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How can you help your shy Asian son thrive?

wisdomkimluckywisdomkimlucky Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
My son was a straight-A student in MS but began to struggle with Eng and Hist since 2nd quarter in 9th grade. Now he's at the end of 3rd quarter where he's likely to end up with Cs in both subjects. (As in math and PE though)

I had a meeting with his Eng teacher and counselor and they pointed out his "extremely shy and polite" nature that he wouldn't reach out to anyone for help with his assignments. They said there were opportunities to partner with his classmates to do some school projects and he always chose to go solo.

My son said he himself is shy and not inclined to talk to someone not very familiar. As his mom, I noticed this tendency earlier and have tried to make him more outgoing, by engaging him in group sports and activities, etc. which didn't work out very well. I learned a lesson though: You can't force your child to do something he/she doesn't really enjoy.

What I feel bad about is.. this is NOT due to his other interests or schedules at all. There are no other factors that undermine his performance in school. He does no sports, EC or after school activities whatsoever. He spends more than 5 hours on his homework everyday and still gets these bad grades. And this is his freshman year. Going forward, how can he survive junior year?

After a conversation with him, I suggested two options:
1. Transfer to a mid-size private Catholic school. The one I'm looking at is a day school, not a top-notch though. The size is much smaller than his current public school(more than 3K students) Traditionally strong at humanities subjects, yet, recently received an endowment of $3M to invest in STEM. My son agreed to a shadow visit to this school before making a decision.

2. Transfer to a smaller(than his current school) public school with a STEM program. This school ranks lower than his current one. I wonder if this school's STEM program will help my son thrive though as he's more interested in math than other subjects.



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Replies to: How can you help your shy Asian son thrive?

  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 10,532 Senior Member
    You first should address the question of why the bad grades despite "5 hours of homework everyday." Something doesn't seem right here. Lack of study skills? Learning disabilities? Just because they don't seem apparent, doesn't mean that he's not suffering from learning difficulties - especially if he's shy and "go it alone" kind of person who doesn't want/know how to say he's suffering. Many LDs can be addressed. I would speak to him frankly, and insist on having him tested. I wish I had done that when my own son started to dramatically underperform in school. I didn't, and his LD's weren't diagnosed until after a nervous breakdown in his freshman year in college. If I had insisted on earlier testing, I would have saved him so much pain!
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,106 Senior Member
    It was roughly that age when I started having some depression. Keep that in the back of your mind if things continue.

    I hated school. I am introverted and being in a group situation for 7 hours a day was hard on me. I needed to go home and have some alone time.

    My introverted daughter had interests that did not align with the usual school extra curricular activities. Is there something that would be more interesting to him through a city organization such as a science museum, history center, cultural affinity group?. It was very validating for my daughter to find other kids who were interested in the same things she was interested in. She found some great mentors too.

    Give him lots of love and acceptance despite any disappointment with the grades. He is probably beating himself up over it enough.
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,106 Senior Member
  • eh1234eh1234 Registered User Posts: 300 Member
    Aside from the suggestion to check for learning disabilities, can he drop down a level in English or social studies (either for the remainder of this year or next year?) If could be that his middle school teachers in those areas didn't give him enough preparation for honors level HS classes.

    My S got As in middle school honors English, but I could tell based on the curriculum that he was ill-prepared for honors 9th grade English, which is taught much like an AP class in our school. He took regular English in 9th.

    For a kid who is very shy to begin with, transferring high schools seems like a pretty drastic solution. It might be worthwhile to check to see what is labeled as "shyness" is not actually social anxiety. Untreated anxiety can definitely have an impact on schoolwork that is similar to ADHD.

  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,106 Senior Member
    @wisdomkimlucky When he was in elementary school what did he like to do during a free afternoon or weekend? My older daughter always liked to be out with the horses and that continued to be a thing that let her put her school life behind and just be happy. As she went through high school and college it became clear that she needs to get outside everyday, horses optional.

    My younger daughter would be in the woods turning over rocks and logs to see the bugs and looking for animal tracks. She is passionate about animal conservation.

    So, what made him happy when he was younger? Is there a way to get back to his essential personality?
  • LeastComplicatedLeastComplicated Registered User Posts: 176 Junior Member
    I have a shy Asian daughter and she sounds a LOT like your son. She loves school, works very hard (5-7 hours of homework a night), but hates talking to her teachers if she has a problem in any classes. I don't know how many kids you have, but from my educational experience and my three kids' experience, I have found that there are vast differences in teaching styles, classroom environment, teacher qualifications, etc. that can greatly affect kids' grades. I've told my kids that most of their teachers are going to be OK, a few will be wonderful, and then another few will be nightmares. Because of this, I keep a close eye on my kids' grades online. They are in high school so I know enough about their abilities that I can tell when something is wrong. There have MANY instances where teachers did not grade assignments that were turned in. I also always tell them to check the scoring on their assignments/tests for math errors (happened to me several times in college). When they make a bad score on a test or assignment or I notice a bad trend in a class, I ask them what the problem is. Most of the time, it was their fault, they didn't study hard enough or had a busy week and couldn't do their best - or a large portion of the class did badly. But a few times, there were issues with teacher qualifications/performance: first year teacher of an AP science course whose only other science class she taught was 9th grade standard earth science who was totally clueless; and then a teacher who was out for a large part of the semester due to health problems in a semester long Honors Physics II course and a number of students weren't able to grasp the concepts because of her absence. These are not issues for a kid to deal with on their own IMO, so I stepped in and got the teacher, or in the latter case, the Principal to address the issue. And thankfully the issues were resolved. In all of these cases, when I stepped in, it made things better for the other students in the class also. That being said, my youngest, who is shy like your son, has a VERY hard time talking to her teachers when she has a problem. She also is IMO an overachiever - she has to work very hard for her good grades and has a few learning deficits - mainly not being a good reader or writer like her older sibling. Since she insists on taking challenging classes I usually start the year with an email to the teachers explaining to them that she may be an straight A student (she is 12th in her class of 417), but it does not come easy for her and she might experience some difficulties. The overwhelming majority of them write me back and are very appreciative of the notification - AND several have gone out of their way to help her on the very few occasions when she needed a little extra time for an assignment, etc. But I had to go to them, my daughter would have never done it on her own.

    Sorry for the book. I guess my point is to be very involved with your son's education since he is showing signs of having some difficulty. Keep an eye on his grades and be proactive with him and with his teachers if necessary. In my experience, when you contact teachers and administration with a legitimate concern, they are very willing to do things that will benefit your kids (although this is truer at my youngest's public high school than my oldest's private high school - something to think about when considering a private school). This is as long as you are polite and respectful in your requests. Especially if your child is having problems even though he is doing 5 hours of homework (like my daughter), there's a problem there with something in that situation. Some might think that I am too involved - but a homeschooled student has a 100% amount of parental involvement - so why should a parent be detached from their child's education when they attend a regular school? Like I said, there are many instances when both public and private schools fail our children, and I'm not afraid to get involved when that happens. Their grades can potentially lead to merit aid and scholarships in college so it's very worth the results IMO.
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,106 Senior Member
    @wisdomkimlucky I had another thought this morning.

    If you are in a large enough city that you know how high schools are ranked, your son may be in an environment where there is a lot of pressure and effort towards elite college admissions. The kids lack the perspective that adults have regarding the large number of excellent universities and liberal arts colleges that there are in the US.

    Since you are already on College Confidential, get some advice on what kinds of colleges would offer less stress, more life balance, and still top notch education. For example look into St Olaf College for its math department and College of Wooster for its rigorous senior year capstone thesis.

    Wishing you the best.
  • SugarlessCandySugarlessCandy Registered User Posts: 269 Junior Member
    edited March 13
    Try getting him a tutor for English and history and enroll him in an extracurricular club he enjoys so he gets to spend time with like minded peers. In large schools, you encounter more people and people keep shuffling for classes so easier to survive without a group.

    Sometimes, making friends in smaller schools is even more difficult as there are limited people and usually there are established cliques and groups. If you don't belong to a group then it gets very ackward.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 7,569 Senior Member
    English and History are both subjects that involve verbal skills, reading and writing, scanning and research. My first thought, like others, was to ask the school to evaluate him. If you do not agree with their results, you can ask for a second evaluation outside of school, paid for by the school- or that used to be the case. ADHD is always a possibility but it sounds more like an issue with verbal skills. Have you read his writing? Do you know if reading takes a lot of time? Testing can be framed as "finding out what your learning style is." IS OCD a possibility for causing long work hours?

    There is a reason this is happening, and it is usually (though not always) possible to find out what it is and address it.

    If math is a strength, it is always good to talk to our kids about the different kinds of intelligence. Understanding and emphasizing strengths like math and science are important, as is understanding that many very bright kids aren't good at everything!

    Check out the Irlen System. I recently passed on the advice that I got from a friend on this, to a family on CC, and it was life-changing apparently. The student had visual issues when reading that were addressed with colored lenses. That might sound off the wall but is just one example of what finding out what the actual issue is, can do.

    A high school with 3,000 kids is big in my perspective. My kids went to a high school under 350. Yes there are cliques but there is also solidarity and a quiet kid is, in my opinion, less apt to get lost, with peers or with faculty.

    But if there are any learning disabilities, it can be better to be in a public school where there are services. I don't mean to jump ahead. There is no reason to think, as yet, that there are learning disabilities but just wanted to mention. And that said, I do know families who found a small private school to be the perfect environment for a kid with learning issues who is shy as well.

    I would not focus on admission to top schools during high school. It may happen, but that kind of focus, whether in a school environment or home, can be very destructive for some. As others have said there are numerous amazing schools out there. It might help him to know about them at this stage if college prospects are a source of stress (sad, but this happens even this early.) You might, for instance, want to look at the Colleges that Change Lives website or read the book by Loren Pope (who also wrote "Looking Beyond the Ivies".)

    It is hard to work 5 hours a night and not do anything else. At this point it might stress him to do an EC and have less time for homework so first, it would be good to get that time down to 2-3 hours with different course choices or accommodations if available. Second it is important for him to be involved in something that balances school and brings him out. Music? Karate? Volunteering at a local tv station? Hiking? Teaching computer skills to the elderly? There are countless things to do.

    This situation does not sound sustainable in many ways so I hope that the posts on here are helpful. Lots of good advice above and sorry to repeat some of it :)

  • websensationwebsensation Registered User Posts: 859 Member
    edited March 13
    @wisdomkimlucky Hey, nothing wrong with being introverted, shy and being not good in History or English. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. You should sit down with him and ask him whether he wants to be good in History and English, i.e. Humanities classes. Not saying it is, but sometimes parents' indirect pressure on the kid to be good in academics can make kids very unhappy. Obviously, the guy is trying, so good for him. But who knows, maybe he plays computer games.

    As a side note, kids get separated from elementary, to middle school, to high school, undergrads and graduate. Two kids can have same gpa and test scores at high school, but in colleges where there is another jump in academic level, one kid coasts and the other kid struggles. It's like that all the time.

    The first thing I would do is to tell your kid that it's ok to be not good in English and History. I even told my kid it's ok to not to go to college if he doesn't want to go, but in that case, he should still try to learn something he likes to do. Often, kids don't know why they should be studying this or that. Sometimes teachers don't make classes fun. I myself having not liked schools at all when I was young find it weird that some students actually like to study. For me, I only do well when I feel something is real, when it really affects me.

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is your kid's happiness is more important than whether he's good in History or English, so try to put no pressure and find out what he likes.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 1,165 Senior Member
    I wonder about learning disabilities and/or depression. Depression is very common, sometimes hard to spot, and the insane stress that we put on our high school students probably makes it more common. High school students thinking about what it takes to get into Harvard or Stanford clearly does not help. Definitely try to find out whether your son is depressed, and if so get him treated appropriately. Treatment for depression can take a few months to get right, so you might need the summer in order get him better by September. You might want to watch the film "race to nowhere" (it is on netflix, but probably also possible to find in other places).

    You might want to see if your area has a Waldorf high school. The Waldorf high schools try to reduce the stress level. The point is to have a very good low-stress school, rather than an insanely good but insanely stressful school such as is typical of suburban US high schools. My daughter goes to a Waldorf high school and has thrived, has straight A's, and has just been accepted to several very good small universities. Looking at homework coming off the home printer in the late evening, and helping her with beginning calculus, she has done some great work there. Other students at the Waldorf high school have been very accepting and welcoming (something that my daughter has "passed on" to new incoming students), and most or all of her senior year friends have also been accepted to good universities.
  • SugarlessCandySugarlessCandy Registered User Posts: 269 Junior Member
    edited March 13
    Since OP's student was doing great until 8th grade and even in first quarter of 9th grade and still doing well in other subjects, I think learning disabilities aren't likely to be the cause of not scoring well in two subjects. I'm assuming English isn't his mother tongue as he is Asian, also possible that he is strong in quantitative and non verbal areas and weak in verbal areas. What were his COGAT scores? You can see how he did on verbal section.

    Either those courses are difficult or teachers are strict grader or he is depressed due to lack of a social outlet. Moving to an easier level in those subjects, getting help or even changing teachers may help. I would stop stressing about grades and encourage him to join some activity. Find some way to get him together with some of his middle school friends who attend same high school.

    I don't know how leaving school, home and neighborhood to go to a new school or district are going to effect a struggling kid. It could go either way.
  • blueskies2dayblueskies2day Registered User Posts: 722 Member
    Chicken or the egg question: Is the kid doing homework all day because he is shy or is he shy because he does nothing but homework all day? No ECs? No sports?

    "There are no other factors that undermine his performance in school. He does no sports, EC or after school activities whatsoever. He spends more than 5 hours on his homework everyday and still gets these bad grades. And this is his freshman year. Going forward, how can he survive junior year?"

    But these factors undermine him being an engaged human being. Some kids are naturally shy and some remain shy because they are not put into situations that help them work out of it. He is at an age where kids are blossoming and he is not - he needs to participate in something that has interaction with other people.
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