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Sixth-Grader Struggling with Schoolwork

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My boy is one of the youngest in his sixth-grade class. The past two quarters his grades were good, but he struggled to get them that way. This quarter things have fallen apart. He is very unorganized, and it takes him all night to do his homework when it should only take a few hours. He often can't find the books he needs. I have tried everything I can think of and nothing is working. Help!

A: Being a young sixth-grader and being in the first year of middle school is a double whammy for your son. A lack of organizational skills is typical for this level, but learning to be organized is crucial to a child's success now and throughout his entire life.

Not being sure of what you've tried already, these are my suggestions: Ask for a meeting with his counselor, and all his teachers -- and include your son. Discuss with them what is happening at home, and listen to the teachers to learn what your son does with his class time. As a group, decide on a plan for how you will track his progress in handing in work (e.g. weekly progress reports, signed agenda book, phone calls). Make sure your son commits to the plan.

At home, call a family meeting. Determine the following:

  • Study time -- no more than two hours. Have it every school night whether there is homework or not.
  • A study place with no distractions of TV, phone, computer, etc. There should be good lighting and necessary supplies.
  • Tools -- a binder with pocket folders for each subject. For a time, you check each night to see that his homework is in order. Don't do this for more than two to three weeks. After that, random checks are fine. The binder and books go into the backpack.
  • Backpack -- determine where it will be left each evening so that it will not be forgotten.
  • Forgetting. If your son forgets an assignment, have him call the homework hot line, if your school has one. If he forgets books or assignments, have him walk or bike back to school if there is time. If he has no assignments, he still must use the study time to read and/or review.
  • Rewards. When all his homework is turned in for the week, he gets to do or have something he likes.
Lastly, be prepared for the long haul. Keep contact with the school and call family meetings periodically to assess progress and make adjustments in the plan. With patience and consistent expectations and consequences, he will learn and one day -- about the end of eighth grade -- you will realize that he has finally gotten the hang of it!

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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