Holding Z back, or not? and homeschooling for the summer


Ms W, Z’s teacher this year, had some sort of freak out right around STAR testing week, telling us that she kinda sorta halfway was thinking that maybe Z should possibly be held back next year, but that ultimately, it was our (parent’s) decision in this case.
She was sort of tearing up, saying that she’d never really suggested this to anyone before, but maybe Z might do better if he had to repeat 2nd grade in someone else ‘s classroom.
uhhhhhhhhhhhhh, wha? Given that his second trimester conference seemed to indicate that he was progressing…?
And it’s STAR testing week, and he’s being given some practice tests and not doing well on them… because standardized testing is BS….
And she stated that his test results probably aren’t going to be an accurate reflection of what he knows (uhhhh, duh????)

But a week ago, she suddenly stated that she was fine with Z staying with her as a 3rd grader next year.
so complete 180.

ok. so what happened in the space of about 3 weeks there???

Jebus H tapdancing.

What I do understand is that she thinks he might be feeling bad being on the bottom of the academic pile. Which he is. But. Why is he there? Do I pin blame on her for not noticing his struggles and finding ways to help? Do I blame the 3rd grade boys, who are a pile of little sexist shits? Do I blame ex hub B for not modeling academic skills like reading and writing? Do I blame myself for not doing more worksheets with him, and getting frustrated at his frustrations at reading and writing?


I asked Z last week if he ever felt like he was behind the other students, and if that was frustrating. The answers were yes and yes, unsurprisingly. So I asked him if he’d like to do school at home over the summer, to catch up to and surpass the other kids. That if we did school at home for about 2 to 3 hours a day, he could feel like he was already done with 3rd grade, and he’d be ready for 4th, and ahead of a lot of the kids in his class. He was completely excited about that prospect.

So we tried school at home over the weekend. I gave him some copywork, which I figured would be fun and easy and interesting, as it was about science (from this site, which has excellent handwriting workbooks for free: http://www.writingwizard.longcountdown.com/workbooks/writingworkbooks.html ) He did a lovely job tracing the words. But when it came time to copy the words without the tracers, he got super frustrated. His writing was larger than what could fit on the space provided. He couldn’t find the word he stopped on. He misprinted something. His letters didn’t look exactly like the model letters. He couldn’t write as neatly as a grownup. Tears. Yelling. Hitting the paper with his hand.
Now I know why he has been doing so few jobs in class. You know, in this public montessori classroom, they all have workplans to complete.
The jobs are supposed to take only about 15 to 20 minutes apiece, so an entire week’s workplan should be completed by Thursday at the latest. Z has never completed a workplan yet. All year.
Now I understand better why this is happening.
Poor kid. I’m feeling like such a shitty parent because he’s been struggling so hard in school and he feels how much it sucks, and that makes him want to just ignore the whole thing. At least it helps explain why he’s so apt to space out during work periods.


2 responses »

  1. It sounds like when he’s tracing letters he’s doing more drawing than necessarily connecting that to the process of writing – hence his frustration when the tracing letters were gone.

    What if, instead of copywork (which is a lovely thing to do in its own right) you went back to the beginning with a handwriting curriculum? Something gentle like Handwriting Without Tears and maybe even starting with the Kindergarten or First grade book. I don’t always love HWOT after kids learn how to form their letters, but I do think it gives them a solid foundation and helps to build muscle memory which is key. There are oodles of activities listed in the TG that have nothing to do with pencil and paper to mix things up. Aside from the workbook/TG, we’ve never purchased any of their other products, preferring to make our own for much cheaper.

    Maybe once writing becomes more fluid/natural for him some of the other things will start to fall in place? What a tough spot to be in. Hopefully this will be an enjoyable summer of learning for the both of you. :0)

  2. Hi mamraby, thank you so much! I really appreciate any help. I have been peeking at the HWT site for a couple of years now, but honestly, I figured he was getting this sort of thing in school. He has lovely handwriting when he tries. His preschool teacher (Montessori, private) loved to help him work on writing. I have a folder somewhere filled with bits of onion paper he used to trace his name and numbers and letters and words… so there was an excellent foundation, pre-K. In K, though, he got lost among 20 or so other K and 1st graders. His K teacher was a lovely person, and her para was also wonderful, but it wasn’t the same kind of attention as he had in preschool. But still, there was a good deal of work done with him with writing, including working with materials that engaged his need for strong sensory input, like shaving cream writing, and all the sandpaper letters, etc, of the classical Montessori schoolroom.

    So long story even longer, this year, the sensory Montessori materials are mostly gone. It seems like he’s supposed to have transitioned completely into efficient handwriting. I think that he has some excellent foundational skills. He has good fine motor control. He has glasses to help him see and focus. But he does not have the same fun, engaging writing materials available in his 2nd-3rd grade classroom that he had last year. And he has a teacher who somehow manages to make him feel like he’s permanently behind. I have only recently really understood how far behind he is on handwriting, and how little his teacher at school this year has done to help him develop the skill.

    A huge part of my job now seems to be to help him feel like he’s not a failure. I am worried that purchasing a young kid’s curriculum will make him feel more crappy about his skills (or lack thereof, or loss thereof) than he already does, you know? At the same time, it seems completely necessary, as you say, to help him build/rebuild the muscle memory.

    I will definitely look into the HWT materials more closely, thanks to your endorsement 🙂

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