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What to do with a high schooler who refuses to work??


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I'm completely at the end of my rope. I'm strongly considering sending him back to public school (after the last 3 yrs at home, he'd rather HS one more year, at least) and letting him repeat the 9th grade, and flunk out there instead.

It's not even that he digs in his heels and says no. Unless Im literally sitting next to him, he just doesn't do anything. And we can't afford for me to spend day after day holding a 15 year old's hand so he can get some school work done.

 

-I've tried letting him have a say in his schooling (this year was completely his choosing). Nothing.

-I bribe him with video game time. Nothing (OR, he races through, hands in crap, or just plain cheats)

-I take away video games until he shows improvement. Nothing

-I've tried asking for, and implementing, his input. Nothing.

-I've tried guiding him into interests (his only interest is Minecraft. and I don't even mean classic building in Minecraft, I mean just social war-play servers in Minecraft. Nothing even remotely productive)

-I've tried removing privileges, I've tried awarding privileges. Nothing.

And a number of other things Im sure Im forgetting.

 

Worse, I know he'll do this at school. So I know Im sending him back to flunk :(

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This is an interesting problem

 

It seems as if he just does not care enough about anything.. I'm guessing though that he appreciates  living at home and having freedom,even if he doesn't realize it.. 

 

Have you thought about taking a pins out on him? This might be a term specific to NY,but I assume other states have similar provisions. At the very least, it might scare him straight

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I used to withhold lunch from anyone who did not complete homeschool work.  I know this won't work in every situation, and breakfast and dinner were never withheld.  For one of my dc it was the motivation needed to complete the assignments.  Lunch was available late, but not until the work was satisfactorily completed.  

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Are you sure there are no disabilities involved. I still had to sit beside my oldest a great deal when he was 15, but he does have LDs.

 

If you are sure he has no LDs, then I would say school. If he fails, maybe it will be jarring enough to motivate him and you can decide if the reset should then be at home or school.

 

Crimson - I have no idea what pins is.

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If he were mine, I would have him get a job or intern/apprentice somewhere. And I would require volunteer service at a couple of places of his choice. I would focus on that and math. When he was in a cooperative mood, I would sit with him and make plans for the future. I would start looking into community college courses in whatever field most interests him and make a plan to get to the level to start those classes. I feel high school students really need to own their education and future plans.

 

ETA  - This is assuming there are no underlying disabilities.

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I don't have teenagers, so I could be totally wrong.

 

But...I remember being a teenager.  I remember that nothing I did was real.  Learning wasn't real.  It wasn't productive.  Sure, I was stuffing knowledge into my brain, but I wasn't doing anything that mattered.  

 

You may want to brainstorm for something for him to do that's real and meaningful.  I don't have any suggestions, however, because what can a 15 year old do that's real if he's not sure he wants to do it in the first place?  But maybe he could get a job that pays him real, live money.  Getting real money that I earned had an impact on me.  I was a lazy student, though not as lazy as your guy is right now, but when I got a job I started changing.  I started wanting to do things and learned how to persevere.  

 

Does he have *any* interests?  Fixing up a car?  Building something that will really be used?  (Furniture or a shed or something?)  

 

I could be off the mark, but I remember school and everything about teenagehood being pretty much meaningless to me.

 

Maybe a sport would provide meaning to him. It wouldn't have for me, but does for other people--the idea of not letting the team down so you learn how to work hard at something.

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I hand hold.

I hand hold, poke, prod, shove them on the treadmill, cheer encouragement from the side, hand hold some more, pick them up, dust them off & keep them moving. It's my job when homeschooling & I don't intend to stop until they take the reins. That might take longer than 'society' thinks is ok, but I've decided that's what we'll do.

Have you seen my thread on late to launch kids? forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/541220-can-we-talk-about-late-to-launch-kids/

I would agree about making doubly sure that there aren't ld's in play.

I would work hard at finding things your son enjoys & finding ways to build on to that.  Will he play other games other than minecraft? Would he be interested in some coding? Would he be interested in electronics? Would he be interested in doing backyard ballistics?  How about a summer project? My ds is planning to build a clock using nixie tubes this summer. Last summer it was an rc plane built from scratch.

I would also not discount depression. Lack of motivation can be a big symptom of depression in sensitive kids who see the world as a hopeless mess, the economy wrecked, job prospects bleak, hyper competitive post sec environment etc. For some of the kids it's overwhelming & so with mine, we actually pulled way back from looking at big picture and goals & I just sat down on my own and decided what they need to know & what skills I think will help them the most & then it's just a matter of them taking one step in front of another. 

 

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You haven't found his currency yet, but could it be internet and cellphone access?  That's it for many kids.  Change the password on your internet service every day.  When the schoolwork is complete, he gets the day's password.  I think it goes without saying that the phone is confiscated, long term, until the output increases, long term.

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definitely disabilities. Dyslexia for sure, and possibly ADD.

And of course there are adjustments for it in his school day. Audio books, less paperwork, organizational tools, etc, etc.

 

He has a job. In fact, he's at work today. He works for a neighboring rancher, takes a lot of pride in his work and his boss thinks pretty highly of him, too. He also volunteers weekly in our Awana program.

 

I completely agree about owning schooling at this age. That's part of why we're doing his plan this year...

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sounds like he's agood person who doesn't see a point to schoolwork. I have one of those. Can you tie in for him that the things he wants are dependent on finishing highschool? I remeind my son that he wants to move out, ASAP, and that means going to college for him. If he wants to still be sitting in that room with me bugging him all day, then please, continue failing. But if that won't work, and if he plans to work say, on a ranch and doesn't think he needs school for that, i'd help him get his GED. I say that because I've seen so many kids end up messed up from failing over and over. Better to say fine, succeed in the sense of getting it over with and move on to what you want to do.

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No, he wants to be a mechanical engineer. And he's pretty good at math, even. Algebra2, for example, is fairly easy--when he actually puts in a little effort, that is...

He knows he needs college. He's ranking preferred schools, for that matter. But I think he genuinely doesn't see the connect between today and three years from now.

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No, he wants to be a mechanical engineer. And he's pretty good at math, even. Algebra2, for example, is fairly easy--when he actually puts in a little effort, that is...

He knows he needs college. He's ranking preferred schools, for that matter. But I think he genuinely doesn't see the connect between today and three years from now.

 

Some people need you to draw it out for them. E.g., to move into the dorm on August 14, 2018 (or whenever it is), you need the following courses, a score in this range on these tests, etc. Maybe even in timeline form if that's the kind of thinker he is.

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I would bet t's the ADD. Is he taking medication?  If not, then handholding will probably be required.  It takes tremendous effort for an ADD person to do the mudane.  Their mind just blocks them out.  If he hasn't had it before, he needs counselling or guides (books, etc.) to help him learn coping techniques. 

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Agreed with above. Has he had evaluations through a neuropsychologist? That might help with finding specific ways to help him handle the workload and can also get him accomodations on standardized tests and into college stuff.

 

DD is dylsexic among other things and struggles to get anything done without external systematic scaffolding. And she has little sense of the passage of time. Makes things challenging.

 

Hugs. Sorry OP.

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As an ME, I ask if he's "shadowed" an engineer recently? My oldest two daughters don't tend to listen to most of what I say, but tend to hear it when someone outside the family, whom they see as being someone worthy of respect, say the exact same thing.

 

I have no ideas other than to have him spend some time with someone doing the job he wants to do down the road. Have them talk to him about his courses this year & what courses they took, how what they did in high school led into their college acceptance, and study skills / perseverance were important to getting to that job.

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No, he wants to be a mechanical engineer. And he's pretty good at math, even. Algebra2, for example, is fairly easy--when he actually puts in a little effort, that is...

He knows he needs college. He's ranking preferred schools, for that matter. But I think he genuinely doesn't see the connect between today and three years from now.

 

Start touring colleges.  Any local college that has engineering will do - it doesn't have to be one that will ultimately be on his list.  Go on their web site to find out when they do tours and info sessions - usually more-or-less daily.  Be sure to go to the info session.  They will explain what they are looking for in a candidate - grades, test scores, activities, and so on.  And they will tell you the percentage of applicants who get in.  Let THEM do the work of explaining to him exactly what he needs to do to get into college, and to succeed once he is there.

 

If he is ADD, he might actually benefit from the structure of school.  But if you go that route, try to find a (probably private) college-prep school where very close to 100% of the graduates go on to college.  He will be surrounded by kids who are serious about school, and it will be easier to go along with the flow and get things done.  Structure + peers working on similar goals may make it much easier for him to succeed.  Obviously, he may need support for his LDs, and you can help with that without being the primary teacher.  AND - he can be building the kind of independence skills & coping mechanisms (for his LDs) that he will need to succeed in college.

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definitely disabilities. Dyslexia for sure, and possibly ADD.

And of course there are adjustments for it in his school day. Audio books, less paperwork, organizational tools, etc, etc.

 

He has a job. In fact, he's at work today. He works for a neighboring rancher, takes a lot of pride in his work and his boss thinks pretty highly of him, too. He also volunteers weekly in our Awana program.

 

I completely agree about owning schooling at this age. That's part of why we're doing his plan this year...

 

In that case, the bad news is, he still requires hand holding. The even worse news is, he will not get it if you send him to ps. His best chance of success is for you to realize he is still not capable of staying on task and getting the work done without a tremendous amount of handholding.

 

When rewards and punishments fail, this is almost always the case. The decision then becomes are you willing to do what it takes to help him? Have you read Smart But Scattered Teens? It will require his participation, but you might learn a lot about what is going on and figure out how to make a plan to help.

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Yeah, I've read it. We've tried creating a couple of systems, but he doesn't keep it up. Or, worse, he decides he resents the reminders/habits/etc. and gets mad about it.

 

Though I think ultimately you're right. I need to just keep on keepin' on and pray that he gains some independance one of these days. :(

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1) Work is dangerous at this age.

Consider the following:
Work:
--I get money.
--I am "independent."
--I am praised for my abilities.
--I am not asked to do anything hard.

However, this level of work will not ever support a family or pay for college.  It's not a good long-term plan.

School:
--No money.
--I have to do what others tell me.
--Whatever I do is not good enough (both in current work and in the fact that even if I finish Algebra 2, I still have to do Geometry, Trig, PreCalc, and Calc).
--Every assignment, I have to learn something new...and that is hard!

There needs to be a discussion that: SCHOOL IS YOUR JOB.  Anything else is a hobby. 

Threaten to cut off his job if his grades and attitude do not improve.  That is what most parents do if the job at McDonalds interferes with school.   And then follow through. 

2) Send him to public school part time, if that is possible.  Even if things are going swimmingly, consider this.

Disclaimer: our state (Iowa) is very good at this.  This is not possible in all states or districts.

An experienced local homeschooling friend of our follows the following schedule:
9th grade: one class at the local high school
10th grade: two classes
11th grade: three classes
12th grade: four classes

This serves several purposes:

a) by the time the student has 4 "outside of home" classes, he/she is one step away from a college schedule of 5 classes.

b) the student becomes accustomed to following someone else's schedule and being independent to complete assignments and remembering to bring supplies to class

c) higher level (Honors, AP, CLEP or IB) classes, or classes that are difficult to teach at home (like Chemistry or Physics lab) are available

d) student can truly compare themselves to their peers.  If the student receives a C and their peers received an A, what needs to change?  This can be an opportunity to fill holes before college starts.

e) you will be plugged into the school guidance system to learn about college programs and scholarships.  In our state, any students that passes a set list of classes receives and automatic scholarship to help pay for college.  Does your state have this?

 

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1) Work is dangerous at this age.

 

Consider the following:

Work:

--I get money.

--I am "independent."

--I am praised for my abilities.

--I am not asked to do anything hard.

 

However, this level of work will not ever support a family or pay for college.  It's not a good long-term plan.

 

School:

--No money.

--I have to do what others tell me.

--Whatever I do is not good enough (both in current work and in the fact that even if I finish Algebra 2, I still have to do Geometry, Trig, PreCalc, and Calc).

--Every assignment, I have to learn something new...and that is hard!

 

There needs to be a discussion that: SCHOOL IS YOUR JOB.  Anything else is a hobby. 

 

Threaten to cut off his job if his grades and attitude do not improve.  That is what most parents do if the job at McDonalds interferes with school.   And then follow through. 

 

 

 

 

Thinking back, that is certainly how my parents treated it. that said, for a kid that is depressed work can help them find their way. However, if it starts to become seen as an alternative to school instead of a bonus, I'd take it away.

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Work was very helpful for my teen. I put him in a high traffic convenience mart for the summer and many people gave him their life story and advice. Every single person told him to get an education while the getting was good, before marriage and children. One person said he couldnt settle into studying, so he worked construction until he was 23 and decided he wanted shorter hours and went to college....makes six figs now and has every summer off. Many gals shared their child care dilemmas. Opened his eyes to realistic possibilities and made him think about his future.

 

I'm not sure that's the perspective the op's son is getting if he is working on a neighboring ranch. I'm guessing that he's spending all day with just one rancher.

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Is there a vocational High School that your DS could attend?

 

Usually they provide academics that he would need and any accommodations or special services, but they also intermingle with the vocational training.  An agricultural HS might allow him to continue some of the work he does on the ranch as part of his education.

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My son has dyslexia with ADD behaviors.  We ended up going the medication route for several years.  Things started to get better when he dual enrolled at the CC and was able to take engineering courses.

 

My strategy was to do everything possible when he was homeschooling to reinforce the idea that he was a good student.  Because I knew if I let him fail he would see that as the easy way out.  By the time he went to a b&m school (grades 10.5-11.5) and then the CC (grade 11.5 on) he saw himself as a good student and didn't want to mess that up.  

 

So all that is to say is that I would not put him in school to let him fail.  If you do that, he will probably won't learn the lesson that you want him to learn.  I would look into medication, if you haven't already, and see if it helps.  If you don't want to go the prescription route, my son tells me that coffee helps too.  I would also structure the day so that you do "together" stuff at least half of the time--maybe even 3/4 of the time to start with, with only math problems, writing, and a bit of independent reading to be done by him alone.  And while he's working, I'd be sitting in the room checking in with him regularly.  

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However, this level of work will not ever support a family or pay for college. It's not a good long-term plan.

Actually, that isn't true. He is doing a grown man's job. This isn't like bagging groceries.

Ranching will most assuredly pay the bills and raise a family, and he knows it, as his dad ranched until just a few years ago (when he got tired of not having anything of his own but his vehicles and horses) while I was at home...

However, he doesn't seem to want to do it full time as it's not really an interest. He likes wrenching on the tractors and coming up with a weed spraying rig to put on the 4wheeler, but spending the rest of his life catering to cattle isn't a draw.

 

However, his boss is also a dad. A dad who went to college, for that matter. When Buck is having trouble balancing work and school, he has to drop work for a while and his boss is completely supportive. "School has to come first, bud."

We picked this job pretty carefully.

 

And yes, we're looking at partial enrollment this year. But, since we're so far from town, it'll be based on what class is offered at which time of day, rather than the classes he should ideally take. A couple of classes first thing in the morning, or last thing in the afternoon would be better than 1 at 10 and 1 at 2:30 KWIM?

(Those of you with different schooling options available have no idea how lucky you are. We have 2, *very* small public schools within 30 miles, and that's the extent of our options...)

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Yeah, I've read it. We've tried creating a couple of systems, but he doesn't keep it up. Or, worse, he decides he resents the reminders/habits/etc. and gets mad about it.

 

Though I think ultimately you're right. I need to just keep on keepin' on and pray that he gains some independance one of these days. :(

 

I'd go back and discuss the EF issues with him again. Does he thing those issues are impacting him getting school done? Does he want to be able to get school done? Have a strong discussion of it all. Remind him of what his strengths and weaknesses showed to be in Smart but Scattered. Ask him to come up with ideas for systems to help him - don't do it for him. Remind him of his goals and discuss how he plans to succeed and motivate himself in college if he can't do it now. I told ds I wouldn't send him to college unless he could show me he could work independently before he went, and I meant it. I'd have sent him to a local CC where he still came home and I could handhold.

 

Handhold until he figures out how to do it himself. Make him work in a public space, stay very nearby, sit at his elbow for subjects that he really can't bring himself to do otherwise. If he doesn't like that, make him earn independence by showing you his plan for how to get things done and then give him a chance to work that plan. If it fails, help him re-evaluate and make a new plan. Don't let it turn into constant failure. Help him gain some success.

 

I'd work hard right now on these issues. The whole "independence" thing just gets harder as high school goes along and he needs to get it figured out if he really wants to be an engineer. 

 

:grouphug:  from a mom who has been there and knows how hard this is.

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No, he wants to be a mechanical engineer. And he's pretty good at math, even. Algebra2, for example, is fairly easy--when he actually puts in a little effort, that is...

He knows he needs college. He's ranking preferred schools, for that matter. But I think he genuinely doesn't see the connect between today and three years from now.

You will need to have a heart to heart with your DS or maybe find an Engineer friend to help. My son is just about the same age.  I do not shield him from the world being more competitive. Jobs in America are harder to get then back in my day even for STEM grads. If he truly wants to be an Engineer he needs at a minimum to focus on his Math and Science.

 

If it is still not working at when he hits 16 maybe force him to find a low wage job like at McDonald's for a semester instead of school.  My first summer job as a dish-washer in a local restaurant was a an eye-opener to understand how much labor you can do without much pay in return.

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If he truly wants to be an Engineer he needs at a minimum to focus on his Math and Science.

 

And his written & oral communications skills. Gone are the days when just-coming-out-of-school engineers are going to get a good engineering job without at least passing communications skills. Even when I graduated, companies went for the kids who could speak & present well. If you could write well, that was a bonus. Nowadays, I'm hearing that you have to also show you can write at least passably.

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And his written & oral communications skills. Gone are the days when just-coming-out-of-school engineers are going to get a good engineering job without at least passing communications skills. Even when I graduated, companies went for the kids who could speak & present well. If you could write well, that was a bonus. Nowadays, I'm hearing that you have to also show you can write at least passably.

 

Yep. Dh is the VP of software development at his company. When hiring, he looks first for programming chops, then among those that can do the work he chooses based on communication skills, written and verbal. Excellent programmers who are poor communicators do not get hired.

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You will need to have a heart to heart with your DS or maybe find an Engineer friend to help. My son is just about the same age.  I do not shield him from the world being more competitive. Jobs in America are harder to get then back in my day even for STEM grads. If he truly wants to be an Engineer he needs at a minimum to focus on his Math and Science.

 

If it is still not working at when he hits 16 maybe force him to find a low wage job like at McDonald's for a semester instead of school.  My first summer job as a dish-washer in a local restaurant was a an eye-opener to understand how much labor you can do without much pay in return.

 

This is probably not legal. Check the child labor laws in your state.

 

In my experience with my houseful of teen boys, fast food jobs don't always motivate them to work harder in school because they see how easy it is to level up to manager just by showing up every day, and managers make upwards of $40,000/yr. If a boy lives in a low cost of living area he sometimes thinks he could do alright, with a junky car, a one bedroom apartment and an entry level health care plan, as a fast food manager, and is less motivated to study. Or he knows he doesn't want to be at that level forever, but he's willing to put off college for awhile because of it (which is unwise b/c his best chances at merit aid, etc. are as a young freshman who didn't take more than one gap year).

 

Jobs are worthwhile for other reasons. My boys work a lot. But it takes maturity to really put the pieces together and see that what might work for your 20s isn't going to do it for adulthood -- everybody needs post-secondary education, whether college, vocational school, or skilled trades. So we keep them in school while they work, so they learn all the lessons they need.

 

Erin, prolonged daily handholding for ADHD teens is the only strategy I've found that works. (By handholding I mean that yes, we are in the same room, I'm teaching and mentoring and holding him accountable subject by subject until it's done.) Some of mine had a surge in maturity at 16 to 18 and did a lot better at high school in the latter half, but grades 9 and 10 were really hard. The only thing that kept me going was what you mentioned in your OP -- the public school wasn't going to care more than I did, and they wouldn't get more support and accountability there. Actually, my guys would have been likely to drop out of our abysmal public school. At least at home, fighting with me every day, they finished their courses and were able to move on.

 

Homeschooling ADHD boys is hard. There's not much support for Mom, homeschoolers all around you are letting their hs'ed boys fall through the cracks entirely, public school doesn't look much more promising...we are exhausted and we have younger children who are far more fun to homeschool and raise, but there's nothing for it but to roll up our sleeves and see the job done, every single day.

 

It pays off. My boys are college bound, with excellent scholarships and full rides and all of that. They learned a good work ethic and gained the skills and knowledge they needed. They got through the worst stages and headed into the home stretch well. But I am a wreck...

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Homeschooling ADHD boys is hard. There's not much support for Mom, homeschoolers all around you are letting their hs'ed boys fall through the cracks entirely, public school doesn't look much more promising...we are exhausted and we have younger children who are far more fun to homeschool and raise, but there's nothing for it but to roll up our sleeves and see the job done, every single day.

 

It pays off. My boys are college bound, with excellent scholarships and full rides and all of that. They learned a good work ethic and gained the skills and knowledge they needed. They got through the worst stages and headed into the home stretch well. But I am a wreck...

 

I completely relate.

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Start touring colleges.  Any local college that has engineering will do - it doesn't have to be one that will ultimately be on his list.  Go on their web site to find out when they do tours and info sessions - usually more-or-less daily.  Be sure to go to the info session.  They will explain what they are looking for in a candidate - grades, test scores, activities, and so on.  And they will tell you the percentage of applicants who get in.  Let THEM do the work of explaining to him exactly what he needs to do to get into college, and to succeed once he is there.

 

 

Touring colleges made all the difference with Calvin.  He really couldn't find the motivation before - he was coasting through his classes.  Once he could imagine himself somewhere, doing what he wanted to do, then he was able to access the willpower.  It wasn't smooth sailing - and I did a lot of worrying - but he got there.

 

OP - best of luck.

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Depression. I dont think so...

Lack of motivation or enthusiasm seems to be about the only warning sign that fits him.

How did he do in 1st -2nd grade?

 

Curious.

 

Failure and lacking to do school work is generally indicative or a learning disability catching up with him. He would rather people think he was "lazy" than stupid and his discouragement pours out in not trying. I haven't read the replies, but I am very curious right now. It is pretty classic. I assume you know there is no drug use so that's out.

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Erin, prolonged daily handholding for ADHD teens is the only strategy I've found that works. (By handholding I mean that yes, we are in the same room, I'm teaching and mentoring and holding him accountable subject by subject until it's done.) Some of mine had a surge in maturity at 16 to 18 and did a lot better at high school in the latter half, but grades 9 and 10 were really hard. The only thing that kept me going was what you mentioned in your OP -- the public school wasn't going to care more than I did, and they wouldn't get more support and accountability there. Actually, my guys would have been likely to drop out of our abysmal public school. At least at home, fighting with me every day, they finished their courses and were able to move on.

 

:iagree:

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Touring colleges made all the difference with Calvin.  He really couldn't find the motivation before - he was coasting through his classes.  Once he could imagine himself somewhere, doing what he wanted to do, then he was able to access the willpower.  It wasn't smooth sailing - and I did a lot of worrying - but he got there.

 

OP - best of luck.

 

This helped here too! After falling in love with a college, he was more motivated, although it didn't change the underlying issues. It made him more interested in working on them, at least for awhile :).

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I agree with posts such as Melissa B's -- at this age boys need to do things with their hands and do some plain old fashioned work. I would not worry too much about the academics. They can catch up with that later. 2 out of our 3 boys went through a long period around the age of 15 when they seemed so lazy and so unable to do much in the way of reading or paperwork that it just killed me! One of them was so difficult that we let him go to PS, and it was a disaster. We brought him back home and loved him to the age of 17 and "Voila!" our sane and responsible son came back to us. I don't know, but you might want to let him do some 'non-conventional' learning in home schooling, rather than get into trouble at PS! 

 

The main thing to remember is that at 15 their hormones are raging, and this sometimes wreaks havoc with their emotions, their bodies--and their brains, too! The growth spurt they sometimes go through at that age is traumatic! Sort of the way some of us felt when we were first pregnant.  When they seem lazy, grumpy, and irrational, just remind yourself that just as with pregnancy moods and craziness, this too will pass!

 

I'm not saying to pamper and let them get away with stuff. But just to be understanding and keep a sense of humor. And simply lighten up about the academics. I completely put away most books for months at a time when mine were that age. As I look back on those days (from a place where I can see them as older young men, able to study and get things accomplished) I really think their brains were having a hard time functioning with books. Some people don't go through such difficulties at age 15--but some do.

 

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