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Jan intake to reception, then moved overseas, and now apparently 'behind', and overwhelmed with homework - how best to deal?

(28 Posts)
MumOfStan Sat 16-Apr-11 14:21:47

So, my little lad is 5 in July and started school in the UK in january of this year. We then moved overseas in feb (this was rather short notice) and happily got him into a good school where we now live in the middle east.

My son has always been totally normal in his milestones and has coped really well with our move, so it's all a bit weird to suddenly find him way behind as he approaches the end of his first year at school. And I am in a psychodrama (mostly self created) about how to handle him, his teacher and, most importantly the task in hand. I should add that I work full time so am not at home as much as I guess I should be.

In short, ever since we started school I've felt like I've had to make excuses for him being so behind the other kids, and it's a bit upsetting and colours the way I interact with the school, or in fact, I should say, I avoid all interaction because of this. So that's one thing. The other is that because he's 'behind' he gets sent home with absolutely tons of homework a day and it is completely dominating our time together at home - I re-iterate he's 4 years old. He hates doing most of it as it is ALL literacy and mostly learning phonics and he seems to be barely making any progress. I have to write a detailed letter every day in a book to say what we've done and yet when I raise concerns I get nothing much back other than 'do more of the same'.

All this therefore means that reading, writing, even going out and doing stuff has become rather clinical and forced. Because all we do in this vein has to be documented in a book to go back to school and it would seem every activity we do has to have a literacy element exploited from it, and I am watching over him desperate to spot signs of progress, and yes, I admit it, when his concentration inevitably strays, I get impatient with him. And as the daughter of two teachers I know that is absolutely the worst thing I can do. I've now said to my husband that we need to curtail our family out of the house weekend activities and do more of this homework. How can that be right?

Has anyone got any good advice - should i be hothousing him? Would he benefit from private tuition? Or, leftfield I know, should i gain some guts and push back to the teacher, and ask for less homework and more guidance on a few key activities which will support him? I am sure if I just let it happen, he will read - but the school has a firm view (quoted to me) that it must happen before he reaches year 1, and I am now of course realising that as term ends in june, we have two months left to do what I think is the impossible. HELP!

bran Sat 16-Apr-11 14:33:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Clary Sat 16-Apr-11 14:35:15

hi mum of stan (stan is such a great name!) I am surprised at this as posters from overseas always say we start school too early in UK!

it all sounds a bit much for your boy; I personally would ease up and do what he enjoys. Plenty of children (esp but not exclusivyl summer-born boys) cannot read in any meaningful way by yr 1.

Do you think he is actually behind? What did his pre-school setting in UK think?

frakyouveryverymuch Sat 16-Apr-11 14:46:48

What system are you in? IS, British, American?

If he's not actually behind (difficult to know over the net!) then school need to lay off a bit, appreciate he came mid-year into potentially a different system and be more understanding.

bran Sat 16-Apr-11 17:04:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mercibucket Sat 16-Apr-11 17:10:33

honestly? get the school to back right off and chill out at home and enjoy your little boy. what system is he in? are there other schools/different systems you could put him in instead?

mrz Sat 16-Apr-11 17:15:26

I don't see how a school can say a child who has only been at school for 3 months (max) can be behind hmm don't hothouse he has time.

Elibean Sat 16-Apr-11 17:55:32

'leftfield' = excellent instinct. If the school is that inflexible, it has a problem - your ds doesn't!

Apart from anything else, coping with a major move is going to take up some space and interrupt learning anyway at his age - the homework sounds very sad

RoadArt Sat 16-Apr-11 22:50:53

This sounds like far too much pressure on a young child. Children should learn naturally without realising what they are doing. If your homelife is being taken over with education then what is he doing at school?

It is natural for us to be critical and make comparisons, but many schools overseas do teach children differently than in the UK and some countries do have much higher expectations of what children should and can achieve by a certain age.

You wont be able to change the phylosophy of how the school teaches and what they expect of their students, but you could talk to them about setting smaller/lower targets and focus on one area at a time. I would suggest reading is the priority because you cant do much else until you can read.

It is important that you have a fun social homelife without pressure, because pressure and stress will also affect his learning.

You probably need to change how your are helping and supporting your son. Set a maximum time per day and dont go over it, irrespective of whether he has or hasnt finished what he should have done. Teach in a fun way, play games, dont use workbooks. If he had a tutor that would be in 30min slots but he is way too young to go down this track.

I think it would be great if all countries around the world had the same targets at the same age then we would all be on an equal playing field. At the school my kids are at, they are the other way, their expectations per year are about 2 years behind where they would be in the UK, they get no homework and spend all their time at school playing. We have students from Asian countries who attend the school and their parents are always shocked at how far "behind" our students are. But they all do just as well as UK students by the end of their education.

Bonsoir Sun 17-Apr-11 09:43:54

RoadArt - "I think it would be great if all countries around the world had the same targets at the same age then we would all be on an equal playing field."

We would all need to speak the same language for that to be possible!

lettinggo Sun 17-Apr-11 10:11:52

I teach in the Irish education system and I find this talk of targets for 4 years olds frankly odd. Children learn in different ways using different learning styles and at different rates. By the end of the first two years of school you'd expect most of the children to be more or less at the same reading level but they are allowed to get there at their own pace in those two years. How sad that these little children are being put under such pressure and made to feel like they are failing already. The first year of school is all about social skills, learning to cooperate, having fun, singing songs, nursery rhymes etc.
OP, I think you need to have a discussion with your child's school. It's crazy that you are spending precious time with your son doing extra schoolwork when it's questionable what it is supposed to achieve. If your ds was in Ireland, he wouldn't be starting school until September and yet he's supposedly behind already??

mrz Sun 17-Apr-11 10:15:38

I teach in the English educational system and find the idea that a child who has barely had 3 months in school is considered behind

mrz Sun 17-Apr-11 10:15:58


MumOfStan Mon 25-Apr-11 05:31:34

Thanks so much everyone for the wonderful replies - sorry for late response - had a mad week at work and then the long weekend. I will read through them all now with interest, but it's massively reassuring. For info he's in a British school with the usual UK national curriculum and following the EYFS I think.
Due to the fact that school starts so early in the morning here I have volunteered to be a parent helper for an hour every week (something I'd never have been able to do in the UK) so am hoping that this will put me in a good position to 1) be reassured that he's probably comfortable and settled in the classroom and 2)give me a bit of access to the teacher should I need to do my leftfield thing!

builder Mon 25-Apr-11 18:53:28

I am shocked that a four year old is sent home with homework because he is 'behind'.

My 3.5 year old still sleeps during the day.

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 25-Apr-11 19:14:05

Sounds llike the school is way too pushy. It should be learning through play, learning to socialise, alongside a few basic phonics and numeracy and creative stuff all approached through a fun way.

My two are in an acedemic prep school and in reception it was way more laid back.

The homework is probably having a detrimental effect rather than helping and Iouwld write a note to say it will not be done from now on.

prettybird Tue 26-Apr-11 14:54:45

FWIW, ds didn't learn to read until he was over 6.5 - towards the end of P2 ( = English Y1).

The school was fine with that - gave him a lot of extra 1:1 tuitiona at the begining of P2 but said that developmentally some kids (especially boys) are just not ready to read until they are 6.

The one thing they didn't want us to do was put unecessary pressure on him and turn him off reading and school forever.

He was dropped to middle gorup for reading part way through P2 (he'd coped by "memorising" rather then truly reading books) but by the end of P4 was ready to move back into the top group. He is now, age 10, happily coping in that group - and, much more importantly is enjoying free reading with his nose in a Skulduggery Pleasant book any time he can.

I'd defintiely go with your "left field" idea

mummytime Tue 26-Apr-11 16:34:16

It sounds like the school is pushy. Have you ever looked at International Schools review for this school. I would think that a British school overseas is quite likely to be behind modern British practise, they also tend not to support children with difficulties, and it may just not be set up for boys rather than girls. It certainly doesn't sound like the EYFS is being used, rather than an old fashioned very academic curriculum.

(Personally I'd probably try to swap to a US school.)

stealthsquirrelsawaytheeggs Tue 26-Apr-11 16:41:32

I don't think they are really following EYFS if they are pushing him this hard - as it is all meant to be child centred /child led (as I know to my cost, as I sort of wish obstreperous 4yo DD could be "pushed" a little more). If it absolutely has to happen before he hits Y1 then, as others have said, could he not drop down a year and thereby release all the pressure and let the poor boy have some fun.

The most important thing early years in school have to do is to convince children that you learn things because you want to and because it is fun. If they are not convinced of that at 7-8 then it is a hell of a job to get them back on track afterwards.

<<dismounts hobby horse>>

mrz Tue 26-Apr-11 17:23:05

The OP is in the Middle East so the school may be working to different criteria? Do they follow EYFS? Is it an English school?

stealthsquirrelsawaytheeggs Tue 26-Apr-11 17:27:07

Mrz - OP said in later post "For info he's in a British school with the usual UK national curriculum and following the EYFS I think."

...clearly not, though, IMHO...

mrz Tue 26-Apr-11 17:39:43

Yes I saw the OP say she thought they were following EYFS I just wondered if it had been confirmed

gottasmile Wed 27-Apr-11 13:58:08

My friend's dd goes to school in the Middle East and she says her dd has an incredible amount of homework (she's in yr 2) and they push them so hard. Her dd has done so much more than my ds who is also in yr 2. So it doesn't surprise me at all that the op is finding herself in this position. The school follows the British system but all the schools in the country are really competitive with each other.

My friend hates it, but she sits down and does all the homework with her dd as she doesn't want her to get behind. She feels very bad and sad that school is taking away her childhood.

MumOfStan Sun 26-Jun-11 05:53:40

Dear all - you gave me some great advice a few months ago when I was deeply stressed about my son's entry into Reception in the middle east. In fact I was extremely comforted by your words. I thought I'd take the time to update where we are now - maybe just in case others find themselves in a similar situation.

It all came to a head around a month ago when we had parents' evening, and spent ten minutes being shown other kids' work and how good it was, and how badly our son's 'scrawls' compared to it, she'd even kind of hinted he might have ADHD fgs. We reluctantly discussed that it might be better for him to repeat reception rather than be pushed further in what was honestly described as a rather 'punishing' year one environment. (jeepers). In short it was handled appallingly by his teacher who seemed only too happy to offload him to the FS1 class, giving us the impression that she'd been fed up to have had him and his backwardness foisted on her and the rest of the class mid year.

I wrote and complained firmly but reasonably about the handling and received a handwritten defensive two pager from the teacher, and splitting hairs with me on some of the points I'd raised. At the same time he is like a different child in the new class. Of course this honeymoon period of no homework and a happy child is due to end when he repeats the year next year - and he's due to be in her class again. The more we've reflected on how he was treated, we've decided we don't want him to be taught by her again. We've called the school and requested a meeting with the head to discuss but we were not granted one and instead my husband made his feelings clear over the phone. No action has yet been taken. Sigh. and she is clearly avoiding me at school as if I have offended her somehow. It's really blooming uncomfortable.

We'll see how it goes but am now going to be looking for other schools (or at least their waiting lists). It still feels so wrong to be seeing all his little friends back in the UK moving up to year 1, and now he's totally forgotten how to read and write the basics which he could do some months ago. grrrr

anyway - it's been cathartic to be able to discuss it here.

Thanks for all your advice

RoadArt Sun 26-Jun-11 06:42:14

tHIS is so horrible. I wouldnt want my child to be in this environment at all, it cant be healthy, andto have to go through the same teacher for another year, I too would not want this.
Sometimes a new teacher can bring something out of a child that a previous teacher hasnt managed, personality is a major factor on both sides.

aRE YOU able to change schools? If the school isnt prepared to communicate with you then you are going to be continuously battling and it will make you all very unhappy.

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