Thursday, March 19, 2009

You're Only as Happy as Your Unhappiest Child

Kindergarten continues to be such a challenge. When we left St. Somewhere's back at the end of October, we didn't know exactly what we were going to do, moving forward. We knew that we needed to get him out of a bad situation but could not work on a trial-and-error method when it came to our son's education.

Our wonderful preschool was piloting a Kindergarten transition program, primarily for kids whose birthdays fall in the later half of the year. Some of these kids would graduate to first grade but many of them would move on to traditional kindergarten.

The pros were many. The head teacher is his pre-k teacher from last year, whom he loved and who loves him. It was in the school where he (and we) felt eminently comfortable. It was a small class - an 11:1 ration plus a full time aid. His teacher felt comfortable that she had the bandwidth to teach HRH at his level while still spending enough time with the majority of the class.

The cons, we considered to be primarily social. He wasn't going to be with a true peer group. But we figured we could overcome that through play dates and other activities with kids his own age.

We knew it wasn't optimal but we couldn't make a rushed, uninformed decision, move him to another unknown, and risk failing him again. So we did it. In the meantime, we had the luxury of making an informed decision and ultimately opting to give our public school a try in first grade. Insert irony here.

Overall, HRH has been very happy to be back there, as have we. Two of the kids were in his class last year, everyone welcomed him with open arms. HRH was already reading. He is a leader among the group. This could only help his self-esteem, right?

What we didn't fully take into account was the necessity of being challenged, not just by the work but by his peers. HRH is the oldest by quite a few months, much of the work he is doing now, he did on a slightly lesser basis last year. In short, HRH knows all the answers.

Like many a six-year-old boy, he's long on impulsivity and short on patience. When there's something to be read, an answer to be given, HRH can't help but yell it out. And while he is given special attention and consideration, he of course spends a good deal of his day functioning within the group. He's bored. How much more bored must he be when he's being asked to hold his answers, take his turn, let others take a try?

We're trying different solutions; a sticker chart, a journal, daily pep-talks by mom and dad, frequent meetings with the teacher. It's gotten to the point where I call for HRH and he says, "it's not about school again, is it?" My poor boy isn't doing anything out of the ordinary or "wrong." He does need to learn focus and patience and self-restraint.

So we talk about it. Constantly. It's affecting his self-esteem and certainly his enthusiasm for school. Andy and I have independently reached the conclusion that we need to let go of some of this stuff. The teacher has told us there's nothing more she can teach him academically to prepare him for first grade. It's disheartening and it's frustrating. For all of us. It's not going to break him, it's not permanent.

But my child isn't entirely happy, so neither am I.


natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

The title of your post is one of the reasons my mother keeps hammering home that we should just accept Grasshopper as an only child!

As for the school thing, I have no advice. My boy is happy and engaged where he is, although being physically larger than most of the other kids sometimes leads to problems...As you say, it's all temporary and not going to make or break a childhood. But that doesn't make you feel much better in the moment, does it?

Rachel said...

So far, we haven't had any bad school experiences. Then again, I only have one 3rd grade and another starting K next year. Struggling in school, either academically or socially is a big worry of mine.

It's only a couple more months. I'm sure things will be better next year!

Funnyrunner said...

Ah. I DO have advice for you. We had similar issues with both of our boys, who are now in 7th and 5th grades. At one point my husband and I were in yet another parent-teacher conference when my younger son was in 3rd grade. The teacher was "concerned" that he wasn't paying attention as he pretended his pencil was a rocket ship flying across the air. My husband finally said: "Let me be honest. He already knows this stuff. You're competing with his imagination and you're losing." lol.

Take heart - no elementary school teachers do well with smart, active boys. They will blossom on their own - my almost-13-yr-old has done so in middle school where more independence is afforded.

I know at the time it seems dire, but don't take it as seriously as the teachers want you to take it. I PROMISE you that because you are educated, caring parents, your smart boy will end up just fine!


Stimey said...

I'm sorry he's having such a tough time. I know you know that you have my utmost sympathy. I'm sure he'll end up being okay, but that doesn't make it easier right now. Hang in there, and hugs to you!

KC said...

He's smart. He will do just fine.

But -

There's nothing more she can teach him? Don't understand.

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

Ahh... this school stuff is so hard. Especially the first time through it. You'll have it all figured out by the time the Gremlin is ready for Kindy.

No advice, but my 3rd grader's teacher has an Excellence List (for kids who behave EXCELLENT that day?) and an Outburst List. Guess which one MY KID is always on?

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

EXCELLENT title by the way!! (I'm putting you on the Excellence List for today.)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I have to completely disagree with Funnyrunner--there are plenty of elementary school teachers who do well with smart, active boys--they did it with my two smart, active boys.

Why don't you look into some curriculum you could purchase for the teacher to give him when she gives others work? Also, what about him acting as a peer tutor, or teaching the class something he already knows? Also, it's March and the school year is over in 3 months, so there's that.

No school situation will ever be 100% ideal, but you do want to be careful you don't turn into a school-hopper--I have a friend like that; in the name of looking for perfection she's given up on the joys of stability.

Jennifer H said...

My quick first impression is that it's the teacher's responsibility to manage all the children in her classroom...and if your son has finished the learning for this year, isn't there something else he can work on? Reading ahead that he can do?

Also, it bugs me when parents are expected to extend the school day - and consequences from behavior there - at home, except in extreme circumstances. Kids need a break from all of that. If kindergarten is a lot of pressure, how can a child look forward to the next year? By all of that, I mean that I think the teacher needs to manage the situation within the classroom.

(With apologies to all teachers. You have one of the hardest jobs out there.)

I liked Funnyrunner's story!

anymommy said...

School questions are so tough. I have nothing to add except that I also have a bright, busy little boy who will be almost six entering Kindergarten! I'm a little afraid, but so glad to read others' experiences and understand how you deal with different things.

JCK said...

I'm so sorry you are having this stress. You've gotten great advice here in the comments.

My son also has a hard time containing himself and likes to shout out the answers. His teacher structures him for it, but recognizes that it comes out of his excitement and joy of learning.

I think you are right to try and reduce the pressure, and keep school neutral rather than something he HAS to go to. Next year should make a big difference.

I loved Jenn's idea of being a peer tutor - or something along those lines. It is important that he feels validated and helping others is great for self-esteem!

the new girl said...

Are the sticker charts and interventions at home or in school? If the problem happens primarily during the school day, those charts and interventions need to happen there. If it's not and you're trying to do it at home, that can be way difficult...(email me.)

I agree with Jen that there are plenty of elementary teachers who work well with smart, active boys and I hope that you get some of them in your son's educational career.

In the meantime, I do think it's a little crazy that she told you that there's nothing else that she can teach him...I'm sorry that he's not happy there. That sucks all the way around.


Blog Designed by: NW Designs