When Your Child’s School Experience Isn’t Measuring Up.

My oldest child is on his way to wrapping up his first year of kindergarten. When we registered him for school all of our friends with older children told us to be prepared for the heartbreak. “You baby will never be the same,” they’d say knowingly. I braced myself for tears and anxiety and all the things that come with realizing your child is making the first steps into a journey that leads to moving farther and farther away from being a baby. When Isaiah entered kindergarten on that first day, I sniffled a bit but I was mostly excited for him. He loves school. He loves to socialize and he is ferociously independent.



Toward the middle of the school year, though, we began to see Isaiah exhibit anxiety about school. He’d beg me not to go. When homework was sent home he fought us. He’d scream and get annoyed and exclaim, “I KNOW HOW TO TRACE THESE LETTERS MOM!” We decided that we wouldn’t do the homework. The kind of battles that had to be waged in order to get it done weren’t worth it. He did know how to trace the letters, and I wasn’t going to have a two hour stand off over it. Isaiah still gets off the bus and asks to be switched to a different classroom. He talks about a particular child who bullies him. He says the other little boys call him “gay” because he likes the colors purple and pink. One day he told me he hated black people. I asked him where he heard people say that and he named off several of his friends who he reported that, “they don’t like black people either.” When I explained to him he was Black, of African American heritage, he was upset and asked me if his friends would know. He cries and tells me his stomach hurts and he doesn’t want to go to school. Once I get him pass the point of anxiety and we get him to the doors of the school he seems okay. When he arrives home he’ll report he had a great time, but then still ask to change schools.

I adored school. It was my safe place. The women and men who taught me inspired me and I excelled. I had really high hopes for Isaiah’s school experiences. It hurts my heart that my five year old has already had such a negative experience. I ask my friends about their experience and they have very little input. It is hard for them to empathize because they have Caucasian child who aren’t learn to form their identity in a minority status. I am slowly beginning to realize that Siloam Springs school systems may not be able to provide the kind of diverse cultural experience my child will need. We had an amazing experience with the Northside Koala Pre-K program. Our teachers Mrs. Sherry and Mrs. Standifer went above and beyond to accommodate our families cultural differences and Isaiah flourished.

So when my friends were preparing me for what life is like with a school age child, they never mentioned this. There isn’t a handbook to help you decide what is the best option for your child’s school experience needs, is there? I want Isaiah to learn to be resilient, but I also want his first few school years to be positive years to build a successful school career on. I know teachers have rough jobs. I am not insinuating that they aren’t qualified educators, I am simply wrestling with the reality this school year was heartbreaking, but not for the reasons I thought.

Have you ever had something that wasn’t a fit for you and your child in their school experiences? How did you deal with it? What do you do when there is something that needs to be a special consideration in your child’s education? How do you make it work?




  1. You need to talk to his teacher and let him/her know your struggles. Also, if he feels bullied, the teacher also needs to know that. His teacher can’t fix what they don’t necessarily know about.

    • We’ve chatted about the homework issue with her and there really wasn’t a solution offered. When we mentioned it to the principal her tone was sort of, “well… there aren’t really many black kids in our community *shrug*”

      • Not an acceptable answer. If someone were told that “well ,there aren’t many deaf/ disabled/ dyslexic/ (insert a million different other ways to be different here) kids in our community…” it would be just as unacceptable. Bully is bullying is bullying. I’m sorry that your son is having grow in this struggle.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about Isiah’s problems. I wonder if the school won’t deal with the racism because it’s the parents of those kids that are the problem? Maybe they figure it’s easier to deal with one of you rather than dozens of other parents? Either way, it’s not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. One of Addy’s friends is African-American. I don’t think she notices it. I’ve always tried, when she asks questions about someone’s looks, to point out their similarities rather than focus on their differences. I wish more parents would make that effort. Don’t give up. What’s the old saying? The squeaky wheel gets the grease? I’ll pray for a quick, easy solution! I hate to see little kids bullied!

  3. Having put 4 children through kindergarten, I can tell you that it can be a rough experience sometimes, as you find your child being exposed to experiences that you never anticipated. What worked for me was to not only keep a constant and open line of communication with the classroom teacher, but also the school principal. I also made/make sure that I am a visible presence at the school too. This helps a whole lot. I am on my last child in kindergarten now & I wish you the very best of luck on the rest of the school year.

    • Both me and my husband have super busy careers and staying on top of the teacher all the time isn’t an option. I hate that I would have to be constantly vigilant to make sure my kid has a good experience… but that is what it is looking like. I am rearranging some things to make this work.

  4. This makes me so mad! I would document everything that goes on, including meetings and the way that Isaiah is feeling each day when he comes home from school. Things he specifically says, and how he acts. I’m going through the same thing now (with a seventh grader) and it seems as if the class went from being great to being a bunch of hateful mini adults. A LOT of what kids say, comes from their parents and I know that you will continue to pour positive thoughts and gestures into Isaiah’s life daily.

  5. I am so sorry to hear about your baby’s experience. Due to racial issues in my past I prepared my children for race matters since they were very young. I talked to them in age appropriate language about race, history and culture so they are not surprised by varying opinions and prejudices. For my children, giving them tools to work with and a base of knowledge gave them comfort and something to fight back with emotionally and mentally.

  6. This was like reading our story, word for word. My son hasn’t liked school since he was in preschool. He’s bullied and the school seems not to care. We just found out for certain that he has ADHD and we’re waiting for the school to be proactive in his learning but they seem to not care about that either. And, to top it off, we found out just a few weeks ago, that some of the kids have been calling the black kids Nigger on the bus. The black kids are a minority at this school, as are the white kids, so this just breaks my heart that he has to go through it all. Changing schools won’t help because it’s like this all over our city. We’re trying to get our finances together and finally buy our house in the city we love so this is the last year he has to endure this. I hope that you and Isaiah are able to find a solution where he can enjoy school again. No child should be afraid of attending school. Ever.

  7. It makes me sad and angry that he is experiencing this at such a young age…it is not right … I hope something is put into place if you decide to speak to the superintendent ..keep us updated!

  8. This seems to be a common discussion among my friends with school-aged children. Totally different from 6 years ago when my oldest started school. I’m feeling very anxious about my middle child starting kindergarten in the fall primarily because of the “reputation” the school we’re zoned for has gotten lately. Homeschooling and private schools just aren’t an option for us so I know it will be my responsibility to be extremely proactive with his education and the conversations that are had.

  9. Sorry to hear about your family’s struggles. When M started school I was *that* mom and thankful that her first teacher helped ease me off the ledge. It helped to know that mama bear was lurking but also helped that I had someone to help me. Hope there is someone that you can talk with and that will HEAR you and be able to help.

    • I have just resigned myself to the fact that I am going to be “that mom” Oh well!

  10. This breaks my heart to hear. My son is about to turn 3 and I know some of these challenges are ahead. Just follow your intuition and do what you know is best for him.

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