Recently the New York Times published an opinion piece on the benefits of “helicopter parenting” – when parents take a proactive role in helping their children throughout their academic journey. The term “helicopter parenting” has had a negative connotation, mainly because it conjures an image of hyper-anxious, authoritarian parents who won’t let their children just be kids in the hope that their ultra-attentiveness will translate into adulthood success. The reality of helicopter parenting, though, is that it can actually work. Helicopter parents are best described as authoritative, not authoritarian. The key difference between the two is that authoritarian parents demand children do things a specific way, whereas authoritative parents provide a framework for accomplishing tasks well, and allowing their children to experience success within that framework.
If you feel that you may be a helicopter parent, and are wondering if it’s OK, ask yourself: Is my child succeeding and happy about his or her performance in school (most of the time)? If the answer is “yes”, then it frankly doesn’t matter how you characterize that level of support you’re providing. Most students need a high level of support throughout their academic careers, whether from parents, tutors, friends, teachers, or mentors. If the answer to the above question is “no”, then ask yourself: What am I doing that isn’t allowing my child to express his or her individuality, and to make mistakes? Often the best learning experience is making a mistake and learning from it in the context of a positive interaction with a parent.
The New York Times piece referenced an important element of being a helicopter parent, in that to be a proactive, highly-involved and supportive parent, you will be working hard and experiencing moments of heightened stress. The most important thing will be to maintain your own life balance, as that will be the model that your child follows. Don’t forget to take the time to see the big picture, and realize that as long as you and your child are trying your best, you are succeeding.
John Posatko, M.A.Ed.
Director of Education
When children return to school after the winter holidays, they aren’t in school for more than a few weeks before being off again for a couple three-day weekends. These vacations, though merited, interrupt the pace of teaching which may lead to misinterpreting how quickly teachers will move through material during the spring semester. It’s not uncommon for a student who was thinking. “I’ve got this” in January and February to become overwhelmed or fall behind in a matter of days in March or April.
Feeling overwhelmed or falling behind can be prevented by implementing a few strategies now in these early weeks in February. It may feel strange, or even unnecessary, if school has been going smoothly. But if your child is learning material that isn’t easy or you’ve heard his or her teacher is a tough grader, preparing now can make a big difference in how your child experiences school. These strategies also help students who rarely encounter difficulties because they promote responsibility, organization, and attentiveness.
Taking these precautionary steps now will help both you and your child remain calm and feel well prepared to meet any challenges that come with the increased pace of spring semester.
Rachel Fisher, MA
Executive functioning skills are not often explicitly taught in the classroom – time management, organization, study skills, and self-advocacy being the most common. They are crucial for becoming a successful student. Many children gain capacities for these skills over time, with natural development and maturity. Some students, however, need a high level of support to master these crucial skills.
If your child has ADHD, there is a strong possibility that he or she will need your support and a great deal of explicit instruction to master one or more of these. Below are strategies you can start to implement with your child if he or she has ADHD, or needs help with executive functioning skills. Staying on top of your child’s coursework and repeatedly modeling each task is time-consuming and requires patience. If providing this type of support begins to strain your relationship with your child, it may be helpful to have an Academic Manager work with your child on these skills.
If you would like to learn more about ADHD, we recommend the book Outside the Box: Rethinking ADD/ADHD in Children and Adults – a Practical Guide by Thomas Brown, PhD. There is a way forward in helping your child who may have EF challenges, and we are here to help!
John Posatko, M.A.Ed.
Director of Education
The traditional educational model offers lots of benchmarks to measure a student’s progress. These ben
chmarks come in many forms: grades on assignments, performance on tests, mid-semester grades, end of year assessments, etc. Students who struggle in school often fail to achieve high scores or reach these benchmarks at the same time as their peers.
When this happens, it’s easy for a student to measure himself or herself in comparison to peers rather t
han his or her own unique developmental timeline. It can be disheartening to feel like no progress has been made and even lead a student to question whether progress will ever be made.
One of my favorite stories about learning slowly comes from an experience Dr. Franklin shared with me about a former student. This student, a young boy, had become despondent because he was still unable to read well despite receiving twice-weekly formal reading instruction. He told Dr. Franklin that he would never be able to read.
Dr. Franklin pointed to the tree that could be seen from the window. “Is that tree growing,” he asked. The student nodded his head yes. Dr. Franklin’s next question was, “How can you tell?” what followed was a conversation about how trees grow. And, a lesson about how growth is always happening although it’s slow and may not always be readily seen.
Even when students are not achieving the educational benchmarks that have been set for them, they are still growing. And like a tree, not all of their growth is readily visible. We have to trust that with the right nourishment and support, a child will continue to grow and develop on his or her own timeline.
Providing support that helps a child progress:
Rachel Fisher, MA
We typically think of New Year’s resolutions as something to be undertaken only at the start of the year. While the academic year may be underway, this is still a perfect time for students to hit the “reset” button and make resolutions that will help them become better learners. A new year means a new semester for most students, which can also mean new classes, new teachers, and new expectations. Here are some academic and organizational resolutions your child can take up to carry him or her into the second semester feeling confident and prepared.
Of course, with many New Year’s resolutions, the key is accountability and asking for help when needed. If your child has a difficult time activating on any of these resolutions, it can be wise to get the help of an Academic Manager. We all need a little boost now and then.
Director of Education
Transitioning from one school to another mid-year may not be common, but it does happen frequently. It usually happens after a family has been unhappy throughout the fall and feels intuitively that their current school is not a match for their child – whether it’s socially, academically or a combination of both.
Some private, independent schools have space for mid-year transfers. If you are interested in another school, contact the admissions team to see if they have an opening. You’ll want to prepare a little before you reach out. Consider collecting your thoughts about:
Why you are interested in this particular school
Why you did not apply during their standard application/enrollment period
If you would like to explain what is currently not going well for your child, then you will need to explain what you have done to address the problem(s) AND why you think the situation will be different at this school
Another option for a new school environment is home school. The number of children and families choosing home schooling has exploded in recent years. There are a variety of programs to choose from. Some programs provide complete curriculum and teacher access, while others encourage high levels of parent participation.
At Franklin, we understand that sometimes students need a “reset.” It’s okay for schoolwork to be challenging, but school challenges should inspire motivation and curiosity. When challenges exceed a student’s capacities or a student is repeatedly forced into situations that lead to feelings of shame or inferiority, the student is in the wrong learning environment. We offer year-round, rolling admission for K-12 one-on-one schooling, providing the connectivity that leads to educational recovery and progress.
Every student deserves a great spring semester. Sometimes you need to changes schools to make that happen.
Rachel Fisher, MA
While some people like to get a head start, most of us don’t really think about New Year’s resolutions until December 30th or 31st. It’s hard not to look back on the past year as we get ready to usher in the next. Even if you don’t make “resolutions”, taking a little time to consider what you might want to do differently in the year ahead is still productive. Self-reflection positively affects our lives and can lead to the changes that positively affect the lives of those around us.
Here are two exercises to kickstart your reflective thinking. They don’t take long and can be done anywhere.
Reflective Breathing Exercise:
• Close your eyes
• Listen to the sounds around you
• Next, turn your attention toward your breathing (placing a hand on your stomach can help you stay focused)
• Take several breaths with your attention fully focused in this way
• Let your thoughts wander toward the past year and what you would like for the year to come
• Take a few more breaths
• Start listening to the sounds around you again
• Open your eyes slowly
Reflective Writing Exercise:
• Write down a few thoughts about what went well this past year and what didn’t. For the items or situations that didn’t work out well, articulate why. Then, identify reasonable changes you can make that will lead to the outcomes you hope for.
Whether you begin reflecting now or wait until January, here’s to an improved version of ourselves in the 2019.
We’ll resume blogging in the new year. Until then, all of us at Franklin wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!
You do not need extensive training or sophisticated instructional materials to provide your child with excellent reading support. You, as the parent, can help your child stay ahead of his or her reading assignments more easily than you think. Below is a guide on how to create a culture of language in your home, provide hands-on reading instruction, and improve your child’s vocabulary.
The first step in providing reading support is creating a language-rich environment for your child. Make up fun games where you and your child create silly words or sounds for common household items or toys. Use exaggerated sounds and facial expressions. Play like this is nature’s best teaching tool. There are also age-appropriate games you can buy where silly words and noises are encouraged. By doing a quick Amazon or Google search, you can find which games are suited for your child’s age and developmental level.
The next step is to read to your child daily. Aim to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading to or with your child, as long as it’s time well spent and free of conflict or frustration. It’s OK to pick it up another time when your child is in a regulated state. Your child’s frustration threshold for reading will change frequently, and that’s to be expected.
Here are the strategies to best incorporate daily reading into your child’s schedule:
1) Create a calm space for reading
2) Keep in mind the distance between you and your child – when starting out, it’s OK to have your child sitting in your lap, but as he or she grows more independent and self-directed, you may want to allow him or her to read in his or her room alone
3) Select reading material your child will enjoy
4) Make the book relevant to your child
5) Keep reading-together time fun
6) Consider pointing out words
7) Try articles
8) Be a model reader
Many of these strategies come naturally, because they are how we learned to read as children, and they are inherently fun. However, there are some days where it is a struggle to implement any kind of reading, and that is OK. If you remember at times to allow your child to lead the way, you will find that he or she is developing his or her own reading style, choosing his or her own favorite reading materials, and developing his or her own strategies for reading difficult words.
Director of Education
After Thanksgiving, there is a flurry of events at school. There are class parties during the day, and evening concerts and recitals during the week. And, sports tournaments and holiday parties with families and friends on the weekends. It’s a challenging schedule to keep while keeping up with homework, finishing projects, and reviewing for big “end-of-the-semester” tests. You may want to consider giving yourself and your child the gift of kindness when it comes to schoolwork.
This form of kindness is actively helping your child with schoolwork. If your child rarely needs help with schoolwork, he or she may only need a little assistance during this busy season. If your child tends to be anxious, has ADHD or other learning differences, he or she may need a lot of help from you to navigate these few weeks successfully.
Create a comprehensive family calendar that lists every family member’s schedule. If your child is studying for first semester finals, or any unit tests, this calendar will be the only way to know when your child will have time to study and when you will be available to help if needed.
A comprehensive calendar can also help you prepare when your child will be carving time out of an event or car ride to study or do homework. Will specific text books or notebooks be needed? Do you need to pack supplies to make flashcards or have portable chargers ready to keep a laptop running?
While it can be argued that organization and preparation is a student’s responsibility, it won’t hurt to be kind during the chaos of holiday events. In fact, your modeling proactive organization will teach your child your child how to become proactive and organized.
If your schedule prevents you from being able to help as much as needed, you may want to consider having a tutor come to your home. Sometimes that extra layer of support can be just what your child needs, and what helps you remain calm.
As busy as these days and weeks are, they won’t last long. Keep your eyes on the prize of winter vacation – a break from school schedules and (most) schoolwork. Stay kind, and have happy and healthy holidays.
The word “cram” can carry a negative connotation, but many of us have found ourselves staying up late, preparing for a test or project, and performing well as a result. Some of us find it beneficial to be pushed to the limits of what we are comfortable with. Others, however, find it deeply stressful and can even shut down completely when faced with an upcoming deadline. Ideally, a student would prepare consistently over the course of months, but life often gets in the way of that happening. Sometimes the best and only option is to cram!
With the impending end-of-semester finals season approaching, you and your child may be starting to feel the pressure. Perhaps other families have told you about the nightly study rituals their children are undergoing, or maybe your child’s teachers have begun to pass out study guides with mountains of information to prepare for. Some students prepare for finals by pulling late nights, studying alone. Other students respond better to the structure and guidance of an instructor who can help them efficiently navigate the workload.
If your child prefers to work on his or her own, you can help by providing a schedule for not only the studying, but for the actual tests themselves. Post a daily or weekly schedule in the kitchen so that your child is reminded of the specific areas to cover on a consistent basis. Walk through the test day routine, making sure to highlight the importance of a good night’s sleep, and a healthy breakfast. Encourage your child to envision what the test will look like, as he or she is sitting at the desk, and what steps he or she can take to make a best guess on a hard question. If the teachers allow open books or study guides, help your child prepare those, and come up with a fool-proof plan to ensure your child brings them to school on the big day.
This dynamic may be tricky for you to manage, so getting help from an experienced instructor is a great option as well. An instructor can proactively manage all of the scheduling, organization and time management that goes in to studying for a final. An instructor can also help with writing down the formulas, key words, diagrams, and any other aids your child should use to study with, in addition to helping with how to approach each question and how to ask for help.
The earlier you can get started, the better. But, if you are left with only one or two weeks before the test, so it’s paramount to get started as soon as possible. It can be a stressful time of the year, and having someone who is enthusiastic and positive working with your child can lighten the mood of the entire house. Sometimes cramming can be fun!
Director of Education
The first step to promoting good reading skills is providing children a language-rich environment. This is an environment in which parents and other adults actively engage in verbal communication with a child from birth. Even the youngest child benefits from engaging in fun games of mimicking silly sounds and made-up speech. These games are most […]Read more