advice for an unhappy 1st grader

Posted by: KnittingMama

advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 11:06 AM

DD6 (1st grade) is having more and more problems in school; I could use some advice. DD says she hates school, mostly refuses to do her homework, and has become an emotional, angry wreck at home. She has started misbehaving at school in subtle ways (e.g. she threw away her writing and math packets so she wouldn't have to do them; she hangs out in the bathroom on her way to science and PE so she can spend less time in those classes). However, DD adores her teacher, and her teacher thinks highly of her.

She's in a 1st/2nd grade combo, and the teacher has mostly kept kids within their grades for their work. About a month ago, though, she ditched Everyday Math and divided the kids into two ability-based math groups. DD is with the 2nd graders, and now gets alternate math homework that is marginally more difficult. The teacher has encouraged DD to challenge herself, and says she is providing opportunities for DD to do so. The teacher seems to be willing to allow DD to go further, at least when that is possible. However, I suspect most of what is being taught she already knows, and there isn't time for much individualized attention, if any.

When DD gets home, she is grouchy, belligerent, and mostly unwilling to talk about her day at all. I understand the need for decompression time, and I respect it, but the grumpiness sometimes lasts the rest of the day. Some days she'll do her homework, other days she stomps off if I ask her about it. This is a kid who is normally upbeat, cheerful, and ready to tackle problems. At school she apparently still has this facade (according to her teacher), but at home she explodes.

Friendships are another problem DD has. She has none, or at least none that I hear about. There are kids she plays with occasionally, but not on a regular basis. She likes the kids in her class, she just doesn't seem interested in playing with them. While this doesn't seem to bother her, I imagine that it is not helping her enjoy school. That is, I feel that if she had even one good friend at school, she would be more inclined to go.

On top of this, I am homeschooling DS8. This is our first year, and it's been rocky (i.e. I'm not sure I'm ready to take on a second kid). DD is starting to go down the same path DS did in 1st grade, and if she remains on the same trajectory, it will be a disaster. Her current teacher is much better than those DS had, and DD can be in her class next year, so she'll be better off. But I am concerned that even with a lot of intervention, DD is learning to dislike school and learning deviant behaviors.

Ultimately, I think we are going to wind up homeschooling DD. But I would so love to at least get through the end of the school year without DD spiraling into an angry, depressed mess of a kid.

I am hoping to have a meeting with her teacher next week. I know she has done a lot of advocacy on behalf of her own kids, so at least we are in agreement on that. I like this teacher so much, and yet I feel she is going to be limited in what she can do by the school system.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 11:58 AM

Does she explain why she hates school? Is it because she's assigned tasks and doesn't want to complete other-directed tasks? What was kindergarten like?
Posted by: puffin

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 12:03 PM

if she stays in the teacher's class next year will it still be a 1/2 grade class? I just ask because when my son was in that situation he ended up in the top group but it was working below him.
Posted by: ultramarina

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 12:10 PM

Could there be a bullying problem? I wonder when I hear that a child loves the teacher but hates school.
Posted by: ultramarina

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 12:13 PM

I would almost want to go in and observe given what you describe. It would be one thing if your child had a naturally resistant or prickly personality, but you say she is "normally upbeat, cheerful, and ready to tackle problems." HIding in the bathroom sounds alarming to me, too.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 12:41 PM

@binip - Kinder was pretty boring for her, and she had a less than stellar teacher. But it was only half day, we weren't yet homeschooling her brother, and she had the promise that "1st grade will be better." I think she mostly hates the fact that she knows much of what is being taught, and is really, really bored much of the time. And the stuff she does want to learn about (geography, Civil War, multiplication) obviously isn't offered.

@puffin - No, next year the teacher will have a straight 2nd grade class. There will be a 2/3 class she could go into, but with an unknown teacher. Personally, I'd rather her be with a good teacher who is willing to accelerate her in some subjects than risk a teacher who may not. Although the reality is that eventually she's either going to get really fed up with the non-accelerated stuff, or she's going to get a teacher who doesn't get her.

@ultramarina - I don't think there is bullying going on. I've asked the teacher to observe the playground, and she says that DD prefers to hang out on her own mostly. Actually, what DD wants is to spend recess in the classroom doing art projects, but that's not allowed. I think her personality meshes really well with her teacher's, but the stuff the teacher is presenting is "a waste of her time" (DD's words). It is worth asking the teacher about, though.

And she actually seems to enjoy hanging out in the bathroom. In addition to missing part of class, it allows her to watch other kids (this is an open campus, so the bathroom door faces the playground).

DD *can* have a resistant personality, although this seems to be more recent. In fact, at home she is acting very much like a sullen teenager these days. Arguing *everything* (why should I have to go to bed/brush my teeth/put on shoes), moody, explosive, and full of "you don't understand!" Plus she had a major crush on a fellow classmate, who did not return her friendship. At school, however, she is a total people-pleaser. Any misbehaving she does is non-disruptive and stealthy.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 01:01 PM

"I think she mostly hates the fact that she knows much of what is being taught, and is really, really bored much of the time. And the stuff she does want to learn about (geography, Civil War, multiplication) obviously isn't offered."

Hm, that's too bad. One thing we do with my children is home education, during which they get to learn about their own interests and challenge themselves in math at home.

I also encourage my older daughter to read under the desk if she's bored.

We've also talked about the purpose of school--how a lot of it is learning what others expect of you, NOT learning what you want to learn. Nobody will pay you to have fun, and school is your job when you're a kid. If you already know what they are teaching, fine, but what you need to show them is that you can perform tasks which are easy for you. That's it. It's your job.

In other words, my kids do not expect school to be fun or stimulating. I think that's an unrealistic expectation. It's public school. The purpose is to make sure we have a population mostly composed of productive adults, not to realize one's full potential, have fun, or pursue your interests. That is what you do on your own time.

Having appropriate expectations of what you are going to be doing is helpful because you can create coping mechanisms for yourself. You also feel understood. Nobody's telling you to enjoy something you don't enjoy.

The whole "learning is fun" thing I think confuses some children. Learning IS fun. School is not fun most of the time.
Posted by: Dude

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 01:01 PM

The scenario described sounds VERY familiar to me. It sounds as if your DD is being harmed in every domain by remaining in her current situation... cognitive, social, emotional, etc.

We had to respond with homeschooling, as DD's behaviors began escalating towards self-harm.
Posted by: mom2one

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 01:21 PM

Quote:
In other words, my kids do not expect school to be fun or stimulating. I think that's an unrealistic expectation. It's public school. The purpose is to make sure we have a population mostly composed of productive adults, not to realize one's full potential, have fun, or pursue your interests. That is what you do on your own time.


Binip, do your kids ever complain or act out because school is not what they expect ? How do they cope ? Reading under the table is not allowed in my child's school -- it is actually seen as disrespect. Knitting Mama, my kid sounds like your daughter - he's happy enough to play by himself, he'll talk to other kids, but not really play with them. His teacher told me that he seems happy in his own company. This worries me, but does not really worry the teacher

Quote:
DD says she hates school, mostly refuses to do her homework, and has become an emotional, angry wreck at home. She has started misbehaving at school in subtle ways (e.g. she threw away her writing and math packets so she wouldn't have to do them; she hangs out in the bathroom on her way to science and PE so she can spend less time in those classes). However, DD adores her teacher, and her teacher thinks highly of her.


My kid does the work, if he is interested. Is it at all possible to talk to the teacher and give more appropriate work ? My kid threw his writing in the recycling bin. I talked and talked with him, but some days are good, some days not so much.

The hiding in the bathroom worries me. Is her teacher worried about this ?
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 03:08 PM

@binip - We do plenty of education at home, and we always have, so it's not like DD isn't learning anything. But, spending 6 hours a day in a mostly unstimulating environment is taking its toll on her. School should be stimulating. I don't expect it to be laugh-a-minute fun, or even stimulating all the time, but bored learners don't learn much.

@Dude - I don't want her behavior to go that far. I saw how emotionally damaged DS was; we should have pulled him out months earlier. While I am more comfortable with the idea of homeschooling than I was, say, a year ago, the fact that DS and I aren't quite in the groove yet makes me hesitate to bring DD home. But the downside to waiting is that DD is getting worse and worse. (Just out of curiosity, how old was your daughter when you pulled her out of school?)

@mom2one - AFAIK, her teacher doesn't know about the hiding in the bathroom; she does it on her way to specials, and so far the other teachers haven't reported it to her primary teacher. I promised I wouldn't tattle on her, but warned her that eventually she would get caught and be in trouble.

Her teacher has already started giving her more appropriate work in some areas (e.g. math and reading), and has said she will stop giving her work she deems too easy. I don't know how much this will help at this point, although it might allow us to delay homeschooling for a little while longer.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 03:51 PM

"Binip, do your kids ever complain or act out because school is not what they expect ?"

The tl;dr here is that I sent her in with low expectations of what she could get from school in terms of personal satisfaction, and high expectations of her behavior in the face of adversity, boredom, and/or interests that didn't align with the task at hand. So she doesn't complain that much because she didn't expect it to be different from what it is like. I asked her while writing this post if school was fun. She said, "Is it supposed to be fun?"

"Reading under the table is not allowed in my child's school -- it is actually seen as disrespect."

Well, it is disrespectful, but then you just take the mark down. It's better than getting a mark down for running down the halls. Civil disobedience vs. disruption.

I want school to be interesting for my kids but I view that as a bonus. I don't want to spoil them for it.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 04:11 PM

KnittingMama, I am sorry your dd is having a tough year. I would wonder about a few things - first, do you think any of her unhappiness with school is coming from wishing she was homeschooled like her brother? I would want to know more about the situation with not having friends at school. There can be 1 million different reasons for that - ranging from things within your dd's control, things with your dd that she can't control, and things with the other kids that are beyond her control. Whatever is going on with that, I'd want to know and understand. It could be as simple as she's happy the way things are and doesn't need a close friend, but the hiding in the bathroom and general unhappiness with school combined with not having a friend would nudge me to consider what might be going on beyond simply being a bored gifted student.

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
DD is starting to go down the same path DS did in 1st grade, and if she remains on the same trajectory, it will be a disaster.


This, too, would nudge me to consider is there more to this than just a bored gifted student? I did a quick look back at your posts re your ds and his year of school previous to homeschool. It sounds like he had some similar issues with school and that there may be something else at play than just boredom.

Best wishes,

polarbear
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 06:14 PM

I think some of DD's unhappiness is directly related to seeing her brother being homeschooled. But that also might mean she is able to better articulate what she wants (DS asked for homeschooling early on, too, but since he didn't know such a thing existed at the time, his request sounded different).

DD's teacher says that the other kids in class like DD, and I know DD says she likes the kids in her class. Just not playing with them much of the time. (She *does* play with other kids at school, several times a week, but not daily.) It doesn't seem like it bothers her, but a friend would at least provide a compelling reason to go to school each day.

DS has some sensory and social skills issues that DD does not have; this contributed to some of his problems in school (and he might have been bullied by other kids because of these problems, further complicating things). DD is messy and a bit unorganized, but otherwise doesn't seem to have any LDs. Both kids are independent thinkers, strong willed, and autodidacts. There is possibly something else going on, but I can't tease it out.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 07:06 PM

"DS has some sensory and social skills issues that DD does not have"

They might be showing up differently in a girl, though. Was sensitivity to fluorescent lights an issue with your son?
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 07:21 PM

Originally Posted By: binip
"DS has some sensory and social skills issues that DD does not have"

They might be showing up differently in a girl, though. Was sensitivity to fluorescent lights an issue with your son?


He has more of a sensitivity to loud noise and certain kinds of clothing. I haven't noticed him being sensitive to fluorescent lights, but of course I can't rule it out. I also wouldn't completely rule out sensitivities for DD, but compared to DS she is quite NT in this regard.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 09:39 PM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
...says she hates school, mostly refuses to do her homework, and has become an emotional, angry wreck at home.
Although the teacher is wonderful, has advocated for her own children, and DD adores her, the fact that the teacher may be seeing a different child at school than you are at home complicates matters. Sounds like kiddo may benefit for evaluation for a possible grade skip before she becomes a social isolate. Just my 2 cents.

Originally Posted By: binip
One thing we do with my children is home education, during which they get to learn about their own interests and challenge themselves in math at home.
Agreed. Many families do this and call it "after-schooling", enrichment, or having an enriched environment (lots of library books for example).

Quote:
We've also talked about the purpose of school... Nobody's telling you to enjoy something you don't enjoy.
I agree with the work ethic, coping mechanisms, and many of the thoughts expressed. At the same time children benefit from capitalizing on their educational opportunity to learn all they can, at a rather challenging/stimulating level, so they do not learn to passively underachieve. If a child consistently knows the material being taught in the grade-level curriculum, that child may benefit from advanced academics. There is research on underachievement. There are books written for general audiences including parents... Delisle is just one well-known author of books & articles on underachievement.

Helping gifted kids avoid underachievement and dropping out is why we advocate for gifted kids. We call this helping them reach their potential so they may be part of the population of productive adults that you mentioned.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that kiddos may erupt with outbursts prior to giving up, checking out and underachieving. Working extensively with kiddos at this stage to help them build vocabulary to enable them to express what is bothering them, may provide parents with insight as to the child's lived experience.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 10:21 PM

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that kiddos may erupt with outbursts prior to giving up, checking out and underachieving."

I totally understand and agree this. I'm not opposed to gifted education at all!

However, there are two reasons that I would make sure my child had appropriate expectations and coping mechanisms, even assuming she'd be bored for 7 hours a day. The first is that it's honest and the bull that we feed kids about "learning is fun!" can be really demoralizing when they wonder why school isn't fun for them.

The second is that while every child should have a tailored education to meet their every need, in a supportive community, which also helps them become mature adults, the fact is that our country doesn't spend resources that way. So you need to be prepared to help your kids reach their potential outside of school, and to help kids cope while they're at school.

Not everyone can homeschool, after all, though I think when the homeschooling parent is highly educated and skilled and/or the child is in need of a drastically different program just to survive mentally, it is a great option. (I wanted to be homeschooled, but my mom had to work. frown My own kids don't want to be homeschooled.)

I'm not bashing meeting the child's needs, but trying to think of ways to help the kid cope with the reality while they figure out what those needs are.
Posted by: puffin

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/14/14 11:31 PM

If you can get her through this year would you be prepared to homes hook both kids next year? If I were her I would resent having to go to school when my brother didn't (bad enough when the sibling is a pre-schooler). If you explain (possible for the 100th time) that you can't do it now but you will next year and come up with a plan for her she may rise to the challenge. I would also check out the specials teachers - maybe she is scared of them or their classrooms or something.
Posted by: MightySchmoePong

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 06:59 AM

Originally Posted By: ultramarina
Could there be a bullying problem? I wonder when I hear that a child loves the teacher but hates school.


I hate to agree, but this bears looking into. My 1st grader had some of the same issues and it turned out to be a really bad bullying situation at school. We eventually pulled her out into private for a couple of years when the school couldn't/wouldn't do anything about the situation.
Posted by: Zen Scanner

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 07:13 AM

One of the most helpful questions I've found to get to the core of an issue is to ask my ds if he had the power to change anything about xxx what would he change.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 07:31 AM

@indigo - When we inquired about grade acceleration for DS last year, we were told a student has to show that he is two years ahead in order to skip one year. Don't get me started on this policy. I will be asking about it, but I think it's unlikely it will be granted. And if she can be in a class where the teacher surreptitiously subject accelerates her, that might be better anyway.

I know DD isn't the only kid here who holds it in all day and then explodes when she gets home. But yes, it is difficult to explain to a teacher that the sweet girl she sees during the day is often a grouchy pill for hours after school.


@binip - I would love suggestions on helping DD learn to cope with school! Right now her coping mechanism is avoidance, which is unhealthy. So, assuming that you've got a 6yo who believes learning should be fun (because so far it has been), but who is not even experiencing "learning is not fun" because she's not learning in school, what would you do?


@puffin - I have found with DS that many of my homeschooling plans were scuttled because he wanted to do something completely different. (He is not the kid who sits and makes lapbooks, as much fun as I thought that would be.) So...I won't know if I'm prepared until it actually happens. smile But I'm prepared to be prepared! I would love for her to finish out the school year and do some practice homeschool this summer.

She is not scared of the specials teachers, she likes them. She is a little intimidated by PE, because she's not particularly sporty and I believe she worries that she will look stupid in front of her more athletic classmates. Science class is a joke for her. This month they learned about the seasons. Not what causes them. The names and order. Useful information, but much too basic for a kid who is excited that the spring equinox is next week and knows why it is called that.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 07:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Zen Scanner
One of the most helpful questions I've found to get to the core of an issue is to ask my ds if he had the power to change anything about xxx what would he change.
Yes. smile So positive for the child. Empowering. Creative. Solution focused. All while providing the parent with great insight.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 08:05 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
When we inquired about grade acceleration for DS last year, we were told a student has to show that he is two years ahead in order to skip one year.
In general some schools want to skip a child only when that child will be near the top of the grade the student accelerates into. This may defeat the purpose of the grade skip for several reasons:
- child may be currently underperforming therefore may not give accurate impression of what they are capable of, or level they are best suited for functioning at.
- if the child is at the top of the next grade level, they may be deprived of the experiences of being in the middle of the pack and on par with classmates, striving and struggling to puzzle through difficult work, being stimulated/challenged by the presentation of new material which they do not already know. Because the IAS looks at many factors, it can help create a balanced evaluation of options.

Quote:
And if she can be in a class where the teacher surreptitiously subject accelerates her, that might be better anyway.
Yes, forms of support/challenge may vary from child to child and year to year. In general, kiddos benefit from intellectual peers and experiences in which they may have different roles such as middle of the pack and on par with classmates, forming friendships, etc.

Quote:
I know DD isn't the only kid here who holds it in all day and then explodes when she gets home.
Agreed. With home being a safe place to emote, parents may see the stress which a child keeps buttoned up all day. This may be the child's cry for help before giving up. Only parents may hear it.

You may wish to ask for an IAS eval.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 08:07 AM

@MSP - I will be asking the teacher about this when we meet next week. The school says they have a strong anti-bully policy, but I don't know how they go about identifying when bullying is present. May I ask how you figured out it was bullying? Neither DD nor the teacher hasn't mentioned any behavior that resembles bullying.

@ZS - I love this approach, and will definitely try it.
Posted by: MightySchmoePong

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 08:56 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
@MSP - I will be asking the teacher about this when we meet next week. The school says they have a strong anti-bully policy, but I don't know how they go about identifying when bullying is present. May I ask how you figured out it was bullying? Neither DD nor the teacher hasn't mentioned any behavior that resembles bullying.


My daughters school also had a "strong anti-bullying" program. On paper. It's tough with a 1st grader to determine what is bullying and what is just normal behavior. My daughter is SUPER sensitive so for a long time we just chalked up her occasional comment about other kid's behavior to her being overly dramatic. When I finally got her to open up (sitting with her at night and letting her ramble on was immensely helpful) about her school day I realized something was really going on. I.e. kids following her out of class and shoving her into lockers, goading her until she would push them and then reporting that she had hit them etc. I finally got the teacher to take the time to discretely follow the kids out and verify that this was happening. The schools response was to suggest counseling for my daughter so that she would be able to deal with this better. We ended up pulling her out mid-year.

She was a target because she had different interests than most girls (bugs, dinosaurs) and was very reactive. Perfect target.

Good luck!
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 09:07 AM

Thanks MSP! DD can be sensitive about being hurt/teased also. She has occasionally complained of a random kid doing something, but it is infrequent and involves kids she doesn't know (so I think these are accidental bumps that happen in a crowded playground, not anything targeted). But I also know girls can be more subtle about their bullying. *sigh*
Posted by: polarbear

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 10:56 AM

I LOVE Zen's question - excellent approach all around!

KnittingMama, it may or may not be bullying, but I found with one of my dd's in particular, part of the difficulty getting to the root of issues as school at this age can simply be due to lack of life experiences and understanding on the part of the child of what is "normal" vs "not acceptable". For instance, my dd was bullied by a preschool teacher, but she never told us. It was clear to us she was having a tough time at preschool and that one of the teachers thought she was a behavior issue, but we *never* found out about the bullying (via physical restraint) until a full year after she'd been removed from the preschool and drove by on an errand and out of the blue she told us about it. I wasn't sure I could even believe it had happened at that point in time both because it was outrageous enough on the part of the teacher that I simply couldn't believe she'd done it, and because our dd hadn't told us anything about it at the time - but I did in fact verify that it had happened repeatedly by speaking to another employee who had worked in the same classroom at the same time. The same type of "not telling" me things that were significant in understanding situations happened two other times re school issues in early elementary with the same dd - and she's a child who speaks non-stop and seems to tell me everything - it's just that she didn't' have the life experiences at that point to understand that what the adults in the situation had done was not
"normal" or ok.

polarbear
Posted by: blackcat

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 11:12 AM

In first grade, the girls start getting catty and it may not look overtly like bullying. For a sensitive child, it can be devastating. DD is now 8 in third grade, but starting in first grade the girls got really possessive. She considered one girl a good friend, but so did another girl. The other girl got jealous and made up lies such as "G said she doesn't like you and doesn't want to be your friend." She would tell "G" not to play with DD and G would go along with it. Teachers don't generally notice these kind of interactions. DD would come home at times very moody. I bought her some American Girl books about how to deal with social situations/mean girls and she poured over them. Don't know if that would help (if it's really an issue). Your DD may not want to talk about it with you for whatever reason. To me, this sounds more like a social problem than an academic problem (in terms of her not liking school). Is it possible that in some of the "specials" like gym, the teacher makes kids pair up and choose partners? That could be devastating if the girls are fighting over who will be their partner. She may be using "boredom" as an excuse, although there is probably some of that going on too.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 11:38 AM

Originally Posted By: blackcat
In first grade, the girls start getting catty and it may not look overtly like bullying. For a sensitive child, it can be devastating. DD is now 8 in third grade, but starting in first grade the girls got really possessive. She considered one girl a good friend, but so did another girl. The other girl got jealous and made up lies such as "G said she doesn't like you and doesn't want to be your friend." She would tell "G" not to play with DD and G would go along with it. Teachers don't generally notice these kind of interactions.


My older dd also experienced this - actually started in K but by 1st the catty/possessive thing with other girls became full-on and hasn't really let up (she's in 6th now). It has been better in some years (based on which girls are in which class etc)... but it's still present, and it's something I simply haven't ever seen among the boys my ds has been in school with. Teachers not only don't notice a lot of these interactions, when they do notice it's not something they typically choose to deal with - most of the teachers my kids have had approach it these social situations as learning experiences that the students need to work out among themselves. They've erupted a few times over the years in my dd's class to the point that the teacher had to address them, and that's usually helped - but fwiw, the teachers still tend to see it as a girl issue (particularly so as the girls reach puberty and hormones are all over the place!) and not as an overtly bullying issue.

I second blackcat's recommendation of the American Girl books - they've been very helpful to our dd, and she loves them. Very well put together, imo, for girls your dd's age and slightly older.

polarbear
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 11:39 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama




@binip - I would love suggestions on helping DD learn to cope with school! Right now her coping mechanism is avoidance, which is unhealthy. So, assuming that you've got a 6yo who believes learning should be fun (because so far it has been), but who is not even experiencing "learning is not fun" because she's not learning in school, what would you do?




So, assuming that you have gone through all of the other suggestions here and you feel that you've got a good idea that what is really bothering your daughter is the fact that she's sitting for about seven hours and not really learning anything--then here's my advice.

I do think it's important to determine that, given some of the follow up information you've given. A lot of kids are bored in school, but don't act out like your daughter is acting.

In the case that it's really boredom, I would say a couple of things:

--Make a distinction between learning and school. Let her know what school is about and don't ask her to enjoy it. In her case, school is about proving that she knows the material, NOT about learning. This may be something she doesn't want to do. Fine. That's okay. Let her know that you, too, do things you don't want to do.

--Help her think of diversions. Teach her multiplication at home, and beside the addition problems, have her do multiplication. 1 + 7 = 8, but 1 * 7 = 7. Do what they ask then do what you want as a reward.

--She doesn't want to play with the other kids, that's fine. But see if she'd like to meet other kids outside of school who share her interests.

In other words, try to meet her needs outside of school so that she can accept the truth about school, which is that she may not get what she needs from it.

You mentioned that homeschooling is hard for you. Could you take another job that would help you pay for private school for your kids? Or private tutors?
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Below, I talk about some of the reasons that I'm just not into the idea of making school "work" for the child. I'd love for that to happen, but there are 300 million people in this country, expectations of education are across the board, and we have a LOT of people who are not incentivized to learn anything at all because of structural inequality. So you have to think... what can I expect from the school?

First of all, you say learning has been fun thus far. Fair enough. But she didn't enjoy kindergarten. You believed first grade would be better and said so. So, her expectation is not coming from previous experience. It's coming from social expectations that in school, you learn something. And that is an expectation that she could afford to drop.

School is about demonstrating existing knowledge for a lot of kids. That's the success. Not everyone likes demonstrating knowledge, but that's what it's about.

Second of all, I don't believe it's ever useful to give someone hope when there is none. Quite frankly, for the vast majority of children whose parents don't have exceptional resources in terms of time, and who are in-between an IQ of 145+ in a district with a good gifted program, and "right at the 50th% in terms of intelligence, is extroverted, naturally people-pleasing, and REALLY LOVES sitting at a desk for several hours a day", school is not going to be much fun most of the time. There is no reason to tell most kids that school will be fun.

I have no idea why so many people insist it is, will be, or should be fun. It's clearly not "fun" for many, many children, though some teachers really try.

You don't have to be a genius to know the seasons at age six. They are teaching to the bottom 10%. That's incredibly low (particularly as it's towards the end of the year). In my child's general education first grade class, they are growing plants and plotting graphs. This is gen-ed.

Homeschooling with tutors might be your only solution long term. frown
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 08:46 PM

Originally Posted By: binip
... accept the truth about school, which is that she may not get what she needs from it... expectations of education are across the board, and we have a LOT of people who are not incentivized to learn anything at all because of structural inequality. So you have to think... what can I expect from the school?
Because the school may be teaching to the bottom 10% as you mentioned, we have lot of people who are not incentivized to learn anything and that is structural inequality. This is why we advocate: to help gain access to higher academic curriculum so children will be incentivized to learn. The challenge and stimulation of new ideas presented by advanced academics will continue to strengthen neural development, enhancing their brain's development. This is an intriguing area of research.

Taxpayers funding the public school system have a voice in helping shape and define that public school system.

Quote:
School is about demonstrating existing knowledge for a lot of kids. That's the success. Not everyone likes demonstrating knowledge, but that's what it's about.
Yes, some classrooms offer differentiation which consists of differentiated work products, but no instruction. Children may be required to teach themselves and produce at a higher level (sometimes both quality and quantity), demonstrating existing knowledge without being taught. This is why we advocate to change our children's lived experiences with the schools.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 09:35 PM

Originally Posted By: polarbear
... the catty/possessive thing with other girls became full-on and hasn't really let up... teachers still tend to see it as a girl issue (particularly so as the girls reach puberty and hormones are all over the place!) and not as an overtly bullying issue.
Just as abuse can be physical or mental, bullying can occur in different forms. While physical aggression has long been recognized as bullying, relational aggression is only recently becoming better understood as bullying. In addition to the catty/possessive aspects, relational aggression may include cyber bullying.

A web search on relational aggression yields an extensive list of results to explore.

The book Queen Bees and Wannabes (2002) and the movies Freaky Friday (2003) and Mean Girls (2004) may have helped raise awareness of relational aggression.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 10:01 PM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: binip
... accept the truth about school, which is that she may not get what she needs from it... expectations of education are across the board, and we have a LOT of people who are not incentivized to learn anything at all because of structural inequality. So you have to think... what can I expect from the school?
Because the school may be teaching to the bottom 10% as you mentioned, we have lot of people who are not incentivized to learn anything and that is structural inequality. This is why we advocate: to help gain access to higher academic curriculum so children will be incentivized to learn. The challenge and stimulation of new ideas presented by advanced academics will continue to strengthen neural development, enhancing their brain's development. This is an intriguing area of research.

Taxpayers funding the public school system have a voice in helping shape and define that public school system.

Quote:
School is about demonstrating existing knowledge for a lot of kids. That's the success. Not everyone likes demonstrating knowledge, but that's what it's about.
Yes, some classrooms offer differentiation which consists of differentiated work products, but no instruction. Children may be required to teach themselves and produce at a higher level (sometimes both quality and quantity), demonstrating existing knowledge without being taught. This is why we advocate to change our children's lived experiences with the schools.


I completely agree with needing to change the system, get involved, advocate, etc. It is no accident that I personally live in a district where I can't buy, but we rent, and in which I work hard to get my kids into the best schools.

My advice here is for the OP and her daughter, because there is a good reason to believe that making school fun and enjoyable for this kid (vs. tolerable) is going to be a very long battle.

And helping her daughter understand that there's nothing wrong with her for not enjoying it, I think, is one thing to do to alleviate stress.

Guilt and fear are a huge part of stress and unhappiness. When you feel like you are understood and supported--even if you still have to suffer through something--you can often tolerate it much better. "School is boring for me. That's okay. It doesn't mean I can't ever learn anything again. Sure, I don't really fit in here. But I do fit in at my girl's Lego club, and I have friends, and I know I'm a worthy person. My family knows what I'm going through and they support me in getting through the day."

Of course you want to change the child's surroundings, not to mention the entire school system. But in the short term, the child is suffering and probably feeling bad about suffering. That is what I'm trying to address.

I completely agree that we need to advocate.
Posted by: Ivy

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/15/14 10:32 PM

KnittingMama, pinip's very interesting points brought something to mind. You said that DS had similar issues in 1st and you pulled him out to homeschool. You also said that you told DD that 1st would be better. Maybe she's angry with you as well. Could it be that she sees you as having misled her about 1st being better? Is she angry that DS got to escape and she doesn't? Please understand I'm not trying to judge you or say that you really meant any of that, but might that be her perspective?
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 07:16 AM

Originally Posted By: binip
Guilt and fear are a huge part of stress and unhappiness. When you feel like you are understood and supported--even if you still have to suffer through something--you can often tolerate it much better. "School is boring for me. That's okay. It doesn't mean I can't ever learn anything again. Sure, I don't really fit in here. But I do fit in at my girl's Lego club, and I have friends, and I know I'm a worthy person. My family knows what I'm going through and they support me in getting through the day."
smile
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 07:55 AM

Thanks binip, you've given me a lot to think about.

First, I wouldn't say homeschool is out of the question for both kids. This was our first year, and DS is still reeling from 2 years of bad public school experience. Could I have homeschooled both of them last fall? No. But I have no doubt that if DD needed to be home, we could make it work. smile

Reminding DD to make her own work more challenging is a good idea. She has done this in the past, and it's something I should remind her about again if she starts complaining about work being too easy.


Quote:
School is about demonstrating existing knowledge for a lot of kids. That's the success. Not everyone likes demonstrating knowledge, but that's what it's about.


I know that this is true for many kids, but it shouldn't be. In fact, this was a huge problem for DS last year. He had been coasting by for his entire (short) school career. Then all of a sudden he was accelerated 2 years in math, placed in a class where he *didn't* know all of the material, and freaked out. Oops. At some point kids are going to get to a class where it's about learning and not just demonstrating. This may happen in elementary school, or maybe not until college. But it's a disservice to those kids to allow them to think school is not about learning at all.

But I digress. I'm really not interested in trying to change the system right now; our school system is too big and unwieldy for me to fight effectively. I'm just looking for small fixes and ideas I can use to prevent DD from spiraling into something worse.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 08:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Ivy
KnittingMama, pinip's very interesting points brought something to mind. You said that DS had similar issues in 1st and you pulled him out to homeschool. You also said that you told DD that 1st would be better. Maybe she's angry with you as well. Could it be that she sees you as having misled her about 1st being better? Is she angry that DS got to escape and she doesn't? Please understand I'm not trying to judge you or say that you really meant any of that, but might that be her perspective?


To be fair, 1st grade *is* much better than Kinder was. Her teacher is a million times better, and has been responsive when we asked for some differentiation. And DD loves her teacher this year (she merely "liked" her teacher last year). We've had many talks lately about all the things her teacher has done to improve the classroom, either for DD alone, or for the entire class. She knows it's better, so I don't think she's angry about that.

OTOH, I am also certain she feels neglected because DS gets to stay home, and I am certain some of her outbursts stem from the frustration of being DS's sister. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and DS is very, very squeaky. What to do if you're DD? Become squeakier! smile
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 08:19 AM

(Apparently I am incapable of a single post this morning. Ah well.)

Thank you @indigo and @polarbear and @blackcat and @MSP for bringing up bullying. This was not something I had seriously considered before. Reflecting back earlier in the year, there was some stuff going on with a classmate that maybe would be considered bullying. I don't know enough of the details (nor did the teacher when we discussed it in the fall) to know exactly what was going on, other than to say it was not physical. DD's response was to avoid the girl, and she says that works. But I wonder if that has led either to her avoiding all the other girls, or the other girls in her class avoiding her.
Posted by: blackcat

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 08:37 AM

Even if it's not really "bullying" and just age-typical cattiness, that can have a profound effect on some kids. My experience is that girls that are around 7 are the worst. They are old enough to be manipulative but too young to have a good grasp for how their actions affect others and ruin relationships. They are old enough to realize how much power they have and they run wild with it. In third grade things have been MUCH better, although it could just be the class with a nice group of girls. You may want to talk more with your DD about the other kids and see if you can get a feel for whether they are upsetting her.
Posted by: mom2one

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/16/14 05:45 PM

Quote:
I know that this is true for many kids, but it shouldn't be. In fact, this was a huge problem for DS last year. He had been coasting by for his entire (short) school career. Then all of a sudden he was accelerated 2 years in math, placed in a class where he *didn't* know all of the material, and freaked out. Oops. At some point kids are going to get to a class where it's about learning and not just demonstrating. This may happen in elementary school, or maybe not until college. But it's a disservice to those kids to allow them to think school is not about learning at all.


Yes, I completely agree with this.

Also, I truly think it depends on the kind of child you have - some kids may be fine with school being boring overall, and learning to stay under the radar -- do whatever they are asked to do, with no complaints. Some kids may still do whatever they are asked to do, but it may manifest in other behaviors (anxiety, nightmares etc). Some other kids may just refuse to do work that is easy for them, or may refuse to do work because of a hidden disability. So, I think it depends.

Binip, you do make a lot of interesting points. I am all about teaching coping mechanisms - so your posts did help.

KnittingMama, I hope you get to the bottom of this. From what you have written, I don't think it is bullying, but it could be catty behavior. I also agree with Polarbear, I see it a lot among the girls in my kid's class, but not with the boys.
Posted by: Dude

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/17/14 06:56 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
(Just out of curiosity, how old was your daughter when you pulled her out of school?)


My DD was approaching 6yo and still in K.

DD9 has only recently revealed that her K teacher was punishing her for failing to pretend not to know things, so it was a bit of an extreme case.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/17/14 07:27 AM

Quote:
... teacher was punishing her for failing to pretend not to know things, so it was a bit of an extreme case.
Ditto. Teachers may routinely require students to list new vocabulary words acquired from reading an assigned text. Students familiar with all of the words may be punished for truthfully revealing this; Students are rewarded for lying and pretending to find the required number of "new words" (thereby falsifying school records that the assigned reading material was at the appropriate level for them).
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/17/14 10:34 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
Thanks binip, you've given me a lot to think about.

First, I wouldn't say homeschool is out of the question for both kids. This was our first year, and DS is still reeling from 2 years of bad public school experience. Could I have homeschooled both of them last fall? No. But I have no doubt that if DD needed to be home, we could make it work. smile


Well, that's good. It sounds like your kids are eager to learn and that is great. I wanted to homeschool but I think it would be sub-optimal given my kids' personalities. Funny how these things work out!



Quote:

I know that this is true for many kids, but it shouldn't be. In fact, this was a huge problem for DS last year. He had been coasting by for his entire (short) school career. Then all of a sudden he was accelerated 2 years in math, placed in a class where he *didn't* know all of the material, and freaked out. Oops. At some point kids are going to get to a class where it's about learning and not just demonstrating. This may happen in elementary school, or maybe not until college. But it's a disservice to those kids to allow them to think school is not about learning at all.



I wasn't accelerated, really accelerated, until I got to middle-school math and I failed. Sixth-grade algebra was the first thing I had to learn with my teacher in my entire life. I was 12, going through puberty, a goth, my mom was working and going to school at the same time, and it was extremely stressful. I understand. My mom home-educated us in literature and history but not math as she wasn't good at it.

Still, what I teach my kids is that you have to take charge of keeping yourself challenged. After all, suppose you're one grade level ahead, but not gifted. It doesn't take that much intelligence to stay one grade level ahead. You're not going to hit a wall until high school when, because you think you're smart, you take AP classes. Those classes are full of kids who have been accelerated by 1 - 3 years their entire career. That would suck!

So I try to make sure that my kids are challenged no matter what... they fail at home so they can cope with it at school, too.


Quote:
I don't think it is bullying, but it could be catty behavior.


Catty behavior to me is bullying. Girls are taught, and possibly have instincts for, not physically intimidating others. But they learn how to control, that is for sure. "Cattiness" can be very serious.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/18/14 12:27 PM

I have a meeting with DD's teacher tomorrow afternoon. I am torn between just asking for academic advancement and bringing up the social exclusion. I will probably discuss both, but I am worried that if I have too many items on the agenda, everything will get diluted and only a little will happen towards each one.

The good news is that the teacher continues to work towards helping DD. She says she has talked to the science teacher, who agrees that the curriculum is too easy for DD. The plan is to have more science in regular class. The teacher is also encouraging DD to play with a relatively new 2nd grade girl in their class. So far DD has reported having lunch and playing with her several times, and enjoying it.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/18/14 12:40 PM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
... meeting... tomorrow afternoon.
Looks like you've got some strong positives going into this meeting. You may wish to jot an agenda of points you hope to touch on in the meeting.

Agenda:

1. academic advancement
- science teacher: agrees that the curriculum is too easy for DD
- more science in regular class. What? When?

2. social/emotional
- relational aggression? social exclusion?
- new 2nd grade girl as a blossoming friendship? intellectual peer? (lunch/play) How is that going?

3. future follow-up
- academics
- social/emotional

If possible, you may wish to plan a play date or other opportunity to get the girls together outside of school. The parent may be an ally going forward.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/18/14 04:29 PM

Thanks @indigo, this is really helping me organize my thoughts.

I was thinking of asking if getting a "Big Sister" for DD was a possibility. Maybe a 5th or 6th grade girl who would be willing to spend a recess now and then hanging out with DD and any other "single" kids. Has anyone ever done this before, and was it helpful at all?
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 07:36 AM

Quote:
I personally live in a district where I can't buy, but we rent
Because many readers are from other lands, and property ownership varies in different countries... this post is to clarify that in the USA a person is free to purchase anywhere so "I can't buy" is typically a matter of few if any homes being on the market in an area, or a person saving up for a typical 20% down payment on a home. In general, families purchase a home with 20% downpayment and a mortgage loan from a bank or other financial institution. The monthly rent on a home is typically a similar amount to the monthly mortgage payment, making the lump sum 20% down payment the deciding factor for many rent-or-own decisions.

The OP mentioned that their child was possibly aware of job-related stress in the home; This may be more prevalent in our tight economy which in some areas resembles the game of musical-chairs.
Posted by: binip

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 08:25 AM

Oh, thanks for clarifying. In our case we had savings but both suffered divorces (other-initiated) and unemployment during the recession, so we are saving up again to buy. A 2 bedroom rambler here is about .4 million.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 08:28 AM

Originally Posted By: KnittingMama
"Big Sister"... Maybe a 5th or 6th grade girl who would be willing to spend a recess now and then hanging out with DD and any other "single" kids. Has anyone ever done this before, and was it helpful at all?
On an individual basis, I'm aware of one school considering a buddy plan to welcome a student who was grade-skipping but after discussion and prior to implementing the idea, the school decided against it as being a burden for an individual student. I agree.

Some schools have a "big buddy" program in which all kiddos in a higher grade are matched with kiddos in a younger grade. When the numbers don't work out perfectly, a few kiddos may be a big buddy to several younger kids, or a few duos of big buddies may mentor a younger kid. In this way, no one is singled out. Buddy-day may be once a week or once a month. Schools may have occasional pen-pal days on which each kid writes something they like about their buddy(ies), then the letters are delivered to the buddy(ies). Kids may be given a "theme", open-ended "thought question", or "conversation starter" as ice-breaker on each designated buddy day... for example "what is one thing you would change about school..." etc. Big buddies may be assigned to walk with their little buddies to school assemblies, etc, keeping lines moving smoothly through the halls and providing a big help to teachers. Kids seem to look forward to seeing their buddy(ies) and the buddy plan seems to promote understanding and a sense of every student being important and making a difference.
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 11:26 AM

The "singling out" aspect of a buddy plan is definitely unappealing. If anything, DD needs to be singled out less! It's also so late in the school year, which isn't a good time to start this kind of thing.

I might still bring it up with the teacher, if only to find out if the school has any such program in place in other classes.

I reminded DD this morning that I would be talking to her teacher, and was there anything she wanted me to bring up. Pretty much nothing, although she was curious about what I wanted to talk about. She seemed horrified that I might talk to her teacher about not playing with other kids at recess. smirk
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 08:38 PM

Thank you everyone for your insights and suggestions!

I had the meeting with DD's teacher this afternoon. While it didn't go as well as I had hoped (nothing super incredible was planned), it was clear that we are both of a similar mind for what DD needs for the rest of the school year. More challenges, more encouragement, and less busywork.

Teacher was baffled that DD would hate (or say she hates) school so much, as she does not act that way at school. I briefly described her before-school requests to skip school, and her after-school meltdowns. At school she's charming, helpful, friendly, and an all-around Good Kid, although the teacher did say she saw hints of intensity every once in awhile.

We talked about upcoming projects, and DD's hope to learn multiplication (which they will cover before the end of the year). DD will be allowed to work on her own projects at school, provided she do at least some of the required work (and the teacher has been systematically tossing stuff out from the regular curriculum because it's too easy or boring). So she won't exactly be taught a bunch of new stuff, but she is being allowed to skip a lot of the really easy work.

We brought up homeschool, and whether the fact that DS was at home was affecting DD (yes). Teacher is okay with keeping DD home now and then to experience homeschool (apparently DD told her that she thinks DS stays home and plays Minecraft all day!)

The teacher seemed to think that DD got along well with a handful of girls, and didn't think bullying was an issue. I will continue to monitor this, although I think it may be difficult. Teacher gave me an account of what happened during recess today (positive), and DD gave me two differing accounts of what happened (one negative, the other mixed). What actually happened, I have no idea, although I'm sure there's a grain of truth in each story.
Posted by: indigo

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 08:48 PM

Thanks for sharing this update. Every bit of busywork dropped is potentially a significant relief for your daughter... progress to be celebrated! smile
Posted by: KnittingMama

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 09:11 PM

I think even more importantly is that we agreed that we can't go along with the status quo for DD. Compared to how DS's teachers reacted when we asked for help, this is huge!
Posted by: queencobra

Re: advice for an unhappy 1st grader - 03/19/14 09:17 PM

I second Indigo! My DS recently got a pass on his first grade homework, so we pick what he does at home and he turns it in as his homework. It has changed so much in the last few weeks. I haven't had to argue with him once about getting his homework done and he is able to work on things that are far beyond what he is working on in class. That little tiny victory has cut down on complaints quite a bit overall. Anything done at home should be up for discussion.

Our child psych that talked to us about our son's scores said that skipping school for "mental health" days are a good thing to do. We've done that a few too many times smile