Max just got 10 out of 10 for a spelling test. Pretty pleasing to any parent, right? But I’ll tell you why his teacher wrote “Incredible” on the top of that test: because it is. You see, at the beginning of September when Max started 2nd grade here in California, he could barely read and hardly write. And I’m not exaggerating. In the first week of school his teacher took me aside and asked if he had actually done 1st grade. We then were invited to an intervention meeting with his teacher, literacy support staff and the sub-superintendent of the district. It was suggested that perhaps he be dropped down to 1st grade because he apparently had none of the 1st grade knowledge required for 2nd grade and they were concerned that perhaps something was wrong. But the literacy teacher stepped in and said that she had assessed Max and she was pretty convinced that he was simply lacking tuition. That he had all the skills, and is in fact pretty bright, but just hadn’t been taught to read or write properly.

And that’s the part that eats away at me. That we put our kid in a school, where for two years he was supposed to be receiving a superior, gifted, private school education, but ended 1st grade not reading or writing. A school that should have exceeded the national average but instead was woefully behind it. We bought into the concept thinking that in addition to learning the basics, our kids would benefit from something fantastic: the ability to become self-guided learners who would choose their course of study and become competent, intellectually capable little people. Perhaps, but not if they can’t read or write! Granted Mia’s 2nd grade teacher picked up on a processing speed issue because Mia wasn’t reading at that stage either. But we then had to spend many thousands of dollars getting her up to speed, outside of the school. Mia’s current 4th grade teacher says that Mia seems to be missing the entire 3rd grade math syllabus, so now Mia is in extra math to teach her 3rd grade math while she’s learning 4th grade math. Do you know how much hard work that is for a 9 year old?

And poor, sweet Max is suffering through what I hope will be his only hard year at school. He spent the first two months at extra lessons for 1.5 hours 4 times a week and is now down to twice each week, plus an online program. He receives intervention from the school for 30 minutes 4 x each week, and he’s working harder than most college kids I know. He has felt stupid and shamed and we have spent countless hours encouraging this bright, brilliant boy that he was merely done a disservice by his previous school and he’s simply catching up. He’s not behind. They were. And I’m so angry for every minute that he is having to spend learning to read instead of playing outside.

10/10 is such an immense achievement for this little man. Which gives our old school an astounding grade of 0/10 in my book.


  1. Our children went to THE BEST, most exclusive, most revered preschool in Houston. Similarly, they were BEHIND in reading when they entered school. We bought into the hype, too. Now I see, with the different preschool education Evelyn received here in California and the stellar work of the specialists at our new elementary, it was all poor curriculum. I’m sorry for the moving/growing pains but glad we are all in a better place! Way to go Max!

    1. It’s amazing watching Milan and Evelyn and all of our Kindergarten kids being taught properly from the get go. Yes! We’re in a better place!

  2. May I just ask, and no disrespect intended, how did first grade go by without you knowing he couldn’t read? Didn’t you play games and read books together at night? I can’t understand this. My mother taught me to read when I was three years old. I simply don’t understand how you could have just left it to the school and never checked for yourself if he could read or not.

    1. Good question Sharon. I don’t really feel the need to defend myself here because you don’t know us, so you are jumping to some rather large assumptions. Of course we knew that he was slow to read. And he was reading some, but not happily. Ironically, we’re actually very involved parents and we read every night to our kids. And play games. And eat breakfast and dinner with them. And take them to school. And pick them up. We are actually more than very involved! But we were at a school that was very non-traditional and liked to do things in a certain way. Awesome that your mom taught you to read when you were three, and I’m sure you’re brilliant now for it. We didn’t teach our kids to read. That wasn’t one of our many strengths as parents, and we do have many. Yes, we understood that the school was teaching him how to read, as all schools do. ALL SCHOOLS! But here there was no traditional syllabus, no exams, and no real barometer. When we realized just how far behind he was, we immediately brought in a reading tutor who came into the school to teach him (you see we both work, so can’t attend to our kids ALL of the time) and with our daughter also took the steps to seek outside help. Again, we are not parents who felt we knew how to teach our kids how to read. But Sharon, that doesn’t make us bad parents! And you see, we didn’t simply leave it up to the school, we did all we could to help at the time. Wrong school for us, wrong philosophy for us, and both kids are flourishing at the new school. Does that answer your judgements, I mean questions? Lol!

  3. Considering you said you didn’t feel the need to defend yourself, you certainly did a good impression of a defensive person. I never said I was brilliant, but my mother did indeed teach us all to read and do arithmetic before first grade. I never said you were a bad parent. Interesting how you jumped to that conclusion. Your defensiveness is very telling. Your child must be perfectly bright enough to learn to read, as evidenced by the fact that he did so quickly when somebody finally gave him the kind of help he needed. Kudos to whoever did that.

    You really should curb that temper of yours. I was simply asking how it was possible that you didn’t know he couldn’t read. 🙂

  4. I love people like Sharon who think that they can extrapolate from their own experience to someone else’s life, especially when they have no knowledge of that other person’s life and the circumstances in it. I mean, who doesn’t love a holier-than-thou judgmental person?!? Surround me with that, please.

    Seems to me you’re very conscientiously attending to raising your children — not that I’m in any position to judge, heh. But I know that no-one’s path is perfect, no road without bumps. It’s how you navigate them that matters. Your kids should be glad you’re at the wheel.

    “The creative adult is the child who survived.”

  5. Sharon….Fancypants is one of the most involved, outgoing, exuberant parents I’ve ever met…. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t! Why are you even reading her blog anyway??? Next time keep your “questions” to yourself.

  6. Well said Amado! I wonder if Sharon has kids of her own? No right to get all “Judgy”!!! If fancy pants is a bad mom for reading and playing games and spending quality time with her kids, then so am I. I too am very involved with parenting having given up the corporate world so that I could spend more time with my daughter… When my daughter hit Grade 2, she was also way behind but has now caught up… My theory? Kids all learn at different paces and a child that may be struggling today, may excel tomorrow and vice versa.

  7. Sharon, as parents, we all miss things sometimes. We all look back and realise we probably could have made different decisions. Maybe not you, but I’d prepare myself if I were you, because that day WILL come when you get knocked off your parentimg high horse and land with a very painful thud. You won’t be expecting it because you are doing your best for your child (just like FancyPants) and BOY will it hurt when it happens. I hope, when it does happen, you’ll be picked up and supported by other moms and not kicked in the guts while you’re down.

    It feels good to be on a high horse, but being there only means you haven’t discovered your failings yet – not that you have none.

    As much as you imply you weren’t attacking FancyPants…well, you really were. You were kicking her right where it hurts, and you did it when she was down. I personally think she handled it with class.

    We mothers should be there to support one another, don’t you think?

  8. I had same experience. My kids were at fancy new age NYC school. When I got to Atlanta we discovered they were so far behind everyone else, in the basic fields. As my daughter put it everyone else was on complex fractions and she hadn’t done multiplication. A year of tutoring and she has caught up and is an A student. And I really had no idea. Her old school said she was doing great. As for Sharon’s comments I would just ignore them. I personally know what a good mother you are. It’s just one more case of a woman brining another woman down when we should all be raising each other up with positive reinforcement rather than negative.