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Beware Of 11+ Burnout

exams pictureIt seems we have hit a bit of a wall with our 11+ exams preparations. All was going well until May – June, but in the last few weeks my son has been increasingly reluctant to do any revision. When he does do some work, he is quite resentful and makes loads of really silly mistakes, both in his maths and English.

He wasn’t very well in the second half on June, so I assumed it was just the illness and let him have a break for about 3 weeks from doing his test papers. I was hoping that not having to do anything apart from going to school during those 3 weeks would help him get back on his feet, but I can’t say it did.

Last week, we went away to visit my in-laws for a few days, so no work there. This week it’s been a basketball camp every day and when we got back home, my son was just too exhausted physically to be able to concentrate. I had to leave him in peace again.

There are only 6 weeks left to the first round of the grammar school exams and we can’t really afford to slow down now, when everybody else’s preparations are gathering pace. I know that if he were not ready for his exams at this stage, it would be unlikely he could catch up by mid-September. Nevertheless, not doing anything at all when all other children are getting loads of test papers practice, does not seem like a good idea.

The problem is, my son doesn’t want to do it anymore. When I asked him why, he said that he was bored out of his mind with all the maths and English papers. It was just all too tedious and boring, full stop.

I can fully sympathise with his point of view – the whole 11+ thing is coming out of my ears, too, but I am a grown-up, with a longer-term plan in my mind rather than what is happening this week, I have brought it upon both of us myself and I am able to rationalise having to persevere on the last straight home. It turns out, a 10-year old can’t.

It seems we are facing a burn-out situation. I’ve heard about it before – people saying children should not start preparing for 11+ too early because they can get fed up and completely lose interest. I never though it would happen to us – we only really started getting ready in the beginning of the school year just gone, while I know people in our primary who start having their children tutored 2 – 3 years before the exams! I’ve always thought that was ridiculously early, which is why I left it until the final 12 months.  Is appears that for some children even one school year of additional work may be too much to deal with.

I’m not sure what’s the best way of handling this – trying to motivate a child to do something he has lost interest in, is not a very easy task. Do I give him another couple of weeks free of any revision, hoping that it wouldn’t make him fall behind his peers?  Do I try to appeal to his ambition? Negotiate? Resort to bribery?

I feel somewhat stuck now, so if you’ve ever dealt with a similar problem, I’d love to hear from you about how you handled it. What worked for you and your child to keep them motivated till the (hopefully not a bitter) end?

Last but not least – if you are considering getting an 8-year old tutored for the exams, beware the 11+ burnout – it does exist, it can seriously disrupt your efforts and contribute to more grey hair than you would ever wish for…



3 thoughts on “Beware Of 11+ Burnout

  1. Beata,
    Reading this post brought back a lot of memories of the challenges I faced with my son at about the age your son is. We live in America, so we do testing a bit differently, and I remember having such a problem getting my son to show some initiative in his schoolwork. If he liked the subject, he made good grades, if he didn’t, he failed. I was at the end of my rope when I went to a psychologist my doctor recommended, thinking I would be taking my son to be evaluated. What a shock when I was the one who ended up in the psychologist’s chair. But I discovered a lot about myself, how to deal with the stress, and after a few weeks was able to calmly explain to my son that he WOULD finish school, even if he was thirty when he graduated high school. I also told him that his grades reflected on him, not on me. We had a talk about what education can do for you when you are an adult, even though it seems grindingly boring at the time. And then I let go. I would ask him if he was having any difficulties after that, but didn’t hound and hover. I had settled in my mind that if he failed the grade he was in, we would just go on. Only he didn’t. I can’t say he made fantastic grades, but he passed, and eventually graduated. He is 42 now and has a job that pays well, even though he didn’t finish college. He realizes now how important education is.

    And the surprising thing is that my oldest daughter told me that she noticed a big change in ME at that time, and the tenseness at home just evaporated. 🙂

    I don’t know if this addressed your challenge with your son, but I just wanted you to know there IS light at the end of the tunnel. I hope, since this was written a while back, that by now you have passed the challenge and your son is back on track. Good luck. Raising children is such a time consuming, frustrating, rewarding challenge.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for your lovely comment – you made me laugh! I haven’t ended up on a psychologist’s chair, but only because I haven’t taken my son to be evaluated! Otherwise, I bet I would have been in full swing of counselling sessions now LOL!

      Last few months have been a roller-coaster, both for me and my son. I honestly don’t know who is more exhausted after all this – I certainly am and it shows in the fact that I have somewhat neglected my blog lately…

      Thank you for your kind words of support – yes, there was light at the end of that tunnel. The happy news is that my son passed all the exams he sat and is eligible for a place in three selective schools. I found out by email, was all trembling before I clicked on ‘open message’ and burst into tears when I read it… I am so glad he is my youngest, I’m not sure I would have strength to go through this again.

      The funny thing is, he doesn’t even think he’s achieved anything particularly amazing – I have to keep telling him he did great and has every reason to be proud!

      My plan is to start backing off now and letting him take responsibility for how well he does at his new school from September. You are right – at some point we just need to let go, we can’t live our children’s lives for them. And as much as they can be infuriating sometimes, I agree with you 100% – raising children is frustrating, but the reward of seeing them do well for themselves is what keeps us going! 🙂

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