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    Joined: Jul 2008
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    fitzi Offline OP
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    DS is just starting first grade this week at the public school. He's had some prior bad school experience, and we've worked hard together to help him bounce back. We want him to have the opportunity to try this new school out (he wants to go), but also to keep a sharp eye for signs that he is regressing emotionally because of the school environment.

    I wondered if some of the parents who have tried and, ultimately, rejected the public school route could talk a bit about what they signs observed in their children's behavior that told them things were going wrong. We want to give this a chance to work, but don't want to waste a lot of time if it isn't going to.

    Thanks in advance for all responses.

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    We have a long list:

    in K and 1st - daily stomachaches, sometimes headaches. Trying to hide when it's time for school, refusing to get dressed.

    End of 1st when things got really bad and towards the end of 2nd before we finally took him out: grinding his teeth in his sleep (just horrible! It stopped almost immediately when we took him out.)

    2nd - threatening to run home from school, wishing he'd get hurt or worse so that he didn't have to go to school anymore. Making no more effort on schoolwork b/c the teachers "didn't care" (and they didn't - he met their minimums, so anything he did was "great")

    He's highly verbal, so we knew all about his discomfort from day one and tried to deal with the schools and the teachers to no avail. We just didn't know we had a choice. We were advised to cajole him to go, that he had to learn to deal with it, that we just can't take him out, he's not the boss, etc., etc. The most amazing thing I learned on this board is that that is just not true.

    As far as behavior is concerned, DS does not/did not act out. But he was very clingy. Now that he's out, or now that he's 8, not sure which, he's much more independent and self-assured, and happy, happy, happy. We have our DS back. smile

    If your DS is miserable, you'll know. frown

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    Questions - did the teacher notice anything? DS's teacher last year insists that he was always happy at school. He walks in the door says hi to all his friends, puts his book bag away, chats and smiles.

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    So did C-dog's teacher and I dropped in unexpected for a little sneak peak, she was full of s**t.

    Trust your instincts. If your instinct is telling you you should look a little further into things, then perhaps it would be a good idea.

    As a parent you can come into school to view your child for any reason, if you choose to. You don't have to notify the teacher in advance. If you're smiling, polite, pleasant, and don't make a big deal out if, no one will get "weird" about it KWIM?

    If you have the opportunity to volunteer, or pick up something from school, or drop off something your child forgot, say, like his lunch that you purposely didn't pack for him. No one would be the wiser if you walked past the class and peeked in.

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    Dazey -

    I always meant to answer one of your old posts. The teachers absolutely insisted he was happy! And he was when he was learning and doing things without interruption from a few disruptive students. But most of the day he was hugely frustrated by work that was a review of his last year in private school and having to sit and wait while the various teachers tried to get control of the small group of kids in his class with behavioral issues. That (the classroom disruptions) was the worst part for him. He adjusted to not having to do much work or learning anything new. Even after we took him out, they were insisting he was happy. I talked to them and met with them and emailed them so many times. They just did not believe it. They were absolutely stunned when I emailed to say we were taking him out (emailed the superintendent and copied the teachers and the principal). I had told them that we were considering it and they just didn't believe it. And they said the class wasn't that bad - which I know is true, but it was that bad FOR HIM.

    He loved his teachers and loved talking to them, so when they talked to him he seemed fine. Also, he didn't want to "insult" them by saying he wasn't happy. So I don't blame them for not noticing, but I do blame them for not believing ME.

    That was the whole problem with public school last year. He did not fit the norm and the teachers did not know what to do with him. Even the principal dragged his feet, saying he used to have special enrichment for kids who scored 80 on some sort of test, but did away with it last year b/c what would he tell the parents whose kids scored 79. Yet, a few weeks after we took him out, I got the nicest note from him saying how hard it is to teach highly able kids, that it's very difficult to make it work in the classroom, and that it takes a special teacher who can recognize that the child is smarter than the teacher, the adult, and how these kids never fit into neat little check off boxes. It was very nice and validating to receive the email, and I understand that if he did anything for us, he'd have to deal with 1199 other families, but still, I had hoped he could have done something for DS.

    Oh well, we have an absolutely fabulous year planned for him and I am very excited.

    Last edited by questions; 08/21/08 08:55 AM. Reason: clarified re: classroom disruptions
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    You are so right Neato.

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    or drop off something your child forgot, say, like his lunch that you purposely didn't pack for him


    Love it!

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    I'm happy to share my experience, but be aware that I think my little Spock-like child is much more self-aware and capable of putting his feelings into words than a lot of kids his age, even HG+ kids, are. I wouldn't recommend requiring the level of explicitness that I'm going to describe from my child from most other kids before taking action. I think harm is done well before it reaches the point we were at.

    DS7 (then 5-6) had a good experience in public school K. His teacher got him--she IDd him for GT testing without my advocating even a little!--and she differentiated for him without my lifting a finger. I think it helped that it was a half-day class, too, so he had time to himself, time to be alone after school.

    All year long, DS was his usual rule-following self (as he had always been--he was a kid I could tell something to once and never worry that he'd break the rule). He didn't even get a "yellow light" warning for his behavior, let alone a "red light," and that was a TREMENDOUS source of pride for him. He liked being a good kid and he enjoyed school.

    Then he hit first grade...<ominous music swells>

    He came home the first day of school--Day #1!!!--threw down his backpack in a huff, and said, "I am NOT going back to 1st grade! And if you MAKE me go back, then I am NOT going to second grade because it will be even LONGER and MORE BORING than 1st grade!"

    Hard to miss that message, huh?! frown

    The teacher didn't get him, didn't TRY to get him, didn't differentiate, even when it would have taken no effort on her part to do so.

    DS began acting out in class and at home. He was nasty to me and mean to his brother. He was angry and depressed. He missed recesses regularly, as did ALL the bright kids (which should be a sign that something's not working, right?). This punishment took its toll on DS, who began to think of himself as a "bad kid," despite my efforts to stop this shift. She later began bribing the kids for good behavior as well as punishing bad, usually letting them "earn" sugary treats. Great. How about just teaching them instead? *sigh*

    I volunteered in the class and saw that she was requiring the kids to sit through 15 minutes of explanation on how to do an assignment--a pre-K level assignment, I might add! With pictures only, no words. Just place the pictures in order--that the kids took 5 minutes to complete. She explained SEVEN times how to do it! SEVEN! I counted! It was crazy! Having been to the K class, I knew that NONE of the kids in that 1st grade class needed THAT level of explanation; certainly not my child.

    (Though BTW, I hadn't yet seen the GT testing results, so I figured he was MG, not HG+.)

    Anyway, what was DS doing through all this excruciating explanation? Sliding around the back of the circle on his rear telling other kids to behave themselves! But then he couldn't answer a question because he wasn't paying attention, and he didn't finish the assignment because he was SICK OF IT! He talked to the kids at his table instead.

    It was horrible to watch!

    I e-mailed the teacher to express my concern about DS's behavior and to ask what I could do to support her. It was NOT an advocacy message--I wasn't there yet! It was a "I'm on your team; what can I do to help?" message. I didn't say he was bored in class, or even hint at it. The only request I made was to ask if she could send home more challenging books for me to read with DS for our nightly assignment. He was reading chapter books, but he was bringing home "I see a dog" books, often with only one word changed on each page!

    She responded with a very negative, defensive 9-paragraph rant about how I didn't seem to trust her with my child. Um, well, I didn't after that! I showed the exchange to a couple of friends not in the school system just to be sure that I didn't deserve what I got. All agreed she was WAY out of line given my message. They were shocked at her tone. One actually said, "You can't leave him with her! You have to change teachers or something." Still, I sent an apology to her. She didn't write back. At all. Ever.

    It was clear to me at that point that keeping DS with her was no longer an option. Any attempt to advocate would surely be met with more of the same, and I knew that eventually I was going to have to advocate under the circumstances. It was an impossible situation.

    To make my long story less long, I met with the GT coordinator to get his scores, saw how high his achievement scores were--1-2 SDs higher than I expected, since I thought he was MG. Oops!--and knew something drastic had to be done.

    We considered asking for a grade skip, but our system hates grade skips. I hadn't yet read the research on skips, plus DS is into sports, so at the time I personally wasn't wild about the idea of a grade skip. (That's one thing I might do differently if I had it to do over.) Because it was already late Sept. and we had done no research or budgeting for private schools, DH and I decided our only real choice was to pull DS out for "emergency homeschooling" for the year.

    Homeschooling has not been without its bumpy moments, but it has worked so well overall that we're homeschooling again this year. At some point I suspect DS will wind up at the local private GT school so that he has easier access to upper level science courses and the like, but for now, HSing is the better option for us.

    And that's how and why we left the school system. At least it has a happy ending! smile


    Kriston
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    I couldn't have said what you just said any better, you are so eloquent, I just get frustrated and swear!

    The school has many limitations. Even when they know your child needs more they cannot admit it to you in many cases because they don't have the resources so what's the point of igniting litigation.

    I went through a big stage where I was distraught, looking everywhere for that genuis on genuises who was supposed to tell me what to do so that my children would grow up happy and healthy and well educated in spite of the fact they didn't quite fit.

    Thank God, I finally found that person by

    looking in the mirror, aside from not being a genius myself, I am the expert on my children. Oh, and my husband too, of course!

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    fitzi Offline OP
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    Originally Posted by questions
    We have our DS back. smile

    This is exactly how we feel after a year plus of hard work with him, recovering from some early errors in care-taker/pre-K selection. He also was a night-time tooth-grinder. We do not want to send him back down this road. We don't have any problems yet (today is his second day, after all), but I mean to be vigilant.

    The school is pretty conventional, but the principle has a special ed background and, I believe, has already mentally labeled DS as a 'savant.' She is resistant to our request for a meeting to discuss acceleration with the district GT coordinator. The teacher is nice but not especially high-energy.

    Do I sound pessimistic? Perhaps I am just taking the counsel of my fears.

    Last edited by fitzi; 08/21/08 09:15 AM.
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    We are still in the public school system, fitzi, but we are in the same boat so to speak even in 4th grade. I am constantly watching for the return of worrying behavior that occurred prior to a grade skip last year.

    I didn't really understand how dramatically the school situation was affecting DS8's behavior until: after the grade acceleration and after reading some of the posts here on depression. All of the frustration and unhappiness from school was starting to show up in his fantasy/play time. His lego creations were exhibiting an abundance of fighting. His creative writing had a great deal of unhappy feelings, mixed with people getting hurt or exhibiting pain. It was hard to know at the time exactly what was normal for a seven year old boy, since they all have lego battles, etc. But he was also spending a great deal of time analyzing the social behavior of the kids at school. Every night he wanted to talk about why kids were calling him names at school, or why they were treating him a particular way. It was one of the major reasons that we were advocating a grade skip. He knew that he was different from the other kids in the class, and that constant friction was just building up.

    But what was truly amazing was that after a few weeks in the new grade, most of the agonizing over social interactions disappeared. Then the unhappy feelings in the writing started to go away. And then the lego battles decreased to what I think is an entirely appropriate level for a seven-turning-eight year old boy.

    So I think that all kids will, in some way or another, tell their parents if they are unhappy. Our little guy was not able to put it into words that expressed his feelings outright. But the feelings were there and leaked out into other areas. The trick is to spot how your son deals with anger, frustration, or depression. Does he curl up in an emotional ball and retreat? Does he stare out of the window when he is bored or doodle on paperwork? Or does he lash out? The latter may be harder to deal with but easier to spot, sadly enough.

    I hope this helps you some. I am also eager to see what other parents observed in their child's behavior. As you know, these kids change so fast, both internally (their own development academically and socially) and externally (how they fit in with the school and their peers). It is hard to discern what is a new developmental change or phase and what is something that you need to react to quickly.

    Wishing you and your son the best of luck! I hope this year is a better fit. smile



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