Dear Dr. Renee,
This has been a tough year. I know school is still a few months off, but how do I help prepare my kids? I think they are going to be miles and miles behind academically.
I am currently working with many parents who are worrying about their children’s academic progress right now. I can guarantee you that teachers and administrators are, too.
First, breathe. This is probably not what you were expecting, but please take a deep breath or two and read on. The fact that you are concerned about this shows me that you care deeply about your children.
The good and bad news is that your children are in a similar boat when compared with all children in the world. Their academics have been turned upside down.
Whether your children were attending school in-person, remotely, or some hybrid of the two, there were a lot of changes going on. If you were lucky enough to be in a school that remained consistent throughout the year, your child still had their social and emotional world turned upside down. Some kids thrived and some just shut down and turned off.
Teachers often spend the first week or so catching everyone up to speed after what is called the “Summer Slide.” It takes students some time to get back into the routine of school after having a few months off. This year, teachers will be working hard to figure out where every child is and what they need to do to help get everyone at grade level.
That said, there are ‘overt’ and ‘covert’ things you can do to help your children get ready for next year.
There are ways you can help your child prepare for academics next year.
Overt ways to help your child academically include doing formal academic activities. There are bridging or transition books that help children progress smoothly from one grade to the other.
When my girls were in elementary school, they worked on their books for 10-15 minutes in the morning. They did this before they went off to play. Some years, I let them choose any pages they wanted to work on during that time. Other years, I asked that they work long enough to complete a specific number of pages in each section of the book (math, reading, etc).
My idea of ‘covert’ ways to help your children comes in the form of academic life lessons.
I typically don’t recommend the following activity often (for a parent’s sanity), but here goes. Occasionally taking your children with you to the grocery store can help them improve their reading and math skills. They can help you find items (read the names of different products) and weigh things. Your child can also help figure out the cost of items (which one is more expensive per unit), and learn about discounts (%) and coupons (subtraction). They could even guesstimate the total cost of your order (addition).
Having your children help you prepare something in the kitchen from scratch can also help with reading and math. They can read the directions and learn about measuring the ingredients (counting and fractions). You can also turn this into a science experiment. What happens when you don’t follow directions exactly? You might end up with a fantastic personalized recipe or a not-so-tasty result.
If you are able to visit museums, you can have science and social studies field trips. If there is something that interests your children, stop by the library for books on that subject the way home.
Do the best to be supportive of your children at the start of the school year as they, and their teachers, adjust to the new normal. Trust that a teacher will reach out to you if anything special needs to be done to help your child. Trust that it will work itself out.
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