, out of town in nature...take the time and he might open up as to what is happening...maybe he has some passions that are just waiting to be fed...I don't know sister, but as for us it was time they needed and then we could hear them, we knew their desires and wants and we did our best to redirect...to building up.
http://hearingissweet.wordpress.com and http://blog.heathershealthychocolate.com
(not doing the chocolate anymore but I already paid for the blog so it is there) these might have some helpful information for you...they are new, they are mine and they are NOT mlm or sales pitches, they are simply me reaching out to other people...

Heather - posted on 06/04/2010

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First year of High School...for many kids that is enough to unsettle them and cause bad grades. Look at it this way...everything has been pretty easy for him up until now, right? A's all the way. Now we are into where they really start to put the pressure on. Many kids who have sailed through school with good grades in the early years do so because they have a high intelligence and things aren't a challenge. So they have never had to get use to WORKING for that A. Sometimes they fall apart, it happens. It did to my son, he went from A's to F's in less than a semester.
I think that you should sit down and see if there is anything going on in his life that he isn't talking to you about. My daughter graduated a year late because she failed in her second half of her second year. This was because a friend died, at least I thought it was just a friend that she sort of knew, turned out is was her boyfriend that she was hiding from me. He lived in another city and was introduced to her by her older cousin. (She was staying at my sisters for a week when they met). Long story short she fell apart, but didn't let me see it until there was the obvious proof that something was wrong, ie her grades. Find out from him how he is thinking and what is going on in his life. My son is being homeschooled now and things are going well with that, he doesn't have all the distractions that go on in school, so his grades are going back up and he is a much happier person. Whatever it is that may be causing it, just remember to be supportive, sometimes they just need to know that we won't freak out on them because they hit a bump.
It isn't the problem, it is how you handle it.

Connie - posted on 06/04/2010

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I also have the same issue with my 15 year old son. Since 7th grade it seems he has had to struggle and barely passes. He has never been organized and I have found out that that is one major key to succeeding in school. We had him attend Huntington Learning Center for about 1 year to get him to where he needs to be for high school. It helped for a little while but then he just went back to his old ways of not turning in homework and not studying. At this age, I believe that they have to figure out for themselves and just make the decision to do it! My son has consequences if he doesn't get his grades up. No permit(I told him driving is a priviledge and you have to be responsible enough), no working with Grandpa for $, XBox has been taken away, etc. I think volunteering is a great idea! I will have to give it a try. Good Luck!

Jennifer - posted on 06/02/2010

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Hi there. So sorry to hear of your frustrations. My 15 yo girl is a very bright young lady. She is not organized, doesn't hand in her work, never studies but until this year, managed to pass and get decent grades. Now in grade 9 she is crashing and burning in a BIG way. She stated to me a few weeks ago "Mom, up until the middle of grade 6 everything came so easily to me. I didn't have to do as much work as everyone else and I didn't have to spend as much time either. Then I got to grade 7 and I didn't understand. When I asked, I was told to copy someone's notes. When I didn't hand stuff in they said, "you're a smart girl you will pass anyway". She has come to realize what I had seen all along; the teachers were not setting limits, demanding performance, guiding with homework/assignments, teaching study habits etc. As much as we may do for them at home, the teachers have our kids 6 hrs per week and we get them when they are tired, worn out and over-loaded. My advice to you is to not get so panicked about it at this point. See if there is a peer helper or a special program that will help your son figure this out. My daughter's school offered an SSIP program (student strengths initiative program) where the kids are given opportunities to explore their curriculum utilizing their own unique learning style as well as developing methods to learn via other learning styles. It has helped my daughter well. A PhD psychology student, a social work student along with a teacher and their respective professors do this program. It is well thought out. The point is.....their strengths are enhanced and encouraged so that they use them to accomplish their curriculum.

D - posted on 06/02/2010

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We have tried for years to get our girl (now age 14) to be more organized, bring her grades up etc (she was always happy with barely passing) This year we decided enough was enough as she was failing math so we got her a tutor. In less than one month her math mark went from under 50% to 81%!!!! High school subjects can be really hard for kids, and sometimes it takes a different person explaining the subject to make them understand better. Kids dont want to ask for help or appear 'stupid' so its up to the parents to say this is what we are doing. We also had her work extra chores to pay for half the tutoring ....

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