Your child's first day of school or kindergarten is always a moment for pause. Suddenly your toddler is no longer and your 4 or 5 year old is heading out to pastures anew. While it is an exciting time, it can also be quite stressful for both the child and the parents, so removing first day jitters is a number one priority. Good organization and planning will help some of the way, along with being alert for signs of a child's unease and aiming to relieve any potential for distress.
Visit the school or kindergarten in advance
Many schools and kindergartens encourage the student and parents to attend the place before term starts. This way, the child and parents can both become familiar with the location, layout and look of the school. Look for such areas as the classroom, bathroom and cafeteria. This will be a good visual reassurance for your child and will help you to discuss things about the classroom, grounds, lunch area with your child in advance and during school year.
Meet the teacher
It is very important to meet the teacher in advance if possible. That way, both you and your child will feel comfortable with knowing her or him before class commences. This will also ensure that your child recognizes a familiar face immediately upon the first day of class.
Obtain the school handbook
It is important to know the expectations of the school in advance. Ask for a copy and read it well. If you have any questions about the rules, the requests for money etc., ask them as soon as possible. It is also important to work through the rules with your child so that she or he is aware of what is expected during school attendance.
Shop together to obtain school supplies
A big part of the fun is getting school supplies and this should be a shared experience. Following the supplies list given to you by your school, within the boundaries it gives you can allow your child to select his or her own favorite items to take to school. Often there will be leeway on a pencil case style or name stickers etc. that will allow you to personalize your child's things. If the school supplies most of the items already, you can still buy some personalized items such as a pencil case or backpack.
Obtain a class schedule
This will allow you to discuss the day's activities with your child in advance. Try to link this with the things that you do everyday so that the child begins to see the connection between daily schedules of things to do and routine that all of us practice.
From the start, it is really important to get into a routine of being organized, both for you and for your child. Together pack the backpack with the school items. Together select the outfit to wear (or lay out the uniform). In the morning, it can be a great thing to start preparing lunches together as early on as possible. That way, your child has a stake in making healthy lunches and will eventually evolve into packing his or her own lunch a grade or so down the track. Early good habits last.
Reassure your child
Spend time together before school commences talking about school, about your own love of learning and about the friendships that develop at school. Boost your child's confidence by telling positive experiences and of all the things your child will enjoy about school.
Be supportive but also learn to let go
On the first day, give plenty of hugs and reassurance but also be balanced and let go. If you have done a good job beforehand of emphasizing all the positives of attending school and you have involved your child in all the preparations, this should be an exciting and fun opportunity for your child and he or she should feel more willing to attend. Tell your child you'll be waiting for her or him at day's end and be sure to be on time!
Home education is a wonderful way to stay close to your children while helping them become well-rounded teenagers and adults. It offers you the opportunity to tailor your children’s education to suit your children, your lifestyle, and your beliefs. Education at home also gives you a safe ‘home base’ for your children while they explore the people and places around them. With the ability to individualize your child’s education, you can truly foster a lifelong love of learning.
Getting Over the Initial Hurdles
1. Establish your home education legally. In the US, each state has different laws and regulations regarding home-school. Before you jump in, research your state's laws and give them the required notice, in addition to making a checklist of future deadlines for yourself (if applicable).
By Apryl Duncan, About.com Guide, adapted
Teaching kids about world cultures helps them appreciate the differences in
people and their traditions. Let’s put down the textbooks and travel around the
globe without ever needing a suitcase, and use our imagination to teach children
about the diversities in our world.
Create a passport
International travel requires a passport, so start this foreign adventure by creating a passport. Show your children the reasons we use a passport and what they look like. Next, help them make a small booklet to serve as their passport. They can later draw, use a sticker, or glue a picture of the country’s flag to “stamp” the pages of their passport as they “travel” from country to country.
Now that they have their passports, they’re ready to travel the world. Print a world map and use pushpins to illustrate where countries are located. Every time you learn about a new country, use another pushpin on your world map.
Study the weather
Kids who live in Ohio won’t have to worry about tropical storms. But where will you find these conditions? How’s the weather in Dubai or Pakistan today? Weather is more than the basics of sun, rain, wind, and snow. Learn about the weather in other countries to give them the full experience of what it’s like for other kids who live there.
Create or wear the types of crafts you would find in different countries. Beadwork, clothing, pottery, origami—the possibilities are endless.
In Bangkok shopping centers, you can buy everything from religious amulets to pet squirrels. Search for jade or haggle for high-tech electronics in Hong Kong’s markets. Look for the horse drawn delivery carts when shopping in Ireland. Use online resources and find pictures and articles to learn about each country’s marketplace.
Cook authentic recipes
What does Japanese or Arab food taste like? What types of food would you find on a typical menu in Germany? Cook authentic recipes together. Find what foods are popular in the country you are studying.
Learn cultural etiquette
What we might do in our home country isn’t necessarily appropriate in other countries. Learning about each culture’s etiquette can be enlightening for everyone. Pointing your feet in Thailand is offensive. Your left hand is considered unclean in Pakistan and India, so pass all food or objects to other people with your right. Learn about cultural etiquette with your child.
Teach the language
Learning a foreign language is fun for kids. Fortunately, we don’t have to know how to speak every single language to teach our kids. Study a country’s official language. Learn basic words in both written and spoken form. Not sure how to pronounce the words? Visit the About.com language labs to hear correct pronunciations.
Teach your children about the history of holidays observed in other countries. When did it begin? Why? How has it changed over the years? For example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom observe Boxing Day. Countries in the Middle East celebrate Eid. These holidays’ traditions include giving money and charitable donations to organizations and people in need.
Courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
William J. Bennett, excerpted from The Educated Child
Nothing stirs stronger passions among educators—or parents and policymakers—than the issue of how children should be taught to read. Which is better for your child, phonics, or the “whole language” approach?
In phonics, children begin by learning the basic sounds represented by letters and combinations of letters; they are then taught to “decode” written words by “sounding them out,” letter by letter and combination by combination (e.g., the difference between the and a).Phonics teachers usually emphasize the single accurate spelling of any word. Lessons often include games, drills, and skill sheets that help youngsters associate the letters with sounds. Students read “decodable” stories containing only words they can sound out using the phonics lessons they’ve learned.
Whole language teachers, on the other hand, generally take the view that phonics drills and stories with phonetically controlled vocabulary turn students off. They hold that children acquire reading skills naturally, much the way they learn to speak. In their view, understanding the relationships between sounds and letters is only one of many ways students can learn to recognize new words, and sound-letter relationships do not necessarily need to be formally taught. Whole language theory says that children learn to read and write best by being immersed in interesting literature, where they learn words in a context they enjoy and understand. Students are encouraged to figure out the meaning of new words using a variety of cues, such as by associating them with accompanying pictures, or looking at the ways they are used in sentences along with more familiar words.
The argument between phonics and whole language advocates has been raging for decades. (“I have seen the devastating effects of whole language instruction on older students,” a Colorado teacher writes, for example. “These students cannot spell or write properly because of years of learning bad habits encouraged by whole language.”) It’s come to be known by some as the “Reading Wars.” Yet many years of experience as well as research by scholars such as Jeanne Chall, Marilyn Adams, and Sandra Stotsky tell us that there really should be no debate at all. The evidence is clear: an effective reading program combines explicit phonics instruction with an immersion in high-quality, interesting reading materials.
This is an important topic, so we want to be clear. Most children get off to a better start learning to read with early, systematic phonics instruction. Therefore, the teaching of these skills should be a vital part of beginning reading programs for most youngsters, and should be in the instructional kit of every primary school teacher. If your child’s teacher doesn’t believe in using—or does not know how to use—phonics instruction as part of reading class, your child may have trouble learning to read proficiently.
Whole language proponents, however, do make a good point. Schools should also offer children intriguing books and wonderful stories. The love of reading, after all, arises not from mastery of decoding techniques but from being able to apply those newly acquired methods to engaging material. Phonics exercises are necessary to help most young children master the letter sounds, but drills and worksheets are not enough. They do nothing to capture the child’s imagination as literature can. All readers, even the youngest, should be given entertaining stories geared to their level.
In this respect, a healthy blend of phonics and whole language makes the most sense. The best primary teachers make phonics a fundamental part of their classrooms, but have at their disposal a whole arsenal of other techniques—and plenty of terrific reading materials. They use both interesting decodable texts and great children’s literature containing vocabulary that is not phonetically controlled.
Some phonics advocates are so enthusiastic that you might erroneously get the impression that phonics is supposed to remain part of English class throughout one’s education. As an explicit part of reading instruction, however, it is something to be taken up very seriously in the earliest years; for most children, it gradually fades into the background by the end of third grade. Learning phonics should be like learning to balance on a bicycle—at first it takes lots of conscious practice, but once mastered is virtually effortless. You want the act of decoding words to become automatic as quickly as possible, freeing your child to focus on meaning and the pleasure of reading.
How do you know if your child’s teacher is paying the right amount of attention to phonics in the earliest grades? Simply put the question to her: Do you teach phonics? If she responds, “No, we don’t stress that,” you may very well have a problem. You need to find out exactly what her instructional philosophy is, and what kind of track record it has.
Even if she nods and says, “Yes, we teach phonics,” it does not tell you how effective a job she’ll do. Outrageous though it is, some primary school teachers have a shaky grip on effective methods of teaching reading. This is rarely because they’re stupid or uncaring, but rather because they’ve passed through a teacher training program or college of education that didn’t do the job properly, or where the professors frown upon the whole notion of phonics. (“I was told by the ‘professionals’ that they didn’t teach phonics because ‘English is not a phonetic language,’” one disconcerted mom reports.)
Furthermore, hearing a teacher say “We teach phonics” does not tell you how much phonics she puts into the mix, or how it’s done. On the one hand, it may mean so much work with thebah, bob, bih, boh, buh sounds that reading turns into a dreary chore. On the other extreme, there are some schools that throw a few token sound-letter games into the lesson plans just so parents will feel assured that their children are “learning phonics.” Schools have discovered that most parents “believe in” phonics—but sometimes teachers are perfunctory about it.
The best strategy is to keep an eye on your child’s progress when the school begins to teach reading, whether in kindergarten or first grade. Take a good look at the materials and assignments. Visit the class one day and observe a reading session. Is there an emphasis on making sure children learn the connections between letters and sounds, through drills, worksheets, word games, questions from the teachers, and entertaining stories that children read?
Even more important, though, is to sit down with your beginning reader on a routine basis to see how and what he’s reading. If he can read more words this week than the week before, if he tries to sound out new words, and if he seems to enjoy spending time with his books, the balance is probably right.
A six-year-old came home from school one day with a note from his teacher in which it was suggested that he be taken out of school as he was “too stupid to learn”. His name: Thomas Alva Edison.
If you have a boy who just can’t learn in your class, don’t despair. He may be a late bloomer. It has now come out that Dr. Wernher von Braun, the missile and satellite expert, flunked math and physics in his early teens.
A boy who was so slow to learn to talk that his parents thought him abnormal & his teachers called him a “misfit”. His classmates avoided him and seldom invited him to play with them. He failed his first college entrance exam at a college in Zurich, Switzerland. A year later he tried again. In time he became world famous as a scientist. His name: Albert Einstein.
A young English boy was called “Carrot Top” by other students & given “little chance of success” by some teachers. He ranked third lowest in class: grade averages for English was 95%, history 85%, mathematics 50%, Latin 30%.
His teacher’s report reads: “The boy is certainly no scholar and has repeated his grade twice. He has also a stubborn streak and is sometimes rebellious in nature. He seems to have little or no understanding of his school work, except in a most mechanical way. At times, he seems almost perverse in his ability to learn. He has not made the most of his opportunities.”
Later, the lad settled down to serious study and soon the world began to hear about Winston Churchill.
Compilation courtesy of TFI. Photo by Sasvasta Chatterjee via Flickr.
Middle school students are getting assigned more and more homework all the time and it is important that they form solid study habits early on. Parents can help them form study skills by supporting and helping their child with homework and other assignments. This can be done by letting your child know that you consider their homework to be important - not just by making them do it, but by participating in the process and doing what you can to help.
Set a Time
Setting a regular time for studying is fundamental for homework success. If other commitments require you to be flexible, plan things a week at a time and keep up with the schedule. Write it down or make a chart for the refrigerator door. Help your child stick to the plan.
Find a Place
Give your child a place of his or her own to do their homework. Make sure there is good light, adequate space and all the materials they will need for projects. The place should be private enough that they can leave things undone and come back to them, without having to clean up the materials at the end of each homework period.
Control the Environment
Make sure there are no distractions. Turn off the television and prohibit telephone calls during homework time. Background music can be helpful, but favorite pop songs are not a good idea. Total isolation may not be a good idea as some children find comfort in the sounds of family life going on around them and actually study better when they are part of things. Listen to your child and observe their behavior at homework time. Try to strike the balance between what they want and what they need in a study environment.
Join in the Fun!
If at all possible, start and maintain a study project of your own. This will help your child see learning as a useful, positive thing with a purpose outside of school. And it will help them to see that school is just a small part of a life-long education over which they will someday have control. If your child sees you sit down to a book each night, they will feel partnership in their own efforts. Also, it will keep you accessible if they have questions or to monitor progress.
Show interest in their school life by asking your child what they are studying. Help them to accept the need to do the things they may not like and get the most out of the things they do enjoy. Find out about your child’s day, what made them happy or what troubled them. As much as possible, get involved in their homework without doing it for them. A little interest from mom and dad goes a long way to forming the good study and homework habits that will serve your child throughout their academic career.
William J. Bennett; book excerpt
All parents have solemn responsibilities for the education of their young, but nowhere are such duties weightier or more difficult than when a child has a disability. If yours does, or if you have observed a worrisome delay in his development, you are surely upset and at least a little bit confused. Some parents in this situation also find themselves feeling angry, guilty, and beleaguered. Here is how Patricia McGill Smith, director of the National Parent Council on Disabilities, describes these reactions:
When parents learn about any difficulty or problem in their child’s development, this information comes as a tremendous blow. The day my child was diagnosed as having a disability, I was devastated—and so confused that I recall little else about those first days other than the heartbreak…. Another parent describes the trauma as “having a knife stuck” in her heart.
Do not despair. You are in a difficult situation, one you did not seek or expect to be in, but much can be done. There are many sources of information and help. Millions of other parents who have trod this rocky road ahead of you are glad to offer guidance, encouragement, and assistance.
The next few pages will introduce you to this complex topic. Educating children with disabilities spans a host of issues, however, and we are able only to touch on a few key points. …
We begin with three general guidelines:
What Is “Special Education”?
The term “special education” means individualized instruction designed to meet the unique needs of students with physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, or learning-related disabilities. In other words, it is education for youngsters who have some sort of problem that hinders their ability to learn successfully in a regular classroom using conventional teaching approaches. There was a time in this country when children with disabilities did not get a good shot at a proper education. That began to change in 1975 (earlier in some states) with passage of federal legislation now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. This law requires school districts to provide “free appropriate public education” to children with disabilities and learning problems.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, about five and a half million children—approximately twelve out of every 100 students—are presently classified as disabled. For example, youngsters who have difficulty seeing, hearing, or walking might be categorized as having an educational disability. So might children with mental retardation, chronic illness, emotional disturbance, brain or spinal cord injury, genetic conditions such as Down syndrome, or serious social maladjustment. The key is that the child’s condition must interfere with his ability to learn.
“Disabilities” come in many different categories, often in combinations. Every youngster is a unique collection of capabilities and limitations. The idea of modern special education is to tailor an education program to the specific needs of a particular child, maximizing his strengths, compensating for (and where possible circumnavigating) his weaknesses. To the greatest degree appropriate to the child, he must be given access to the standard curriculum, helped to attain the academic standards of his school or state, and included in the life and activities of his school.
This can take some doing. If a child has a disability that affects his learning, placing him in a conventional classroom staffed only by a regular teacher may not work well. More is often needed. That may mean speech or occupational therapy, special tutoring, or medical assistance. It may involve physical accommodation (e.g., wheelchair access), special learning tools (e.g., Braille books and computers), or extra help (e.g., a nurse or classroom aide).
All this and more is possible in U.S. schools. Indeed, if your disabled child needs it for his education to succeed, he has a legal right to it, and you have the right to be involved in making these decisions.
Special ed is complicated and fraught with challenges. It is often controversial. (Those extra services, people, and equipment make a dent in the school system’s budget, and the federal and state dollars supplied for these purposes are rarely sufficient to cover the full costs.) From the parent’s standpoint, however, your job is to get the best education you can for your child. And that begins with an accurate evaluation of his situation.
The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, in any one individual will vary according to the age and educational level of that person. The five-year-old who can’t quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can’t match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-four-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person’s life.
The earliest clues involve mostly spoken language. The very first clue to a language (and reading) problem may be delayed language. Once the child begins to speak, look for the following problems:
The preschool years
Kindergarten and first grade
In addition to looking for indications of problems in speaking and reading, here are some indications of strengths to look for and applaud in your child:
Many of these indicate strengths in higher-level thinking processes.
Excerpted and adapted from Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level http://www.readingrockets.org/article/70
Thomas Armstrong, PhD
The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.
These intelligences are:
Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live.
Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled “learning disabled,” “ADD(attention deficit disorder) [sufferers],” or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.
The theory of multiple intelligences proposes a major transformation in the way our schools are run. It suggests that teachers be trained to present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role-play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more. The good news is that the theory of multiple intelligences has grabbed the attention of many educators, … and hundreds of schools are currently using its philosophy to redesign the way it educates children. The bad new is that there are thousands of schools still out there that teach in the same old dull way, through dry lectures, and boring worksheets and textbooks. The challenge is to get this information out to many more teachers, school administrators, and others who work with children, so that each child has the opportunity to learn in ways harmonious with their unique minds.
The theory of multiple intelligences also has strong implications for adult learning and development. Many adults find themselves in jobs that do not make optimal use of their most highly developed intelligences (for example, the highly bodily-kinesthetic individual who is stuck in a linguistic or logical desk job when he or she would be much happier in a job where they could move around, such as a recreational leader, a forest ranger, or physical therapist). The theory of multiple intelligences gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives, examining potentials that they left behind in their childhood (such as a love for art or drama) but now have the opportunity to develop through courses, hobbies, or other programs of self-development.
How to Teach or Learn Anything 8 Different Ways
One of the most remarkable features of the theory of multiple intelligences is how it provides eight different potential pathways to learning. If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning. Whether you are a kindergarten teacher, a graduate school instructor, or an adult learner seeking better ways of pursuing self-study on any subject of interest, the same basic guidelines apply. Whatever you are teaching or learning, see how you might connect it with…
For example, if you’re teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there’s very little supply, your stomach’s demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law.
You don’t have to teach or learn something in all eight ways, just see what the possibilities are, and then decide which particular pathways interest you the most, or seem to be the most effective teaching or learning tools. The theory of multiple intelligences is so intriguing because it expands our horizon of available teaching/learning tools beyond the conventional linguistic and logical methods used in most schools (e.g. lecture, textbooks, writing assignments, formulas, etc.).
To get started, put the topic of whatever you’re interested in teaching or learning about in the center of a blank sheet of paper, and draw eight straight lines or “spokes” radiating out from this topic. Label each line with a different intelligence. Then start brainstorming ideas for teaching or learning that topic and write down ideas next to each intelligence (this is a spatial-linguistic approach of brainstorming; you might want to do this in other ways as well, using a tape-recorder, having a group brainstorming session, etc.). Have fun!
Excerpted from http://thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm.
Toby Leah Bochan
Why extra-curriculars matter
After-school activities benefit your child in ways that might surprise you. According to a recent study by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, children who participate in after-school programs are more engaged in and have a better attitude about learning, perform better academically, and enjoy an increased sense of accomplishment, competence, and self-esteem. Participation also lowers children’s risk of becoming depressed, using drugs and alcohol, and experiencing other behavioral problems.
Extra-curriculars let your child enjoy himself in a fun, stress-free environment, get some exercise, and make friends outside of school. If he shows a special talent, it’s great to nurture that ability through lessons or classes. But don’t think that an early start in anything will lead to a career—remember that most children do not grow up to be professional musicians or athletes. Pushing your child into tons of tennis lessons or dance classes in order to give him a “head start” will most likely lead to him resenting both you and the activity. Give him other options and encourage other interests, so he doesn’t feel an overwhelming pressure to succeed at just one thing.
How to Find
Start your search at your child’s school. Ask his teacher or the principal what options are available there. It’s also important to talk to other parents about what their children are involved in and get recommendations for kid-tested classes and activities.
Also check out community resources such as:
You might also find listings in your phone book under “Child Care.”
How to Choose
After you have an idea of the possibilities, talk with your child about what he’s interested in. Give him some options that complement his interests—an artistic child might enjoy a ceramics class, while a boisterous one can work off energy dancing or playing a vigorous sport. But don’t overlook what might seem like unlikely matches. Shy children often enjoy expressing themselves on stage in a drama class; fidgeters can find a way to focus through martial arts. You can also target specific skills through different activities: music lessons enhance math aptitude, and team sports boost social skills. If your child will attend a daily after-school program, try to select one that offers a variety of activities, including ones that get him on his feet, as well as a quiet area to relax and do schoolwork.
Also consider your family’s schedule when planning extra-curriculars. Will adding an activity adversely affect family time? Will you, a caregiver, or another family member be available to chauffeur your child to and from classes and lessons? If not, consider activities that can be done at home, such as music lessons and crafts, or those that are held at school.
Review the “Grade-by-grade at a glance” (below) for guidelines on how often your child might spend time in an after-school program. But there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and it’s important to watch your child for signs of over-scheduling. In younger children, this most often takes the form of irritability, avoiding eye contact, and tantrums. In older children, look out for mood swings, recurrent sickness such as stomachaches, and complaints about the activities themselves. At any age, if schoolwork begins to suffer, it is time to cut back.
Once you’ve narrowed down the options, visit them while they are in session so you can get a real idea about the environment, the staff, and the program.
When you visit, look for:
Grade-by-grade at a glance
Wondering how many days a week your 2nd grader should be practicing the guitar? Searching for good ideas for after-school programs for your 10 year old? Use the following guidelines to steer your decisions—but remember that you know your child’s maturity and temperament best.
Keep your kindergartener’s after-school life simple and free—one or two after-school activities a week are more than enough. Wait until he’s adjusted to the daily school routine. Then find an extra-curricular that involves his creative and/or physical side, such as an art, dance, or music program.
Balance your 1st grader’s schedule with play dates, playground visits, and one or two days of an after-school activity per week. Best bets are non-competitive sports and other physical activities since this is around the age when your child is starting to get a grip on the abilities of her own body. Plus, after being in school all day, she needs an outlet to play and run. Avoid sports with strict rules. At this age, she needs free reign to make mistakes and not worry about winning and losing.
Get your child involved in choosing extra-curriculars. He’ll probably tell you what he’d like to do anyway! Steer him towards activities that he likes and doesn’t get to do at school, whether it’s sports such as swimming or skating, computers, or art or music lessons. Many kids start learning piano or violin around this age. Make sure your child has at least one or two days free a week for alone time, which he is starting to need to unwind. If after-school activities are starting to interfere with schoolwork or if your child seems stressed, you need to drop an activity or two.
After sitting all day in a classroom, your 3rd grader needs to move and socialize after school. Team sports are a great choice—now she’s old enough to remember and follow rules and can handle losing (though she’s still not ready for anything ultra-competitive). Other good choices are activities that use and develop fine motor skills, such as painting, sewing, or learning to play an instrument. Let her explore different interests but make sure to set aside still-needed family time among the team practices and play dates.
Try to get your 4th grader involved in one or two extra-curricular activities that he is good at and loves doing. It will build confidence and help him manage stress, which is key at this age when cliques and social pressure in school are beginning to build.
Another thing that’s growing is his pile of homework, so make sure he has adequate time to complete his work without having to stay up late. Set limits on seeing friends and activities if he is often crabby and irritable, if his grades drop, if he has trouble sleeping or complains of mysterious illnesses, or if he shows other signs of stress like overeating.
Don’t put too much pressure on him to excel at what should be fun activities. Otherwise he will end up resenting the time he spends doing them instead of playing and exploring. Last, don’t forget family together time is still essential. It may need to be scheduled in so your child understands that it’s important.
Over-scheduling is a problem you and your child will probably face this year. Your 5th grader is full of energy for everything and wants to spend all her time participating in activities and hanging out with friends. To ensure she’s completing her schoolwork and not becoming burnt out, you should make sure she has two free afternoons a week. While you’re at it, block out a once-a-week family time that you and your child stick to so she remembers that family is a priority. She should be guiding her own activity choices, but now is a great time to suggest community service activities like helping senior citizens or young children.
Try to steer your middle-schooler toward activities that reinforce learning and get him away from the TV. On average, middle-schoolers spend an equal amount of time every week watching TV and socializing with friends—about 20-25 hours apiece.
To improve academic performance, encourage your preteen to spend time volunteering, to join school clubs like band, chess, or foreign language clubs, or to sign up for extra-curriculars with a leadership element, such as the school newspaper or student council. It will help him feel more connected to the school community while forging friendships based in common interests and experiences. As always, keep an eye out for signs that he is over-extending himself with after-school commitments. As a general rule, he should be spending fewer than 20 hours a week participating in after-school activities.