Speaking of schools, is this one helping or hurting?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 8, 2010 06:00 AM

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I put my daughter into home school at the beginning of last year, and she was doing great with all her work (besides reading).  Since she was doing great, I registered her into public school and it took 4 1/2 hours for the school to call and say that my daughter was way behind.  I told them to give her time to warm up to everyone and she will do the work. She is a child that can do the work. With math, she can do it if she makes tally marks and counts visually but doing it mentally she cannot. The school will not accept this. They state she is behind because she is slower at her own pace than the other students, but she gets it done. Now she is right back like she use to be, stating she's stupid, she can't do the work, her teacher doesn't like her, and she has no friends. This happened the last time and it had got to where she refused to go to school or get up and get dressed for school and I ended up putting her into home school. What can I do to get the school to help my daughter without bringing her self worth down again?

From: Cathy, Dequeen, Arkansas

Hi Cathy,

I don't know anything about the way school systems work in Arkansas, and obviously I have no way to assess what you mean when you say your daughter was doing "great,"  but I urge you to request a meeting with the school psychologist and/or guidance counselor.

Before you call, and definitely before you go in, take a deep breath and do your best not to be defensive or angry. Your goal is to find out (a) whether your daughter is eligible for testing so that (b) you can get an accurate assessment of her abilities and (c) find out what, if any, services are available to her so that (d) she can get the education she deserves. A child's social adjustment is an important part of her education and every educator worth his/her salt knows that and will work with you to to what's best by your child.

But first, you have to get over your anti-school system attitude. If teachers and administrators see you as open and collaborative and respectful  -- in other words, as a parent who wants to work with them as a team rather than fighting them at every turn  -- they will treat you in kind. In the long run, that is what will benefit your child most. From the tone of your email, it sounds like you already have a chip on your shoulder. Get over it and give the school system a chance. I'm not saying it won't be frustrating, exasperating, and even upsetting at times. You do need to be your child's advocate and that isn't always easy. But my best advice is to put aside past experience (including whatever negative baggage you are carrying around from your own childhood) and move on. It's in your daughter's best interests.

Besides -- and I don't mean this to sound snide -- but if your email (which we edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation) is an example of the quality of the education you are providing for your daughter, she needs more than you can give her. 

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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13 comments so far...
  1. Great advice, Barbara -- all the way down to your last, solid point.

    Posted by RH April 8, 10 07:27 AM
  1. The girl needs school. I can see why she is behind. Besides the spelling errors, wrong word choices, poor punctuation, and run-on sentences, the letter reveals that perhaps the letter-writer does not understand the skills children need to learn in school -- they do in fact need to learn to do math in their heads, for example. They need to learn how to stay on task and work at a certain pace. They need to learn to weather difficult situations and to cope with obstacles. These are skills I am guessing, based on the letter here, the girl will not learn at home.

    So work with the school. Assume they have your daughter's best interests in mind, even if you do not agree about what is best. You are all on the same team. If you go into discussions with the school with that "team" attitude, you will be far more successful in helping your daughter succeed.

    Posted by jlen April 8, 10 08:42 AM
  1. Your advice here is dead-on correct. This sort of thing can be difficult to hear, especially when it's our precious children we're talking about, but it's my great hope that the writer will receive your advice in the spirit in which it was given. Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter.

    Posted by Viviana Sutton April 8, 10 09:39 AM
  1. This letter makes me want to hug my cousin and all my teacher friends. How are teachers supposed to educate if the attitude of the parents is "my kid isn't slow, you teach wrong"? I mean, I'm all for supportive parents, and certainly schools can permanently wound a child's confidence by labeling them "slow," but at some point you have to face facts. This parent should let the school teach and devote her very well-intentioned support of her child to helping her after school so that she can catch up.

    Posted by Q April 8, 10 10:22 AM
  1. I think the fact that it took only 4.5 hours for the school to determine that the child was way behind speaks volumes. She must be woefully behind for the school to call the parent so quickly. It is also painfully obvious the the "home schooling" she have received is terribly inadequate. Like Barbara said, the LW needs to get over her bias toward schools and let the professionals handle it. Otherwise the child will end up writing like her mother some day.

    Posted by Dad April 8, 10 10:57 AM
  1. In this situation, Barbara's advice needs to be taken seriously because school is only going to become more challenging and more stressful when it comes to timing. The reality is, this child should never have been taken out of school. If she indeed has learning disabilities, they need to be diagnosed and dealt with. If the child truly has a disability, then an IEP will need to be formed and the parent and school will work together for the child. But, if this mother is totally against even accepting her child's learning issues, the problem will only continue to grow. It concerns me that the idea of meeting and discussing IEP options hasn't been raised. It concerns me because it leads me to believe this mother simply let her daughter do work as she pleased at home instead of creating parameters to her teaching/learning method. Her daughter may not have a disability at all, outside of having her mother as a teacher. And she wasn't doing well at reading??? How on Earth was this not a blinking red light to the mother that home schooling wasn't working or that outside help was needed? Reading is required in ALL subjects. If you can't do it at grade level or above, you will fall behind.

    Posted by Linney April 8, 10 12:13 PM
  1. wow.
    barbara - you my friend are dead on with the advice this time.

    Posted by lala April 8, 10 04:45 PM
  1. 1--Arkansas isn't known for great schools, and Massachusetts is. It is unsurprising that a child that's doing "well" (if in fact she was) in Arkansas would struggle in an MA school. As a student I experienced this when I bounced between Maine and Massachusetts (I'd be ahead of my peers when I got to Maine and behind them when we got back to MA). As a teacher I saw this whenever students came in from other states (with some exceptions like many districts in CT and NY).

    2--That a child can't work without tally marks IS a sign of potential issue in Math. It's nice that it can be done "at their own pace," but as I have had to tell parents before, "at their own pace" isn't fast enough sometimes.

    3--School systems aren't evil and they don't want to harm your child. Let them help her, and you.

    Posted by C April 8, 10 06:05 PM
  1. One point on the idea of self-worth: You are right, self-confidence is a critical component of education and it is the task of you, the parent, and the school to maintain and build it. Taking a child out of a challenging situation, however, is far more likely to damage a child's sense of self-worth. It sends the message that you don't believe she can overcome these obstacles. Guide her through this difficult time; support her and her teachers. This way you show her your faith in her ability to overcome. Meeting goals (even with lots of help) builds self-worth; running away from them does not.

    Posted by thinkingwoman April 8, 10 08:44 PM
  1. This child is clearly dyslexic, and it runs in families. Get an evaluation and get her services such as a structured reading program, either Wilson, Orten Gillingham or Lynda Mood Bell, or a school for dyslexic students such as Landmark or Carroll.

    Posted by Mom of Dyslexic April 9, 10 08:52 AM
  1. i thought homeschoolers were supposed to get a curriculum to follow from the school district? if so - mom should have been doing basically what the child's classmates were doing in school. does mom have work that the child has done to share with the teachers? i do think mom is a bit defensive and needs to have an open mind and meet wiht the teachers.

    also i have an issue that mom pulled the child out of school the first time. just because your child doest want to go to school doesnt mean you take her out! did mom meet with school to get to the root of the isse then?

    this whole situation is just not adding up to me.

    Posted by babyblue April 9, 10 09:00 AM
  1. I guess I had the opposite reaction to many readers. Four and a half hours is not a long enough time, in a crowded classroom, to assess a child's abilities. If the school truly gave this child only half a day to acclimate before calling the parents to inform them of their child's failings, maybe the parent has good reason to feel negatively about this school system.
    I also thought that Barbara's final paragraph was snide, offensive, and best reserved for private communication. It also includes a grammatical error. ("Besides...but if" is no way to start a sentence. "I don't mean to sound snide, but if" would work.)

    Posted by KC April 9, 10 09:03 AM
  1. The idea that any one can decide to "hom skul" her child just because the kid decided she didn't want to go anymore is horrific.

    This sounds like a case for DSS and some serious parenting classes.

    Frankly, I think home schooling should be illegal unless there is a legitimate reason.

    Posted by Cosmogirl April 9, 10 12:43 PM
 
13 comments so far...
  1. Great advice, Barbara -- all the way down to your last, solid point.

    Posted by RH April 8, 10 07:27 AM
  1. The girl needs school. I can see why she is behind. Besides the spelling errors, wrong word choices, poor punctuation, and run-on sentences, the letter reveals that perhaps the letter-writer does not understand the skills children need to learn in school -- they do in fact need to learn to do math in their heads, for example. They need to learn how to stay on task and work at a certain pace. They need to learn to weather difficult situations and to cope with obstacles. These are skills I am guessing, based on the letter here, the girl will not learn at home.

    So work with the school. Assume they have your daughter's best interests in mind, even if you do not agree about what is best. You are all on the same team. If you go into discussions with the school with that "team" attitude, you will be far more successful in helping your daughter succeed.

    Posted by jlen April 8, 10 08:42 AM
  1. Your advice here is dead-on correct. This sort of thing can be difficult to hear, especially when it's our precious children we're talking about, but it's my great hope that the writer will receive your advice in the spirit in which it was given. Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter.

    Posted by Viviana Sutton April 8, 10 09:39 AM
  1. This letter makes me want to hug my cousin and all my teacher friends. How are teachers supposed to educate if the attitude of the parents is "my kid isn't slow, you teach wrong"? I mean, I'm all for supportive parents, and certainly schools can permanently wound a child's confidence by labeling them "slow," but at some point you have to face facts. This parent should let the school teach and devote her very well-intentioned support of her child to helping her after school so that she can catch up.

    Posted by Q April 8, 10 10:22 AM
  1. I think the fact that it took only 4.5 hours for the school to determine that the child was way behind speaks volumes. She must be woefully behind for the school to call the parent so quickly. It is also painfully obvious the the "home schooling" she have received is terribly inadequate. Like Barbara said, the LW needs to get over her bias toward schools and let the professionals handle it. Otherwise the child will end up writing like her mother some day.

    Posted by Dad April 8, 10 10:57 AM
  1. In this situation, Barbara's advice needs to be taken seriously because school is only going to become more challenging and more stressful when it comes to timing. The reality is, this child should never have been taken out of school. If she indeed has learning disabilities, they need to be diagnosed and dealt with. If the child truly has a disability, then an IEP will need to be formed and the parent and school will work together for the child. But, if this mother is totally against even accepting her child's learning issues, the problem will only continue to grow. It concerns me that the idea of meeting and discussing IEP options hasn't been raised. It concerns me because it leads me to believe this mother simply let her daughter do work as she pleased at home instead of creating parameters to her teaching/learning method. Her daughter may not have a disability at all, outside of having her mother as a teacher. And she wasn't doing well at reading??? How on Earth was this not a blinking red light to the mother that home schooling wasn't working or that outside help was needed? Reading is required in ALL subjects. If you can't do it at grade level or above, you will fall behind.

    Posted by Linney April 8, 10 12:13 PM
  1. wow.
    barbara - you my friend are dead on with the advice this time.

    Posted by lala April 8, 10 04:45 PM
  1. 1--Arkansas isn't known for great schools, and Massachusetts is. It is unsurprising that a child that's doing "well" (if in fact she was) in Arkansas would struggle in an MA school. As a student I experienced this when I bounced between Maine and Massachusetts (I'd be ahead of my peers when I got to Maine and behind them when we got back to MA). As a teacher I saw this whenever students came in from other states (with some exceptions like many districts in CT and NY).

    2--That a child can't work without tally marks IS a sign of potential issue in Math. It's nice that it can be done "at their own pace," but as I have had to tell parents before, "at their own pace" isn't fast enough sometimes.

    3--School systems aren't evil and they don't want to harm your child. Let them help her, and you.

    Posted by C April 8, 10 06:05 PM
  1. One point on the idea of self-worth: You are right, self-confidence is a critical component of education and it is the task of you, the parent, and the school to maintain and build it. Taking a child out of a challenging situation, however, is far more likely to damage a child's sense of self-worth. It sends the message that you don't believe she can overcome these obstacles. Guide her through this difficult time; support her and her teachers. This way you show her your faith in her ability to overcome. Meeting goals (even with lots of help) builds self-worth; running away from them does not.

    Posted by thinkingwoman April 8, 10 08:44 PM
  1. This child is clearly dyslexic, and it runs in families. Get an evaluation and get her services such as a structured reading program, either Wilson, Orten Gillingham or Lynda Mood Bell, or a school for dyslexic students such as Landmark or Carroll.

    Posted by Mom of Dyslexic April 9, 10 08:52 AM
  1. i thought homeschoolers were supposed to get a curriculum to follow from the school district? if so - mom should have been doing basically what the child's classmates were doing in school. does mom have work that the child has done to share with the teachers? i do think mom is a bit defensive and needs to have an open mind and meet wiht the teachers.

    also i have an issue that mom pulled the child out of school the first time. just because your child doest want to go to school doesnt mean you take her out! did mom meet with school to get to the root of the isse then?

    this whole situation is just not adding up to me.

    Posted by babyblue April 9, 10 09:00 AM
  1. I guess I had the opposite reaction to many readers. Four and a half hours is not a long enough time, in a crowded classroom, to assess a child's abilities. If the school truly gave this child only half a day to acclimate before calling the parents to inform them of their child's failings, maybe the parent has good reason to feel negatively about this school system.
    I also thought that Barbara's final paragraph was snide, offensive, and best reserved for private communication. It also includes a grammatical error. ("Besides...but if" is no way to start a sentence. "I don't mean to sound snide, but if" would work.)

    Posted by KC April 9, 10 09:03 AM
  1. The idea that any one can decide to "hom skul" her child just because the kid decided she didn't want to go anymore is horrific.

    This sounds like a case for DSS and some serious parenting classes.

    Frankly, I think home schooling should be illegal unless there is a legitimate reason.

    Posted by Cosmogirl April 9, 10 12:43 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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