Cry Baby, Cry Baby


Who cries at their parent-teacher conference? Apparently I do.

I’ve been worried about my preschooler’s academic progress since he started school four months ago. Perhaps it’s irrational, perhaps not. With all the expectations spun by Common Core Standards, I’m feeling the brunt of anxiety.

My personal expectations for my 4-and-a-half-year-old son are to know all of his letters, numbers to at least 10, and to write his name.

He knows his numbers to 10, good. But he only knows two letters. And while he can verbally spell his name, only I, his mother, can recognize it on paper. One may assume that I don’t work with him at home. Not so. I’ve tried flash cards, books, games, involving his big brother, you name it.  My son doesn’t have a learning disability, just a reluctant attitude.

So, back to the parent-teacher conference. I expected her to tell me he needed extra help, a tutor perhaps. She didn’t. Instead, she showed me how he’d progressed in drawing his monthly self portrait, what letters he could recognize, and pointed out a couple of numbers he missed when counting to 20. I looked at the progress sheets she laid before me, and fixated on the letter sheet. An X was marked through the 24 letters he didn’t know. Only two were circled, C and O. Tears rose quickly, stealing my voice and ability to communicate. “I’m so worried about him,” was all I could get out.

She assured me that he would be okay, and offered suggestions to encourage him to participate in learning at home. For example, making wearing paper word necklaces for the entire family to wear, and writing words on post-its and sticking them around the house.

I’m grateful for her reassurance, and I’m taking her advice because here’s what I’ve learned: If a kindergartener isn’t reading, the teacher will recommend holding back the student.

So post-its here we come. The family will be garnered with word necklaces daily. And maybe, just maybe he’ll meet the Common Core Standards in kindergarten. Then I can hopefully avoid another embarrassing breakdown during a parent-teacher conference.

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