I don’t recall much structure in the early years of my education. Even when I try, I can’t really remember lessons of any kind.
For the most part, my school memories consist of wearing a dandelion in my barrette on picture day and carrying my Fox and the Hound lunch box.
I remember not liking Sister Charlotte Anne for making us have silent lunch and loving Father Tom for playing with us at recess. He seemed to really care for our Cabbage Patch Kids and he would even give us Hoodsies from time to time.
That’s what was important. It was kindergarten after all.
So here we are, many years later. My girls are in kindergarten. The word itself sounds like a fun place to be. I looked it up on Wikipedia and it says that the word kindergarten means “children’s garden” in German. It goes on to say that "children are taught to develop basic skills and knowledge through creative play and social interaction, as well as sometimes formal lessons."
My girls love kindergarten, and to look at them you would assume that they were having the time of their lives. They are bright, social, and kind. They are supportive of others, communicate well, and very capable.
Never in a million years would I have thought that they would be having difficulty in school. When their teacher told me that they were on the list of students to be watched for reading difficulties, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. It was that unexpected. My first thought was to be the defensive mother and shout, “They are only six years old!”
My second thought was to focus on the many ways in which this was because of me. I was never really a great student. I wasn’t a bad student either, but I just never really connected completely to what they were talking about in school. Math was tedious and hard, and English was boring.
I remember liking history somewhat, but I think that is only because it was real and it just felt like gossip about people in the past and all the drama in their lives. In high school, it was just a place to socialize for me. I rarely stayed home sick because I wanted to see my friends. I made good enough grades to be in the better 50 percent of my class, but I never once made honor roll. Maybe they were following my example for passing along faulty “school genes”.
Or maybe it wasn’t genes at all. Maybe I was just a failure as a mother. I was beating myself up for letting the bedtime stories slip away and allow more and more of Suite Life On Deck because it gave me time to clean the kitchen when I got home from work. I was so hurt for my girls, wanting to protect them from feeling like they were falling behind and trying to find the best way to help them.
I knew that I didn’t know what to do. I sought out help from friends and family who are English teachers and reading specialists, and am trying to incorporate their advice into our daily lives. I think I actually became neurotic about it. My kitchen has been transformed into a makeshift classroom and we are doing all kinds of extra “homework.” I have pocket charts all over the house. In them I have site words and words that rhyme. We practice every chance we get.
I have found, from talking to other moms, that I am not alone. This situation is not unique, and there will soon come a time when there is no disparity in reading skills, when nobody remembers who was 6 months behind. I’ve tried to find extra time to be present at their school. I have been going into the class more and more; even if it’s only for 45 minutes, once a week.
I think it has all been helping. I am praying it is. I know I will find the right method to get through to these kids to show them that reading is fun, but I have learned that, more importantly, I am making my presence known and showing my girls that I am on their side.