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Ask Susan: My Son Has No Interest in School

Dear Susan,

We’re in the UK. My Year 7 son has absolutely no interest in school. Since Year 3 he has been scraping through, putting in just enough effort to pass. He is no less intelligent than his siblings, but he has an inordinate love of music and he spends a lot of time in his room playing guitar and listening to CDs. He argues that he does not need school to become a musician.

After attending a parent-teacher meeting, my husband and I have convinced him that school is important and that we will support his love of music only if his grades reflect his ability. The problem, however, is that his teachers say he has really fallen behind and that his reading and maths are not at the same level as that of his peers. Susan, I want to get my son back on track. .

What can we do?

Dear Amanda,

I fully understand your concern, however, I also realise how difficult it must be for your son to find a balance between practising his art and focusing on his school work. With hard work and dedication I believe you will bring him up to speed.

A knowledge deficiency

There may be two reasons why your son has fallen behind. One possible reason may be that he has a knowledge deficiency. If this is the case, the solution is extra work in reading and maths. In order to catch up with his reading, he will have to read a lot. You may, for example, take him to the library to borrow books about things that excite him. Initially, let him read short paragraphs out aloud, close the book and then let him tell you what he has read. As he is able to recall more and more, let him read longer and longer passages.

Maths is a subject that is learnt one step at a time and one cannot proceed to the next step unless one is fully knowledgeable about the preceding work. In order to catch up with the rest of the group as far as maths is concerned, he can work through the maths handbooks of previous years, for example Year 4, then Year 5 and then Year 6. Make sure that he knows all the mathematical terms, definitions and symbols.

A skills deficit

The other possible reason why your son may have fallen behind, is that he may have a skills deficit. This has nothing to do with intelligence, but simply means that the skills that are the building blocks of reading, maths and learning, are not strong enough. Visual and auditory perception, visual and auditory short- and long-term memory, and logical thinking are examples of these skills. Because your son has an aptitude for music, his auditory skills are probably strong, but visual skills are equally important. Poor visual perception and visual memory are common causes of both reading difficulties as well as low grades in mathematics.

If your son’s problems are caused by underlying skills deficit, no amount of reading and extra maths exercises will solve his problem satisfactorily. To avoid wasting time, I suggest you start by getting your son evaluated to find the cause of his falling behind – does he have a knowledge deficiency, or is it a skills deficit?

If a skills deficit is to be blamed, Edublox Online Tutor is the answer.

Amanda, I think it is wonderful that your son has this gift that he wants to develop, but talent is not a substitute for a quality education. Everything of the very best while you guide him towards maintaining a healthy balance.

Kind regards,


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More about Susan

Susan is an educational specialist in the field of learning problems and dyslexia and has a B.A. Honors in Psychology and B.D. degree from the University of Pretoria. Early in her professional career Susan was instrumental in training over 3000 teachers and tutors, providing them with the foundational and practical understanding to facilitate cognitive development amongst children who struggle to read and write. With over 25 years of research to her name Susan conceptualized the Edublox teaching and learning methods that have helped thousands of children who were struggling academically to read, learn and achieve. In 2007, Susan opened the first Edublox reading and learning clinic and now there are 25 Edublox clinics internationally. Her proudest moments are when she sees a child who had severe learning difficulties come top of their class after one or two years at Edublox. Susan always takes time to collect the ‘hero’ stories of learners whose self-esteem is lifted as their marks improve.