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