What child is this?


It occurred to me last night as I sat watching shows off the DVR while my son toiled away on the computer preparing a History project that it was the 4th straight night that he worked on homework until 8pm or so. Willingly. No fuss, no hassle, no fighting. Just me doing as usual and checking what was due this week and making a list and prompting him every night to work on it. He did still need that prompting, but that was it. Then he was off diving into whatever it was. Even essay writing – no whining! What the heck?

Well, somewhere along the line of all those hours of talks about grades and their importance blah blah blah, I reminded him that he had his much loved laptop because of grades he had obtained last year. I reminded him that while I was unable to be generous in regards to paying him for school work, perhaps he could talk to his dad again about it. But I also said that I would only sign on if the goal was something higher. Not a generic GPA, but more of a particular reward for a specific letter grade (as in – only reward an A). So his dad has agreed to give him $20 for each A. Since there is a specific video game that he wants to buy when it is released in the fall, and he knows the approximate price, this allows him a way to earn it. Also his dad is going to deduct $5 for any C’s and B’s are zero value. Given that even working his tail off and getting all A’s the rest of the way in Geometry will barely pull him to a B – he knows he’s in the hole there. So that means that History, English & Science HAVE to be As. (Drama & PE do not count at all). Money has not typically been an effective carrot for him, but I guess he’s finally moving in that direction because I sure am seeing a difference since this deal was struck.

I have no idea if this will work anytime past this semester – but YAY!

On a side note – a lot of the time he’s doing homework, I am watching either Countdown or Rachel Maddow. Usually there is at least one segment that will interest him and I’ll rewind it so he can watch it. Keith talks a lot of baseball and Rachel has some really cool, geeky science segments. This week though, she’s been talking a lot about the upcoming anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing since she’s hosting a documentary on it on Monday complete with tapes of his confessions from prison. He watched some of that with me and asked me about it – of course since it happened before he was born he was not aware of it. Especially since everything in his lifetime has been dominated more by 9/11 and outside terrorism so the domestic variety was off his radar. Well, hey now, but living in a house where we pay attention to current events has paid off for him in school! He was the ONLY student across all his history teacher’s 8th grade class periods to be able to answer when asked if anyone knew of any specific examples of domestic attacks. Not that we should be glad we even need to know these things, but High Five! He did!

Oh and just to bring myself down a notch – I am slightly disturbed that the second highest search term that brings readers to my site (after Adam Lambert, natch) is “Muffin top” Wee.

The Plan


Homework assignments for the week

Homework assignments for the week

Here’s the plan:

  • Monday I will print out the homework assignments from the 4 teacher’s web sites (nothing for Drama or PE).
  • We will look at them together and rank them in numerical order of due date/amount of time needed for completion. I know he already is warming up to this idea and understands it as he had to correct me in my ranking today 🙂
  • I will check off each one as he shows it to me and watch him put it in his notebook.
  • He has a three hole punch with him in his backpack so he can put handouts in his three ring notebook when they are given to him.
  • I’ve implemented, and he has agreed to, a penalty for every loose sheet I find in his backpack each night. I found a carrot! His brother has been showing more interest in hanging out with him ever since the two of them found themselves in the dog house with me at the same time one night awhile ago. They bonded over being shlubs! When he is with me, he wants to head into his brother’s room and play video games with he and his friends (he loves beating the older guys at their own game of course). So every loose sheet costs him 10 mins of play time after homework is done. Given that tonight after his baseball practice, then dinner, then the 90 mins it took him to complete work and then organize his papers – he only had 15 mins to play before bedtime and even one 10 min penalty would have wiped it out. So he is motivated to keep those papers in their place!
  • His dad has promised him a new computer if he carries a B avg and no D’s. Considering that over there is computer is a true dinosaur so that even doing school work on it is a challenge, he is motivated at least at the moment by that carrot too (and I like it because it doesn’t cost ME any money ;-))

My goal was to set up a system that gave him some clarity of expectations which I hope helps him feel in control of balancing his wants/needs. With the full week’s assingments planned out, keeping sports events in mind, he can see a path to completing the work and also getting some play time in. The loose paper penalty traings him towards better organization habits so that when work IS complete, it is not lost and can be turned in. With me checking everything off, he has back up. As I told him tonight, you re-trained yourself with practice to learn to love reading (he’s now 1/2 done with HP #7 – wow!), so you can easily re-train yourself to be organized with practice and I will be there to keep you on track. Tonight anywa, he seemed 100% on board and confident that this will help. Fingers crossed! We all know how easy it can be to show enthusiasm early on, the trick is to stick it out.

The mess in his backpack



Yesterday I got a peek into what I think may be at the root of SportBoy’s homework woes. I fear it is genetic. That picture up there? Could easily be his dad’s or even his grandfather’s (dad’s side). We have long joked about his dad’s “piling system” which, as far as I can tell whenver I go into his house, is just as bad as ever.  Of course SB has to take after them, right?

The clue came yesterday when another dreaded Red Box of doom showed up on his online grade sheet. This time for English. Given that he really has been spending a lot more time on homework and that we have been everything on our end to see what is due, and check it off when he completes it, I was shocked to see this assignment listed as missing. He’d spent at least an hour working on it over the weekend at my house! So I email the teacher just to be sure. No – she saw nothing for sure. I was upstairs resting off my bout of sinus induced dizziness yesterday so I called him upstairs and tell him to bring his backpack & notebook and all school papers so that we can search for the work. The teacher said in her email that since I knew he had completed it, she would accept it today for full credit. Back in December we bought him a different three ring binder to better organize his papers. Well, it’s not working just yet!  His backpack still had about  dozen loose papers, partially crumpled and shoved into the main pocket. We go through those and I make him sort them into the subject tabs in his binder. Fine, but there’s no assignment. So I ask him if he did it in the binder, or on a loose sheet. Loose sheet of course. He then remembers that he has another pile of loose sheets at his dad’s house. So when his dad comes to pick him up, I go to talk to him about it and let him know that he needs to find the home work or else re-do it. I look at the desk where he was working on some other homework – and see another pile of papers! And there is another single sheet on the kitchen counter! WTF? He left those down there when I told him to come up with ALL his stuff. Grrrr. Well, the assignment in question was not there, but I told his dad that he HAD to sit down last night and put every last loose sheet in that binder!

How can you spend time doing an assignment only to not turn it in? I Just Dont Get It. So now that we are getting him to DO the work, now we have to figure out how to keep him organzied enough to not LOSE it and also to TURN IT IN!

How do I organize this kid without ending up doing it all myself? We need to come up with something easy enough for him to not just blow off. His counselor recommeded the single binder method which seems simple enough, yet he still shoves papers in the backpack. Should I try penalizing him for every loose paper? Since he is doing his work, I’ve been letting him watch tv or play on the computer after the work is done. Perhaps charge him 5 mins of tv time per loose sheet? Or make him do one chore per sheet?

Ideas welcomed please!

2.0! 2.0!


Total GPA

Wahoo!! He got more than a 2.0 in his first semester!! PHEW!!

As you can imagine, I am SOOOOO proud. /sarcasm

Actually we are all quite relieved. Just one week before the grading period was to end he was at 1.83. Yep, had 4 D’s – all the academic classes. He was saved this semester by PE (A) and his elective of Video Film (B). Three of the 4 academic classes ended in C- . All of them just percentage points over 70! math ended with a D+ which was a bit of a shock. We hadn’t been focused on that as a potential D because we could always track a path up to C with it, or so we thought! Also, it was the last one to drop to a D so he had less time to dig out. The other 3 he ended up doing extra credit work at the end to push over the top. So now you all know where my focus has been the last few weeks. It’s been a struggle no doubt. Even after meeting with his counselor and coming up with a plan of action towards improving his study skills and organization, he still missed two major homework assignements turning them in late and incomplete. Drove me NUTS!! He simply didn’t write them down properly in his agenda. Argh.

So we start the new semester with Drama as the new elective which he LOVES. He and I have both talked to his math teacher and agreed that he should stay in the honors algebra class despite the grade as he really is solid on the concepts (and is actually *excited* about the current chapters! Hah) and would be bored silly anywhere else. He’ll see the counselor again next week to reinforce those organzation steps, go to math tutoring from the start and Sat school for sure in Feb. He may have to take a 3 week summer session to re-do the 1st semester of math, but that is only if he struggles again.

I talked to a mom who had a son go through this school recently and she said he went through the exact same difficult transition as SportsBoy. Talking to the teachers to establish a good working relationship like they all had in elementary school was just too scary and too socially harmful (can’t be a teacher’s pet now!) so her son also never asked for help or communicated in any way as he started to slide. Thankfully it did improve as he matured and he is doing fine in high school and each semester at jr high showed improvement SO – I feel better about my boy’s chances to turn this around 🙂

He better! Because 2.33? It’s really not all that awe inspiring.

Big Brother (Mama) is watching you!


Long term readers may recall that SportsBoy has a tendencey to, oh, not do his schoolwork. And then to lie about it. Happens at least once a year. Of course, in elementary school they coddled him a bit. Let him get away with turning in late work and still getting full credit. Until last year in 6th grade when his teacher finally got tough with him and he brought home nearly all C’s. One of the points she tried to make with him was that Jr High was going to kick his ass if he didn’t develop better homework habits. (Might be paraphrasing a little bit there).

Flash forward to 7th grade. First three weeks go by and..hey..he seems to not have the shit-ton of home work we thought he might have. Considering that he always starts off with a head of steam, I figured he must just have lucked out with a light load. But then I got a teensy bit suspicious. And THEN, I got access to this:

1 – Life Science – Y Tchr: Faist Grd: 7
# Show All Description Type Doc Score Max Date Completed Due Date Grading Complt
More Info Parent Signature Sheet Signed Homework 1 5 9/2/2008 9/2/2008 Yes
More Info Science Notebook Check Notebook 5 5 8/28/2008 Yes
More Info Lab Safety Quiz Quiz 17 20 9/2/2008 9/2/2008 Yes
More Info Autobiography Pictures Classwork 10 10 8/27/2008 Yes
More Info Unit A Vocab Quiz Quiz 8 10 9/15/2008 9/15/2008 Yes
More Info Pellagra Essay Homework 0 20 9/9/2008 9/9/2008 Yes
Type Points Max Perc Mark
Classwork 10.00 10 100.00 A+
Homework 1.00 25 4.00 F
Notebook 5.00 5 100.00 A+
Quiz 25.00 30 83.33 B
Total** 41.00 70 58.57 F
*Assignments are not counted until graded.
** Total based upon Total Points

See that last assignment? The one with the zero? See that top one? How frustrating is THAT? After one month he has an ‘F’ in science because of one missed assignment (oh, such a shock that it is an essay!) and one easy peasy item turned in late!!! And I mean EASY because he was with me that whole first week of school and I remember signing a sheet for every single class right away. Anyhow…the point is..check out what I can see!! That gradebook site is now one of my home pages and I check it every single day. There is also a tab with assignments, so as soon as I sign in to the grade site, I see which class has assignments due for the week. So tonight after I made sure he completed that essay above (with a very slim chance the teacher will give him credit, but I wanted it done no matter what), I asked him to show me what he is ready to turn in tomorrow and Friday.

Meanwhile just to use technology even more – he had a couple of zeros on History assignements too. I had him complete those last night. Sometime during the day today he zipped into the media center and send me an email: “ok mom I have turned in my puzzle piece and packet so you I have a 74 in ss”  I logged into the grade system and saw:

More Info Signed Syllabus Citizenship/Participation 5 5 8/27/2008 8/27/2008 Yes
More Info Puzzle Piece Projects 4 5 9/3/2008 9/3/2008 Yes
More Info Big Ideas Projects 8 10 9/5/2008 9/5/2008 Yes
More Info Packet #1 Homework/Classwork 18 29 9/8/2008 9/8/2008 Yes
More Info Passport Project Projects 27 30 9/10/2008 9/10/2008 Yes
More Info 2.1 Rome Quiz Tests/Quizzes 1 5 9/12/2008 9/12/2008 Yes
More Info 2.2 Fall of Rome Quiz Tests/Quizzes 4 5 9/15/2008 9/15/2008 Yes
More Info Byzantine Empire Quiz 2.3 Tests/Quizzes 5.5 6 9/22/2008 9/22/2008 Yes
Type Perc of
Points Max Perc
Citizenship/Participation 10 % 5.00 5 100.00
Homework/Classwork 30 % 18.00 29 62.06
Projects 30 % 39.00 45 86.66
Tests/Quizzes 30 % 10.50 16 65.62
Total** 74.30

Whaddya know? Instant verification! Isn’t technology awesome? And to his credit, those were the only two classes with missing items and low grades. He’s got an 86 in math – though that could be in the 90s except for a low score on his first homework packet due to an incomplete page BUT at leas the turned in the packet on time! He’s tracking for an A in video film and has another 86 in English. He also turned in an extra credit packet for English tonight.

Quite frankly after going through his backpack tonight and just *organizing* everything for him, I can actually see why those few slipped through the cracks – it was a MESS. No more, and I am going to make a point every Wed night that he is with me to check his backpack to see if he keeps up the sorting. On a side note, I was looking at his honors algebra homework packet that I had to sign and OW, it hurt my brain!! Dear lord I hope he doesn’t ask me to help him with that!!

Now, I am sure that HE is not so enamored of this online gradebook 🙂 In fact, I think my SweetPrince said it best when I showed it to him – “Thank heavens my mom never had anything like that to check up on me!!”