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How can I help my son (7.5) catch up after being schooled abroad?(16 Posts)
Hi I’m looking for some advice and I guess, also some reassurance because I’m quite concerned about my DS who is 7 and a half and in year 3.
He was born overseas in a country that I was living in for 10 years (I am British, and my DS has dual citizenship though me, but my husband, his father is from the country we were living in). As a result, my DS is bilingual because I have spoken English with him since his birth (I am pretty much fluent in other language too) and his father speaks other language, however he started going to kindergarten and then started school age 6 over there, so became more confident in using the other language, because he was speaking this one more frequently and only speaking English with me or with grandparents and my family on FaceTime or when we came to visit, but recent couple years he has been trying to talk to me in other language as much as possible and always answers me in other language when I speak English to him. Anyway, we moved back to UK in August - this was a planned move we said we would do when DS was 7, but DH is still not yet with us because I am sorting out visa. So DS started UK school in year 3 in September.
The country we have come from, he has only had one full year and one term in full time school because they start school later, so I was a bit worried about him jumping into year 3 because it seemed like a big jump to go into the juniors but the school were very against him going into the year below because of his age (he is March born so would be at least six months older).
Anyway, like I said, he is bilingual and while he went to nursery and school in our other country in the other language, I was not really concerned about him settling or making friends or catching up at first, and the teachers reassured me that because he speaks English he would catch up quickly.
A few weeks in in September, I noticed that the level of work was a lot higher than he was used to, and was practically impossible because of the gaps he has missed. The school have told me he is having extra support in English and maths because of his “gaps”.
Then this evening, we had parents evening - my first one, and I am just really upset and emotional because they told me he is working at about the level of a child in year 1, that’s 2 years behind his age group. I feel so bad and feel like I have let him down by us not coming over to the UK sooner for him to star at age 5 which had been our original plan but we then delayed it a couple years thinking it would be a good experience fir him to start school over there.
Also, on top of that, my DS is also unhappy in school. He doesn’t seem to have any friends, and says he doesn’t play with anyone at school. COVID has made it so strange for him to move country and start school because we cannot have any play dates or do the social activities I was hoping he could get involved with over here. My parents collect him from school because I am working so I haven’t managed to make any parent connections, and my parents can’t really because they are worried about COVID. He is just so unhappy every morning to go into school and I feel so guilty I have no idea how to help him. I also feel that he is aware that he is not at the same level as other children because he has told me that at school they “talk about things that he doesn’t understand”,.
Can anyone please reassure me that it will get easier and give me some tips how I can help him to settle. It’s been 2 months now and I am feeling like I have made a big mistake by bringing him over here, or by not bringing him sooner.
Ah, please don't worry, it's very early days!
He has only had a year of schooling, whereas his friends will have had 3, so it's natural that he might be a bit behind right now, especially as he isn't used to doing school in English. However, kids are very adaptable and I'm sure he'll catch up very soon. It's a positive thing that the school have put in extra help to support him.
With regard to friendships, can you have a word with the school about your concerns? They might be able to help by buddying him up with someone, or similar.
Just to add, dd was at a primary school where they had lots of kids joining at different stages, often without much English at all, and most of them settled in and caught up very quickly. Your ds has a head start as he is already bilingual and has good English.
I'm sure he will be fine. You have given him an amazing gift of another language, connection to that side of his heritage and lots of cultural awareness, so please don't regret the time you spent in his other country. It will all contribute to who he eventually becomes.
Thank you for your reassurance, I am just feeling so deflated after parents evening.
We did talk about the friendships thing this evening, and his teacher did confirm that he does tend to eat and play alone, she thinks this maybe a confidence thing but she says that there are a few girls that seem to have taken him under his wing. She was talking about him joining the nurture group but I didn’t think about buddying to ask her. I will ask them if this is an option this week. Thank you
Don't worry, he's working at the level of a year 1child, that is a child who has done a year and a bit at school, which is what he has done.
Because he is older, he will probably pick things up quite quickly.
As an example, a child I worked with started in Year 3 having come from a foreign schooling system, but speaking English ,and could barely write - his letters were about an inch big and looked like they had been formed by a much younger child. He just lacked the practice, and in lessons where writing wasn't an issue, we could see his understanding was on a par with that of his classmates. 2 years later, with very poor attendance on his part ( partly due to anxiety, I think) and with Covid lockdown in the intervening period, he has caught up.
The school will be giving him extra help where they can, and you can support him with lots of reading and handwriting. You can also make sure that you talk maths with him, on a frequent basis, and make sure he understands addition and subtraction. If he understands the concept, you can work on multiples and times tables with him. Otherwise, talk multiples with him - wheels on a car, legs on a spider, pairs of shoes. Ask the teacher what the gaps are and whether they can suggest any particular programme.
The social side of things is harder to fix. Are there after school clubs he can join? Our school is running quite a few sports clubs now. That sometimes helps as they are in smaller groups, and often there is a bit of downtime where the kids chat to each other at the start.
Speak to his teacher/SENDCO /office to see if he can get priority for any of the clubs, make sure they know that he is struggling socially and needs extra support.
@DelphiniumBlue thank you so much for those tips about the talking about maths with him. We read a story together every night but yes, I don’t really do counting and maths with him unless it’s on his homework so thank you, I’ll try those. Thank you for reassuring me too.
His school only has an after school club and a couple of sports clubs but only for year 5 and 6 at the moment so there is not any social clubs he can join at the moment
It will get easier.
I think the teachers who told you he would catch up quickly because he speaks English were mistaken. Were they in your previous country? You have to reset your expectations and realise that it will take a little while because the early curriculum in English schools can be very different to that in other school systems.
Alexa makes some really good points about the richness of his experience.
Just let him know he's loved and supported and encourage him to develop friendships.
Perhaps avoid the temptation to push him, he'll already be feeling under a lot of pressure, and try to just have fun with him.
Also, take care of yourself and don't beat yourself up about this.
Focus on the positives and the progress he's making.
Thank you @emptyplinth for your advice
I’m trying not to pressure him but also don’t want to be placid, I don’t want him to pick up on my anxiety either because he already has quite low self confidence and has had a very tough year with lots of change. The teacher did outline the gaps but didn’t really give me anything else to go by about how I can help fill these in at home,. He has some additional sheets which he brings home which he says is from his special lesson last so I am guessing this is the additional support work.
Really going to try and build him up with as much positivity and praise
It’s such a chore to get him into school in the morning, I’m just praying it will soon get better
I also feel that he is aware that he is not at the same level as other children because he has told me that at school they “talk about things that he doesn’t understand”,
Does he mean things they talk about in the playground, like football and tv programmes or whatever is the current fad among boys his age? Perhaps you could ask the teacher what's currently popular with the boys in the class so he can watch the same programmes or read the same comics, or whatever they do?
In terms of friendships, some out of school stuff is still running in a limited fashion. You could look at Beavers/Cubs - likely to be online at the moment if they are running, but before lockdown some areas were able to run in person (depending on location and tiers etc.). Would also be another opportunity for him to be practicing English with peers, but without it being school.
Yes he will catch up - can you get a tutor for an hour or two a week to get him up to speed?
I also think you can work on the things his friends are talking about. Find out what it is.
Football/tv/you tubers/Pokémon etc.
Are they playing Minecraft or Roblox online together?
My 8 yr old had a patch of feeling left out because all how friends had TikTok so we looked at some together (he’s not having it himself) and it was enough to take away the feeling of being left out. The fad then passed anyway.
Do you get a chance to speak to other parents? Can you ask them about current fads?
I would ask the school for a currciulum statement for the year. What is he supposed to be able to do? How would the school suggest you help? Work with them and he will catch up.
I understand it is not unusual for DC who are bilingual to be a bit behind in English. In fact I know parents who dropped teaching the other language because it harmed the English acquisition of DC so much. I am not saying you should do this, but it is a consideration for the moment. I would definitely request guidance from the school regarding what you can do at home.
Pujpils who start school later in other countries are often lauded for their higher achievements than DC manage here. So I do think he will catch up but its all very new at the moment.
He will catch up, he's still very young. A tutor might help improve his confidence. With regards to social stuff, are you on the class Whatsapp group?
It will be fine. Ds moved in year 3, effectively skipped year 2, but was fine in time and actually ahead in reading. If he needs some more formal consolidation of basics you could look at Explore or similar who will tailor work to the gaps.
The English curriculum for Reception onwards is pretty full on - and there's definitely differences in teaching even within the UK. England is very phonics focussed but Scotland definitely uses some sight words too. My DD was in reception last year and is now in P1 because of the different cut offs so getting a direct comparison!
I'd maybe work systematically through one of the maths apps (Mathseeds from Reading Eggs, Carol Vorderman's maths factor) and consider a tutor to avoid any gaps in the obscure grammar stuff that primary kids now have to learn which bears no resemblance to what we learned at school (fronted adverbials type stuff) unless anyone can recommend an app that covers the national curriculum really well.