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My 16-year-old son had a very bad experience in school. He was well-liked and learned well, but he could not keep up with the homework. He aced the tests but didn't do the homework, so he got bad grades and hated it. The experience seemed to teach him bad habits and lower his self-esteem. So we pulled him out.

We are trying to give him time to recover from all of this, but at the same time, I would like to see him make better use of his time during the day. My husband and I both work, so we leave him a list of things to do. He has a tutor for an hour one day a week, he works with a homeschooled friend on another day, and he does some volunteer work. Do you have any suggestions for how I could get him to do a little more during the day and use his time more wisely?

Perhaps you need to set aside a special time to have a family meeting with your son. You, your husband, and your son need to write down your goals and objectives. The time frame is up to you -- maybe for the next three months, one month, etc. You may discover that you and your son have a very different idea of what he "should" be doing.

Learning at home takes a lot less time than learning in school. Your son sounds like a bright boy who probably completes his work quickly, then has lots of free time. What can he do with that free time? And what do you mean by "using his time wisely"? Again, this needs to be addressed in your family meeting. I was speaking with a homeschool mom today who complained about the very same thing with her son: "If I left Dan to do what he wanted, he'd just sit there and design web pages and experiment with his computer all day!" Another mom said, "And what's wrong with that?" The boy is very bright, loves computers, and is very knowledgeable. But to his mom, he was "wasting time." Another parent may have chosen to encourage and nurture this talent and give the boy the space to pursue his interest.

What are your son's interests? What does he do well? Not just academically, but what does he really love to do? Try to have an open mind and ask your son the very questions you asked me. Tell him you want to give him the freedom to discover and pursue his interests, but there are also certain expectations that must be met. Ask him how you can work together as a family to reach an agreement that you are all comfortable with. Be a good listener, and try not to be judgmental. Then, write everything down -- a formal contract. Plan on having a follow-up meeting in about a month, and evaluate your progress. Good luck!

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