Blaming the Parents and Home Life

Kindergarten girl not socializing with other children
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My son went into kindergarten from a wonderful preschool. He was eager to meet new kids and continue his positive experiences. It didn't take long, though, for his eagerness to turn into something more like bewilderment and then despair. He went from an environment that was much like what he had a home - challenging, fun, and full of opportunities to learn and explore new topics - to an environment that was stifling and frustrating.

He didn't understand why he was being prevented from learning. I didn't understand either.

For the first time in his life, my son was in a room with kids around his own age, some a year older (he started a little early). His new school was a small private school, so the class was pretty small, about ten or eleven other children. The problem with this situation was that there were fewer kids he could interact with - and less of a chance of finding a true peer.

He was not only frustrated by the lack of any new information he was being exposed to, he was also frustrated by the kind of socializing he was supposed to engage in. In his preschool, he had been a favorite playmate. When he'd walk in the door, pretty much every kid in the room ran to greet him and wanted to play with him. It didn't matter how old the other kids were either. This preschool also functioned as a daycare center for kids whose parents either attended or worked at the university it was a part of.

Kids as young as two and as old as eleven could be found on some days at the school, and children were not segregated by age. The little ones followed by son around, much to his dismay, as they couldn't communicate as well as he would have liked. The older ones were always delighted to see that my son would be there for the day.

In kindergarten, however, life for my son was much different. For one thing, he was teased a lot, and he took every slight to heart. He simply didn't understand that the kids didn't really mean what they said since he would never consider saying anything he didn't mean. He had also never engaged in that kind of behavior and had never encountered it before. He didn't know how to interact with these children - and I was glad he didn't engage in such hurtful behavior.

Less than halfway through the year, my son began showing signs of anger and had "difficulties" socializing. One day when I went to pick him up at school, the teacher talked to me about my son. She wanted to know if he had been to preschool since kids who've never been around other kids before often have these problems. But he had been to preschool and hadn't had any problems. Then she wanted to know if he had siblings. He doesn't. Then she wanted to know about his home life. She learned that I was a single parent and that was all she needed.

According to the teacher, my son's problems in school were all about his lack of siblings and not having a father in the home. It made no difference to her that my son had never had any trouble socializing and getting along with virtually everyone. Nevertheless, this was to be the theme in my dealings with teachers and principals for the next few years. I came to understand that unless kids have a perfect home life, it will be used by many schools and teachers to avoid taking the responsibility for providing the kind of academic environment a gifted child needs.

Blaming the child or the family for the failings of the school system makes it easy for the schools, but difficult for the children and their parents. It means that the child's academic needs are being ignored, while the family is placed under scrutiny and viewed with either suspicion or disdain - or both. 

This is not to say that no children have other problems that need to be addressed, such as a learning disability, or that no children have home lives that create problems for them. However, when the school assumes that the problems come from the child or the home, they no longer feel the need to look further for the source of the problem, and they don't have to do anything to meet the academic needs of a gifted child.

Read more about my journey as the mother of a gifted child

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