Tuesday, October 6, 2009

F is For Phenomenal

My kids are all so different. I always use the example of how they learned how to ride a bike to illustrate how different they are. Austin tried to ride a 2-wheeler and fell down. He tried a second time and fell. He threw the bike down and said, "This is stupid!" then stomped off and refused to touch the bike for the rest of the summer. The next year, when Savannah learned to ride a 2-wheeler, she got on, fell off, got on again and fell off again, and got on, and fell off, and got on, and fell off, and well, you get the idea. She was one giant walking scab by the time she learned how to ride, but she learned how to ride, gosh darn it! Finally, spurred on by his little sister, Austin picked up his bike and learned to ride himself.

Of course, when Jackson came along, he insisted we take the training wheels off when he was 3. He hopped on and took off down the street, never so much as wobbling across the sidewalk. Lexi learned how to ride by trying and falling a few times. She was cautious, but stuck with it and learned.

Clay, at the age of 3, asked us to take the training wheels off. We told him we didn't think he was old enough, so he took it upon himself to climb up on the workbench, find the right size wrench, and he took the training wheels off himself. Then he went for a ride around the neighborhood, never falling at all. I suspect Brooklyn will just demand everyone push her around in the stroller and won't bother to learn how to ride at all.

Anyway, everything has always come easily to Austin. He's never had to try or work very hard. When faced with a challenge, instead of working hard and figuring it out, he gives up. Things don't come so easily to Savannah, but she's determined and works hard and ends up doing really well.

Progress reports for Austin and Savannah were mailed out this week. I looked at Savannah's report. She's getting all As and 1 B+. Yay! You go girl! Great job, Savannah! I looked at Austin's report. He's getting 2 Fs.

"Austin, tell me this F stands for fantastic," I asked, hoping against hope for a positive explanation.

"OK, it stands for Fantastic," he lied to appease me.

"First-rate? Fabulous?" I tried.

Blank stare from Austin

"Fine? Fair?" I spit out, grasping at thin air.

"Mom," Austin said, his voice laced with concern at my maniacal babbling.

"Phenomenal?" Tell me it stands for phenomenal!" I demanded of him.

"Ummm, phenomenal starts with a P," Austin said, looking at me like I should be the one getting the failing grade.

"Yeah, you know how to spell phenomenal, but you're failing 2 classes, Mister! Why, why, why are you getting TWO F's?" I demanded.

Austin shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't know? You seriously don't know why you're failing two classes? Are you doing your homework?" I asked.

"No," he admitted. He continued, "Homework is stupid and boring."

I stood there with my mouth hanging open for a full minute. "Excuse me," I said, then marched over to the phone where I punched in the numbers I knew by heart.

"Hello? Yeah, I'm just calling to say I'm sorry. What for? Well, let's just say your curse has come to pass, Mom and I have indeed given birth to a child WHO IS JUST LIKE I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL."

I'm not sure, but I believe I heard laughter as I hung up the phone.

(If I had a dime for every time I heard the phrases, "If only you would work up to your potential", "If only you would apply yourself", and "You have an attitude problem!", I would be a millionaire today.)

"Well, Austin, I'm not going to punish you. In fact, I'm going to help you out. I'll take away TV and video games so you have more time to study since you don't seem to have enough right now. Isn't that nice of me?"

Needless to say, Austin didn't appreciate my help.

Since I'm not having a heart attack, I have no excuse to get out of walking in my church's Crop Walk this month. (OK, I actually want to walk.) Anyway, I have a button at the top right side of my blog if anyone would like to donate to the cause. Just click the button and it'll take you to my page. Thank you!


mommyrox said...

Is he in the right classes yet? I am wondering if he is bored?

Erin T. said...

I was also going to ask if he'd been placed into the correct classes yet.

I also want to add my personal favorite phrase from my high school days "Erin needs to pay attention to the task at hand". Apparently, I was easily distracted!

Keep on truckin, Mom! He'll get it. Eventually!

Dawn said...

Yes, he's in the right classes now. They're all honors classes, so I really don't think it's boredom. He's being challenged for the first time and instead of rising to the challenge, he's saying it's stupid and giving up.

Brandy said...

That's funny... we are helping our son out the same way.

Ruth said...

Tell Austin that a college professor said "Get off your arse and learn how to study!" This is the best time to learn because if you don't learn how to study when you get to college in 4 years you will get a lot more than 2 F's and then you will be kicked out of school. I expect my students to put in 2 hours studying outside of class for every hour they spend in class.

Also, he should develop the self-discipline to do his homework without you or dad riding him to do it. When he does get to college, assuming he pulls his grades up enough to get in, there won't be anyone there to remind him to do it, make him do it, or take the TV/computer/videogame away so he is forced to do it. I'm not saying you shouldn't nag him now but he does need to eventually develop the ability to manage his time.

Laura said...

In fourth grade, our son was doing his homework but not turning it in! One thing that worked for our him later was requiring him to show us his homework every night, even if he said he'd finished it at school.

Before kids, I used to wonder why my friends with children said they hated school because of the homework... their kids' homework and having to help with/check over it. Now I know....

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

Homework is boring, I must say. But TWO F's...WOW!! Well, no TV should help him improve. And he was bored in the other classes.

TheQueen@TerrorsInTiaras said...

For a minute there I thought you were describing my oldest, and me. I just want to wring her neck sometimes, but she is always saved because she inherited it from me. Sigh. This year she's getting straight A's, though. Not sure what happened.

Mum-me said...

He sounds like my son. But if I take away his TV and video game privileges he just reads books or rides his bike !!

Beckie said...

Oh have I been in your shoes. Well minus 4 kids. My oldest is a freaking genius. Loves science and yet managed to fail 9th grade science. His reason, the teacher wasn't doing his job right. Not he couldn't do his work, but he didn't like the teacher so he failed in order to teach the teacher a lesson. Twisted logic, I know! So as a 10th grader this year, he's in a 9th grade class again this year. He didn't believe us when we told him he would have to repeat any grade he failed because Mom and Dad refused to pay for summer school. And we also threatened to do the same thing you did, no games, TV, or computer except for homework. He really likes his games so this year he's decided to actually do his work.

Keeley said...

Hahaha. You're a great Mom.

Funnily enough, our son is also grounded. And banned from electronic entertainment, including his ipod. And, furthermore, if he had a phone we'd take that away too.

What is it with these freshmen?

Natalie said...

Oh I soooo know that feeling, I have one of those gifted children who if she doesnt get something the first time then it is wrong!!!! lol

Christy said...

I went through the same thing with my son. He is the smartest person I know and one day he just decided to stop, just like that. Jr. High was horrible in this house but now he is in high school and all of a sudden he has just decided to do his work and his grades are so much better. So through all the hard time to come just remember to press on and it will improve.

MamaLemma said...

Yep, those were the comments I received on my report cards, too (from elementary school on). I still find that if a task does not interest me, I cannot get the strength to focus on it and do it (though a little self-medication in the form of caffeine helps). I feel for him, I really do. My daughter sounds more like Savannah, but my son, I fear, is just like me.

Not to sound too negative, but I doubt the punishment (while necessary) will turn the corner for him. I have always needed a way to make a task interesting and fun. Is there anything you can do (in your spare time, ha!) to help him see his assignments in a new way? Can he attack essays as a news reporter script? Anything that would make it fun? Good luck!

Angela said...

Dawn, I just really appreciate your blog....I can relate to your life so well as a wife and mother!

Have a great day and good luck with the Phenominal F's....ha!


Anonymous said...

Smart kids often have a hard time learning to WORK. Watch out for the AP classes. (Freshman don't usually get to take many.) Honors classes and advanced classes are fine......but in my opinion....unless it is their ONE favorite subject....AP classes aren't worth the STRESS!

Pams Party said...

Going through similar things here with my 7th grader. Either she wont do the work because its stupid and boring, or she does the work and doesnt turn it in. Its a power struggle with her and the more she tries to take control the more out of control things get.. Its not that we are putting pressure on her to get straight As, at this point we would just be happy if she passed..

JillyBeanTM said...

I just wanted to let you know what worked with me when I was in school and decided "Homework is stupid". I failed 7th grade, all Ds and Fs. I went to summer school which was extremely stupid and simple. Basically you only had to attend to pass. 8th grade I started failing again, figuring I'd just do two weeks of easy summer school again and be fine. My mother told me there was "no way in hell" she'd let me go back to summer school and if I didn't get my grades up I'd be repeating 8th grade. Let me tell you, with about 1 month to spare I brought all my grades up to at least Cs and started off 9th grade with all As and Bs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dawn

I enjoy your blog:) I don't know if you have it there or not, but here in Texas we have a website that we can go to that tells us EXACTLY how our kids are doing. It shows grades for all papers thay have turned in, and if they are missing any papers from the teachers. I find this tool PRICELESS. I can just log on and know where i need to set my nag-o-meter when the kids get home. I guess we have had it for a few years but i just discovered it this year. i find i have trouble keeping up with my three kids so i can't imagine keeping up with six. I hope you have this there and it helps you out.

Paula said...

I feel your pain, sister! My son is smart, but doesn't want to exert himself if it doesn't come easily to him. This year, however, he has started to put a little more time into homework. (Don't you love how they say "I already did it in class"?) Maybe all the talk about getting into college from his teachers is starting to sink in. Plus he's taking a few classes that actually interest him (Astronomy and AP History).

Don't get me wrong, he's still content with a C, while we know he can do better. We've been going through this for a few years now (he's a junior). I do think that part of it is THEY have to decide they want to do better. It's hard to instill in them that desire to work at it. But I am for taking away the "distractions". That has worked, but I know you get tired of nagging. Hang in there girl! We know what you're going through.

Anonymous said...

LMAO...he is way too clever. Maybe he needs for challenging classes. Things will get better :)

Shellie said...

When I was in high school my mom always said she hoped I would have a teenage daughter just like me someday. I got her, ten times as me-like as I was. So, often I found myself laughing at the curse come true. It would drive her crazy whenever I'd burst out in laughter whatever she was doing just like me! BTW, I used to always say I hoped I had a daughter like me because at least I'd understand her. The funny thing is, I usually do. But, meanwhile, I've somehow turned into my mom and now she's the one making more sense.

Anonymous said...

Does Austin mind you posting his grades online? I know I wouldn't let my mom do that.

Lyuda said...

I agree with the person who left the anonymous comment about taking classes that are too difficult and that sometimes, they're not worth the work. When I was in high school (about two years ago), I did take some kind of honors and then later AP classes. But I dropped the AP class because it was difficult (college-level) and it was my least favorite subject- history. Now, looking back, I'm glad I did. It would have been so NOT worth the stress. Plus, most of what you take in high school you soon forget. You have to relearn anyways. I think high school should be fun and not too difficult. As a senior in high school, I had two very easy and fun classes (cooking and life management) and I had a blast!!! Some of the tips even transferred over to my adult life. And I am glad to say that I took one history class in a university as part of the GE requirements and it was like third-grade level easy. No kidding. The difficult classes that I have now are the subjects that I am interested in, so it is more useful and fun for me to learn that way. My parents never pushed me to take any difficult classes and I did great nonetheless. I would suggest talking with him and asking him how he feels about this. And if he really hates the classes, the effort is not worth the reward. Maybe you'll find this perspective helpful. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I meant, how did you get Austin to let you post that?

M Woods said...

What strategies have you tried to get your less persistent children to keep trying the things they aren't good at? My son gives up on things quite easily, and my husband & I aren't sure what the best approach is to try to encourage / force / teach him to not give up so easily...Advice or suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Mitesh said...


I have read a book called 'Mindset' by Dr. Carol S Dweck which deals with similar issues that you state about Austin. I am sure he is a bright kid who gets everything easy and thus does not want to try hard for anything that does not come easy. Its all about effort and talent. I can go on here but feel Dr. Dweck has done a helluva job explaining it. I would recommend you read that book. It will give you great insight.

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