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Preparing for your child’s hurried curriculum

For parents who have struggled with their children through any grade, the start of the next school year brings anxiety and fear of both the unknown and the prospect of rehashing the traumatic experiences from the previous year.

 
PRLog - Jul. 31, 2012 - MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Dear Dr. Fournier:

My son is entering the first grade. He ended up with “satisfactory” ratings across the board in Kindergarten, but only with lots of work, tears and struggle – for him and for me.  It was a rough year.  He had homework every night, and he also had to complete at home what he did not finish at school. I know there were children in my son’s class who seemed to be able to sit and do the work, but there were also many who couldn’t. Why has kindergarten turned into so much work, and what can I expect as my child enters first grade?

Ellen B.
Nashville, TN

Dear Ellen,

ASSESSMENT:

For parents who have struggled with their children through any grade, the start of the next school year brings anxiety and fear of both the unknown and the prospect of rehashing the traumatic experiences from the previous year.
Today’s schools have made common the practice of teaching higher grade level skills to younger children, and our kids are the ones to pay the price. They are no longer allowed to develop the skills of attention, planning and task completion according to the benchmarks that show that they are developmentally ready to understand their own work capacity. Instead, they are expected to have these skills already in place, as teachers must increase the amount of time spent on subject matter.
For example, take these characteristics from an actual report card:
·   Can work independently
·   Can work with a group
·   Completes work carefully and neatly
·   Completes work in a reasonable time
·   Seeks help when needed
·   Assumes responsibility
·   Is able to express ideas
These are but a few of the behaviors expected of a child in many four-year kindergarten classrooms, and yet these are characteristics that many adults have yet to develop! Imagine giving a four-year-old a “Needs Improvement” rating on attention span. What needs “improvement” here is not the child, it is the expectations.
Unfortunately, parents and students face ever-increasing demands as the child moves from one grade to the next. Even for children who have the developmental readiness to cope with curriculum challenges, some school transitions are harder than others because of these increased expectations.
WHAT TO DO:

Your child will be making one of the toughest transitions this year – from kindergarten to first grade. But there are equally tough moves ahead, particularly as children reach the middle school years and transition from sixth to seventh grade, and then make the move to high-school expectations between eighth and ninth grade.
Here is are just a few of the expectations you might encounter:
·   Kindergarten to first grade: today’s kindergarteners already are learning content that we learned in first and second grades. Plus, they are learning “school skills,” such as how to stay seated and how to stay on task. As the kindergarten student moves into first grade, those behaviors are expected to be in place.
·   Sixth to seventh grade: Middle school is the transition from learning basic skills to learning how to interpret information. Students entering seventh grade have a major transition as they move into third-level abstractions. For example, sixth-graders study fractions, which they can visualize as “pieces of pie,” but in seventh grade they move on to more abstract decimals and percentages.
·   Eighth to ninth grade: High-school students transition from interpreting to creating, analyzing and synthesizing information. Moving into the ninth grade usually means entering the huge high-school building and reporting to six different “bosses.” Work is totally departmentalized, and students must manage a multiplicity of criteria.
Each of these transitions signals a new situation in which a student’s performance is not based solely on his or her track record. Simply being a year older does not mean the student knows how to do the work or meet the increased expectation.
If you have reason to believe your child will have difficulty with any grade-level transition, go to the teacher – before school begins, if possible – and discuss your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Work to find ways to use your child’s strengths in creative ways to deflate some of the inflated expectations.  If your child continues to bring home “needs improvement” type marks in the first grade, be prepared in parent-teacher conferences to ask what strategies are being used to help your child learn the material he needs to know.  This will often take teachers and administrators by surprise! The intention here is not to pass the buck on to the teacher, but to strategize how you can collaborate on the growth and development of your child.

CONTACT DR. FOURNIER

Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at drfournier@hfhw.net.

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Source:Dr. Yvonne Fournier
Location:Memphis - Tennessee - United States
Industry:Education. Parenting
Tags:parenting, curriculum, homework, school
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