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Struggling with Class Work

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 9 year old is in the fourth grade in private school. He has earned A's all year on his report card, but struggles getting his class work completed. He struggles in particular with math. He understands the work, and we have met with his teacher who agrees that he has no lack of intelligence due to his test scores, but completing his class work and homework - at times - is very hard for him. Research on the Internet has pointed to the possibility that he is gifted and indicates that repetition for a gifted child can be torture because the child has mastered the concepts and thirsts for more, but the teacher must keep pace with the majority of the class who need the repetition to understand the concepts.

Based on this skeletal information, do you think our child is gifted and what are the next steps to be taken? He has no problems socially and excels at soccer.

A: It appears that he knows his work well as he manages to score A's all year, so I can understand your concerns about his incomplete class work, especially with Math as you mentioned. It is hard to say if he is gifted, but he surely appears so as he is also an all-rounder (not in academia alone). You may be absolutely right - he is probably bored with the kind of schoolwork given to him as he may have already mastered them. If he is gifted, he needs to find meaning in everything he does and when it is not meaningful and stimulating enough, he may get bored and this may be the cause of his refusal to complete schoolwork.

Somehow, you need to set a boundary and an expectation, and following through will help your son to understand his responsibilities for completing class work. A suggestion is to actually be with him when he does his homework. If he has no homework, just spend that time with him where he can just read quietly. Try to do this at least 5 times a week to set a routine. You would be surprised at how much homework gets done when an adult stays around.

You may also want to ask him the reason he dislikes schoolwork. Direct questioning may not work, so you may want to take him for a walk or do something he enjoys together and slowly bring up the topic on his schoolwork. Probe him into giving you idea on how schoolwork could be more enjoyable if he were given a chance to decide. Then, work on his answers and negotiate till you can both compromise on a effective method in getting him to complete his schoolwork.

At school, you may want to suggest that the teacher gave him higher level homework to tackle the problem. If you really feel that he is bored with his schoolwork, you may want to speak with the principal to see how you and the school can work together to cater to his needs. If the school is not helpful, you need to provide him with higher level material at home to keep him stimulated. There are many sites on educating gifted children on the internet, so it would be a good idea for you to read and try out some of the suggestions. Best wishes.


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