What we did when our son was failing school

This is a guest post from Anna Keller. She just took her son out of school. 

We’ve just pulled our son out of a private, academically rigorous preparatory school. He’ll finish 8th grade in a minimally supervised online program and spend most of his day in a baseball training program for high school-aged athletes.

Our family is breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Unless you have lived through academic struggles with a child who is a misfit for school, it is hard to describe the impact on the family. Tears, sobbing, pleading, punishment, crumpled & torn paper strewn across the floor, pencils cracked in frustration & anger, books thrown across the room, yelling, doors slamming, sullen eyes, silent treatment….entire afternoons and evenings derailed by academic drama.

And that’s just after school. There’s also the mornings of pulling them out of bed over and over again, threatening to leave them home, skipping breakfast, begging, pleading, water thrown on their head to get them to wake up. Something that is so simple (get up, go to school, do homework) becomes so complicated, so dramatic, clouding everything in your world. It’s a full time, exhausting, no-reward effort, debilitating for everyone.

And now, for our family, it’s over.

Like most parents, I think my son is exceptional. He is a dedicated & focused athlete. A talented visual artist. A natural musician. A loving grandson. A non-confrontational brother. A witty, bright and mature 14-year old. An avid reader. And a horrible student.

Since 1st grade his teachers have consistently said:

He’s articulate and bright and contributes to class in a constructive and positive manner.

He’s such a good artist, if only he would pay attention in class instead of drawing.

He has so much potential, I don’t understand why he isn’t trying.

He’s a boy…one day, the light will go on for him and he’ll start excelling in school.

He’s so lazy.

They look at me like I am a bad parent when they say these things—as if I could just try a little harder, discipline him a little more, keep more structure in my house, then magically he would transform into a great student. If only they knew my parental transgression is not the blasé academic neglect they envision, but rather it is that I kept him in school for too long.

My son excels at standardized tests and has a high IQ. But he could not excel at school with any sustained effort. It was like school was water, and he was oil. Every part of it designed to rub against his personality—the rules, the assignments, the imposed schedule, the daily inefficiency. It took us a long time to come to terms with that.

There were many family battles over his “lack of effort”. We’ve tried giving positive reinforcement but nothing he could earn by doing his school work was of value enough to him to get him to try. We’ve tried negative reinforcement but no punishment we enacted mattered. We’re been through tutors, coaches and educational psychologists.

My son has good intentions—always a willing participant in trying a new approach. He wanted the positive glow of a great grade. But he could not sustain the effort needed to achieve it. So every new attempt would last a day or a week or a month until he lost interest and boarded himself up in his room, withdrawing from us and avoiding school work at all costs.

Despite having great friends and admiring the teachers & staff at his school, he was flat-out miserable. And dragging down the entire family with him.

It’s not that we haven’t been tried to change before this. Last year, in the depths of 7th grade, we begged my son to let us pull him out and homeschool him. Surprisingly, his reaction to our homeschooling suggestion wasn’t positive. “I am not a quitter” and “I am not a loser” he said to us over and over.

And he’s not the kind of kid we could just impose our will on. The characteristics that made him hate school are the same that would compel him to rebel against homeschool if we had forced the issue. His plan was to get through 8th grade, and enroll in a baseball-development program for student athletes in high school, attending a small local private school in the mornings and leaving in the afternoons for the program.

But we couldn’t make it. Just 10 weeks before the end of 8th grade, my husband and I decided we were done.

Here’s what’s changed now that he’s out of traditional school:

1. He smiles and laughs. All the time.

2. He spends much more time with us—voluntarily. He seeks us out, even just sitting with us quietly with no activity or agenda needed.

3. He is less guarded and more forthcoming with information.

4. He’s talked to us more in the past six weeks than in the past two years combined–that is not an exaggeration. Sharing his feelings. Sharing his opinions. Seeking ours.

5. He goes on errands with the family and trips to his sister’s cheerleading competition without a grumble or complaint.

6. He wakes easily in the morning.

7. He puts himself to bed at night, eschewing his natural night owl ways to “get plenty of rest”.

Looking back, I have known for years that he was in the wrong place academically. And I feel deep shame that I didn’t take action sooner. In 4th grade one of his teachers told us, “At this school we need kids who march to the beat of our drum, and he marches to the beat of his own drum”. And yet, I kept him where he was. My husband and I typically embrace people and concepts outside of the mainstream…but not our own son.

After so many years of struggles, everything feels like it fits right now. I watched him running across the baseball field last week, arms in the air, laughing deeply from the gut, and I thought, “He’s creating himself…he’s creating a life.” And isn’t that what childhood is about?

This is a guest post from Anna Keller. 

61 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    We took our daughter out of school near the end of seventh grade too. It is amazing how much they change when they aren’t having to cope with fitting into a place that is just not going to fit.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      Hi Julie! It is hard to verbalize the changes, isn’t it??? And the feeling of everything finally being right in your world once you make the shift. Woot!

      • Julie
        Julie says:

        What is funny, or different I guess, about my daughter is that by the school’s standards she was very successful. It was just at such a cost to her mental/emotional health. She is just so much happier, relaxed and more confident, much like your son, now with homeschooling. It is hard to explain exactly. It is sort of like she is a happier more self assured version of herself.

  2. Lyndap
    Lyndap says:

    Oh my…you could be me. We have a high scoring, gifted child in 6th grade who wants to attend a free-ski development program during the winter. Despite his and our best intentions, we constantly argue about incomplete work, homework, etc. He used to be such a happy, energetic kid. Now…not so much. I try to convince myself that he’s a moody pre-teen but this has been going on long before his teenage years. I know where we are headed. He’s ready to pull the plug on B&M schooling. It’s me that’s not ready. I loved reading the post.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      I am so glad the post hit the spot for you! I hope that you take the plunge, and that it works out well for you, your son and your entire family. I can’t tell you enough about how wonderful it has been for us—so many things we couldn’t even squeeze into the blog. His acne is 100% gone, his appetite is huge and healthy, there hasn’t been any raised voices or tension in the family at all (which his little sister is so happy about!). He feels in control of himself and his life and his choices. Once you give up the more traditional idea of what school and education are for, you can see how kids self direct and self-educate so well. They are far more capable than we give them credit for. Good luck—please keep us posted, I am cheering for you!

  3. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Can I ask about his day? Is a parent home to do any directing?

    I really think that homeschooling will benefit my son, but I also need to work. At 14, does your son direct his own learning?

    Thanks for your response in advance.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      Hi Stacey, Really good question. Just as background, I run a company and work a lot of hours, so this was always a concern of mine as well. I also have flexibility and access to support that others might not have. I have a housemanager who can help drive him around when the schedules change, and I can work from home, or change my schedule on days I need to. I know it’s not like that for everyone though, and it introduces an added layer of complexity when considering homeschool.

      Right now, for my son, he’s largely self-directed. The baseball program he goes to has an ‘academic-advisor’ who set him up in an online school and determined the coursework he should complete before the end of May. He set his own schedule from there—and has really enjoys being in control. He set it up so he does one subject a day (math on Monday, social studies on Tuesday, etc). No one supervises him in terms of how much or little he is getting done. Some days he gets up early and gets a lot done. Other days he is tired from an extra long workout, and he’ll take the morning off to be lazy, or draw & drum before going back to baseball. Some mornings he does the online work from home, other mornings he likes to go to the baseball academy and do it in their rec room. Some days he spends an hour, some days he spends several hours on ‘school’. For our son, we have a high level of trust in him to be unsupervised because he is just very trustworthy and has not really ever shown poor judgement.

      That’s just us though. I think you have so many options. If you feel your child would adapt well to homeschool, then it’s a matter of aligning his world to his strengths and characteristics.

      • Anna K.
        Anna K. says:

        Stacey, I was thinking about you, and my reply above, all night. I don’t think I said what I really wanted to. Here goes: I watched my son lose his shine and wither away in front of me and I was afraid to make a change because it was going to be hard to manage and inconvenient. And I really regret it. I feel deep shame about it. If your child is like mine, and really is miserable, and you see this impacting who he is becoming, I urge you to make a change, even if it is inconvenient and scary. Even if you need to work full time, don’t have any help or support and no flexibility in your schedule—I know you can do this. Maybe you can reach out to some homeschooling groups in your area to see if there are any non-traditional options for you???

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          Excellent post and follow-up! Thanks so much for your insight. I love having all my kids home but my son wants to go back to school only for high school baseball (in addition to his travel team). I wish we had a similar set-up near us so I could better accommodate his passion. My daughter is already doing full daytime gymnastics training so I know what a value it is to allow them to learn in their own way while pursuing athletics. Thanks again for your words!

  4. mbl
    mbl says:

    Congratulations Anna and family! I am so very happy for you. Thanks so much for writing about this.

    PT, thanks so much for publishing this.

      • Anna K.
        Anna K. says:

        I know why it seems like the school was failing him, but…I actually am in the school’s camp in many ways. They never let him slip through the cracks and stayed on top of him in terms of keeping track of where he was at and how he was doing and keeping me in the loop. My main wish that the school had just sat me down at some point and said, “This isn’t the place for him” instead of continuing to say “One day the light will switch for him”. They should have recognized how much of a mismatch he was for their institution and just told me straight up.

        • mbl
          mbl says:

          Hi Anna! In talking to some parents, it seems hardest to pull a child from a private school. Every time the parent gets to the point of pulling the child, the school makes a suggestion and the parent feels obligated to at least try it. Unfortunately, sometimes it gets to the point that only bad feelings are left. I think this is particularly hard when siblings attend the school or there is some kind of legacy association. I think it so great that your family was able to avoid that.

          That your son bounced back so quickly is just wonderful!

          I think that as things shift towards mainstream acknowledgement that the school model can’t be tweaked for some kids, schools will be more likely to stop trying so hard to retain the child. This could be because the school doesn’t want to appear to “fail the child.” (or it could just be tuition grubbing! :D)

          Again, I am so happy that things have worked so well for you all and think this post is an inspiring PSA!

          • Susie
            Susie says:

            In December I pulled my 8 year old out of a K-8 private school his brother has been at 9 years. It was wrenching in all ways, as the school had been our primary social network and had been a perfect fit for our older son. A couple years ago the elementary school went from progressive and joyful to highly traditional worksheet-based and oppressive/joyless overnight (this change was never announced to parents) and my younger son is a visual right brained learner plus extreme extrovert. By 3rd grade it was a nightmare for both of us and his light was going out and his love of learning in the toilet.

            Since I pulled him, my stress dropped by 95%, he is free to be himself, we can tailor his learning to his own needs instead of trying to jump the high bar set by the school. He does science camps and classes, we go to the library weekly, he listens to history audiotapes, studies mythology, we go swimming, he will soon begin pottery and will play drums. He loves Teaching Textbooks for math. We can travel whenever we like. My evenings are no longer consumed by forcing my son to do worksheets I don’t even believe are productive. The loss of friends from his class is still very hard for both of us and I look forward to my older son’s graduation so I don’t have to step in this school that has brought us so much joy and pain alike.

            Although it’s my own fault, I still am angry the school didn’t cut us loose sooner along with several other boys for whom it’s a bad fit. When parents are concerned it’s a bad fit, the administration reassures, reassures, reassures. It comes down to economics in this case…there is no long wait list. So the admin reassures and the teachers are pissed off to have kids like mine who aren’t ready for the pile of mind numbing worksheets they are handing out like medicine.

          • mbl
            mbl says:

            I just saw the mother of one of the kids I was referring to above. For the last month or so, she had been asking about referrals to child psychologists. Today, a number of mothers were discussing anxiety issues that their children had dealt with, so she asked this group about referrals. She had even considered taking him to her native country for a month or so for intensive, much more affordable counseling. One woman asked what symptoms he was having since she pulled him from school 2 weeks ago. She stopped and blinked and said “none.” No deductible required!

  5. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    More power to you! Very inspirational.

    I would have given anything for someone at my son’s former school to say, “At this school we need kids who march to the beat of our drum, and he marches to the beat of his own drum.” In retrospect, I’m sure they all thought it, but at his *public*, academically rigorous school, everyone was obviously so terrified of getting sued that it was hard to gain useful information about his day. It wasn’t until he started exhibiting the behaviors you list here that I realized my previously happy, loving boy was truly suffering. And then I asked his 4th-grade teacher what percent of the day he was engaged on a *good* day, and she said, “Twenty-five percent.” How many hours of his life did I allow them to waste? I can’t think about it.

    After we pulled him, we were shocked at how quickly things righted themselves. The curiosity, the quiet confidence, the calm — all came back. Life is back in the balance.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      So glad to hear your experience was the same. Sometimes, the difference in my son is so dramatic, I wonder if I am crazy. But sounds like you had such a positive turn around too!

    • lucky
      lucky says:

      I have a similiar problem problem how can I do it to help my son his 16 doing grade 8 for the 3rd time plz help. We are based in SA.If u can tell me the name of the school(school of art) so that I’ll take my son to

  6. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    “At this school we need kids who march to the beat of our drum, and he marches to the beat of his own drum”

    You brought me to tears. I know this story personally. I’m so very thrilled for you and your family…and for that belly laugh, loved that.

  7. Mel
    Mel says:

    OMG. I somehow stumbled on this website in my many hours spent searching for answers around me, from the web, from the universe and of course, within myself. It has been a joy to read many of the un-conforming, free-spirited and loving stories. Here is my merry-go-round story. I have 3 kids…a 12yo boy who one day will be make his mark in the world of IT and all things related…he is quirky, social, fun & lazy and is lined up to go to highschool soon where he will have the shock of his life when the homework really kicks in. THen I have a daughter who has some form of autism…you know, they call it pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. It means, we are not sure quite where to put her, so she can go under the autism umbrella. She has struggled along with us and school her ENTIRE life. We are now onto school #8 and she is only in year 5. You would think that I would have pulled her out a long time ago but like many comments before me, each time I have come to that conclusion, the Dept of Ed have intervened and given me another FAB solution for my daughter, whose main deficits are that she is not always very socially acceptable and struggles to learn. Things just dont come naturally to her. She is not intellectually handicapped but it has to be taught specifically. And she HATES homework. So we rarely do it. She goes to school, mainstream, but a special needs classroom. And she wants the social interaction, but she cant handle too much of it (ie. too much going on in playgrounds), so she is kept seperate, with her own team of ‘similars’ (hate that!). She likes to ask questions and learn things but on her own terms, in her own time. And I know the answer is obvious, but here is what I am scared of…
    If I pull her out, then will she stop learning, will she stop socializing (not that there is a great deal of that going on where she currently goes) and will she just hang around home and be bored, or spend 12 hours a day on her Ipad, the computer or TV? Like any parent with a special needs child, all I want is for her to be self-sufficient one day, happy & have maybe 2 friends? And how will I manage this with my other kids (#3 is only 15 months – our little blessing & surprise :). And should I follow the same path for the others if they want this too? I have this vision of being the first home-schooling family of hobos where no-one wants to do anything (often happens during holiday time). I need change and fear taking the plunge…looking for answers. And it doesnt help that I live (Australia) in a town where homeschooling or anything non-mainstream is non existent. Love to hear from you x

    • Susie
      Susie says:

      I would suggest looking into unschooling. And allowing her to find her way and pursue her interests. if you want her to do math, then let her try a few different options for math curricula and let her choose, why not? My son goes to science classes and camps, listens to history audiotapes, reads books of his choosing. Right now he’s enjoying The Happy Scientists videos. We swim, we travel, we hike. We go to many museums. I feel he learns WAY more this way than with the mind numbing large quantities of basic skills worksheets the school was forcing on him. Kids can learn so much if allowed to pursue their interests. I pulled my son out in December. My only regret is that I ever put him in school.

    • Anna
      Anna says:

      I have been reading the book, The Escaping the Endless Adolescence, and it is talks about how kids and teens need to feel and be useful. I would think your little “surprise” would be great for teaching your daughter that. Right now I am guessing at school she spends most of the day with people trying to help her- but at home she can learn on her own (know you said she struggles with that, but I bet it will be much less when she actually wants to learn about something), and also help with the household to a much greater degree. She may gain confidence to see how else she can contribute in the world.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      Hi Mel! Wow, thanks for sharing your story. I can imagine how hard it is to try to figure out what is right for all three of your children—and it may be that there isn’t one path for all of them and that they each need their own unique path that’s just right for them.

      Without a community around you that homeschools, it might be hard, but you will find so much support & inspiration online.

      I wouldn’t be worried about your child being lazy. If you are lazy, she will be lazy. But if you respond to her and her needs, she will stay engaged in life and keep on learning. And if you pull her out of school and she lays around for 6 months…so what? She’s young – she has time! Maybe she needs some decompression time. I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

  8. Anastasia @ eco-babyz
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz says:

    Simply AWESOME! So happy for this boy and his parents, great to see another child getting his life back – living in the real world and taking the reins of his own education. It’s too bad that for every student like this – there are thousands stuck in school who don’t fit in, who have so much potential, but nobody cares or their parents have no clue about the option to homeschool.

  9. mh
    mh says:

    See that kid making a life he loves? That’s freedom. Homeschooling is the opposite of compliant drudgery. For everyone, parents included. Great post, Anna.

  10. Samuel Green
    Samuel Green says:

    Where is the educational value though? I understand he is bright, but whats the difference between me leaving school to play minecraft, and him for baseball? Are you honestly saying that he’s going to become a professional baseballer when he’s older?

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      For my son, he is doing math, writing, science and social science online. He’s a fast learner, so he’s been able to cover an entire ‘day’ of school in just a couple of hours at the most. Most school days have a lot of non-academic inefficiency built in to them, so by getting rid of that his core academic subjects are moving right along. Beyond that, although my son was at a very academic school, he was so unhappy that I question the educational value he was receiving. Just because you place a child in an academic setting doesn’t mean they will be educated. They have to be open, receptive and willing.

      In regards to whether or not I think he will become a MLB player, I don’t think we’ve ever even really considered that. He’s only 14 and there is a lot of young road still in front of him. If my son remains passionate about baseball I hope he is able to follow that passion into one of the many professions that baseball offers—from playing, to coaching, to managing, to front office, to marketing, to broadcasting to groundskeeping. If his passion fizzles, I hope the lessons he is learning he can apply to whatever sparks his interest.

  11. Kate
    Kate says:


    I really appreciate this guest post. This could really be my son. I wonder (I’ve become interested thanks to Penelope here!) what Myers Briggs types your son is? Mine is an INFP. He is 12 and in 6th grade.

    This year I pulled him out of the private school he had been attending (and I had helped found) as I could see that it was changing and they were trying to fit him into a certain mold. I knew from speaking to other students that the middle school would be worse. The school was telling me that he “couldn’t understand math concepts” and “had self-esteem issues” without realizing that they were the root of both of those things!

    Now that he is home and able to work at his own pace and follow his own projects and gets lots of alone time, he is so much happier and relaxed. I have now told him that he never has to go back to school if he doesn’t want to.

    I also pulled out my 10yo, 5th grade daughter at the same time. This was partly to give us all flexibility for two years while I am a full-time student myself. She, on the other hand, as an ESFJ, misses the large group setting of school and excelled at the routine work. I have told her that she can go back to school in one more year, and she can’t wait!

    Thanks again for the great post!

  12. Jacky Tullier
    Jacky Tullier says:

    I witnessed the same transformation in my son as Anna Keller. His issues were compounded by severe eczema caused by multiple food allergies.Once we began homeschooling him, my happy giggly boy was back. And his eczema cleared up.
    For the mom who has to work outside of home, school doesn’t take as much time as you think it does. As several other commentators alluded to, a lot of the academic day is NOT spent on academics. Nor socializing. There’s lunch, recess, the fire department, the school play, field day, etc. My home school days are 4 hours or less.
    I also have the luxury of working from home and can adjust my schedule.
    Take the leap of faith and DO IT! it did take 4-6 months to adjust at first (we added my daughter in the middle so that completely upset the apple cart.).
    My son talks about going to public high school but he “doesn’t suffer fools kindly” so we’ll see if age brings any changes. I’m looking at some online interactive courses and that may take care of the social aspect he thinks he is missing out on.

  13. Jen
    Jen says:

    I don’t know you but I’m breathing a sigh of relief with you! What a wonderful change you have made. Your son is blessed to have you and your husband as parents. Don’t worry that it took some time to sort out what he needs; it makes this change all the sweeter and you know for sure that this is working for him now. Kudos to you and enjoy!

  14. Marni S.
    Marni S. says:

    I came across this story on my search for homeschooling info for my son, who is 14 and failing his core classes in 9th grade. I knew when he was in 1st grade that traditional school was not a good fit for him, yet we continued to keep him in. I struggled in school, so I didn’t think I could do it and decided to leave it up to the professionals. I am now considering pulling him out after years of him and the whole family feeling miserable and stressed. He is having anxiety attacks, and feeling overwhelmed. I would like to have some sound advice on the online academic resources out there and how to get him started. We talked about it briefly yesterday and he seemed relieved! He is very social with his friends and this is my only hesitation, is loosing his connection with friends and missing out on things like, prom and homecoming, etc. He is also very talented with golf, but has no motivation towards it and I think it would change if he had less pressure from having to keep up with grades in school. I’m tired of the battle. Thanks for any advice.

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      HI Marni, Thanks for posting your experience—reading your note sounded so familiar to our son. I hope that you pull him out of school. I agree with you that he may be much more motivated towards golf, or other interests, if he doesn’t have the black cloud of being ill-fitted for traditional school hanging over his head.

      When my son is an adult I would never want him to stick with some horrible job that he was ill-suited to do and that made him miserable—so I can’t imagine why I would want him to ‘stick with school’. It’s teaching him to accept misery and poor fit instead of empowering him to find what’s right for him.

      There are SO MANY resources available to you to help you develop the right path for him academically. Penelope might have more specific guidance for you. My advice would be to give him some ‘time off’ and ask him to explore his options. He’s at the age that he can research and find the right academic path, and his own academic interests, and you can just be there to support him and give him advice when he seeks it. If he takes control of his schooling and you empower him to research and seek alternative paths, he will be much more likely to be engaged and invested in the success of whatever path he chooses.

      Maybe after you pull him out of school his first ‘project’ can be to go figure out his options and what interests him, and what the state requirements are, etc. You can watch, but not hover and not direct. A 9th grade boy is at such a powerful time in his life—figuring out what kind of man he wants to be. What a gift for you to give him to be empowered and self-directed now (with your guidance, of course).

      GOOD LUCK! Keep us posted.

  15. jrw
    jrw says:

    Just FYI this wasn’t posted under guest post and it made it difficult to find when I searched for it just now!

  16. Youlanda
    Youlanda says:

    I am a dedicated but desperate parent of 3. I lost my husband a year and a half ago and so now I am a single parent. My oldest son is 22, developmentally delayed but I got him in a college to for similar kids. My middle child (son) was on track to to college when his dad died in his arms. He was never a very motivated student but with my nudging he went shortly after the tragedy he squeaked by the first semester but was asked to leave the second semester. My daughter is a 16 year old high school junior and the main reason for this post. She has always struggled with school. I believe it started with her having a hard time learning to read. She was a smart baby, walked and talked really early so I figured it was the reading system and not her problem. She was held back in 2nd grade which really damaged her self esteem. I put her in charter schools where kids worked on different levels but it seems she would only get upset with others who where ahead of her and just give up. Then another charter school where she was able to move to her the correct grade of which she worked hard to accomplish. When she got to high school (we started out public) she failed just about everything except math of which she had a teacher reading the test to her. Now she is in the 2nd private school and either failing or close to it. She sleeps in class and never wants to do home work. I have taken away her phone and the computer and it seems we are always at war. My kid now wants to drop out or get her GED because she says “it’s just too complicated and overwhelming plus she is depressed after the loss of her dad. My kid is at least two grade levels behind in reading, writing and spells like she is in elementary.I might add that I’m in a small town where the public school is overcrowded and riddled with violence and pregnant teens walking around every where (so not an option). I recently found out she has been teased from elementary through middle school until she finally began to fight back,, which is why she got into trouble at school for fighting. My kid seems to have been born with an attitude problem but now its depressing for me to watch. She gives up on everything that becomes slightly complicated.
    Any suggestions?

  17. Aviva
    Aviva says:

    Hi there and thank you for your story. I’m in tenth grade and I am failing oit of high school. I have tested at the level of a genius, however I have an output disability where I can’t write what I need to write for school. I get straight As on every test and quiz, but I dont ever turn in my homework and it’s impossible for me to get up in the morning. I have been at my private school since preschool and I have friends there. The teachers love me and now my parents have told me that they are almost definitely pulling me out. I dont know what to do since I cant handle the workload and the dual curriculum at my school, but I also feel like that school is my home. If I leave now, I give up and mess up my social life for a long time, as well as my academic life. But if I don’t then I will probably get very bad grades. The classes are so easy, but the workload is so overwhelming. I feel like a disappointment since my family’s relatively brilliant. Help!

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      Aviva, If your parents make you leave your school, it will be a challenge, but you will be able to handle it and you will move on. I know it is hard, but sometimes we have to deal with change. That said, perhaps your parents won’t pull you. If you continue to put in your best effort, stay connected and honest with your parents, and meet their expectations in the other areas of your life, there is a chance they won’t pull you out of the school you love.

  18. Grace
    Grace says:

    I was homeschooled and always got straight A’s but, in the words of my mother, I wasn’t being academically challenged. The first two years I was OK but then the school they put me in changed as I got to highschool. It was worse then the programs my homeschool program offered and, because my parents abandoned that idea, it was ALL my fault. It wasn’t blaming the school like they used to do because they actually got to experience it. They offer help but never give it. They steped out of my school life. I believe I’m about to get my first C, and although I know some of it is my fault, I dont know what else I could do. I concentrate, but the more I study, the more my grades bring me down and I have no idea what to do. My parents are threatning me with public school although I’m starting to think it’s not such a bad idea. My Dad is set on convincing me that it is even worse then my half public half homeschool that I currently have, and my Mom is trying to convince me that my homeschool program was worse then my current schools program but I don’t believe either of them. I have come to the decision that I need someone to REALLY help me or REALLY teach me. The only way I would get a real teacher would be to go to public school. The only way for me to get some real help would be for me to take up homeschool. From experience I know my parents feel more entitled to help me the less guidence I get from teachers. I want to be closer to my family, so I decided as a student that I would want to go back to homeschool, but I know my parents will acuse me of trying to find the easy way out, even though I believe it is what I academically need to get to a good college. Get good grades through a homeschooling program that is a school to the government in order for my grades to be accepted. I need help but their is none. I’m not depressed just worried. I would want to know an opinion but I don’t think any will help, so just wish me luck, or give me some advice on keeping up my grades other then accept change and study because I do both, although I do not believe such advice exists. Oh I’m rambling! Just wish me luck!

    • Anna K.
      Anna K. says:

      Good luck Grace. Thanks for posting your experience. The best approach is to stay as rationale as possible with your parents. If you can be a good listener when they are talking with you, and not react emotionally, over time they may do the same!

  19. Meri Lee Testa
    Meri Lee Testa says:

    Our son is failing high school. We feel that we have done everything that we can do, and it still is not helping. Please any advice would be most helpful. We are looking at an online alternative school for him. Also, be interested to find out about any high school athletic training programs for high school student athletes

  20. Serena McGuire
    Serena McGuire says:

    Oh my goodness! This is my son and our life to a T!!! I am so at a loss right now. My only issue with home schooling is that I work full time and I go to school part time. Not sure that leaves a whole lot of time for him to be home schooled. I could just scream most days!

  21. Jatin
    Jatin says:

    I wish my parents were like this I failed 2:years at school in different classes . I had to repeat 2 years I want to be a singer music composer actor and director and I will they will understand me someday

  22. Holley M. Buckalew
    Holley M. Buckalew says:


    I found your post “What we did when our son was failing” very compelling. I can see why you made the decisions that you did for your son and your family. I have several family and friends that home school their children and have found it is the right fit for them.
    I have never considered nor desired to home school my child.
    We have moved several times in the past few years, which has resulted in our daughter having to start a new school every year for the past 4 years. We just moved back to TX this past summer & our 7 year old daughter is now in 2nd grade. This school is by far the largest school, they teach at a very accelerated pace, emphasis is placed on testing, the school board changed the curriculum and now the children are basically expected to read, write, do math & comprehend at the 4th grade level.
    Our daughter has had ups & downs so far this school year. She has been making steady progress on her work and grades. However, the past few months her work and grades have slipped. However, her teacher never emailed us to tell us that she had concerns or that basically, our daughter was doing so poorly that she is basically failing 2nd grade. We were told today as we signed her out for early dismissal that her teacher is quite concerned about our daughter’s low grades & difficulties in doing her work. We are to have a conference with quite a few people in a week to discuss their concerns & it was implied she might be held back.
    I don’t think she needs to be held back. I think she is more than capable to do the work & should stay in 2nd grade & proceed to 3rd grade next year. I think we need to build her confidence, give her more time to get her work done & such.
    After today, I felt for the first time, maybe it would be better if I home schooled her. But, I can’t. My husband has a demanding job that often requires him to work late or fly to other countries for work. Currently, I am not working as I have been working on my PhD. However, I am scheduled to start an internship soon. We simply do not have the resources to enroll her in a private school or to home school her.
    I think you have to have financial stability and be financially well, in order to be able to home school your child. There are many that have the financial means to do so and there are many like myself that cannot. We have to work with schools like this because we can’t afford anything else.
    Thank you

    • Anna K
      Anna K says:

      Holley, Thanks for your comments. When I was reading about your experience picking up your daughter from school, I was struck by how hard it must feel to not have control over her academic destiny. It’s in the hands of the school. Which I think is what Penelope is always trying to get us all to avoid. I know that I am lucky because we have some options for schooling my son. But I wonder if you were to take a very creative approach, if perhaps you couldn’t find a way to homeschool your daughter and complete your academic and professional endeavors as well? The great thing about home school is that it doesn’t have to be an 8 hour, 5 day a week commitment. Without the distractions and inefficiency of the school day, you may find that the basics can be covered in just a couple of hours each day. Or in just one full long day a week. Perhaps if you re-think what a ‘school day’ is, you might find there is an opportunity for you to take her out of school. Either way — good luck!

  23. eandgsma
    eandgsma says:

    I have a question…what homeschool program did you use when you took him out of 8th grade? We are thinking of doing this with 8 weeks left of school and then enrolling him in an online high school like his brother. But I am not sure how to finish out the 8th grade?


  24. Carrie Bowman
    Carrie Bowman says:

    Hi there! I came across your post when researching online as to how I could help my son in school. Currently, he is failing the third grade. He has always had problems with school, but before he made low B’s and either high or low C’s. I just got his progress report yesterday (04.29.14) and all his grades are 65 or UNDER. I have expressed my aggravation and concerns with the school and the teachers and they just keep “re-assuring” me that he will be fine and be able to go on to the fourth. I want them to hold him back, but they just will not listen. He just took his CRCTs last week I dont see his passing those. I was thinking about pulling him out of school and just homeschooling him but I have no idea where to go. I keep seeing a program called K12 on the t.v. and I researched it and saw some bad reviews. I know with every school you are going to get those but I want the best of the best for my child because its what he deserves. I have been trying to find an online home school program for him that will meet his IEP needs. He is currently in special education because of his ADD. Any suggestions?

    • Anna
      Anna says:

      Hi Carrie, You have several options in front of you. Probably Penelope will disagree with me, but one thing I would consider first is: Is your son unhappy? Does he enjoy school? If your son is happy and well adjusted and enjoys school, you may want to wait a bit more (keeping him in school) to see if home schooling is the right direction. If he’s not happy, well adjusted and enjoying school, I would pull him out now – even before you have a plan. We have this rigid idea of school – that it stops and it starts, but it can be more fluid than that. Pull him out. Take him to the zoo. Take him to the park for long afternoons or mornings. Take him swimming. Let him sleep a bit late. Do some art projects. Give yourself some time to research all your options and educate yourself, while you give him time to decompress. How long is the right amount of time? I day? A week? A year? It depends on your son and you. But there is no right answer – you are the boss of you and your son and your schedule, not “school”.

  25. Mir Sulaiman Khan
    Mir Sulaiman Khan says:

    Hi there. I saw your post when I was checking what freedom should 7th graders (12 years) should be allowed. You actually know what, if he had good teachers, he had very good talents, the only thing would be that he would not want to study. That you should have encouraged him to do. You could help him. You could set priviliges. For e.g; if he gets Ds. Say that if you get C, you get half an hour of TV. It will be decreased if you go back to D again. When he goes from A to A+, then give him 1 hour time of additional TV. I’m an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) student so I don’t know about the D and E; etc system. As far as the throwing water, threatening to pull out of bed problem is concerned, that is just a disciplinary issue. You have to discipline him more.

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