Kids are born curious with a thirst for knowledge. My 9 month old and 5 year old are living proof of that every day. Kids want to know how everything works. The answers to life’s great mysteries (“why mommy?” "how come...?”), and they are eager to learn to read. They love when we read them stories, they soak up the information and their crazy imaginations run wild. Then sometime before school they start to want to figure out how letters and sounds work. We as parents get excited, because we know that books will unlock a whole new world for them. We know reading is the gateway to so many other things. We know reading is the foundation for all other learning areas. We are hopeful they will learn this when they start school. We, as parents get excited for them to start school so they can learn to read, make friends, learn about the world around them in ways they can’t learn at home with us. We fantasize that school will be a brand new life experience that will foster their curiosity, challenge their minds, and nurture their spirits. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if their school experience isn’t at all what you expected or hoped for? What if they’re not the type of kid who thrives or responds well to a public school setting? What then? This is a story I hear all the time. All. The. Time. It goes something like this. An amazing kid starts school in kindergarten eager to take on the world. Fresh new sneakers and backpack, and an open mind and heart ready to be filled with learning and love. For some, they have their minds and hearts filled because of a great teacher or a great school. For others, they're not so lucky. There a few things that may happen.
They may not catch on to learning like the others. Letters and words are not coming together for them or numbers don't really make sense. But, the teacher says, don't worry, he'll catch on next year. The next year comes along, and letter and words still aren't making sense and your kid really feels different now, and the others kids start to notice. The other kids are reading at the appropriate level from the bin with all the big kid books with pride. However, maybe for your child they still can't recognize sight words or blend simple letter sounds together, or write a sentence like the others. It's just not clicking. It's at this point their spark can start to fade. The messages they start telling themselves begin, even as early as grade 1. "I'm not good at learning like my friends, I'm stupid, why can't I get this" It's heartbreaking and unfair.
The eagerness they had quickly fades because the bigness of the school, the rules, the routines, the behaviour issues in the classroom, the environment isn't working. This happens less often, but for a select group of kids, it really impacts their learning and starts to effect how they feel about going to school.
The friends they dreamed of making, is not happening for them. They are awkward and lack the skills needed to make friends naturally. You try to coach them at home, but it's not the same. They feel lost and lonely trying to navigate their world at school.
Whatever the scenario, if school isn't going well for your child the big message here is you have to become their superhero and rescue them. They need a champion to speak up, swoop in, and give them hope. This means if it's learning that is challenging, get tutoring. They need it and they need it as early as possible to close the gap. Get them assessed for a potential learning disability. Many people say they don't want to label their child, but what's worse? Knowing they have ADHD or a learning disability that has a name like dyslexia, or having them just left wondering why they can't learn like the others or control their behaviour. I think having a name empowers them with the knowledge it's not their fault, it's simply how their brain is wired! If the environment of school is overwhelming and scary, find a better school environment, a smaller more manageable one. We have this idea that we can't change anything because it's too hard. It's only too hard or too crazy of an idea to do something life-changing because we've convinced ourselves of it. If their social skills are poor, send them to a social skills camp or therapist. Giving them the tools they need to navigate the world as a person who isn't wired like everybody else is the ONLY way they will come out on top. Adversity has shaped some, if not all, of the greatest, most successful people in history. Your child can weather an unexpected storm when it comes to their schooling IF you can be their co-pilot cheering them along, helping them find success and positive learning experiences at all costs, especially if it's not happening the way you thought it would at school.
Riverbend has a full-time day school and after school programs that help students who need to discover their awesomeness and haven't been able to. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to book at an appointment to visit our school. If Riverbend isn't the avenue you take to find help for your child, just know you need to do whatever it takes to find them the help they need. Good luck, and find the joy and pride in becoming their superhero, they will be forever changed because you did.
- Rebecca Halliday
Riverbend Community School