So we're holding our first grader back. Now what?!?

Posted by Courtney Frye on

That's a loaded subject line and let me tell you, I've wrestled with whether or not to write this post and if so, how. But I know how gut-wrenching this parental feeling of failure felt and I've decided to share this most recent bump in the road with you in the event you, or someone you know, is going through this trench right now. 

So let's rewind just a little with some facts:

1) Our oldest attends our base public school. Phillip and I come from public school educators and while Wake County Schools get mixed reviews from most, we've been pro-public schools from the get-go. 

2) Our base elementary public school also happens to be a magnet school with a Spanish Immersion program. That's right, espanol all day, every day for that track. 

3) Phillip and I physically got down on our knees a couple of years ago to specifically pray whether or not to enroll Davis in the Spanish Immersion program. I can so vividly remember that night like it was yesterday. I was kneeling into my favorite pink and white club chair in the sitting room and Phillip was sprawled out on the floor. When we finished our silent prayers, Phillip responded with "Well, God told me we should do it so that Davis can witness to someone in another language!" My reply was simply "Well that's amazing but God didn't tell me that!" BUT HOW CAN YOU ARGUE AGAINST THAT?!? 

So, we applied and he was accepted and for the past two years Davis has learned to read and write in Spanish, not English. {FYI - no hablo espanol!}

Kindergarten was a breeze, or so we thought. Homework came home in English for the parents so we would have some sort of a clue. We sailed through summer and right into first grade and things were going swimmingly, or so we thought, until February. 

{Fall 2018 First Grade Photo}

We were called into a parent/teacher conference and were notified that Davis was below grade level in reading and comprehension and intervention was underway. We felt helpless because again, no hablo espanol, but we were determined to get him caught up! 

We met with his teacher every four weeks and we were all starting to see significant improvements. All the while, Davis kept an amazing attitude and gave his very best and while we were limping to the first grade finish line, we were on the right track for second grade until...

May. May conferences came around and I signed up thinking it would be more of the same. "Davis is improving. We can get him where he needs to be by June." I was feeling good enough that I told Phillip he didn't have to go to this one if he couldn't get away. 

I sat down across from his teacher confident she was going to tell me what I was wanting to hear until she didn't. She dropped the retention word right off the bat and I was slowly starting to crumble on the inside. Davis had regressed in his reading comprehension, so much so that it was pretty clear we could not make up the difference even with hours of tutoring over the summer. I eventually cried at that tiny table in a tiny chair in front of his amazing teacher and if I'm being totally transparent, I shut down. For a solid 24 hours I was the shell of a person on the outside and a depressed mess on the inside. I texted Phillip the news but then couldn't face him to have a conversation about it until the next night. I think we were both stunned and in a state of shock and disbelief that we just shoved it out of the way until we had had time to process it all. 

Here's the thing. I was held back in the 2nd grade and I've said for years that it was the very best decision my parents ever made for me. And my best friend often reminds me that we would not have met had I not been held back. #silverlinings But now, being in my parent's shoes, I know why the cried telling me the news that I would be held back. You can't help but feel like you failed your child in some way. That if we had done more work at home, we could have made it, maybe. You worry about what other people may think and how they might perceive you as parents {which is totally ridiculous, btw. But, we're human. We get caught up in that vicious cycle.}

The kicker was now that we knew we would need to repeat first grade, were we going to continue to limp along in Spanish or switch him to the English class. I felt confident in that I knew I wanted him in English. I knew we could be more hands on and help him if we switched to our native language. Phillip had to come to terms with that piece as he had always felt so strongly about the Spanish program. 

The good news is that we are all on board with our fall plans. Davis actually seems genuinely happy about switching to English and while he's expressed sadness about missing his friends who are moving on, he's also expressed excitement about meeting new friends. AND, now that we are working with him on reading books in English, he understands what he's reading now and will often stop to laugh and respond accordingly. That right there solidifies that we made the right choice, even though it was a hard choice.

Still, weeks later, it is not easy to admit, write, or share this verbally with friends. We are completely confident in our decision, but some how expressing it to others is still hard for us to do. I think it will continue to be that way until we officially kick off the school year and get past the first day of first grade pictures... again. 

If you've stuck with this post until the bitter end, bless you and thank you! Thank you for letting me use this corner of my website to be vulnerable and share the good, the bad and the ugly. My hope in capturing all of this is that someone who needs to hear this or read this will land right here. That they will know that if they are faced with a similar decision, that they are not alone. I see you. I feel you! It's tough! But the tough stuff is what makes us stronger. And I know that Davis will be a stronger, better and more successful student as a result of this hard decision we made on his behalf. So high fives and hugs to all the moms and dads out there in this same boat! 


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7 comments

  • We made this same hard decision for both our children rather than pushing them on and it turned out well. Lots of silver linings and they’re wonderful adults! Thanks for sharing!

    Harriet on
  • Thank you for sharing your heart! We have missed you guys and Caleb misses spending more time with his buddy Davis. We are here for whatever you guys may need. Just let me know!

    Cristina Dorne on
  • We had the flip side of this story with my stepson Parker. Because he did so well on some testing his parents decided to put him in kindergarten 2 months before he was 5 years old. I believe it was the wrong decision, but I was just the stepmom. Parker struggled all through his school years. His grades weren’t great and his maturity level was woefully too low. So pushing kids can backfire and as long as you all and Davis is happy, that is all that matters. Don’t worry about what people might think or say. God knows the path for all of us and I know He will lead you through this. Will be praying for you! Joelyn.

    Joelyn on
  • I teach first grade…… you are doing the right thing! Thank you for listening to your child’s teacher and giving your baby what he needs. There are many parents who don’t. You, in no way, failed your child. Sometimes, children need a little more time to catch up and that’s okay! By the end of the school year next year, you will see a confident and happy child who is ready for second grade!

    Jennifer on
  • Courtney and Phillip, I just wanted you to know that I can relate to your struggle. Although we have not held a child back, we have had to deal with 2 of our 3 children struggle in school. With the help of Dyslexia therapists, occupational therapist, and speech therapists, we now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The feeling of helplessness is normal. With the right intervention, remarkable progress can be made.

    Susan on

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