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School’s Out – First Grade is Over!


School's Out - First Grade is Over!Actually, it’s the last week of school here in Portland so school isn’t quite over yet. I’m writing this one a bit early because we’ll be in Iceland next week. The kids are so wild this week, though. They are giddy with excitement when they get off the bus. Summer break is all they’re thinking about. RB40Jr has been gloating all week when I drive him to school. I drive him to school in the morning and he takes the bus home. Anyway, the school year is wrapping up for us. All in all, it has been a pretty good year for our son. He is more familiar with the system so life has been much easier for everyone. Here is how first grade went for us.

First grade was easier than kindergarten

The transition from preschool to Kindergarten is akin to going from high school to college. It was a huge leap and RB40Jr doesn’t handle big changes well. He got into a ton of trouble at school. Other kids annoyed him and he was quick with his hands. He was sent to the principal’s office constantly during the first month of the school year. He gradually got used to it and behaved a bit better after the initial frenzy. It was a rough transition. You can read more about it in my Kindergarten recap from last year.

Fewer behavior issues

First grade was much easier than kindergarten for us. He’s familiar with the school now and he knows the rules. He still gets in trouble once in a while, but not nearly as often as last year. However, RB40Jr is still a highly emotional kid. He’d lash out if another kid keeps pushing his buttons. One time, he shoved a book in a kid’s face and gave him a bloody nose. Yikes! That was the only hitting incident this school year so it is an improvement. Our school is awesome, though. The counselors work in a group with kids who are highly charged. They learn about different emotional zones and how to handle them. This really helped. Now RB40Jr can recognize which zone he’s in and has a few coping strategies in his back pocket.

Sometimes, his emotions still get the better of him. Recently, the kids had a puppet show in class. The teacher told us the show started at 9 am, but RB40Jr told me it started at 9:30 am. It’s totally my fault for not verifying with his teacher. We showed up at 9:20 am and the show was almost over. I didn’t see him until Mrs. RB40 pointed him out to me. He was sitting in the corner crying uncontrollably. He melted down because he told us the wrong time to come and felt bad about it. His emotions won that time.

That evening, we sat down and I told him that you need to keep going. You can’t just break down and cry whenever something doesn’t work out. If he kept his composure, we would have seen the tail end of the play. Some of the other parents couldn’t come at all and the kids still performed. Besides, we’ll be late occasionally even when I don’t screw up. That’s life. Hopefully, he’ll be able to deal with it better next time. The show must go on!

Hearing impairment

Last year, the audiologist found that RB40Jr has a serious hearing impairment in his left ear. We got him a hearing aid, but it hasn’t helped that much. It doesn’t work well when there is a lot of background noise (when many kids are talking at once) or when it’s loud (music class). He said it’s too loud and the noise gives him a headache. Recently, he’s been turning the hearing aid off during those occasions and then “forgets” to turn it back on. We’ll need to follow up on this with our audiologist. If the hearing aid doesn’t help, then maybe he doesn’t need to wear it.

Our school is really wonderful here too. He is working with a hearing loss counselor. It’s part of an Individual Education Program. I never thought our son would be in a “special” program, but it’s actually really good. They had 5 goals this year.

  • Learn how to use the hearing aid. He learned how to put it on, take it off, turns it on/off, and change the battery.
  • Educate the teachers on how to deal with a kid who has hearing impairment. They installed an FM system in his classroom. The teacher can speak into the microphone so the all the kids can easily hear her. They also positioned his chair and desk so his good ear (right) is directed toward the teacher’s desk.
  • Learn how to advocate. If he can’t hear something, he needs to speak up and ask the speaker to repeat it. I think this one is going well. Recently, he asked a substitute teacher to use the microphone so he can hear better.
  • What to tell other kids when they ask about his hearing aid. He says it’s like wearing glasses. Some kids need a hearing aid and some don’t.
  • Learn how to control his emotions. Apparently, students with disabilities tend to exhibit behavior that impedes his/her learning or the learning of others. I can understand that. If you can’t hear or see very well, you might throw a tantrum more often out of frustration.

All in all, the hearing impairment doesn’t seem to be a big problem for him. He kept up academically and socializes well with most kids. I think the only big problem now is when it gets too loud. I’m really disappointed with the hearing aid, though. It doesn’t seem very useful for this particular condition.


First grade has much bigger academic component than kindergarten. All the kids liked kindergarten better than first grade. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, kids. It’s going to keep getting harder and harder until you retire early. Ha! 😀

First grade homework is reading for 20 minutes. That’s easy and we put it on his schedule. RB40Jr reads right after taking a bath. That’s quiet time for both of us. This is probably less homework than other first graders get. A kid who transferred from a private school said homework is much easier at this public school.

Anyway, he’s doing well academically compared to his classmates.

  • Reading. He is reading very well. His current favorite books are the Big Nate comics. He loves the humor in these books. This summer, we will work on reading books with no pictures.
  • Writing. His writing is acceptable. I think it’s at about the same level as other boys in his class. From what I’ve seen, the girls are way ahead of the boys with writing at this age.
  • Math. He’s very good with math.
  • PE. This is his favorite period in school. He’s a very active boy and he loves PE. That’s great! I never liked PE when I was young. I couldn’t exert myself much because I had mild mitochondrial disease. From what I understand, this DNA mutation is passed down from mother to child. RB40Jr lucked out there.

So far, he’s doing very well academically. We’ll see how it goes in 2nd grade. There will be more homework and we need to prepare for that. Do you have a first grader? What’s the homework like?

Kiddo’s 1st grade writing

first grade writing

No I would not like to be a farmer. Because I do not want to pick up poop. I do not want to where (wear) a overal. I do not want to be wact up (wake up) by the animals. Finally I would not want to be a farmer because al above the sentensis.

Summer break!

Alright, it’s time to wrap it up. I hope you enjoy a glimpse into RB40Jr’s school life. Some of my friends are struggling with the baby/infant stage right now. Hang in there. Being a SAHD got much easier once RB40Jr started school. I have more time for myself and it’s magnificent. I’m not looking forward to spending all summer with RB40Jr, but I need to put a positive spin on this. That’s why I’m taking it easy this summer.  I’m cutting back to one post per week until school starts in the fall. We’re traveling more this summer so it’d be hard to blog twice per week anyway. Let’s have fun this summer and get back to school/work in the fall. There are a ton of fun activities to do in the summer so I’m sure we won’t be bored.

Do you have young children? What’s your plan for this summer? 

Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. See my tutorial on How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you want to join the club. ?

School's out! Our son got through the first grade with minimal trouble. It was much better than the previous year in kindergarten. See how he did.
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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 54 comments… add one }
  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify June 7, 2018, 5:38 am

    Joe, Sorry to see you are cutting back to one post per week, but totally understand. Have a great trip to Iceland. Very exciting.

    I am glad to see your son does not want to pick up poop. It is good he aspires to better things. However, it may be an unattainable goal. Do you remember the phrase from your working days…..”poop” rolls downhill.

    I wasn’t a farmer, but I picked up a lot of poop and I’m sure you did too. 🙂 That’s where FI comes into play.


    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 10:30 am

      I remember about poop rolls downhill. Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
      Have a great summer!

      • Cubert June 11, 2018, 4:26 am

        Who doesn’t want to pick up poop??? C’mon RB40 Jr.! 🙂

        Thanks for writing this piece, Joe. Our twins are about to turn 5 and kindergarten awaits this fall. They’ve also had their fair share of run ins with other kids this past first year of preschool. I’m sure they’ll learn a whole host of life lessons rather quickly come K-12.
        I’m hopeful that your boy can adjust to his hearing situation. He seems like a real determined little guy to me, so you should be in really good shape. Meltdowns? Yeah, we know all about those too… 🙂

  • Helen June 7, 2018, 5:45 am

    Hi Joe, it’s great to hear your son has been doing great for the 1st grade. The writing “Would you like to be farmer?” is so cool. Keep those homework for him. It will be fun 10 or 20 years later, when he sees it again. Have a great summer!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 10:31 am

      I’ll scan the really good ones. 🙂 Mrs. RB40 likes to keep everything, but that’s too much. I’ll try to convince her to throw some out when we move.

  • Caroline June 7, 2018, 5:52 am

    I remember those days! My kids are now young adults but still planning a trip with the three of them in July. When they were younger, we had a mix of summer camps, babysitter and taking a couple of weeks off.
    Congrats on taking it easy on the blogging schedule for the summer. Which day will you be posting?
    Enjoy the trip!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 10:32 am

      We signed up for some camps and childcare last year. It was good, but this year we’ll be out of town more often.
      I’m planning to post every Monday. Thanks!

  • Pennypincher June 7, 2018, 6:09 am

    Very interesting about the Zones concept. Think I’ll use it when somebody pushes MY buttons!
    Cannot wait to read and see everything about your trip. Not sure what the temps will be, but make sure you all take enough layers to wear.
    -Hugs, your second mother.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 1:21 pm

      The zone thing is good. All the kids know it so they should back off when you’re in the red zone. Doesn’t always work, though. We’ll bring warm clothes. Thanks!

  • Cooper The Millennial June 7, 2018, 6:16 am

    We just finished up with our 2nd and 4th graders. Goodness how time flies!

    And Big Nate books are still very popular in our house. Thanks!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 1:22 pm

      The adults like Big Nate books too. They are pretty funny. 🙂

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance June 7, 2018, 6:26 am

    The short essay is just too cute! Very honest and funny haha 😀

    I’m not so surprised RB40 Jr. is good at math hehe. I hope our son will be good with numbers as well. The older I get, the more I realized how important math is to our way of thinking, careers, and finance.

    Yay to the end of 1st grade. Summer is here. I hope you and your family will have a great time this summer! 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 1:24 pm

      He came a long way with his writing. This is a lot better than last year when he finished kindergarten. The girls are way better. 🙂
      Have a great summer!

  • [email protected] June 7, 2018, 6:39 am

    My older son is making the leap from pre-k to kindergarten. I just went to an orientation yesterday and a teacher said they come in being very dependent and leave very independent and can write, read, etc… I think one mom started getting teary eyed. It really is a big leap! And I agree with your son…I wouldn’t want to be a farmer either picking up poop and all. LOL

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 1:25 pm

      Good luck! I think it’ll be great. They are a lot more independent after first grade. Kids change so much in 2 years.

  • Lazy Man and Money June 7, 2018, 7:08 am

    I’m disappointed that you are cutting back to one post, but it’s understandable. I think I have 3 hours over the next 11 days that aren’t rigidly scheduled. I will be lucky to get two posts out over that time :-(.

    Our oldest just graduated Pre-K, but he’s practically K because he just missed the cut-off. His reading is really off the charts, but his writing is just like his dad’s – terrible. We’re just getting started on the math. He has some trouble with his emotions, but our school has feeling buddies to work with it (https://shop.consciousdiscipline.com/collections/feeling-buddies). It seems to work. Also, some Daniel Tiger songs help… there’s a song for almost everything.

    Our oldest also has glasses, which seems to be a lot easier to deal with than the hearing issue.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 1:30 pm

      Good luck to you as well. I need a rigid schedule or else it’ll just keep sliding. 🙂
      Kindergarten will be great next year.
      I think our kid will need glasses at some point. He’s fine now, but we both need glasses so it’s inevitable.

    • David @ VapeHabitat July 23, 2018, 7:27 am

      First grade is always easy when a kid is good in the kindergarten. And when he is socialized properly and has no problems with other kids of both sexes.
      Anyway, well done on your first year at school!

  • Jim June 7, 2018, 7:20 am

    Hi Joe, yeah my daughter is done with 1st grade today also. How the year flew by, but it’s also amazing the amount of academic change that school year made with her – reading, writing, knowledge, etc. Unlike RB40 Junior though, she is struggling with math; with two former engineer parents – go figure – too early I think to worry about it, but it just shows that each kid is their own individual. Have a great time in Iceland!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:01 pm

      I don’t think you need to worry too much right now. The kids will all improve. Junior tells me every kid is different. He must have learned that from the counselor.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire June 7, 2018, 8:52 am

    Haha, loved the farmer paper! I’m with him – I don’t want to pick up poop either! That’s awesome!

    Glad to hear kindergarten to first grade went a little easier for you and your son. Our daughter just finished second grade and it couldn’t have ended soon enough for her. Funny enough, she loved it while she was there, but just hated going in every morning.

    Have a great summer!

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:01 pm

      RB40Jr couldn’t wait until summer break. He is fine at school, but summer is just a lot better.

  • Joe June 7, 2018, 9:25 am

    Hi Joe, I developed deafness in one ear as well, my right ear. My right ear hears some tones better than others. Doctor said it’s due to a nerve problem rather than the eardrum. As I understand it, a traditional hearing aid which just amplifies sound would not help much. I would just hear louder fuzziness. However, there is another type of hearing aid which routes sound from the bad ear to the good ear by conducting the sound through bone. I haven’t tried it myself since I get by OK with one ear, it just gets difficult to understand people in loud environments. But this other type of hearing aid may be more helpful for your son?

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:04 pm

      Thank you for sharing. Jr’s hearing impairment is due to nerve damage as well. I think the hearing aid helps in quieter situations, but not when it’s loud.
      Is that the cochlear implant? I don’t think he needs it right now. Like you, he is doing alright.

      • Joe June 11, 2018, 9:51 pm

        I forgot the name of the device, but a little research turned this up:

        yme973: My child is deaf in the left ear. What are her options?

        Erika_Woodson,_MD: Like everyone, your child will need a medical clearance to pursue any option. For a child born with deafness, an investigation into why the ear has hearing loss should be performed, as some children will have a risk of hearing loss in the other ear. This may change how we would counsel you. For children, the current FDA-approved options would include a bone-anchored auditory implant (BAAI), i.e., BAHA® or Ponto, CROS (contralateral routing of signal) system, or FM use in school. Families interested in BAAI should be aware that this intervention is safest when the skull has developed enough thickness, and the child is mature enough to understand the process. We recommend considering this option starting at around the age of six years old. SoundBite® and TransEar® are not FDA-approved for use in children.

  • Doc G June 7, 2018, 9:28 am

    My daughter had a high fever when she was 2 years old and lost all hearing in one ear. Because it was neural damage, hearing aids were not even a possibility, SO far, it has had little effect on her life. It sounds like you have a similar situation and hopefully it won’t impact your son either,. My kids are now 13 and 10. They grow so quickly.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing! As long as his right ear stays good, then it should be okay. We just have to be extra careful with the good ear. You’re right about growing up. Time flies.

  • FullTimeFinance June 7, 2018, 9:41 am

    I’m actually in Iceland this week wrapping up a 9 day road trip. Weathers been perfect. I hope you have just as much luck. In our case our kids stayed home with grand parents to finish kindergarten and preschool.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:07 pm

      That’s great! It looks a bit chilly so we’ll bring warm clothes. It sounds like you had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to reading about it.

  • jim June 7, 2018, 11:24 am

    I don’t remember ANY homework in elementary school. I’m in my 40’s though so that was a while ago. Did everyone else have homework in 1st grade like that?

    I agree with his logic about farming.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:10 pm

      I had plenty of homework in elementary school. That was in Thailand, though. I looked up 1st-grade homework on the internet and it varies. Some teacher sends worksheet home with the kids.

  • Laura June 7, 2018, 11:31 am

    Sounds like it was a good year!
    Homework tended to vary depending on the teacher, and then last year the grade school adopted a “no homework” policy with exceptions for larger projects (research has shown it really doesn’t help). Not sure if that continued this year.
    As when the kids were younger, we have a few swim lessons and camps on the calendar and that’s about it. Enjoying this summer because next year our oldest wants driving lessons (yikes!).

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:12 pm

      I heard about the “no homework” policy too. I disagree. A little homework is good. Let me do a bit more research.
      Good luck with the driving lessons! 🙂

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene June 7, 2018, 12:16 pm

    Well Jr totally sold me on never being a farmer. I hate overalls and picking up poop!

    Very glad he’s doing great. I heard early scores in math and english favors boys (math) and girls (english) but by 3rd grade those differences start disappearing and evens out. You two are being amazing guides.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:16 pm

      I heard kids even out around the 3rd grade too. We’ll see how it goes. The girls are so far ahead in writing.
      I don’t want to be a farmer either. 🙂

  • Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early June 7, 2018, 12:32 pm

    I so feel the kiddo when it comes to loud/background noise. Sometimes it’s actually painful for me if there’s too much – I wonder if the same is for him? I haven’t gone the hearing aid route, as you know, but I do wonder how much it would/wouldn’t help me. A lot of money to shell out for a maybe.

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:18 pm

      Yes, he complains about that too. That’s another problem he had with the puppet show. He said it was too loud and makes his head want to explode. Poor guy.
      His hearing aid was mostly covered by insurance so it’s not bad. I think we’ll probably stop using it. It just doesn’t help that much.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life June 7, 2018, 12:35 pm

    Happy summer vacation!

    I suspect that our kids have similar temperaments. JB struggles with transitions too, more so than other kids from what I can tell, and is also very quick with the hands. I think blood has been drawn at least once as well. I’m trying to focus on what will help zir manage emotions and appropriate responses without squashing the fire that I think ze will need to make it in this cold world!

    We have one week of vacation early on, and then we have a week where we’ll travel to San Diego for Comic-Con. The in between is easy right now, it’s just daycare all throughout the summer, but we’ll be tackling summer school and camps and all that stuff soon enough once ze enters elementary school. We’ll both still be working so we won’t be able to spend that time with JB the way we’d prefer – relaxed and doing a few things a day without stressing over being productive. If only I’d been better prepared for ER before having a kid 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:20 pm

      Some kids are more emotional than others. I hope your school has a good counselor and staffs. They are really helpful.
      Have a great summer! I need o investigate summer school more. I don’t think we have it here in Portland. There are just a lot of camps. They are super expensive.

  • Sarah June 7, 2018, 1:11 pm

    Two series of books for young readers come to mind that I like.

    Joe Sherlock by Dave Keane
    Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
    and of course, Captain Underpants – lots of people don’t like these but if they get a kid to read, I think they are worth it!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:23 pm

      Thank you for the recommendation. He doesn’t like scary books so Joe Sherlock is out.
      He enjoys Dav Pilkey’s Dogman series. Those are fun. I’m pretty sure he’ll like Captain Underpants when he starts reading chapter books.

  • Accidental FIRE June 7, 2018, 3:06 pm

    Congrats to your son – he already has better handwriting than I do!! And enjoy Iceland Joe, I’ve been a few times and it’s a blast!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:23 pm

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to Iceland. It should be a lot of fun.

  • Mr. Tako June 7, 2018, 3:13 pm

    Hey, that’s great! Congrats on getting through first grade! Next thing you know it’ll be college.

    We’re starting kindergarten this fall and I’m a little worried we’ll have behavioral issues too. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    Have fun this summer guys!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:24 pm

      I’m about ready to send him off to college. 🙂
      Good luck with kindergarten. It’s going to be a big change for him. Have a great summer!

  • Mrs. Groovy June 7, 2018, 4:04 pm

    I’m so happy to hear RB40 Jr’s behavior in school is improving and that they teach good coping strategies. I was overly sensitive in kindergarten and first grade but as I began concentrating on academics in higher grades, I grew out of (some) of it.

    Have a wonderful and safe trip!

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:25 pm

      Thank you! He is behaving much better this year, but still has problems sometimes. Today, he kicked a kid during field day. Ugh!

  • Sudipto Basu June 7, 2018, 8:07 pm

    Nice to read your post after a long time! I get every day but read this one intensely. My 2 years old still can’t say the full word. I want speech therapy but his mom is against any therapy. I wish Jr best of luck those things do cure over time. I am preparing for these days, coming very soon.

    My wife doesn’t work so she takes of almost everything our son needs. But I know I need to available with him during those events like puppet shows 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 7, 2018, 9:28 pm

      Good luck. I think it might be good to try speech therapy. It’s helpful for some kids. If it doesn’t work, you can always stop. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll fine. Best wishes.

  • David @iretiredyoung June 7, 2018, 9:53 pm

    Just to let you know, RB40Jr’s writing is much better than mine!

  • GYM June 7, 2018, 10:07 pm

    That snapshot of your son’s writing is so cute! He has very good reasoning. I wouldn’t want to be picking up cow poop either!!

    Have a wonderful trip to Iceland! It’s going to so beautiful!!! It really felt like I was in LOTR and it was out of this world. “Other worldly” is how I would describe Iceland.

  • Half Life Theory June 8, 2018, 2:45 am

    Awesome Joe! My daughter is just getting into kindergarten age, so we’ll see how that transition goes…Fingers crossed its a smooth easy ride lol

    Your son is so smart, he figure it out pretty quick, you can see his train of thought quite clearly… Farmers pick poop…. i don’t want to pick up poop…. hence i do not want to become a farmer.

    Makes sense to me lol! Cheers

  • desidividend June 8, 2018, 12:06 pm

    Have fun on the trip,even my kid finished his First Grade 1 week ago and now its all fun for Him.

  • FIRECracker June 13, 2018, 10:00 am

    Ha ha. Love RB40 Jr’s reasons for why he doesn’t want to be a farmer. Spoken like a true realist/pragmatist 🙂 I would’ve written something dumb like “YAY! Animals are fun!” Shows that he’s very aware of what real life is like.

    I also really like this quote “LIFE IS 10% WHAT HAPPENS TO US AND 90% HOW WE REACT TO IT. -CHARLES SWINDOLL” that you shared from the Zone’s link.

    It’s so true that we can only control our reactions, not what happens to us.

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