Having to teach the three R's at home

Here we are halfway through the school year and my kids are struggling. I knew they were struggling a little but I wasn’t aware of how bad it had become until report cards came home.

So, we have set up a schedule of working on math, reading, spelling and printing with my grade 2 daughter (not prescribed homework, all lessons cooked up by us) and printing and counting with my SK (Kindergarten for those not in the great white north) son. We are trying to keep it to 30 minutes every second night for the little guy and 30 minutes every night for my daughter.

Here’s my beef: why am I having to teach my kids this? My daughter cannot subtract (we’re talking anything with a number higher than 5 when the class has done everything up to 19-x). How do things like this happen?

With my son, I understand. We have been well aware of his limitations physically and he has tics which are causing the counting problem. We knew we were going to be here sooner or later.

But with my daughter, they spend so much time in art, gym and music (or doing fun activities that are supposed to help with reading, writing and math but don’t) that she isn’t getting the basics. Heck, when she brings home her schoolwork, nothing is spelled correctly (even simple words she should know since they have been on spelling tests) and no one corrects anything.

I work full time and it gets my goat that I am spending a good chunk of my free time (that was previously used for crazy things like sleeping) putting together lesson plans.

I get that teachers don’t have 30 minutes a day to spend with each student but what if she didn’t have smart parents who could do this? She will just keep getting further behind.

Okay, that was more ranty than I intended. What I really want to know is if other parents of primary kids find themselves augmenting their children’s education? If so, what are you doing? Is it helping (or did it help)?

It’s good that you’re on top of it. My kids were very good at hiding their gaps of knowledge, and the classes had such short units that they could bluff their way through. It all caught up to them in 9th grade, and at that point a LOT of remedial work needed to be done, at large expense.

Does your daughter have any learning disabilities? It sounds like she’s having difficulty learning and retaining information. See if you can get her tested if it seems to you like she’s having more difficulty than you think is typical at her age (it sounds to me like she may need it, based on your description). Schools don’t always bring it up. (Where I live, the schools make it as hard as possible to have the kid tested because it costs them a lot in extra services, so I had to fight a lot.) The sooner she’s caught up, the less chance she has of slipping further behind.

My girls go to an IB school where sometimes I find learning happens in a very roundabout way. There is certainly none of the rote learning you expect to find in the British state school system. As a result my kids have been from time to time, weak in things that I would have taken a lot of pride in as a kid…spelling, grammar, times tables.

The school hates it but many parents have sent their kids to Kumon for Math, giving them the repetition that they seem to need to hammer home the basics. At Grade 2, your daughter still has lots of time to overcome her math difficulties…perhaps something like Kumon would work for her.

Have you met with the teachers? What do they have to say?

She doesn’t have any disabilities (she has been assessed), she is just really chatty and easily distracted (according to the teacher). We are having her assessed for ADD (not ADHD). I don’t think she is but am sort of hoping for a diagnosis as she will at least get the additional help she needs at school.

We have been talking to her teacher and she didn’t seem concerned (so I wasn’t either which was not too bright in hindsight). I knew she was a little behind but until I got the report card and analyzed the situation, I didn’t know how bad it was. We are going to have an additional sit down meeting once we get some administrivia sorted out with the principal.

I would love to do Kumon. I have started looking into it but nowhere does it say how expensive it is. Depending on the price, it might be worth it to use their time instead of ours for her (though we still have to work with our son on our own because of his unique needs).

Additional note: it is hard for us to know if she is having more trouble than is typical since both my husband and I were not typical as youngsters. Our parents really fostered reading and math at a very early age and we took to it well. Since these two have only been with us for a year we didn’t get that chance and they didn’t have that in their previous home. It makes me sad just thinking about it.

It’s usually called afterschooling if you do it for any length of time. You can find lots of resources if you google it.

My youngest nephew is developmentally delayed. But he isn’t THAT delayed - he’s 13 and writes likes a five year old. He’s mainstreamed in some classes but not others, and I can only assume the teachers in those classes have their hands full and haven’t been teaching the child to fucking write. So I guess we’re going to have to do that. Seriously, there is no reason for this except that it seems like nobody’s done it. He writes a lower case a like a circle with a line next to it, for pity’s sake.

I got fed the line last year from my daughter’s grade one teacher that printing just needs to be legible enough to read since they will all be using computers someday. :rolleyes:

Ditto that spelling doesn’t matter since computers have spell check.

Wait, so these kids are ones you adopted or fostered about a year ago, so that prior to that they were with someone else? So it’s entirely possible that they were behind to begin with. I’m not a parent, but my understanding is that schools today expect that children should already have some reading and math skills before they get to kindergarten/first grade. Perhaps your kids need to catch up.

The Nephew is in the year before first grade; he’s got problems with perfectionism (partly inherited, partly learned from his parental units; it’s the bad kind, the one where if something is hard you stop doing it) and boredom (yeah yeah, I’ve got it, why are we doing the same thing again?). He’s also got our whole family’s hand-eye coordination, which I’d call “utter shit” only that would actually be better than our coordination is: this is something his mother can’t comprehend at all, as she doesn’t have the problem.

His teachers aren’t worried because he’s still at the top of the class for many things - but his Dad realized pretty early on that the kid is top o’ the class because he’s smart and in the things in which he is smart: the sooner he learns to overcome obstacles and boredom, the better he’ll do once his smarts aren’t enough. (The Kid recently got home asking to be signed up for chess: his friend M had been bragging that she was signing up for it “and when I’ve learned to play chess, I’ll be as smart as The Kid!” - that’s not allowable, no matter how good friends they are!)

One thing Bro has been doing is figure out which things does the kid enjoy (a big one is jigsaw puzzles, which Bro had never been interested in so he took me aside and asked me for instructions on them) and using them as rewards: you spend some time drawing your letters, then we spend some time building a puzzle. The other bro and I have been working with Bro (and Bro with his wife) on the perfectionism issue, both directly and by working with the kid in front of him so Bro could see that we were able to get better results by telling the kid “you’re tired, slow down instead of trying to hurry up” than he did by getting stern.

I don’t know which specific problems will you discover your kids have, so I can’t propose specific solutions or exercises which will help, but I think that the first step is figuring out where exactly do they have problems - and also which kind of learners and thinkers they are. One of the tools we used to learn numbers when I was in preschool were these wooden square bars, of length varying between 1 and 10 times their other dimensions, color-coded by length. We used them to learn how to add and substract in a graphic fashion and for me they were great - but for some of my classmates the bars didn’t make anywhere near as much sense as using their fingers; I’ve got no idea whether it was that they found the colors a distraction or what.

Since, specially in your daughter’s case, the problem is at least partially that she didn’t learn the things she should have before you got her, you may want to look at resources for preschoolers: start from even further down than you think you need to, it’s easier to speed things up while you go over already-known stuff than to back up as you discover another missing key piece.

The weird thing is that they were both behind when they got here (to be expected) and then our daughter did catch up. Then she got behind again.

Even if she just needs to ‘catch up’ I am not sure why they don’t help her with that. (I know they have limited resources and all but still.)

However, new news has come to light. Her teacher has been away (due to illness) for about 35 days of the semester. They have been having a variety of subs and nothing has been consistent. Anything that changes my girl’s routine has a severe negative impact on her. Just going to work on more consistency at home.

Also, she is improving at a lightning pace now that we are working with her so I am not sure how much is what she can’t do as what she won’t (since she tends to rush and guess instead of thinking). The underlying skills seem to be in there somewhere, we just have to get them out.