Looking for Advice: Children and Report Cards

Summer SchoolOkay, faithful readers–here’s the deal: TRC brought his report card home yesterday. It’s a very good report card. Plenty of good stuff going on with him. He’s a very bright boy, and we’re very proud of him.


There’s one area that he just seems to be struggling with. Not struggling with as in “he’s doing poorly and is in danger of failing,” but more along the lines of “he’s doing okay, but really could/should be doing so much better.” If this were in an area like Math or English, I’d be less concerned–for me, the important thing is that he tries his best, no matter what the results. However, we’re struggling with an area where it’s all about effort: following directions, staying on task, completing work in a timely manner, being neat in assignments. That sort of thing. It’s something that I think is sort of fundamental to future success in school. If you can’t be focused and stay on task and follow directions, no amount of smarts is going to make up for it sooner or later.

The thing is, TRC is likely bored in class a lot of the time. He’s really far ahead in most areas, and so what everyone else is learning isn’t new to him. He gets to go to advanced classes at certain times–and he talks to us about how much he enjoys those, and how he thinks they’re fun. But that’s just some of the time. The rest of the time, there’s a good chance he’s bored. And so he talks to other kids, he doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention, he rushes through easy assignments. That sort of thing.

So what do we do as parents to help him through this?

Here’s my current plan. He gets homework once a week. It’s nothing terribly difficult, so he rushes through it so he can go watch TV. I’m thinking of having him have a set amount of time each day after school where he works on homework or other work (I bought him some workbooks a while ago–he might do some things from them). Nothing too long–probably about 20-30 minutes. Denisa or I will give him specific directions, and then he’ll have to stay on task and get the assignment done to an acceptable level. After the time’s up, if he’s done it, then he can go off and have his normal fun time. If he’s not been focusing, he’ll have to keep at it, cutting into the amount of time he has each day for fun.

The goal is to get him used to staying on task, following directions, being neat, etc. Everything he’s struggling with. It’ll be a bit more work for Denisa and me, but I’m not worried about that. One thing I know might concern him is that we’ve had a rule that homework gets done first each day–before he can watch TV or do anything else. One of his favorite shows comes on right when he gets home, so he wants to rush through things so he can watch it. As a compromise, I’m thinking I’ll tell him he can watch that one show first, then work on homework. Give him sometime to decompress from school.

I also plan on talking to him about his report card and why we’re making these changes, encouraging him to work toward better ratings in these areas. Ideally, his ratings improve and he can go back to being self-governed. If the ratings stay where they are, then we’ll worry about what to do next.

That said, the boy’s just in first grade. Am I worrying about this too much? I don’t want to put undue pressure on the kid. I’m a believer in letting kids be kids and have a childhood and have fun. At the same time, I also don’t want him getting in bad habits now that will affect him later on. So there you have it. What gems of wisdom do you have for me? Any and all advice is appreciated.

11 thoughts on “Looking for Advice: Children and Report Cards”

  1. Education is my #1 pet topic and you said any advice is good, so don’t take this the wrong way! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your sons behavior is normal for a 1st grader who is bored beyond all reason. Why should he pay attention? He KNOWS this stuff. If he doesn’t know it, then he has the capability to figure it out before the dumbest kid in the class understands it, so there’s no pressure to succeed on his part. THAT is the problem for smart kids in public school.

    My interpretation of your solution is to give him 8 hours of boring time, followed by an additional half hour of school at home to make up for the 8 hours of previous wasted time.

    If he’s like my 1st grader, he’s only awake for 12 hours and now between school, homework, meals, and family time, you’ve filled up more than 90% of his day. The kid is 6 years old! Give him a break!

    If you ask me (and you did!), I’d suggest you seriously look at the benefits of homeschooling. He sounds like my 1st grader. We spend 2-4 hrs per day on school, then go to the park, or do other fun stuff. Now she can progress at her own learning capability and she’s not held back by boredom (she’s 1.5 years ahead of her peer group). My homeschool kids also get to choose parts of their curriculum so they’re not bored with what they’re learning.

    Broken down, my daughter (1st grade) spends an average of 30% of her day on meaningful school (no bored time!), then the rest of the day is devoted to being a kid! In addition, our homeschool group has 4 hours of PE per week, a park day, horseback riding lessons, cub scouts, and numerous field trips.

    I’ve got kids in both homeschool and public school. I intimately know both sides of the coin. Your son would EXCEL in homeschool. He’d be able to learn at his own pace, graduate ahead of his peers, and most likely have his associates degree before his mission. For me, the stakes are too high–my advanced kids HAVE to be homeschooled because they would be bored to tears in public school. Holding back their intellect will hinder them way more in life than disruptive behavior in the classroom.

    (I’ll step off my soapbox now! Sorry that my comment is longer than your original post. That’s what you get asking for advice haha!) ๐Ÿ˜‰
    ~Timber Dawson

  2. Thanks for the quick reply. I appreciate your input and honesty–that’s what I’m looking for when I ask questions like this. No guarantee I’ll do what people suggest, but I like making informed decisions, and it’s hard to be informed if people don’t speak up.


    Homeschool. That’s a big issue, and one I’ve thought about a fair bit. Back in the day when I was teaching at BYU, I taught advanced writing for education majors, and I got to see just who was going through the program and planned on being a teacher. Some of them are no doubt doing great today. Some of them . . . not so much. Could Denisa or I teach TRC? Yes we could. We’re intelligent people with multiple degrees, and I think we could do a pretty good job with it.

    Will we teach him?

    Very doubtful, and I’ll tell you why. (Warning: honest comments ahead that aren’t aimed at anyone in particular and aren’t designed to offend.) I’ve just seen too many drawbacks with the home schooling thing. I think it’s a tremendous amount of extra work for the parents, for one thing. No, I’m not against working hard, and neither is Denisa, but at the same time, we both are already very busy as is. So unless the benefits are significant enough, then that much more investment of time just isn’t worth it.

    I suppose for me the decision to date has come down to my own experience with public school. I was a very bright student. There were many times I was bored in class. But I’m glad I wasn’t homeschooled and that I didn’t skip any grades. There’s more being taught in school than just academic subjects. Yes, I’ll bring up the dreaded “social” word which homeschool-proponents seem to hate. I’ve seen too many homeschooled kids who just don’t have the same social skills as kids their same age. (And yes, I’m sure anyone reading this who has homeschooled kids will object that their kids are just fine. Of course I wasn’t talking about YOUR kids (whoever is reading this right now and upset)–I was talking about other kids. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    I don’t think TRC has 8 hours of boring time each day. For one thing, school’s only 6 hours long, and for a significant chunk of that time, he’s playing in gym and recess, eating lunch, learning about music and art. So it’s more just a few hours each day that he’s bored. But life has boring parts. That’s a fact. And a large part of being successful in life is being able to barrel through the boring–to know how to deal with it. I wouldn’t mind at all if TRC were goofing off after his work was done. It’s the fact that he’s just not paying attention to the work in the first place that’s the cause of my concern.

    I guess in the end, my current way of thinking is that I believe we have a good public school system in our town, and I’d like to put it to use. Yes, some people disagree with me on this point, and who knows–I might change my mind in the future. But for now, TRC is growing in many different ways. I’m all for supplementing his public education at home, but I’m not ready to supplant it.

    Yes, this will mean that TRC doesn’t have his associates at 19, but that’s okay. Neither did I. I think there’s a time for everything. There’s a time for being a kid, a time for being a teen, and a time for growing up. I enjoyed high school far too much to want TRC to miss out on that. Plus, how else will he understand all the high school settings in movies and on television?

    Anyway–that’s about all I have to say about that for now. Again, I really appreciate your advice, and I don’t mean this to sound like I’m ignoring it. It’s been read and filed away for future contemplation. This response is just a summary of my current state of opinion when it comes to homeschooling.

  3. I think your current plan sounds like a good place to start, especially since you’ll be explaining exactly why the changes are being made. I am curious, though–are you going to have one of you sitting with him while he does homework, or is he supposed to do it all on his own?

    If he’s already struggling with staying on task, he may need more focused one-on-one attention from you guys (at least in the beginning) in order to know exactly what you mean by staying focused, especially since he’s only a first grader.

    Also, yes, you’re probably worrying too much. ๐Ÿ™‚ After all, I got in trouble for talking all the time in first grade, but my first grade study habits didn’t go on to haunt the rest of my scholastic career (yay, anecdote!) But being overly worried is okay, and as long as you and TRC are working together, instead of it being a constant battle, it’ll work out just fine.

    One thing I’d suggest–when you’re explaining what you’re going to do, maybe ask him what he thinks might help him learn to focus better, even when he’s bored. I know he’s only in first grade, but being able to have input into improving his school habits might help him be more invested in following through. It’s so easy to feel punished, rather than helped, if it’s just being told to you, I think. Depends on his personality, of course. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope it’s able to help him! I do think giving him decompression time between school and homework is nice, though–gets rid of the pressure to finish before the beloved show comes on, which gives him the time to practice focusing.

    Off topic, I will note (as a person homeschooled for high school) that I had no problem understanding the high school settings in movies and television. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Also, though I am biased, I don’t think I’m less socially skilled than someone who went through public school for their entire education (and neither are my sisters, who were homeschooled for 6th-12th, and 1st-8th, respectively). ๐Ÿ˜› Lack of social skills is a problem with being too insular, I think, rather than just because the person is homeschooled (correlation rather than causation). That said, I’m a firm believer that homeschool is NOT for everyone, and fully plan on sending my kids to public school, since we have perfectly good schools in our area.

  4. I agree that his behavior is normal for a 1st grader. When we make a big deal about small things on a report card we run the risk of sending the message that we have to be perfect in everything in order to measure up. Making mistakes is a part of life, and if we are given permission by those we trust to make them, we are more apt to be risk takers. If we fear disappointing those we trust when we fail in even the small things, we will be afraid to try in the big things. What he needs to know is how proud you are of his successes and they will multiply a thousandfold. He will want to show you how amazing he is.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions and advice, Magegirl and Kaysue. I ended up sitting him down this afternoon and going over the whole report card with him. There was so much good on it–I didn’t want him thinking I was only looking at the bad. And really, there was nothing “bad”–just some areas for concern. We talked about where he was doing great and where he thought he could do better, and he agreed with my suggestions. We’re going to go with the extra work time each evening–started today. It went well. Yes, we’re giving him extra attention during that time to make sure he knows what being on task and focused means. I think he’ll do great, and overall I feel like it went really well.

  6. Hmmm… well, this a problem we deal with pretty well daily.
    My thoughts,
    1. He’s a boy, totally normal.
    2. I’ve had the discussion about me not caring that they’re bored that there are some things you do either way.
    3. Have you talked to the teacher about allowing him to stretch what he’s learning a little further? Spencer’s teacher does some open-ended type things where they can go crazy with info, or go simple if they’re simple people. ๐Ÿ™‚
    4. I would have to agree with Timber on one point, I’m not sure that more homework is the answer. Just more of the same. Little boys need lots of running time. BUT, maybe something to enhance the neatness at school? If he has a really need paper he gets extra wii time, or playing with you, etc.
    GOOD LUCK, this problem will haunt you forever. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Your loving cousin. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. “Am I worrying about this too much?”

    — Yes

    He’s a boy, and his behavior is completely normal for a boy. My son spends the greater majority of his time in the clouds. But he is being imaginative, and that is something that I don’t want to stamp out. I imagine TRC is doing the same thing.

    You DO need to encourage focusing at home, but do it on the homework he already has and other activities like sports or music that he is participating in.

    My two first graders have an hour of homework every day, and it is horrible. Are they learning to focus more than when they started? Yes, but at the cost of their childhood, which is much more important. Take him outside and play catch with him and have him really focus on that. We just got Tetherball for our yard, and nothing teaches focus like Tetherball. Stare into the clouds while you’re playing that game and the ball will sure make you remember what you’re doing real fast! Ouch!

  8. An hour of homework each night!?! For a first grader? Yikes. I definitely wouldn’t give him more if that were the case. He gets homework once a week, and it takes him all of 15 minutes to complete it. It’s really rinky dink stuff. If anything, I’d been surprised at how little he was getting. The bit extra I’m giving him still will add up to a third of what your poor kids get every night. I can’t believe it! Texans . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Bryce,

    We have 3 now in school who mirror yours. Our oldest is in third, at the top of her class, getting everything right, and that is motivation for her. Our second is in first, and reading with a group of 3rd graders. She gets stellar feedback from the teacher and has developed into quite a leader amongst her peers. This is very importnat to her. Our oldest boy is in Kindergarten,started the year out reading, and has met all of the learning standards for the whole year. However, he has really blossomed in the getting along with others category, and has made great progress in non-academic areas. This keeps him going.

    The point is that every kid has something that can motivate them. The trick is to find out what that is for yours, and work with it. Since he is only 6, letting off would seem the natural thing, but really, finding something that he loves and letting him excel would be far more motivating. Then it doesn’t even feel like extra work. It becomes a hobby, a fun activity, and it is subject to change,just like every other phase that kids go through.

    As for paying attention in school, what does he get out of it? Do you go to work just for fun? Would you go if you didn’t get paid? I am not suggesting a huge bribe, or tying grades to money, but if each week you could reward good behavior in that category, then you might find some success. In a few weeks time, or a few months, you might find that he doesn’t even remember the reward, because he likes the positive attention from his folks and from his teacher and from his peers.

    I hope that this helps in some way. Send my best to your family!


  10. Thanks for the comment, Bob. Finding ways to motivate kids is always a good thing, although it can be tricky sometimes. You offer some good ideas–I’ll have to think things through some more to see if there’s another angle I can take with TRC if things don’t pan out as hoped.

Leave a comment