Friday, April 15, 2011

Now It's Your Problem

I'm just back from another dispiriting conference at Younger Daughter's expensive private school, Natural Friends. The upshot of this one was that Younger Daughter is way behind in reading, so we're supposed to bring her up to speed over the summer. The first-grade teacher gave us a list of suggested tutors and programs that we might use.

In effect, the teacher is telling us: "YD has attended Natural Friends for most of a school year, and we haven't managed to bring her reading skills up to grade level, so now it's your problem. We'd like you to fix it over the summer, so we won't have to deal with it in the fall. Good luck." This is known as "outsourcing to parents."

Now I'm more inclined to try Local Public Elementary in the fall. They might not manage to teach Younger Daughter to read either, but at least we won't be paying them for the privilege.

There was one amusing moment at the conference: the teacher showed us a little book that Younger Daughter is writing, called "Skiing at Blue Mountain."

Sainted Husband: "Younger Daughter's never gone skiing in her life."

Teacher: "Really? That explains why she's having so much trouble coming up with details for the story."


  1. I guess I wonder whether anyone in first grade can be "way behind" in reading. She might be relatively behind where the other kids are, but even if she's not reading at all at that age, I wouldn't think that that would be outside the range of normal developmental variation. I can see wanting to be sure there isn't some physical problem, like dyslexia or a vision problem. But otherwise it seems like rushing her "up to speed" is entirely for the administrative convenience of the school, and not for her own sake.

    One of my daughters was a relatively late reader -- middle of first grade -- but she went from zero to sixty awfully fast when the moment finally came. I think for a while she was feeling pretty self-conscious about not reading. If we had tried to force the process, I think there's a good chance it would have ended up being a pretty negative experience. And for what? So she'd get to the same place six months or a year sooner?

  2. FedUpMom, these people sound like a bunch of clowns. Maybe public school is a good bet for next year. What do you really have to lose if this private school isn't doing the job your paying them to do?

    I echo Chris's comments. Our daughter was "behind" at the beginning of this year (first grade). This was probably because I refused to get drawn into all the drilling of sight words and other nonsense they wanted us to do at home during Kindergarten last year. I asked them "Would she have been considered a laggard 30 years ago?" to which they said "No, but school is different now and we expect them to be at such and such level at this point." I countered with "Well, school may be different but I'm quite certain that 6 year olds are pretty much the same as they've always been." I also mentioned that in many European countries pupils don't begin learning to read until age 7 and these countries have higher literacy rates than the US. The school replied: "Well, this is not Europe and Europeans have different systems which work for them but would not work for us." I countered with "I don't think that Europeans are working with a different brain than us. I was under the impression that we were all Homo Sapiens." Yes, I do take an unseemly delight in seeing the school people squirm!

    Like Chris, we didn't force the reading issue. I told the school that we would have nothing to do with booklogs, sight word flash cards, etc. Now, here we are at the end of the year and she's reading beautifully and ENJOYING it.

    We've been pretty happy with our public school here in MA. They roll over pretty easily (so far) when I tell them what's what as far as what "homework" I will and will not allow in my home, my daughter is enjoying school and she's doing well academically.

  3. Kim says:

    FedUpMom, these people sound like a bunch of clowns.

    It's amazing to me that the first-grade teacher can tell us that our daughter hasn't gotten very far with her reading, and it doesn't seem to occur to the teacher that this reflects badly on HER.

    Chris says:

    it seems like rushing her "up to speed" is entirely for the administrative convenience of the school, and not for her own sake.

    Currently the school has two recommendations for us: enroll YD in some kind of summer school to bring her reading up to grade level, and get a one-on-one "shadow" to be with her when school starts in September. Both of these recommendations are for the school's convenience. The "shadow" isn't even intended to help our daughter so much as make the teacher's job easier.