My miraculous middle child is almost done with second grade.
She follows right directly on the heels of her older brother and, in fact, this year she had the very same teacher he had the year before. (Ours is not a tiny school district and there are several teachers for each grade, so this is definitely not a given.)
Given that, one might assume she would have the same sort of year he had. She did not.
While her health was arguably consierably better than A’s had been– second grade was the year during which his heart issues were uncovered– the schoolyear itself proved a bit bumpier.
The year started out just fine. This teacher is phenomenal and one we love very much. We were beyond thrilled to see C. would have her, as well. I just knew that it was going to be a fantastic year for her. She had ended first grade in a great place, seemingly right on track with her peers and reading like a champ. We were optimistic that second grade, with this wonderful teacher, would be spectacular.
Within weeks, that dream would start to crumble.
C. continued to read right on grade level. She could pass the assessments without any real difficulty. She seemed to enjoy reading well enough, though there was definite frustration when she didn’t know a word. I remember reading with her one night and she came to the name “Dave.” She didn’t know what it said. I suggested she just sound it out. “This one follows all the rules, honey– you can get it.” She had no idea what it was.
How puzzling! Here was a girl who could read all sorts of things, but she couldn’t sound out “Dave”?
Her second grade teacher has advanced training and education specifically in reading and it didn’t take her long to figure out the issue– C. was relying entirely on her (massive!) sight word vocabulary and picture cues. Now, on the one hand, it was actually very impressive just how many words C. knew on sight. I mean, it was HUGE. She was absolutely right on par with her peers in terms of what she could read and pass. However, this will only get you so far. Eventually, relying on sight words will fail and that’s exactly what happened.
C. had to basically start over with learning to read.
That was heart-breaking to all of us, because, honestly, reading was the subject she LIKED. Math, on the other hand…
Math homework had become torture-land for both of us. She was frustrated, confused, and hopeless. “I’m not good at math! I don’t get it. I can’t do it. I’m just not smart enough.” I heard these things over and over and over again. (I’m sure it didn’t help to have an older brother who was known throughout the school as a “math prodigy”, either.)
I would attempt to explain things a dozen different ways but, at some point, her frustration would win out and I know she just tuned me out. She just felt so helpless and lost that it was wildly difficult for both of us. I was fed up and at my wit’s end. She had just given up and seemed to be resolved to never really get it.
During a conversation with the second grade special education teacher, I was beyond shocked to hear her say, “Now, as far as math goes, we feel C. will do best to stay with her class and continue on with her peers– she doesn’t have any significant enough deficits for us to believe another method would be better.”
I must have made a sound of shock or dismay, because she followed with, “You don’t agree?”
I took a deep breath and said, with absolute sincerity, “It’s gotten to the point that I would rather jump out the window than do math homework with C.”
We had an extensive conversation about it and I felt better after that– we were now on the same page.
We are, again, so fortunate to be in this district because they uncovered the reading problem pretty early on and were able to get a plan in place. With some added support, and the recognition that C. learned in a different way, they were able to rebuild her reading foundation. She is now a reading rockstar, regularly plowing through chapter books and both decoding and retaining at a high level.
As far as math goes, they took me seriously. They came up with a plan that gives C. lots of support both in and out of the classroom and they, again, started from the ground up. They introduced her to touch math and, for the first time in her life, math made sense to her. It was pure joy to watch her have SUCCESS when doing her facts homework.
C. is a solid reader. Is she the top in the class? No. But, to be honest, she’s probably the higher side of the middle– and that’s awesome!
C. is behind in math. I will say that right upfront– she is behind where the majority of her peers are right now.
And you know what?
I don’t care.
I don’t say that to be flip or thumb my nose at the system or anything else. I say it because I’ve gone from having a child who was deperate and frustrated and crushed and hopeless to one who is confident and capable and making progress every single day. I have complete confidence that she will continue to get better and stronger with time and it is so much more important to us that she have a solid foundation on which to build than it is to have her race ahead with her class without really grasping all the concepts.
One of her teachers told me the other day, “She’s an incredibly bright child, but she learns differently and thrives on repetition. We can do that for her.”
And they are.
Second grade started off kind of rocky for our precious C. We had to realize some things that had been missed in first grade and do the work to fix them.
This school year, though? It’s ending on a high note.
And our little miracle just continues to amaze.