Sunday, 8 July 2012

Where I Become a Tiger Mother

The end of each school year brings a written report. I always think this is a little pointless and it would be much more useful to find out the progress of your child at the start of the last term, thus giving a little bit of time to work on any issues. Last year there was an issue with his maths which was odd  as he appeared to go backwards from where he started. This year there are a few issues that I am very concerned about. The fact that he is working towards the levels between 30- 50 months at aged five personally gives me some cause for concern. I am also extremely cross as I have asked the school several times to give me an indicator as to where he is at and on each occasion I have been told he is doing fine and that we don't need to worry. Well, I am worried now and I am furious that whilst I could have been giving him additional support so that he would have been within the levels expected at the start of Year One. He will now start behind where I would like him to be.

I have to admit this doesn't come as a surprise to me, by his age I was reading proper books and doing little science experiments at home. This is the reason I have been so vocal at the school to try to discover where he is. Their reassurance made me think that perhaps it was some new way of teaching. Evidently not. I feel like I have been fobbed off.

So, the options:
  • Not worry
  • Teach him as much as I can at home at all opportunities (we do this, but it is a challenge and I do feel that he should have some time to play and watch television)
  • Kumon
  • Change schools
  • Personal Tutor

I think I can rule out the 'not worry' option because although I understand that children develop at different paces I feel that it is useful to begin a programme of study from a level playing field. The boy has quite a complex personality and if he cant do something his peer group can he tends to give up rather than work towards trying when given the opportunity.

Teach him as much as possible at home. This is a difficult one as I do feel that he needs a chance to relax and consolidate his learning. However, I think I need to push him a bit more to do some productive activities. I am torn because I really feel that he should be taught the majority of things he learns at school and this does not appear to be happening.

I have looked into changing schools and this is a difficult one, the school which he attends is very local to us and the majority of his friends go there. He seems settled and goes in with minimal effort, we can walk or scoot there which is also a bonus. It's hard to know whether if we changed schools it would be any different.

Personal Tutoring is the option the first sprung to mind because I think that the boy would listen to someone other than me and he would get some focused tuition. However, on reflection after discussing this with a few people I think he might well be too young to be able to sit there for any concentrated lengths of time.

A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Kumon and I think this is the main thing we are going to do. Until looking into this the only thing I knew about it was that it is favoured by Chinese Tiger Mothers as part of their drive to make sure their children do academically well at school. I have to admit this has put me off a little bit. However, after seeing the work that is required and the way that the programme of study works I think that although it is quite expensive it is the best option for us as part of my plan to 'bring him up to average'.

I have rapidly become a fairly organised mother, I have looked at the EYFS and made a plan of action on the points which he hasn't reached to work on over the summer. The challenge will be to make the activities I have in mind both memorable and something that he wants to do. Not forgetting that I also need to make them appropriate for Fifi who mustn't get left out in all of this. I have printed out next years National Curriculum and will be looking at that and writing a plan of activities to do over the next six months to reinforce his learning at school. On top of this Boy will be doing Kumon, swimming lessons and possibly PopDance. Fifi will be doing Ballet and swimming lessons. Ned will be playing with his toys, attending baby rhyme time, soft play and swimming lessons.

A few years ago I would never have thought that I would find myself in this situation. I don't see myself as a pushy mother and I really want my children to be happy above all else. However, I think that there is an element of happiness derived from being able to do something easily, from not falling behind your peer group and being considered the stupid one. As a mother I feel like I need to give my children the best possible start in life and this seems the only solution.

Maybe I should buy myself a new organiser!


cartside said...

I hear you. I also found this "she's doing just fine" attitude a bit annoying to say the least. While it's normal to have a range of learning to read/write and some kids will be 7 before the right age to learn this is reached (without falling behind!) I also know that vocabulary is a prerequisite for literacy and whenever I asked if R was on track (due to her bilingualism) I didn't get a proper answer. Same with M who is clearly behind in language dev. but feedback is always, don't worry... But you know even if the start at school isn't so good, even if the end of schooling isn't so good, there are still opportunities to learn and get somewhere in life!

Life through the Slim Lens said...

I am impressed with all your planning. I too will be changing things in the summer ready for yr1.

Mrs C said...

As I read this I have two conflicting voices in my head. One saying "just leave him be and let him be a child and enjoy the summer" and another (slightly louder one) saying " help him as much as you can and don't rely on anyone else to do the job for you".

I remember as clear as anything being told by another child in year 3 at junior school that I was "stupid" and still to this day that moment haunts me, but it did make me knuckle down and work hard.

On a practical level if you want any help on the science side of things then just shout. As a kid I loved my electronics and chemistry sets and would happily start playing with those again as soon as possible! :-)
We're yet to start in the school system, but I'm already dreading not knowing exactly how LMC is getting on. I already find it frustrating enough at how irregularly I get feedback from nursery about things. Maybe there is also a bit of the St Albans element in all this too as I think as a parent group we are all quite competitive, but as people who have gone to university I can see that we all want our children to succeed as much as possible.

Fiz said...

Oh dear :( I hear you. Schools truly do not care. My husband one Mothering Sunday gave my a model tigress with two cubs from our two daughters! Fight for him, no-one else will. I know this this all too well.

Jacqui said...

Fiz as a teacher I find what you say pretty insulting and 99% of teachers really do care. Yes you will get the odd one but on the whole they are trying their best for the child. I also have a child the same age so understand your worries just to put a different spin on it- in Scotland he would be starting full time school in August, in Norway when they are 7. At this age play is the most valuable form of learning, I wouldn't waste my money and time on tutors yet, I would be investing in a decent pairs of shoes and lots of visits to parks, museums and playing with friends. Pedagogy is a complex thing and whilst you may think nothing is being done at school I can assure you there is.

Jacqui said...

Yep Fiz schools really do not care, I went into teaching just for the money rofl. Really what an insulting thing to say.

How old is he 5?- He would not even start full time school until the end of August in Scotland and Norway they start at age 7. At this age learning is primarily through play I wouldn't worry too much especially as some children really do not 'take off' until 6 or even 7. A tutor would be a massive waste of money, better investing in a decent pair of shoes and spending the summer in parks, museums and playing with friends.

Fiz said...

Jacqui, my daughter who has ADHD was totally ignored at school. There was no communication with them at all. C. needs to know the truth rather than be palmed off with excuses. I do not care if you are insulted. Our whole family went through hell during my daughters school years.

Abby said...

I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here. My eldest was youngest in his year, but he just got it from the off. My middle daughter was deemed a "late starter" and I kept being told not to worry, that she'd catch up and not to compare her with my son. She is now in year 4 (aged 9), in the bottom groups, struggling away with her reading, writing and her maths. She finally got some extra support in yr2 and yr3 after me going on about her being behind, but now they had funding cuts and she gets very little in the way of any additional help. We live a a "good" catchment with bright kids and this makes it seem worse as there are a lot of very driven/pushy parents at our school so a lot of the kids are above average anyway. There are 34 children in my daughters class and no matter how good the teacher she isn't going o get a lot of one to one help. She is the bottom end of average and would actually be better off if she was worse, if that makes sense? She isn't deemed bad enough to need special help, she is well behaved and a popular class member so I feel she gets ignored. I am now worrying about high school. My son is in all the top groups at high school except for in maths where he is in the middle group and this is where he is having problems with bad behavior and disruptive kids. I am worried for her going to high school as she wont be in the top groups and will have to content with this sort of disruption in all her lessons.
I looked into kumon but I'll be honest it wasn't what I was looking for. Too much emphasis on them doing worksheets and not enough one to one teaching in my opinion. We have a tutor who comes for an hour per week. She does half an hour maths and half an hour literacy and will tailor it to whatever my daughter is struggling with. It is a much cheaper option and it is one to one in our own home.

I'd say go with your gut and if you feel your son needs extra support then he probably does. You know your child best and no-one else will fight his corner if you don't. I'd be really interested to hear how you get on. Good luck.

Mummy Whisperer said...

Hmm a tricky one - I'm pretty sure there are much worse in year1 with Max, however, I do totally agree with you that the psychology is a worry that he'll get very down on himself.

So I would recommend LOADS of talking about how fab he is at the things that he excels in. Subtle talking about how everyone is good at something, but not as good at other things etc.

If it all gets a bit much, then maybe drop the swimming lessons in return for a family swim session and then a swim crash course in the holidays (I've seen them to be much more successful).

I'm not sure about extra tutoring at his age, but you already have so much on your plate it's tricky to know how you'll do it otherwise. However, thinking about it, you must be one of the most intelligent people I know and you know him best, so maybe it's not worth spending the money on - I bet you would do a better job.

Anjie said...

I might give another perspective on this my daughter was thinking of becoming a Primary School Teacher and in the process took a job as a Teaching Assistant in a St Albans School. It has opened her eyes to how much pressure teachers are really under not only from league tables and national curriculum and class sizes but also parents. Although my daughter loves teaching children it becomes a very tiring and thankless task with overstretch teachers becoming blamed for the downfall of the nation! At the moment the idea of becoming a teacher has been shelved and that is a shame as she would make a very good caring teacher. I know we all want our children to achieve to their potential but most of all be happy and that is a balancing act. I am sure your son will be alright, he has you as his caring mum to fight his corner. No matter how old your children are you never stop worrying about them reaching their potential but most of all being happy that's a parents lot.


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