First Grade Struggles

As you know once in a while we find amazing moms whose stories we love to share with you. Today our guest mom is The Strong Single Mom. She is a mom to one handsome boy, 6 and one sweet girl 4.

Who Knew First Grade would be so ToughAt 9:15 this morning I am in the school office, literally pushing my 6 year old, sobbing son through the door for his 52nd day of first grade. Unfortunately, this isn’t new for him and if I weren’t in the office with him I would be dragging him, teary eyed on to the bus. I can’t believe this is my son who loved every day of kindergarten and stepped onto the bus for his FIRST day of first grade with a smile on his face.

It began at 8:24 this morning, as I am shoving snacks and papers into my sons backpack (the bus comes at 8:26, on the dot); I discover a homework sheet in his take home folder that I had failed to check the night before. Typically I am very good about checking the folder- I like to see what comes home with him. Not last night though, last night was one of too many in which I had a migraine and it was all I could do to get through the nightly homework I was aware about, fed and into bed, with me no less.

Fifty one days into the school year and my son has a hard enough time coping with the anxiety of first grade, I couldn’t send him in without the homework completed, especially since it was my fault. He doesn’t need one more thing to worry about. We told the bus driver I would take him to school and sat down to get through his work sheet. Number bonds… that’s what we worked on- who has heard of such a thing? Not me, I am learning too! It was a torturous 20minutes for the both of us- blank stares, eye rubbing, tapping of the pencil and… “I can’t do it.” The thing is, the first week of school he loved math and I was blown away by his understanding of numbers and math concepts. At this point adding and figuring out the missing number in an equation was fun for him- now I see him struggling to add simple numbers…and it makes him miserable. This is what is wrong with first grade…. For us.

We were warned that that the transition to first grade would be tough. Kindergarten in our district is only half day and the curriculum, well it is as it should be- learning through fun and games, learning through play. When I attended first grade open house, my heart broke for my son…clearly we weren’t in Kindergarten anymore. Sure it was friendly and decorated, his teacher is sweet… but there were no toys, no visible markers and crayons, only a very small section of story books… and a disciplinary area where they each had a laundry pin to mark their behavior throughout the day. Talk about a “culture” shock for the kids. It hit me then that they would not be sitting in a circle singing songs, but rather sitting at their desks with a scheduled day of going from one subject to the next. Don’t get me wrong- we are extremely lucky to live in an excellent school district with great ratings, and I want my son to get the best education possible… learning all aspects of life including responsibility and discipline. But I also want him to enjoy being a kid. At six years old he should not be in tears because he has no time to play… and he doesn’t! From 4:00 in the afternoon when he gets home, we have four hours to get in a snack, his writing homework, reading homework and math homework (three nights a week), dinner and a bath. I try to keep his daily chores to a minimum, but I still expect him to help in some form with dinner- whether it is helping to cook, set the table or clear the table, as well as to pick up his room enough so that if he gets up during the night he won’t trip on anything. Throw in an after school activity and it is a crazy busy evening, after a long day at school. My boy is stressed out.

I’m not sure this is something that can be remedied. I don’t necessarily find it a fault of the school system. I was so pleased that kindergarten was only a half day- but maybe first grade would be easier if kindergarten- filled with play- was a full day so that when transitioning the only difference would be the classroom structure and curriculum? I don’t know. Would it be better to not have homework? Maybe just less…? I don’t have the answers. I’m sure the system works fine for some kids, but clearly not mine. I had expected that by this point he would have adapted, that he would be used to the long hours, and while I didn’t expect to him to particularly like it- I did not expect to be battling daily stomach pains and tears as a result of school. It makes me so sad for him, and all I can really do is try my best to run our evenings as smooth as possible… be patient and shower him with love and pride.


The Strong Single Mom

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  • aimee (@HouseofFaucis)

    Our Kindergarten has always been a full day but my daughter.. the oldest.. had a horrible time with 1st grade. She cried so much but I had to toughen her up and play mean mommy and she finally got over what ever her 1st grade problem was.

  • michelle

    I feel your pain! My 1st grader has a crazy amount of hw and it is a disruption to our quality of family life! It’s hard in these situations bc I want to support the school/teacher but I really don’t think a lot of this is in the best interest of my child!

    • The Strong Single Mom

      Exactly! You don’t want to blow it off and discredit the importance of doing it, but sheesh it can throw a wrench in your night! Best of luck getting through!

  • Lauren Flowers

    Im surprised that Kindergarten is only half a day and I completely agree with you on an easy transition. It seems like there is too much of a shock for gonig into first grade so sternly. I hope he starts to feel relief very soon!!

  • Amy Albers

    We had full day kindergarten and have had a pretty good transition to 1st grade. I think A LOT has to do with how the personality of the teacher and your child mesh. I would also check with the teacher. Tell them how long it is taking your child to complete the homework, and they just might work with you on adjusting the amount he is assigned – I’ve heard of teachers being flexible like that. Good luck!

    • The Strong Single Mom

      I think you are absolutely right Amy, he likes his teacher but in my opinion she isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy (for lack of a better description) as his kindergarten teacher and that seems to be what he responds to. Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely discuss the homework with his teacher at conferences next week, if not sooner 🙂

  • Emily Ardoin

    Stay strong! As a teacher, I know there is no shortage of improvements that need to be made in the educational system, but it’s awesome that your son has a mom who cares enough to worry about him!

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