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"There's something wrong with my learning, mummy..."

(29 Posts)
peacefuleasyfeeling Wed 11-May-16 01:27:58

DD1, summer born, has suffered such a slump in confidence since starting Year 1, and it has just gone from bad to worse as the year has progressed. This evening she went to bed listing all the things she feels she can't do, and it's so sad because she's basically rattling off the end of year 1 expectations for reading, writing and maths. Somehow, she knows what they are.

She absolutely loved every minute of Reception, and there were no concerns about her learning. However, after only a few weeks in Year 1, she developed strong anxiety about going to school. Having started off in 'top groups', she was rapidly demoted down the ranks at the rate of one group per term, and now she is in a small supported group for both English and maths. Her opinion of herself as a learner is so low ("There's something wrong with my learning, mummy." "I'm one of the ones who needs help in every lesson."). Stuff she could do easily in Reception have become problematic; she reverses numbers and forgets correct letter formation as she squirms with anxiety sad.

I have tried to stay upbeat and optimistic, focusing on maintaining self-esteem and gently addressing this new anxiety while doing the regular homework plus a few bits her teacher has asked me to work on, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to see DD feel so crap about herself. I am also wondering if I am missing a trick somewhere. I am a primary teacher, albeit working at the opposite end of the primary range, and I wonder if my vision is clouded by a misplaced feeling of collegial trust, believing that the school has DD's back and would pull out all the stops to sort things out if they thought something really was wrong (as would happen, without a shadow of a doubt, at my school). If this kind of downward trajectory had happened to a child in my class (not just making no progress, but actually regressing), I'd be so worried.

Any KS1 practitioners or parents with similar experience who could offer insight and perspective, please?

Choccybadger Wed 11-May-16 02:11:20

Hi Peaceful

I have been through a little of what you are saying. My DD is very bright but beats herself up for every mistake she ever makes and compares herself - always unfavourably - to others in her class

She kept telling me she's rubbish at maths. Her teacher said she's not and doesn't know where that's coming from and pointed me in the direction of Twinkl - as a teacher you will know it has loads of educational resources on. We've worked through loads at home, making it a game of school, and I can use lots of examples to reassure her.
Tender ages, finding their own place in class and their own subject preferences - a bit of practical reassurance has helped for us

mrz Wed 11-May-16 06:46:22

Have you spoken to the teacher?

SaltyMyDear Wed 11-May-16 07:01:34

my vision is clouded by a misplaced feeling of collegial trust - Absolutely.

If she started off on top table, and is now on bottom table you and the teacher should have been talking months ago.

You have masses of evidence your DD is struggling. You need to raise it.

irvineoneohone Wed 11-May-16 12:00:27

If you are primary teacher, why don't you take your dd's learning in your own hands? The school can do only so much with 1 teacher : 30 children.
And you have whole summer to catch her up and be confident and ready to face yr2.
I think being summer born can be quite hard for yr1 children. While older ones are ready for structured work, younger ones are, well, still too young.
Some of ds's summer born class mates who struggled in yr1 seems to be catching up or even taken over older ones by yr3.

TheDailyMailareabunchofcunts Wed 11-May-16 12:05:12

If it's actually regressing. As in losing skills. I'd probably take my child to the doctor to be honest

lantien Wed 11-May-16 12:53:34

It's bad practise but I did get an end of year report full of concerns that could have be raise to us by the teacher at any point prior. In fact it was worse as we'd raised some points only to be reassured erroneously angry. That was one teacher for one of our children so thankfully just had that the once.

My very young summer born has a great reception really struggled in yr 1. She did meet the end of year targets and didn't drop groups so dramatically but she did get stressed and was unhappy.

As an aside I check how happy she is in the class generally - part of my DD problem was the class had been mixed and the new mix removed her form her friends and put her in path of a girl who was very good at sly put downs and random isolations - yr 1 teacher was slow to deal with that though year two teacher wasn't.

Year two for her was much better - teacher has same concerns as us and though couldn't despite fighting get extra help for her in school could point us in right direction and we had to offer support at home.

School was generally very good with communication but it was year 2 teacher who told us they'd done screening tests on that child year before in school and another of our children had a year of interventions and only reason we knew was a letter saying that year it was before school - the current teacher was unaware what it was about or why he was down for the intervention as were we as it had never been mentioned to us before that letter confused.

I would strongly suggest talking to the current teacher as soon as possible but I would also suggest you continue with the extra support at home and over the summer holidays.

I found matshfactor good for building confidence. It was also good because I had to be around in case they got stuck but not actually doing the activity with my children which freed me up to do other things. A major plus was our children seem to enjoy it as well.

bojorojo Wed 11-May-16 12:54:23

If she was happy in Reception, and doing well, then being s summer born had no real effect at that time so is there a big difference between Reception and Y1 or was it a seemless transition? Was Reception mostly play so Y1 is a bit of a shock? My DD did loads in Reception so Y1 was just more of the same really! As a summer born she did not want to play at school. She wanted to learn like eveyone else. You seem to suggest she started off as being assessed as suitable for the top table so her age must have had no effect on her learning at that time.

I totally fail to understand why very young children are bombarded with the expectations of Y1! Why do teachers do this? I can understand why a lesson should have an objective, but she must have a very good memory to remember all the objectives and expectations.

I would ask the teacher, in more detail, where she needs help. What have they beeneorking on? I too would be very concerned at the over-anxiety. I often wonder what all children on the bottom table think as to their position in the class. Does it affect all of them in the same way? Or is your Dd more affected because she has moved down the tables?

Actually, in writing that, I think that is the problem. How can she, over a year, go from top to bottom? It makes no sense nd must have dented her confidence. Perhaps being promoted again may make her feel better. As a teacher can you not see where she has made progress? The Y1 curriculum is not Early Years, so has she really gone backwards? What has she actually achieved this year? Look at the curriulum and check it out yourself. Try and see the teacher and ask for the gaps in knowledege and try and do a bit over the holidays but do not spoil her holidays. Just ticking over and reinforcing may help for Y2. Also, read lots of books together. Have some fun and get away from objectives!

peacefuleasyfeeling Wed 11-May-16 23:18:58

Thank you for your kind replies.

Yes, I have spoken to her teacher, twice at parents' evenings and, in fairness, each time a change of group has been on the cards, albeit only briefly in the playground, more of a notification, with a few pieces of "Go home and try x, y or z." So I feel I do have a fairly comprehensive picture of where the "gaps" in attainment are. Just not how they came to be, so dramatically. I also feel like a lot of DDs anxiety stems from realising, as some of you pointed out, that she is continuously failing to meet the expectations her teachers have of her, having started off so promisingly. Most of my conversations with her teacher have started "So, it seems your DD isn't quite making the progress I was hoping to see."

DD has of course made progress, slow but steady, but there are now things which she ties herself up in knots over, such as letter formation as described above, having previously known how to do it, and phonics. Last year, she'd relish sitting down on a weekend to write a story or letter, and she'd plug away at it for ages. Now she hits a sound she isn't sure about, and rather than as previously plumping for a phonetically plausible option, gets tearful and abandons mission, with lots of "I'm so rubbish..."

She has a great group of friends, and really loves all the topic based learning they do, so I think school is still a positive place for her overall. Luckily, she has some skills for which she has been recognised in assemblies etc, but she seems to think these don't count.

Like you suggest, Irvine, it has been very tempting "to take her learning into my own hands", but I've wanted to avoid being the overbearing teacher-parent who just doesn't know where to draw the line. When it all started I diligently picked up the areas suggested to me by the CT, but quickly found that I was trying to cram in an hour of homework every day along with the regular daily homework to fit it all in (it's quite a "striving" school and boy, do they like to give homework...)

I suppose I haven't wanted to be perceived as pushy by a colleague who would think I ought to know better. I think I might ask for a meeting and ask CT to "level with me" and discuss DD as she would with a colleague, openly airing any concerns she might have as to this point, I feel I am witnessing this avalanche of attainment and self-esteem, being informed that measures are being taken, yet in the next breath being told DD is "fine".

Thank you again everyone.

phoolani Wed 11-May-16 23:25:34

As you'll be aware, they all progress differently. Ds went 'down' badly when he went into yr 2, but it was a blip. The more important thing is to keep your daughter's enjoyment of learning up. You're a teacher, so I'm teaching you to suck eggs, but I went on and on (and on!) about the learning process, how you only learn when you find something challenging etc etc. I've had tremendous success with ds's confidence with this approach, and explaining about how the brain learns. The poor kid knows more about synapses than he does about division!

peacefuleasyfeeling Wed 11-May-16 23:53:36

Thank you, Phoolani, that is very reassuring, and well done you for doing such a great job. smile

educatingarti Thu 12-May-16 00:00:21

It sounds as though the pace she has been expected to learn has been too fast for her and now she has lost confidence. Probably as result of the school trying to cope with the new nc. Under stress to get children to perform temptation is to throw the national curriculum at them as thick and fast as possible and hope enough sticks. It is a poor method of teaching but as a tutor, I end up picking up the pieces of this type of approach far too often.

phoolani Thu 12-May-16 00:08:03

I bore myself I recommend this so often, but I found the book 'Nurtureshock' by merryman and bronson really helpful. It's generally fascinating (not least because it'll show you how to stop your children lying!), but some chapters deal with how to help children understand, and be comfortably challenged by, the learning process. I can't recommend it highly enough.

peacefuleasyfeeling Thu 12-May-16 00:37:32

O, how I wish there was a "like button". I'm looking into that book, for sure. And I think you're right, Educating. I mentioned her list of perceived short-comings to some KS1 colleagues today, and they said she'd probably been sat down with a tick-box sheet of objectives recently and asked "Which day is two days before Friday?", "Which is the fifth month of the year?", "Name two coins that are worth more than 20p." and so on, for the purpose of quick assessment, which is why it was so clear in her memory.

Out2pasture Thu 12-May-16 00:59:18

Peaceful would Montessori be an option? Just throwing it out there as sometime a child needs a different approach.

justlumpingalong Thu 12-May-16 20:50:29

Poor love. It does sound as if she's got herself quite anxious about attainment, and serious anxiety can absolutely have this effect on academic achievement. You may well find that a new teacher brings in Y2 brings a new, more relaxed approach - I might be tempted to have a chat with the new teacher before the year starts, to explain that pressure needs to be seriously wound down.

Misty9 Fri 13-May-16 23:42:06

As a psychologist and parent of a child starting school this September, I am getting very worried about the effect of all this on our children sad
As plugging away is possibly making her more anxious, how about trying the opposite and boycotting homework for a bit? With or without the school's cooperation... Make evenings about play and connection (I'm not suggesting you don't do these things), and maybe fun learning if you think that's helpful. Try to redress the balance after a day full of pressure and feelings of failure (why are we doing this to our kids?!). Is there a hobby she gets a sense of achievement from? Could she start something?
I for one am fully prepared to boycott homework if I feel it is becoming detrimental to my child's emotional/mental health. There is absolutely no evidence base for it helping learning at such a young age, and some evidence it hinders...

Good luck

peacefuleasyfeeling Sat 14-May-16 01:23:24

Out, I have thought about "looking elsewhere" as it were, but sadly there isn't a Montessori school where we live. Like you say, children learn so differently, and I find it frustrating that the options are so slim. In my country of origin children don't start school until the age of 7, and remarkably find themselves at approximately the same level of attainment at the end of their first year at school as children do here at the same age. I took a particular interest in different countries' approach to "school readiness" during my training, and I do think we're missing a trick here.

Misty, you know, that is more or less what I have found myself doing. The homework situation was just getting ridiculous; I felt that her teacher was piling it on, thinking that, as a teacher, I probably wouldn't mind doing all the extra stuff to get DD up to speed. DD was, quite understandably, losing the will to live and getting so stressed by it. And, both professionally and as her parent, it was clear to me that it was doing more harm than good. We have since taken a bare bones approach; we read every day, but only a few pages tops, DD selects a handful of spellings from the week's list that she wants to practise and we don't even look at the rest of the words. This has made a big difference. If, in an organic way, some kind of maths or writing activity happens, I scan or photograph it and send a picture of what she's been doing, partly so they see that we do value learning and make time for it, but also as a way of conveying to DD that her way of learning and the activities that she IS able to do are valuable and worthwhile. When I think of what I feel I have put her through I actually feel a bit sick and so very guilty. I am pleased I have found the nerve to take a step back in terms of the homework. Her experience of failure during lessons in school remains unchanged regardless of what we do at home, it appears.

peacefuleasyfeeling Sat 14-May-16 08:12:00

That last sentence should probably say "irrespective of how much homework we do". When I first decided to ease of with the extra homework after Easter I felt guilty and worried that I was further disadvantaging DD, but it seems that, for the moment, less is more, and she is less anxious now, at least at home.

Misty9 Sat 14-May-16 08:21:54

That's great you've already had the confidence to ease off on homework. After writing that post I did a bit of googling and the evidence against is indeed there. Have you come across the blog 'the learning spy' by David didau? He's a teacher and educational researcher and writes very well. How have the school reacted to the less homework approach?

Ellle Sat 14-May-16 10:58:33

peacefuleasyfeeling, I'm sorry your DD is going through such a hard time. Just a few things I was going to suggest. If your DD has a list of things she is concerned about because she feels she can't do them, what about writing those things down and then little by little tackling each thing on the list until she feels she can do them and cross them out one by one. At the same time, write a list of the things she can already do. For each one she thinks she can't, write on the other list something she has already mastered. This will give her some perspective that just because she cannot do something now it doesn't mean she won't in the near future.

Also, from that list of things she feels she cannot do, and the things the teacher has mentioned she should be working at home to improve, you can have an idea of what she needs a bit of help with at home. As you have decided to take a step back from the daily homework and value other ways of learning that could be more fun than homework, use those fun activities to work on those tricky things at home. E.g. when DS was in Year 1 I realised he didn't know the months of the year in order in our language (probably the same in English) so we talked about those in the evening, listened to songs, made up games, and eventually one day he could say them all by himself and was very proud of it. Same for the days of the week, I would ask him to say them in the car on the way to school, and if he got one wrong he had to start again and we laughed about it. Once he was very good in knowing the order, I could easily ask if today is Friday, what day was two days ago, etc. But also, I would use opportunities in daily life like we are going to the beach on Sunday, how many days from today is that? And he would work it out and practise without having to be a homework.
Addition, subtraction, times tables, numbers bonds, fractions, we made lots of games around those. Card games, dice games, board games, etc. I would see something he was interested in (e.g. superheroes) and think of a game with those to practise adding points, or whatever we wanted to practise then.

Reading, what you are doing is fine. Let her choose her books, read as much as she is comfortable with, and read to her as well so that she can enjoy stories that might be more challenging for her if she were to read them by herself.

Writing, again, lost of fun ways to incorporate writing into daily life, like I'm sure you are doing already. Maybe get a chart of the alphabet to have in front of her desk or wherever she likes to write. That way when she is not sure how to write a letter or if it is reversed, she can check and self correct herself. I did this with DS1 and numbers, and I think it is normal at that age to still reverse some letters and numbers.

Keep working in her confidence, remind her of all the things she can already do that she found hard at first. I do this with DS when he complains something is too hard. For example, he didn't like joined up writing at first, and it took a lot of effort and concentration to write a word and remember how to do all the joined letters and would say to me why he had to do it when he could write print much quicker. I said that joined up was slow for him now because he wasn't used to it and was learning to do it, but that when he got the hang of it, he would see it is actually faster. And I reminded him when he was one year old, he could crawl very fast and didn't want to walk at first because one or two steps at first took a lot of effort for him when he was learning to walk and it was slower. But now not only he can walk but he can run very fast, and wouldn't even think to go back to crawling. I always use it as an example of the things that he found difficult at first but after perseverance became an expert on them and does them naturally now without giving it a second thought.

I hope things improve for your DD soon and she doesn't take it too hard on herself.

emsiewill Sat 14-May-16 11:17:35

Sorry, nothing useful to add as my dds are much older now, but just wanted to say that I think that crawling-walking-running example is brilliant Ellle. Easy for a small child to grasp but really clear illustration of the concept.

ilovesushi Sun 15-May-16 16:20:03

My kids are in Y1 and Y3 and I recognise what you are describing. They are both bright articulate kids but struggled hugely with reading, writing and maths in school and rapidly slipped down the 'ability' groups to the very bottom. Meanwhile their friends romped ahead in the higher levels.
My son got very down and used to say things like "if reading was a race and all the kids in school were running, I'd be last. Even the little YRs would beat me." His confidence was so low and looking back I would say he was depressed too.
We finally saw an Ed Psych when he got to Y2 and it was the best thing we could have done. Turned out he has severe dyslexia, dyscalculia and a few other bits and bobs too. She gave us some great techniques for working with him and recognised that the key to it all was rebuilding his very damaged self image. He's going great guns now, loves reading and is not so down on himself. He needs A LOT of help but we know how to help him now. Because of my son's experience, the school were quick at recognising similar issues with my daughter.
I'd say if your kid is reasonably bright but can't seem to learn at the same pace as others get it checked out. It was a huge sigh of relief for us. I think I cried when when we got the diagnosis.

peacefuleasyfeeling Mon 16-May-16 02:21:18

Thank you for your kind replies and great suggestions. I am really touched that you take the time to respond. It has felt like a lonely place, worrying for DD and trying to pick our way through so it is good to hear from those with similar experiences. It seems stupid, but it never once occurred to me that my own child might struggle in school, academically or with self-esteem and confidence. I thought I had it all covered so have felt quite blindsided, wanting to help in the right way and not make matters worse.

Misty, thank you for the signpost, interesting! There has been no mention of our reduced homework; I haven't announced that that's what we're doing, and it hasn't had any 'consequences'. The things we've done that she brings in to show are praised.

Ellle, yes, I find that the only way I can get anywhere near helping her is through play, in contexts where she doesn't expect it. She's become so sensitive; a while back she was convinced none of her classmates ever did anything schooly at home, and that only she did because her teacher must be so tired of having to help her all the time sad.

And I love the list of achievements. You're so right, it is so much to do with enabling the child to hang on to a sense of perspective. DD has so many talents and accomplishments to be really proud of! And she absolutely loves being reminded of them grin Although, when I mentioned this the other day, she said "But mummy, those things don't actually count: it's just what we do when we're not doing RWI (Read Write Inc phonics) and maths!"

The crawling analogy is very timely. I have been talking with her about how learning happens, about how we learn to learn. It has occurred to me that she, possibly from not having had to try so hard initially to make expected progress in Reception, she a) started off with an expectation that things should be easy and b) has missed some important learning to learn experiences in the classroom. I can tell that she gets physically uncomfortable and again, very anxious, when 'instructed', however gently. So worried to 'not get it' that she struggles to hear whatever it is in the first place.

Sushi, I have wondered about the possibility of something like that. I am so surprised by the number and letter reversals happening now, where last year, they were fine. Also gets mixed up with two-digit numbers, whereas last year, she was able to read and write numbers to 100 quite easily. Hmm...

Wow, must put head on pillow!

PerspicaciaTick Mon 16-May-16 02:32:25

It seems like you are looking after the academic side of things with her teacher, but it sounds like it might be worth helping her build her resilience too, so that she can (try) and cope with set backs as positively as possible.
So that she knows it is OK to struggle, and that the key is to try again and succeed.
There are some nice ideas on this site

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