Thursday, August 20, 2015

When Your Own Child Struggles with Reading ~ Real Talk (Part 1)

Hello Friends!
Today I'm going to share about a struggle that has been happening in our house for a couple of years now.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this struggle and I hope that by sharing what I know I can help others out there struggling along with us.

I have been a first and second grade teacher for 15 years.  That means I have been teaching children how to read for 15 years.  I am pretty good at it.  My scores were always pretty good as far as kids making benchmark at the end of the year.  But I also knew how to inspire kids to love reading.  That is, until my daughter came along and started to struggle with learning to read.  From the day we met her (at 18 months) she wouldn't sit still for a book.  Reading books with her was always a struggle.  We would start and she would wiggle off our laps and head off to play.  When it was bedtime she'd just want to be snuggled, no books.  So we told her stories.  We talked to her.  We played with her.  We did what we knew how to do.

She's a teacher's kid.  There's no excuse, right?  That's what I told myself and berated my self with.  What teacher's kid doesn't love to read?  Mine.

I tried and tried and tried to work with her.  Everytime I tried it turned into a battle.  I don't do battles but this was a battle I tried to fight.  Unsuccessfully.

Finally first grade rolled around and she started receiving Title One services.  She was a little behind, but not so much that some intervention and good instruction from her teachers couldn't overcome.  Then came the move to the Bahamas.  November of first grade.  She was out of school for about 3 weeks with the hotel time in Seattle and the time it took us to get settled, find the paperwork, and register her for school here.  I tried to work with her.  Have you ever tried working with your child in a hotel room with a 2 year old little brother running around?  Not easy.  Not impossible, but not easy.
Our temp housing here was a little more conducive for getting some school work in.  We had a 2 bedroom suite with a kitchen.  Little brother could be outside at the pool with his daddy or in another room watching tv or playing with his trucks.  We worked.  But it was a struggle.  But I figured something out.  If we worked through the tantrums and the tears real learning started to happen.  We were making progress.

Our first Thanksgiving in the Bahamas as well as our "school" table.

She started school at a wonderful school.  Unfortunately she didn't have a wonderful teacher.  School is different here.  If you're not the average achieving kid schools really can't accommodate you.  Teachers seem unsure of what to do.  Intervention?  Never heard of it.  Accommodations?  Depends on the teacher.  I had her put back in a kindergarten classroom for reading instruction since that's where she was in regards to her Bahamian peers.  They thought I was crazy for suggesting it but if her first grade teacher couldn't teach her to read, someone had to.

Looking back now I think "Why didn't I just pull her and start homeschooling her?"  Then I have to be real and honest and understand that I was miserable back then.  I missed my friends like crazy.  We had been stuck in temp housing for a month.  We were finally moving into our home here.  It was the holidays and all the craziness that they bring.  I was transitioning from working full time to being a stay at home mom.  I was having a hard time transitioning.  I was stuck at home with two kids with no car and I was miserable.  Miserable in that I threw my first adult temper tantrum as an adult.  My poor husband.  He was a trooper though.  Some days I just walked out when he came home.  I would take the keys and drive.  Many times I ended up at the ocean.  Something about the ocean just helped calm my soul.  It was there I would pray... pray for patience, strength, resilience, grace, for His help, for His guidance.  I would go home ready and refreshed to keep plugging away.

Someone said something to me back then and I think it rings really true... "A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child". 

She managed to finish her first grade year but I was shocked to discover that they gave letter grades (A,B,C,D,F) to first graders.  Her grades were terrible but I really didn't care.  I knew that it wasn't a true reflection of her strengths and weaknesses.  The school decided that they wanted to retain her and let her have another year in first grade.  I refused.  She does not have a learning disability.  She struggles with attention but she is so smart and very capable.  I was on the hunt for a new school for the next school year... second grade.

Tomorrow I share about the progress she made in 2nd grade and the recent schooling decisions I have made, as well as resources for where to start when a child is struggling with reading.   



  1. Wow, Joya! You are so strong and brave! I love your transparency and honesty about your struggles with Suri. That image of you jumping in the car and driving to beach - heartbreaking yet so relateable as a parent. You are an amazing mom to her and she is lucky to have a teacher mom to help her through this. I can't wait to read more about what you have done and what is working. Hang in there, friend!!

    Sara J Creations

  2. Thanks Sara! We all need to escape sometimes as parents. Somedays we just can't do it all, right?
    Joya :)

  3. Love your honesty. I've been fed up with the "act like we are happy all the time, even when we aren't" that happens so often in life and especially on social media. Thanks for opening up. I needed it. I don't have a child who is a struggling reader (well, I don't think so-- she's only 2). But I get frustrated at life and sometimes throw my own temper tantrums. Glad I'm not the only one!

    My Bright Blue House

  4. Interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing.
    Kendra Strange


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