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DH is letting SD choose between summer school or repeating the first grade. Am I crazy for disagreeing?

Undulatus's picture

So SD7 has been struggling big time with school since she started Kindergarten. There are many, many issues that DH and I are working out with SD that came from the time where her highly indulgent and borderline narcissistic grandparents were her primary caretakers 5 days of the week, before I came into the picture. A lot of her behaviors and her understanding of the world/concepts are more like that of a 4- or 5-year-old, so school has been difficult socially and academically. She has missed a lot of school due to her getting sick every other week and when she has been in school she has either flat out refused to participate or just does not understand the basic concepts they are teaching her. For instance, she doesn't know the days of the week, months of the year, or the seasons. If you asked her if 15 was a bigger number than 13, she wouldn't be able to tell you. And she doesn't recognize some of the alphabet if you were to point to a letter on its own and ask her what it is. 

Behaviorally it has been a massive struggle too. Her defiant behaviors are more toddler-like than anything. Collapsing on the floor, crossing her arms and yelling "no!" in a high pitched baby voice, feeble attempts at puppydog eyes, etc.. At school she has behaved aggressively towards her teachers and attempted to run away several times. Her teachers had called us a few times when she had severe meltdowns. DH insisted it was normal kid stuff, but I never did that and my classmates didn't either. She had gotten better for a while, because I am a bit of a hardass when it comes to routines and participation of household chores and we came down hard on her being aggressive and defiant at school. However, a lot of it has flared up again when DH decided to reward SD for not acting like a complete demon at school with ice cream, pizza, and endless TV time for each week she receives an acceptable rating from her teachers at school. Now she demands pizza and sweets when she doesn't do anything overtly bad at school, which I feel defeats the point. 

I probably sound rambly and off-topic from the title of my post, but I feel a need to vent and I think that it might be important for context. 

DH has had many discussions with SD's teachers, and SD needs to complete and be successful at summer school in order to avoid repeated the first grade. When he brought it up to SD, she immediately had a meltdown. Crying, screaming, the whole gamut. Eventually, when we probed we found out that her grandfather had tried to scare her into behaving better and putting more effort into school by showing her a video from a hospital filled with dying patients that were intubated and bedridden and stating that that was where bad kids and kids who have to go to summer school go. SD insists that it was the truth because of the video and even having grandpa apologize and tell her the actual truth over the phone wasn't enough to convince her. I was able to calm SD down and reassure her. Naturally she was still upset, but I assured her that we would help her be successful in school and reminded her that it didn't mean that she was a bad or stupid kid. 

Despite me calming SD down, DH eventually told SD that if she tries summer school for a few days and doesn't like it, she can just repeat the first grade again. He has this tendency to placate her even when it is not necessary or uncalled for. I am still dumbfounded by this. I would have NEVER been allowed to make a decision for myself like that, even if I were in high school! I feel that it is too much to ask of SD, and that DH needs to keep her in summer school at all costs. Since this happened, I have been doing research about retention, and even asked my mother, who is a former teacher, about the benefits of retention. She and a lot of sources basically say that it's not ideal in most cases. The issue in my mind is complicated even more because SD is starting to show early signs of puberty. She is already older than most of her classmates (late birthday). DH thinks I'm crazy, but he knows nothing about female puberty. 

I'm really worried about SD, but her dad and her grandparents aren't that concerned. I just can't help but think that a child who is emotionally and maybe cognitively behind her age combined with possible early puberty and possibly repeating a grade could be disastrous if we don't approach it right. Unfortunately this is the one topic DH and I don't see eye to eye on. He has mentioned once or twice that SD is "slow" or behind on some things, but other than that it is hard for him to admit that SD may have problems that require different considerations. I am completely out of my element here; SD and I are polar opposites. I didn't even complete puberty until my early 20s, so I have no idea what it's like to go through it that young and how to help her. This post is probably rambly, but I never get to air out my opinions and worries.

To be clear, I love SD immensely. Despite what I have stated, she is still a good kid underneath the issues and she has improved greatly in almost two years I've known her. I haven't yet told DH what I really think, because I'm aware that she's not actually mine and I worry that I come across as too much of a hardass sometimes. But I just think he is waaayyy too quick to offer distractions/bandaid solutions when SD faces difficulties, and this in my mind is the culmination of that tendency of his. 



simifan's picture

A 7 year-old is in no way capable of making an informed decision on something like this. Your DH is ridiculous to allow such a thing. That being said, if she is that far behind I would suggest repeating the grade and tutoring during the summer. I highly doubt she can get a good grasp of these building block concepts during the 8 weeks or so of summer school. 

Undulatus's picture

I really would like for SD to get tested for a learning disorder. I strongly suspect she has one, I noted it when I first met her. DH wants to eventually homeschool our kids, including SD. I am not against the idea, but I have told him that I am not doing it until we figure out what is going on with SD. He (and her grandparents) think that she is secretly highly intelligent and her grandfather insists that she is just being stifled by the confines of institutions. I love SD, but she is definitely below average in that regard. I just worry that her already being older than the other kids while also being less socially/emotionally developed than her peers will give her a hard time if she is held back, but I am starting to think that it is just something we will have to work on and endure.

notarelative's picture

I have several thoughts.

It is never wise to let a seven year old make major life decisions.

Grandpa has shown that he is detrimental to SD's emotional regulation. He should not have unsupervised time with her. And not supervision by grandma. Supervision by dad who shuts down Grandpa's attempt to grandparent inappropriately.

Retention is problematic, but when it works it is in K or 1. But, it works only if the underlying problem is corrected. Is this child in counseling? Not the school counseling that addresses school behavior, but individual counseling that also works with dad. Dad is a huge problem with his rewards. 

This child is far behind. Yes, she has been sick, but being sick does not account for not knowing all of the alphabet letters at the end of a year of grade one. The odds of her learning enough in summer school to be successful in grade two are long. But, what attendance in summer school can do, is to get her tested for a learning disability. Schools are reluctant to test those with spotty attendance records. Consistent attendance, with lack of sufficient progress, can lead to testing (especially if the parent pushes for it).

Child is already one of the oldest in her class. Repeating will make her the oldest. Add in early puberty  and repeating may bring a myriad of problems in the teen years.

Undulatus's picture

I agree with your entire post. Unfortunately, I am fighting an uphill battle on this one. 

Thankfully, her grandparents have minimal influence on her life right now. They were neglectful towards DH and the only reason he used them as babysitters is because he had an extremely negative experience with an unrelated babysitter and I think it scared him. She sees them occasionally now and we plan on moving out of town so hopefully it'll be even less (sounds harsh, but if you knew them you'd agree). Their influence, however, lingers with her behavior and views on how households should work. Her grandparents were chronically unemployed, on government dole, and their parenting style was to basically give the kids screens and treats on demand and then let them eat and watch videos in their rooms because they couldn't be bothered to interact with them. Her counsins who lived with them at one point were terrible influences because they had a dad in and out of prison and a deadbeat mom. She doesn't understand that that lifestyle is not normal or desireable. 

Because of this DH thinks that her issues are entirely her grandparents' making. I agree to some extent, but I have a strong suspicion that even if we were to undo the problems they left behind she would still have at least mild cognitive/intellectual difficulties. Convincing DH to test her is going to be the hardest thing. He is very wary of diagnosing and medicating children. I have tried to tell him that even if she is diagnosed with something, there exists therapy and counseling that can teach children lifeskills without necessarily having to medicate her. But to answer your question, she is not in counseling and never has been. If it were my decision I would have had her in therapy/counseling ages ago.

Jojo4124's picture

the decision...then you can't be blamed.

If summer school involves your time for the driving, homework help, etc take that into consideration...if you don't want to do those things make sure he sets up transport and tutoring as well...

NoWireCoatHangarsEVER's picture

She got her period at the summer between second and third grade.  Her entire body is just covered in stretch marks because she had huge growth spurts and was so much taller and physically advanced then her peers and it has caused her problems making friends.  She wasn't held back but I agree it would have been so much worse for her had she been held back. 

ESMOD's picture

Retention vs summer school is a decision that her dad should be making with the school.  and.. at 7.. with her being so far off progress marks.. a testing of her abilities seems absolutely critical.

Because summer school is an exercise in futility ... if she is being taught in ways that don't match a LD if she truly has one. 

Yes.. being held back has it's concerns too.. but if she is so far behind that she hasn't even met milestones for grades earlier? which it sounds like may be the case?  She may need summer school AND being held back.  Maybe she needs a different school if her current one can't meet her needs too.

But.. I think he needs to talk with her school experts on getting her tested.. and then work together to formulate a plan which may or may not include summer school and/or repeating a year.

Someoneelse's picture

Yes, i agree, she should be evaluated! If they find she has a learning disability at a young age there are so many programs they have in place to help her catch up!

Rags's picture

What kind of dipshit gives a first grader that kind of decisioning authority? Really?


I was 16 when I restarted 10th grad. It was not my choice. My parents put their collective foot up my ass and parented.Though not 7, they knew I was not ready to make my own choices. So, my choice was, repeat 10th grade or drop out of HS and get a job and to find a place to live.... on my own.

It took me no time flat to align on repeating 10th grade.

What is your DH thinking giving this decision to a 7yo?

Undulatus's picture

I wish I knew. The most I can figure is that he just wanted to make her feel better. He is constantly using distractions and BS propositions to ensure that she never feels the slightest negative emotion. I can't help but feel he is setting her up for failure because chances are she will have to do summer school AND repeat the first grade. I try to help her cope with negative feelings and the fact that some things are unavoidable but he always swoops in with something completely unnecessary that undoes all of my work.

Someoneelse's picture

So, just my opinion on this, yes your husband is a moron for thinking that a 7yo should make that decision, and you can let him know that it's a stupid idea to give a very young child that option... but in the end, she'll either pass or fail in the summer, if she fails in the summer, she'll just have to try again next year... i think repeating the year would be the best option, because summer school is a very quick sped up program, whereas repeating the year, they'll have more time to thoroughly go over topics. But it's ultimately what DH thinks is best for his child....