First grader not up to par academically

>>One comment in particular is bothering me . I had asked if our son would be welcomed back at a later point should we feel he would be best served in a school. He (principal) said he didn’t have a problem but it was overwhelmingly likely it wouldn’t work as he didn’t think our son would be up to the level of the class. I had mentioned my intention to keep up to the school and align myself with its’ curriculum and while he offered that I could speak to the first grade Rebbe to see what he is doing, the Menahel said it’s more than just curriculum that our son would need to know. He said they stressed skills (which I plan to stress as well) and that the Rebbe was speaking to them throughout the day about yiddishkeit and there was a certain geshmak that is given over in the classroom.  I’m both concerned and confused. On the one hand, it worries me that my son might not be “up to the others” and be unable to be placed back into the school should we choose to. On the other hand, I’m confused as to what could be taught and to what degree that my son could be so behind that he would be unlikely to play “catch-up”. <<

 For the record, this statement was being expressed regarding a six year old.  I find it a bit laughable to talk about how much first graders learn that can’t be learned anywhere else. 

I think it’s important to understand that the principal needs to believe what he’s saying.  After all, school based education is his business and he should believe in the value of the services he’s offering.  What if the principal told you that your child’s emotional needs would be better met at home, that you as a loving and motivated mother can certainly match what the school is doing, and the best learning environment is one where a child is supported and guided according to his individual needs? Wouldn’t there be an issue of cognitive dissonance? 

We all need to accept that regardless of where and how we choose to educate our children, they are going to have gaps.  There’s absolutely no way to be sure a child has learned everything he will need to know in his future life.  That can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t make us feel that we’re failing our children.  What’s nice about homeschooling is that you have control over what you think is most important and can be sure that’s something you teach.

Practically speaking, all kids of any age really need to know is how to read (English and Hebrew), write (English and Hebrew), and do math.  If they have those skills, learning other things will be easy.  First graders are at the beginning of all of those skills.  As far as the intangibles, which is what I think he was probably referring to, the power of the home is immeasurable.  Think of what the Shabbos table alone can offer kids, and then realize how many more opportunities you’ll have all week long!  There are supplemental materials that I’ve found valuable for my kids, most notably parsha and Jewish story cassettes.  This would be very helpful in supplementing the ‘geshak’ factor, if that’s a concern.  Even if it isn’t, all my kids have loved these and learned lots from them – they put them on during their free time and could literally listen for hours. 

I think educators often overestimate their schools and underestimate the abilities of a student to meet standards that might be different than what he’s accustomed to.  And they definitely, definitely underestimate homeschoolers!  (The advantage of this is that they’ll be really, really suprised when they see how great your kids are and how well they do, and that’s fun to see!)  But honestly, I really wouldn’t worry about this.  If you believe your child will benefit from homeschooling, focus on that.  That is the present reality to be concerned with; do your best to make your homeschooling journey an enjoyable one for you both – the best way to ruin it for everyone is to keep one eye on what the schools are doing and constantly worry that you’re not doing enough.  Either you’ll have a challenge getting your son into this school when you’re ready to reenroll him or you won’t.  If you do, there are lots of other schools, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it. 

Meanwhile, just enjoy homeschooling one day at a time!  You’re going to do great and one day in the future you’ll be able to reassure other parents who are in this position with your personal experience!


5 thoughts on “First grader not up to par academically

  1. What in your opinion would be a good age to start listening to the Jewish parsha and story tapes? Also, can you recommend certain ones? If there are any good tapes for little ones, can you give the names of those in particular? Thanks Avivah!

  2. Any Jewish child who can understand English can listen and appreciate on his level Torah tapes! We have no TV, and so we love to listen to Torah Tapes/Downloads (Rabbi Burston, a Lubavitcher, has over one hundred Torah stories online for free!!! ) We LOVE anything by Country Yossi — he is good because he teaches and entertains the children while making the adults in the room snicker because of his sly adult level humor. UNcle Moishy is beloved by many (our older kids seem to outgrown him a bit). I have heard great things about Rabbi Juravavel, but we have no personal experience with him. We like 613 Torah Avenue and the Baruch learns about… series. We just borrowed and will definitely purchase Professor Chai and the Torah Zoo. This one is unique as he brings in amazing Torah AND Secular information that even the (admittedly well-educated) grownups had never heard!! We love books on tape of all sorts (we make many road trips over the year) and good Torah tapes make the trip fly by!

  3. Thanks for the ideas, Yael – I haven’t heard about the Torah Zoo series; it sounds worth checking out!

    We have really liked the Rabbi Juravel parsha series, as well as all of his middos and yom tov cassettes, and have many, many story cassettes from Rabbi Burston.

  4. My biggest shock came at the very beginning of the question, when the principal actually said it would be okay to return a child to the school after a year if a year of home schooling was enough for them!!! I am contemplating home schooling and have been doing so for a couple of years now. But we don’t live in a small community. We live in Brooklyn. If we leave the school, there may be no place for our children in the yeshiva if home schooling doesn’t work out for us. And since there are many schools, no one place feels the obligation to pick us up if it doesn’t work out. As I am apprehensive, I’m toying with the idea of summertime home-schooling to give me the confidence that I can do it all year round.

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