Grade R, Grade 1, Grade 2

Born in December: The battle to repeat Grade 1

Sometimes as a mother we face challenges and decisions regarding our children that cause us to revert to ‘Mommy Tiger Mode’. Towards the end of 2013 I had to make a decision regarding my Grade 1 son: He was born in late-December, emotionally unequipped for ‘big school’ and barely scraping through Grade 1.
I saw a long journey ahead, one where he (hopefully) made it through the initial grades until the workload became so much that he inevitably failed a year; a journey on which he became increasingly stressed and negative about his abilities; where extra lessons and OT sessions vied for time with sports activities, homework and those little things called ‘general life’ and ‘having fun’. I’ve seen it happen and didn’t want that for my child.
He was struggling to read (actually, he was struggling with everything) and was probably the youngest child in the school. He attended extra lessons in three subjects, his self-confidence was at an all-time low, and teary comments like “Mommy, it’s too hard” were breaking my heart.
Yet with all the visible proof that he wasn’t coping, I was told that he could not be kept back as, technically, he was passing. Apparently, as parents we no longer have the right to decide whether our children are ‘school-ready’ or not – they have to start Grade 1 if they are six years old on 1 January, ready or not. I had initially wanted him to start Grade 1 a year later but was told at that time that I couldn’t delay his schooling as the law had changed.
I decided there and then that I wanted a better future for my child, with less stress for him, in a school year that ‘matched’ him, so I took up the battle. My checklist was daunting:
  • Meeting the teacher (who agreed with my assessment)
  • Several telephonic discussions with the previous OT teacher
  • Paying a small fortune for an educational therapist in order to get a report
  • (And extending my bond to afford all this)
  •  Organising letters from everyone in support of my request
  • Drafting a motivational letter of my own
  • Emails, phone calls, meetings, asking everyone and anyone for advice.
Yet they warned me that in all probability it would not be enough. Although the Education Department would consider my letters, my son’s report card would carry more weight.
With a few days to go before the school provided their ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ lists to the Education Department, the ‘Mommy Tiger’ within me emerged. I insisted on meeting with the principal and put my case across a little stronger. OK, a LOT stronger. With an additional letter and a school suddenly fully behind my son, a case was made and my battle was won!
My son is now repeating Grade 1 – and what a difference! He is reading well, coping well, his self-confidence has soared. He is in a class with children only a few months younger than he is. The relief is overwhelming, but sometimes I think what could have happened if I had left it at that point. Should it really be this difficult to do what is right for our children, their education, and their happiness?
Preschool, Grade R, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7
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Grade R, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6
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