Friday, May 3, 2013


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I love this kid.  I love him so much it hurts.

But I am heartbroken for him and I honestly don't know what to do.

He's six and half years old and is really struggling to read.  I mean, really, really, struggling with it.

I know that kids learn to read at different ages.  At least in my head I know this.  And it should be fine to let him work at his own pace, but his school seems to think that all kids should be reading geniuses by the end of kindergarten; heaven forbid there be any student who can't independently work on the five million worksheets needed to prepare for a stupid standardized test.

My sweet Liam just cannot do it.  He sat in my lap and cried the other day after struggling with his sight words.  This is a boy who generally cries only when he is seriously physically hurt.  Getting knocked over on the soccer field doesn't phase him.  Not being able to read the word "all" on an index card makes him cry, though.  He looked up at me with tears streaming down his face and asked, "Why is reading so hard for my brain, Mommy?"

It almost killed me.

I don't know what it's like to struggle with the concept of putting letters together to make words.  It's always been easy for me.  It was easy for Sydney who finished the entire Harry Potter series by the end of 2nd grade.  It's easy for Evan, who is 18 months younger than Liam and reading at a level that is probably on par with most first graders.

The look on Liam's face when Evan reads an entire book by himself is the saddest I've ever seen on a small child.  He is humiliated that his little brother reads better than he does.

Heaven knows I have tried with him.  I've looked for books that fit his interests; he still doesn't want to read them.  We look for words everywhere to practice: signs on the side of the road, the church bulletin, restaurant menus.  He just doesn't like it.

He's never enjoyed reading.  While the other two kids would climb into my lap as toddlers and read book after book for hours on end, Liam would sit still for about five minutes and would be done.  Bedtime stories don't interest him; he'd rather play with his legos for an extra ten minutes or draw a picture.  While the other two are content to read a book in the car, he'd rather look out the window.

I know every kid has their strengths and weaknesses.  His strength is his athleticism.  Despite his asthma, he will join in any physical game or sport with anyone.  He'll jump into a basketball game with kids twice his size and age.  He kayaked for the first time over the weekend and was great at it.  He was riding a bike at the age of three and excels at soccer.  How many adults can run at full speed and kick a moving ball at the same time?  Not this one, I can tell you that.

But his teacher doesn't care about that.  She doesn't care that he can take a pile of legos and build anything you tell him to.  She doesn't care that he is constantly drawing pictures.  She doesn't get how amazing it is that he can tell you the entire Star Wars saga from start to finish in one sitting despite the fact that two years ago you couldn't understand a word he was saying due to a speech development issue.

She does care that he can't finish his work.  She sent home a huge pile of it today with a note saying, "I found these in his box.  He either didn't finish them or didn't turn them in."  The pile was a good three inches thick.

Did she tell me how long this pile has been accumulating?  No.  Did she tell me why he can't finish his work?  No.  Did she tell me why she's just now noticed this gigantic pile of unfinished work in is cubby?  Nope.

He's told me more than once that he's had to miss recess to finish his work.  So first of all, his teacher knows this is an issue and he's struggling.  And second of all, as a 25 year veteran kindergarten teacher, she should know that taking away recess from a physically active kid is not going to encourage him to finish his work.  It does the exact opposite.

In all fairness to her, I haven't spoken to her about it yet.  She may have a perfectly logical explanation for the entire situation.  But what am I supposed to do about this when school ends in four weeks?  Just how long has he been sitting at his little desk struggling and getting frustrated?  How long have those unfinished papers been sitting in his cubby?  I know that teachers are overworked and underpaid; I was one for several years.  But I can't  begin to describe how angry I am right now.  Quit sending home cute notes about how the class watched baby chicks hatch or how they made little ice ball snowmen and timed how long it took them to melt or how you all worked together to build a paper dragon for Chinese New Year.  Those are great activities and I'm glad he got to experience them, but I'd rather you notice (and care) when my kid is struggling!!

No wonder he hates school!  I know most kids say that lunch and recess are their favorite subjects, but knowing what I know now, I don't doubt that those are his favorite times during the school day.

I feel like I've failed him.  I feel like his teacher has failed him.  I feel like he is never going to like school because he's had such a rough first year of it.  This is exactly why I requested a certain teacher (not the one he has) for him when I registered him for kindergarten.  He may be physically resilient, but he is emotionally fragile.

All I can do is make sure he has an awesome summer because next year will likely be absolute torture for him.

And it shouldn't have to be.

We're looking at all of our options.  There's a Montessori school across the street from his current school that warrants a visit.  I don't particularly want to home school him, but I will if I think I can match his learning style more than the school.

Learning can be fun.  It should be fun.  It shouldn't make you cry and ask why your brain doesn't work right.


  1. Wow! He reminds me of my brother (who is 59 and very successful now), but man did he ever struggle through school. Fortunately he was the oldest and was older than me by 6 years so teachers made no comparisons between us. But he never liked school, and struggled with the basics (this was before they had special programs), but he could do a lot of what Liam does...put things together figure out how they work, build things..well today he is an engineer and works on the defibrilators that hospitals and medics use. He found his niche, went to a two year engineering school, graduated with honors and there he went! Once my Dad realized this the fighting stopped and you know in the long run it was o.k. All I'm trying to say is Liam is a smart kid and even though he struggles with reading he's got a lot going for him. I want to encourage you and say do what's best for him (even if that means home schooling!) schools aren't always the best way to go. Yes, it is important that he read but does it have to be now? And no he shouldn't have to ask if his brain isn't working right.

  2. Oh Jana... This made me cry a little. And made me so mad at his teacher.
    I think you are absolutely right that if the traditional school environment is making him feel stupid, is demoralizing him, then he probably shouldn't be there. I watched my nephew go through this and it just broke my heart. Children are not made from cookie cutters! Some kids need classrooms to learn; other kids need flex time and hands on learning and FREEDOM. No learning style is superior to another.
    I am anticipating the same kind of issues with our son when he starts kindergarten this fall and just hoping and praying to be pleasantly surprised. He's just like you said of Liam- physically strong but emotionally fragile. It will kill me if school makes him feel badly about himself.
    Please give your little boy an extra hug just from me tonight. I will be hoping and praying you guys can find a good solution. ((hugs!))

  3. It doesn't help to know that Ryan hated to read as a child. The difference is that he could read. I really can relate to Liam. While it mostly manifests itself in my walking and speech I know that I have brain damage
    There are things I know I can't remember, hopefully they won't come back to haunt me. But I've learned I can teach my muscles how to play the guitar again; the drums are much harder. After about a minute, the sticks go flying out of my hands! It's funny and I laugh, maybe it'll come back. I guess what I'm saying is you have to give Liam time, as much as he wants or needs. There are alternatives you can explore, and you will! Get over that he's not "normal" according to the standard definition of today. He is God's precious gift to us, and he'll be ok. You and Ryan just hang in there, a solution will present itself. Trust in the Lord! and I love you all very much.. Pawpaw

  4. Oh, Jana, this isn't your fault. I know that it has to be tough to handle, but he will learn to read. He's young. I remember when Zachariah started reading it just suddenly clicked. He didn't read much until last summer, then by fall he was reading on a 3rd grade level. I wouldn't have guessed from Kindergarten that he'd be doing that well this year. I'm hoping Liam is the same and something will just make sense for him. And if not, well, he couldn't ask for a better mom to help him through. Hang in there!