Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by Richard Black0
“I CAN’T READ!!!” the Trials and Tribulations of an Illiterate Four Year Old and Her Father
My wife Laura and I recently had a meeting with our daughter’s preschool teachers to update us on Darcy’s “transition” to her new school. It’s a delightfully neutral word “transition” and one I’m certain was chosen to cause us no undue amount of concern and presumably discuss how unconcerned we all were about my daughter’s transition to her new school.
It’s been a while since I was in school but I can’t remember a teacher ever requesting to meet with my parents for a positive reason. The teacher always began with a small piece of praise before bringing up the real reason my parents had been requested. “Richard seems to be such a bright but but he’s biting the other children again,” or, “Richard is really very well spoken but he’s really struggling when he plays with blocks.”
From personal experience I knew that meetings of this sort are an intervention and I was prepared for it, for the most part.
In all honesty I can’t say that I was surprised by the request. Darcy’s last year in preschool was academic in the sense that a curriculum was involved. I’m not saying that I want my daughter to be able to read “War and Peace” by the time she’s five but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to be able to recite half of the alphabet and count to twenty without taking off her socks. I jest of course. I’d really just be happy if she could count to ten without taking off her socks but it was in the spirit of education and the hope that Darcy wouldn’t need to remove her clothing to be able to count that we enrolled her in a new preschool.
I’ve discussed or more correctly, bitched, about the school Darcy attended we moved her in New School, Old School and Moving My Daughter From The Church of the Bleeding Ulcer to WASPy Pre K. It’s a fascinating read and one I encourage you to give a glance if you’re having trouble sleeping and looking for a non-narcotic soporific. If you’re up for more of the same I also suggest you take a look at the post Enrolling My Daughter in School and a Probable Visit by Child Services and Toddler Illiteracy Testing Syndrome and Understanding the Terrible Scourge of T.I.T.S. which are both slightly more engaging.
To make a long story short Laura and I had inadvertently enrolled Darcy in a “non academic curriculum” for her final year of preschool which came as something of a shock. We were pretty much told by the administration that children enrolled were prepared for the rigors of upon graduating from their fine institution. Unfortunately we were misinformed and managed to enroll our daughter in a preschool on the other end of the spectrum.
During the meeting with Mrs. Ratchet and Mrs. Cratchet we learned that Darcy is markedly behind everyone else in the class. Most of the boys and girls can recognize their ABCs and are moving on to the sounds that each letter makes. I know this because I believe my daughter’s teachers are telling the truth. I have also rented an apartment across the street from Darcy’s school room, purchased a high powered telescope, hired a lip reader and stenographer to record the progress the other children are making. As a side note it turns out that everyone, even little kids, look like Jodie Foster in the movie “Nell” when you’re reading their lips but ickabay, chickabay, oolabay and back to topic.
As I’ve mentioned I was not entirely shocked to discover that Darcy was behind the curve in her class. She is my daughter after all and as I’ve pretty much spent the bulk of the past four years around her I like to think that I have a vague notion of her capabilities.
I was pretty surprised to find out that, according to her teachers, half of the children in Darcy’s class can “read”. Again I put the term in quotes because I’m somewhat dubious about the claim. Recognizing that the letters “C”, “A” and “T” form the word “cat” is a type of reading but a word does not a sentence make and while I’m sure that there is a four year old child in Taiwan writing a thesis on “Lolita” I’m fairly certain that she isn’t screwing up the curve in my daughter’s class at school.
There was, it seemed, no middle ground to be had when it came to educating my daughter; a problem I didn’t think I’d have to face until grade school at least. What in the hell ever happened to being a kid and eating paste or dipping your hands in a bunch of paint and running around like a sugar infused spaz during preschool? For that matter whatever happened to the word “spaz”?
When I was four my sister and I spent the bulk of our time undressing her Barbie dolls and puzzling over why Ken didn’t have a full set of genitalia. I’m pretty sure I had the same sorts of questions when I was five but I was a heavy drinker at that point and my memory is a bit hazy. Somehow, in between eating paste and stripping dolls, I still managed to learn a few things. I clearly remember knowing how to count to 100 by the time I was in kindergarten so my preschool teachers must have been teaching me something.
Other than discovering that our daughter was the dullard of her class the meeting went surprisingly well in that no one was stabbed or even yelled. The bulk of Mrs Ratchet’s and Mrs. Cratchet’s concerns revolved around the fact that Darcy is young for her class; a condition her mother and I had thoughtlessly failed to consider when we conceived out child.
Our daughter will be one of the youngest children in her class when she enters kindergarten and unless we choose to hold her back for a year or barring new developments in our understanding of the time/space continuum that doesn’t seem likely to change. Darcy is ready for school and probably has been for some time. She’s a young, bright, precocious and social girl who wants to learn albeit when it suits her. It would be unfair of me to say that my daughter’s best traits come from her mother but that’s only because my father and mother might be reading this post.
My side of the family has provided Darcy with genetic gifts of a much more dubious sort. Through my line Darcy has inherited the Black family body (short legs, long torso) as well as a predisposition towards mental instability, substance abuse, heart disease, stroke, and erectile dysfunction (a trait I assume she won’t have to worry about unless she undergoes some sort of gender reassignment).
In addition to this hereditary cornucopia of poor health my daughter appears to have inherited a fair amount of what I call the “fuck it” syndrome. If it doesn’t come easily then she has no interest in the subject, a mindset to which I can thoroughly relate and one that has hindered my educational growth from second grade to the present point in time.
It took my mother a ream of index cards and a few hours every night for a good six years to teach me the nuances of subtraction and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right. With any luck Darcy won’t have similar issues but it’s a little early to make that prediction. I’m aware that she will always be one of the youngest in her class and that is not necessarily an excuse for her performance it is something of an explanation at least at her current age.
The difference between a four year old and a five year old is one year (thanks mom!) which might or might not sound all that impressive. However the five year old is 20% older than the four year old and has that much more experience than the younger child. That’s a pretty big gap but one that, as my daughter ages, will continue to shrink.
I’d do the math but my mother hasn’t taught me how percentages work yet.