So we are right around four months into the school year and this year, third grade, has been a tough one on all of us. My usually very bright solid considerate student has turned on me. M Bug, for the first time ever, appears to groping and struggling with school. Things usually just come to him, he has done Math and Science and English and Language Arts with an ease I never had as a student not when I was littler and certainly not as I grew older. He certainly has done things with ease compared to class mates and play mates and so I have never had much concern about him. Plus we have always received glow-y positive reports from his teachers which made us ease up too.
I know now that grade three is the game changer. There are much higher expectations and the testing, oy with fucking testing. I am over it so I can only imagine what my eight year old is thinking when it comes to the testing. They have completed to date four major tests with the largest "scariest" one yet to come - the state testing.
He has a tough teacher academically speaking this year. He needed that. Perhaps with other teachers the past two years they realized early on he knew it all so they did not make him work as hard? That is one thing I have thought of. Then I started asking around to others out there about their kid's grade three classroom experiences and I get the same response. It is a really tough time. Only in the past when there have been struggles we together with M Bug have worked through them fairly quickly. This year feels like a nearly constant tension with him - he wails, yells, cries, throws fits, temper tantrums even about the work he has to do especially at home - and he even expressed woe about class work for the first time ever to me - even though it is perfectly simply work and I know he knows how to do it.
He is terrible about reading directions assuming he knows already how to do something and when we talk with him about this small easily fixable "issue", the noise he emits is so vile I hate to even point it out. Even kindly when I say anything he fraaaaaaaaaaaa-eeeeeeeeeeeks out. I feel bad because I did nothing this past summer with him. Usually I try to do some sneaky bridge type stuff but this past summer we just let him be for the first time and I think that made it a much harder transition. He is a sharp kid and I know he knows what to do and I know that some of it is going to be challenge and I am not saying I do not want it to be but my concern is getting him over this hump to a continued positive perception about school.
For the first time ever he's told me a few times - I do not want to go (to school.) It breaks me heart. I want to foster in him something I lacked and that is a love of learning. I learned that lesson far to late in life. My motto now is 'life is learning and learning is life'. I firmly believe a few things:
He did not get the teacher he wanted.
He is constantly separated from some of the kids he desires to be around.
The work is more difficult.
He does have a lot more homework.
He has decided that he cannot do it (even if he can).
He has decided he will not even try it.
He expects me to sit down and hold his hand through every activity.
He needs to toughen up a bit more with regard to above statement.
He is a type A perfectionist type of a child.
The testing at this age in schools is stupid ridiculous.
They do cram a lot of learning into this year.
The stakes are high.
He is scared that he will do well on the ALPS test and get moved to another school.
I believe that has been weighing on him even though we have assured him this would be our decision together (should he even be recommended for that program) and no one can just move him without our permission collectively.
I need to calm down, K needs to calm down.
He needs to fail this year sometimes and I need to be okay with that.
He will be all right.
We will all be all right.
Moving forward, we have implemented the rule that he needs to get his work done as soon as he walks in the door. No sports, no outside play, no TV, no video games. He needs to try problems he does not understand then we can go over them after he is done. He needs to not freak out over every assignment. He needs to slow down and read all of the directions (twice!) These are things that need to happen each day Monday through Thursday.
He is doing very well and this will start to get easier. I think even if he did qualify for ALPS there is no way in my mind I would send him to the program. I feel that would surely ruin his life in academics. He is so scared of that one test I would not be surprised if that is why he keeps bailing on everything from homework to the NWEA testing. He is ridiculously smart and he likes to pretend like he is not. I do wonder if he's been teased for being too smart. In his class mostly the girls are the academically strong ones. We were told they put M Bug in that class because they needed an academically strong boy in there. That is a lot of weight to put on a child and he is pretty well aware of that. Most of his cohort are girls (AKA his star group). Not to say that there are not other bright boys in that Star group or in the whole third grade but he is well aware that the cooler boys are not necessarily the smarter boys. ACK.
Wading into this social dynamic already is scary for me. I want to provide him with support and love (the best thing I can) plus continue to foster his love for school and learning. It is hard balance. I am looking forward to our parent-teacher meeting next week and what his teacher has to say about how he is doing and perhaps help me shift my negative perception of how Matthew is doing to a more positive one. I want him to be happiest learning first and foremost and I want him to continue to experience success in that realm. All of the social stuff will follow and there will plenty of that as he gets older, you know?!