Please help- my 5 1/2 year old can't identify her letters

First, I’ve read that their are some curriculums (like Waldorf) which don’t even start to teach letters and reading until age 7. And kids who use this (whether in homeschool or private schools using this curriculum) find that kids catch and show no lag behind other kids their age a few years into the program. (In fact, I’ve read that many studies show it’s worse to push a child early than to start later, especially if a child just doesn’t show that she’s ready at a younger age).

That being said, in public school, to the chagrin of a a lot of Kindergarten teachers (including the one we had) who would like to go at a gentler place and focus on play based learning, there is a big push to do more academically earlier. You might be aware of this and maybe that’s why you’re worried. That’s what we came across when our youngest went to kindergarten.

With our oldest we didn’t notice that because they were both ahead (they had both learned to read before starting school–without much pushing (they just were interested). Not so with my youngest. He didn’t know all his letters either. He was excited to go at first, but then as I started pushing to prepare he started backpeddling and I eased off, thinking that it would be ok, and he would probably be where other kids were cause all the teachers said my other two were way ahead.

Three days into school and he was crying every day…he was just being drug along all year and crying every morning and even with extra help (they took him out and had him with a reading teacher some time every day) he was still very behind where they thought he should be and when they suggested repeating KG at the end of the year we started looking into private school and then decided to homeschool (a decision I wish we had made so much earlier). This in spite of the fact that he liked his teachers.

Even with that being said, I suggest if she still wants to try it, let her. Her experience may not go like our son’s (I have no idea how Florida schools are). But just be prepared to pull her out if it does go like our son’s did. I really, REALLY regret not pulling him out and homeschooling him sooner.

And don’t let anyone push you to push her past what she’s ready for. They may want you to catch up by working with her at home. If she has fun doing that fine, but if she seems burnt out and you have to force her, better to let her play. Cause the first three months of homeschooling was just helping our child overcome the fear of learning he had gotten in school. And I love our schools…they did great for our other kids. Just, for a child who’s not ready it can be very hard.


Thank you for your reply. It gives me comfort and everything you said makes sense. I have decided to homeschool my daughter and I will let her go at her own pace and make it fun for her. Life is hard enough without pressuring a little child who has only been on the planet for 5 years! It is funny that I need to remind myself of that. After reading everyone’s encouraging and kind responses, I see how absurd my worry really was. I sometimes get hormonal. :slight_smile: I need to stop, breath, and thank God for my precious babies. I also thank you for your thoughtful reply.


Hi Mlnunes,

Have you tried music? We all remember song lyrics much easier than the grocery list. :wink: I’ve worked with some children who this helped tremendously. I made some playlists for each alphabet letter (there are also playlists for all of the alphabet and sounds in the phonics list). Under each letter, there is a link that says “View the complete LETTER A playlist,” for example. And kids love to sing! :smiley: Hope this works as well for you as it did for me!

I’m not sure the cutoff age for Kinder in Georgia, but in California it is Sept, 1. Perhaps she needs another year at home before starting more formal schooling? She is definitely a younger Kinder as she’d be starting at 4. Nothing wrong with her not knowing her letters now. Have you tried Letter Factory by Leapfrog? My kids love that movie. Just a thought!!

Not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but have you tried the dvd Letter Factory by Leap Frog? My 2 yr. old learned all his letters and sounds in 1 month of watching this video several times. He is now 4 and can read, write, or spell any cvc word. Now if I can just get my 2 yr. old daughter to sit still long enough to watch the video several times.

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Hello I just wanted to think you so much for this my son is 5 making 6 in March and today his teacher really just made me feel
Like the worst parent ever he doesn’t identify any of his alphabets but knows the songs New has never been in a school before kinder and now I just wanna pull him out and homeschool him but you reply post has stop my tears thanks you


Hi Brooke. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I am so glad what I wrote helped you, even a little. It makes me angry that your child’s teacher was guilt tripping you over him not knowing his alphabet. It’s March, so he’s been in her class for 6 months. If he’s not recognizing any of his alphabet by now, it’s not your fault because you didn’t send him to preschool (I’m assuming the guilt trip she was giving you had something to do with that?) Ether your son just isn’t ready, or she’s not teaching him well, or there’s something else going on.

So it was nearly 4 years ago when I wrote that. I was toward the end of my 1st year homeschooling him. It would take another full year before I really saw a change in him in reading, where he started to build confidence, are really start to loose his fear/hatred of the subject that had built up that horrible public school KG year. I could see I made some mistakes early on (wish I had gotten a strong phonics curriculum right away in stead of trying to continue teaching through Bob Books like we had started to that summer), but I absolutely don’t regret homeschooling him. So, since then we have learned that our youngest has at least one learning disability (ADHD at least, possibly something else in addition–I highly suspect dyslexia). We did put him back in school this last year but not in a regular class…he’s in a class in a different district (different state even…we moved) with 9 Kids/1 teacher+2 aids, so 3 to 1 student/teacher ratio, with an individualized learning plan, and the main teacher has decades of experience with kids with various learning disabilities. But he really needed that time homeschooling to reframe how he thought about learning, and built up his confidence that he really could learn. I think even if we had gotten him in a class like he’s now (which wasn’t what the teacher was suggesting at the time…she was just suggesting repeating KG in a regular class), it would have been much harder if we hadn’t homeschooled him first, given him that one on one/relaxed/gentle environment before sending him back. Now, after 4 years of homeschooling, when we sent him back he was confident and excited about learning, and he tries so hard now and doesn’t crumble as easily over frustrating/challenging things.

You’re kiddo may not have a learning disability just cause she’s struggling with the alphabet now…it’s early. But whether you keep her in school or pull her to homeschooler, just know you didn’t ruin your child because she didn’t know the alphabet before she started KG. If you do keep her in school and she continues to struggle with reading or memory, I highly recommend pushing the school to get an IEP Assessment to see what services she may be eligible for (And if you don’t, and you suspect a learning disability after homeschooling her a while, in some places you can still get and IEP assessment through the district even if you are currently homeschooling…and there is some useful things you can learn through that process even though they can’t make diagnosis, and some services may be available to you even if you continue homeschooling, depending on the state).

Anyways, hope all goes well whatever you choose.

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