Why it is my fault my son failed the first grade


It is completely my fault my son is attending the first grade for a second time.

It was not his fault he was not better prepared for the second grade, it was mine and the school my husband and I chose for him.  In kindergarten my son went to a half day school down the street from us, the class size was around 30 children.  He enjoyed kindergarten, it was only 3 and a half hours and half of that time was recess and lunch.  What’s not to like?  My son was not at the top of the class, but he wasn’t at the bottom either, he was like most kids right in the middle.

Around April my husband discovered a charter school which had amazing reviews online and from some of our friends.  For those who are not familiar a charter school is a public school which operates privately and is considered generally as an alternative type of school.  The reason my husband and I considered this as an option for our son was the class size, it was only 12 children.  Our son has ADHD and we believed the smaller class size would be less distracting for him.  The next step was him actually being accepted to the charter school.

Charter schools are public schools however because of the smaller class sizes it is much more difficult to enroll.  We attended the open house for the charter school in May, and put our son on the wait list.  The school was completely up front about the wait list, there were 2 spots open for the first grade and 60 children on the list.  Once this was revealed to us we wrote it off, assuming there was no way he would get in.  To our surprise he did, and we were overjoyed!

The start of the new school went well, he loved his teacher, and really seemed to enjoy going to school. Because our son was starting full-day school my husband and I thought it wouldn’t hurt for me to get a part-time job, a few days a week.  The new job unfortunately meant I was unable to help in his class a few times a week like I had done while he was in kindergarten.  My mom volunteered a few times in his class and would tell me it was a zoo.  The children would run around the class room, no one had an actual desk and she never saw any work being done.

What we later found out is the school was more of a Montessori based school.   The Montessori method is where children are given a choice of activities from a range of options.  My explanation of this is simple, ask a child if he/she would like to sit and read or if they would rather do a puzzle?  My child will choose doing a puzzle over any other type of school work every time, which we found out was exactly what he had done for almost half a year.

We had no idea how behind he was until my aunt who is a special education teacher came to visit.  I had asked her to sit and work with him for a little while to see if there were any areas he needed extra help it. What she told us was he was more like a kindergartener than a child half way through first grade.  To confirm this we took him to an educational therapy specialist at a rate of about $200 per hour, only thanks to my mother in law who was gracious enough to pay for it.

The findings were so astonishing we almost fell over!  Not only was he not at a first grade level, he had actually digressed from things he learned in kindergarten!  We pulled him out of the charter school we were so excited he was once accepted to.  Our experience with the charter school was miserable at best.  However not all charter schools are the same nor are schools that teach the Montessori method.  What I am very aware of is neither was a match for my child.

The beautiful part of this story is he is doing amazing in the first grade this year and he absolutely loves going to school.  His test scores are all 90-100% and his reading has improved.  We are very delighted on how well he is doing, and believe we made the correct decision for our child.

Retention is a very hard decision.  There are so many different factors that must be looked at in a retention decision. If this is something your child may benefit from ask their teacher or special education department if needed.  A great study I found on Early Grade Retention and Student Success was very helpful to us, to read it or for more information click here.

This is a sensitive subject to me, I failed my son, it is my job to be there for him and I wasn’t.  I’ve since quit my job to help my son and believe it is part of the reason he is thriving in school.  It was a tough decision for me to share this, but not enough people talk about issues that face us everyday.  This is what happened and we can only learn and move forward from it.  “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela


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10 Comments on Why it is my fault my son failed the first grade

  1. Norine of Science of Parenthood
    March 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You didn’t fail your child; you made the best decision you could based on the info you had. Children are individuals and as such have different educational needs and learning styles. I was a Montessori kid and excelled. My sister floundered in a Montessori environment; she needed more structure. Fast forward some 40 years and we’re both upstanding members of society and successful in our chosen careers. It’s also possible that the school that looked so promising at first, just didn’t have the educational staff to fulfill that promise. My son, now in third-grade, is at a Montessori charter school in Central Florida. He’s only ever been in a Montessori environment and I credit that educational approach to his reading at age 3 and skipping a grade to enter first grade as a 5-year-old. When it’s a good match with the self-motivated child, Montessori is an advanced learners dream — the ability to go as wide and as deep into any academic area they choose — with teacher direction and support of course. An appropriate Montessori teacher would never allow an elementary school-age child to fulfill none of his/her work plan obligations in favor of puzzle-doing. Rather the children, in an appropriate Montessori setting, would be given the choice of appropriate lessons to complete. And it’s precisely because Montessori is so flexible that it’s generally considered ideal for children who need different educational approaches because they learn in different ways. But that of course is predicated on the school having the resources and appropriate staff. Our charter school is now in its third year and we’ve grown and made changes from the beginning as we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. The important thing here is that you realized something wasn’t working and took the appropriate steps to meet your child’s needs. So well done you. You’re to be applauded.

  2. Jericho
    November 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm (4 years ago)

    I believe things always happen for a reason…not for fault. You did not fail your child. In fact you made the best decision you could with the information you had. Quite frankly, you would have failed your child had you left him in the situation knowing what you know now. I am proud of you for making the decision and for talking about it. You are awesome parents!! Its a tough job!!

  3. Maribel Reyes
    November 5, 2013 at 8:33 am (4 years ago)

    As parents we are always faced with difficult decisions that sometimes we have no clue what the outcome will be until it happens. This is certainly not your fault. You made your decisions looking for the best for your son and that shows him how much you love him. No matter what others say, parenting is not easy but everything you do as a parent is in your child’s best interest. Each child is different so Montessori or Charter are not for every child. Congratulations to your son and you and your husband on his success in school. You are an amazing mother!

  4. Joy
    November 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm (4 years ago)

    It is indeed YOUR fault for all of O’s successes which you are witnessing now due to your insight and love for him. Parenting is the most difficult but rewarding job you will ever have in your life. Every child (person) is an individual with their own personalities and learning styles. Congratulations on making the right educational choices and supporting O’s teacher and school. Love you!!

  5. Lauren
    November 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm (4 years ago)

    Being a mom, you have to make a lot of decisions. Of course we all want whats best for our children. Moms are always making choices for whats best for our children. A failed mother would have kept him in the same school and ignored the problem. You choose to fight it and make a change. You are an excellent mother, you did the right thing, don’t have any regrets

  6. Cynthia
    November 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm (4 years ago)

    I am so sorry you feel as though you failed your son, because from an outsiders point of view, that is not the case. You child is lucky enough to have parents that care enough to go out of their way to try something new for their child. This is a great lesson for a lot of parents out there, but you could have never known the outcome, and you would obviously only want the best. Your son, will only remember the fact that his Mom made the sacrifice and decided to stay home and help him be his best. Good job Mama!

  7. Lauren
    November 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm (4 years ago)

    First-“fault” NO WAY, he is doing first grade again because the first go around was a learning curve for him, you and Chris, and his doctor. The second go around is because you put HIM first and not the pressures if the school, society or anyone else.

  8. Emmy
    November 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm (4 years ago)

    It sounds like the charter school is taking things too far the other way, as yes some kids do great if they can chose and should be given more choices, but they also need guidance and structure as to what to do.
    Glad he is doing so well now and you were able to get him to the school that is best of him

  9. Carolyn West
    November 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm (4 years ago)

    You didn’t fail your son… you did what you thought was best with the information you had available to you. Not all Charter schools are the same, but I personally know many families who started their kids in a Charter only to pull them out because they weren’t really learning anything. I think a Charter is great for certain kids… ones who really don’t do well in a regular school environment or ones who are so bright that they are self-starters and can really self-direct their learning. We kept our daughter back in Kindergarten because she only went 1/2 day and was definitely not ready for 1st grade. Luckily, the second year we had her in K the school went to a full day program and she did great. She is in 3rd grade and is at the top of her class. We didn’t do Charter school because I don’t think my kids would do very well there.

  10. S.connerley
    November 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm (4 years ago)

    Well done! Very proud of you.

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