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
Thanksgiving arrives next week. And, although what most of us “know” about Thanksgiving is more myth than fact, setting aside a day to express gratitude is a longstanding tradition across many cultures and countries. The process of reflection and expressing gratitude has now been shown to have several health and psychological benefits. Some of which, can specifically benefit students and learning.
One process of reflection encourages students to think about their thinking. This is also called metacognition. Using metacognition as an educational strategy can help students learn to redirect themselves and preempt them from making mistakes they have made in the past. A great example of this is described in Dyscalculia: Unable to Compute in a STEM World, Chapter 10, Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities: Strategies to Succeed in School and Life with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, and Processing Disorders, authored by Daniel Franklin PhD.
Another type of reflection is writing about or discussing a concept or event using the “what, why, how” approach. This approach helps make events and concepts meaningful which in turn promotes comprehension and analytical thinking. To use this approach, first identify a concept or event – the what. Then, encourage your child to explain the why. Why is concept or event meaningful? Feel free to generously offer prompts and suggestions. The goal is to generate ideas and not make a child feel as though he or she is put on the spot. Once the meaning has been identified, discuss or write about what might happen next – how the concept can be applied, how it’s connected to something already learned, or which strategies and techniques can be used in the future, now that this information is known.
Reflection can also be practiced in the “typical Thanksgiving” way by helping children make a list of all of the people and things they are grateful for. In adults, gratitude has been linked to improved brain function, better sleep, greater levels of patience and higher levels of happiness (http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/). It stands to reason that if we are happier and more patient, then our kids will be happier and more patient. And if our kids are happier and more patient, they will be in a better place to learn and retain new information.
At Franklin, we believe all children are capable learners and can be successful students. We are grateful for the opportunity to help and participate in our students’ educations. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Perhaps your child started the year off strongly, turning in all his or her work, getting As on tests and quizzes, and confidently informing you of how this class was under control. Or, maybe your child had a few stumbles out of the gate, and bombed a test or quiz, but you wanted to give him or her an opportunity to figure it out and steer the ship back to course. Regardless, it’s November, and what should you do if your child’s progress report is showing a B-/C+, or worse?
The good news is that it’s never too late to get your child academic support, and frankly the sooner, the better. Whether it’s because of difficulty with specific concepts, a change in the pacing of the class, or extracurricular demands putting added stress on your child’s schedule, he or she would benefit greatly from working with an experienced instructor.
Even if your child is maintaining a good grade, this can be a perfect time to address overall organization, time management and study skills as you approach the end of the semester. Often there are applications, school events and major projects due around the same time, and a combination of any of those factors can throw even the most prepared students for a loop. By proactively addressing those executive functions, you can help your child remain stress free going into the holidays.
Director of Education
Whether your child will be going straight into a four-year university, attending a junior college, taking a gap year, or entering the workforce, life after high school opens up considerably. The extended freedoms are understandably exciting for the kids, but can easily become anxiety-producing, even down-right scary, for parents.
Feeling confident about your child leaving the nest is often about your confidence in your child’s ability to overcome challenges and fulfill his or her responsibilities. Young adults living outside their parents’ homes encounter numerous responsibilities. Does your child have the resources and capacities to fulfill them?
If your child has struggled in school or has slowly emerging executive functioning skills, you may want to consider putting together transition team. A transition team typically consists of the young adult, his or her parents, the clinicians and educators who have worked with the young adult in the past and the clinicians and educators who will be working with young adult in the upcoming year.
Working together, identify your child’s goals for the year ahead, how they will be met, and a game plan in the event a problem occurs. Sometimes, this security net is all a young adult needs to move forward. Sometimes, transition teams meet a few times each semester or year to adjust things like the daily schedule, coursework, or living arrangements. Transition teams also address life skills like budgeting and social outreach.
Franklin approaches a student’s transition to life after high school in a highly collaborative way. Working with a cadre of professionals, each Franklin transition student receives thoughtful, individualized mentoring to address his or her social, emotional and learning needs.
Building a support group of friends and family to help you adjust to your child’s life after school, will help you feel more supported. Establishing a transition team for child should make the entire process less scary for you and your child.
If you are making the rounds on the open house circuit to check out potential new schools for your child, you may be wondering how you can tell which school will be right for your child. When I sit down with families seeking school placement support, I offer the following reminders:
Can the school meet your child’s learning needs? If your child routinely does well in school with a moderate amount of effort and no accommodations, you should be good to go. If, however, your child invests a significant amount of time on studying and homework to earn low B’s or C’s, there may be a mismatch in how material has been taught and your child’s ability to learn. Do the school’s you’re considering have programs in place to help struggling learners? Do they have resource specialists on-site? Will they welcome working with outside tutors or specialists?
Look past a dynamic Head of School, popular teacher, or beautiful campus. When you choose a new school, you are choosing a community. This is where your child will be growing up. Look at the teachers and families overall. Are they like-minded to you? These are the children you’ll be bringing home for playdates and the homes your child will be going to for study groups and hanging out. Does it feel right? If you are not sure, but still love the school, you can still choose it. Just make sure to prepare for the possibility that your child may not find strong social connections at school. If that happens, you can supplement social opportunities after school – think club sports, art and drama classes, and youth groups.
Are you ready to drive? If you are considering a private school, where do its students hale from? Usually, independent school families live further away from the school and wider apart from each other than your public school counterparts. Can you commit to transporting your child to and from school when he or she needs to arrive early and stay late? Can you commit to bringing your child to friends’ houses after school and on the weekends? If you are unsure, you may want to reconsider your options.
Choosing your child’s school is not only an educational decision; it is a lifestyle choice. Each school has advantages and disadvantages. Recognize the strengths and plan for how you might handle the potential challenges. Identify the community you want to join. Taking these steps will help you narrow your applications. And ultimately, you will be well-positioned to choose a school you’ll be happy with for years to come.
Rachel Fisher, MA
At this time of the year, as we approach mid-term report cards, we recommend checking in with your child’s teachers. Those back-to-school night invitations to “email or call with any questions, comments or concerns” should be taken seriously; however, is there a “right or wrong” way to check in with your child’s teachers? Is there a way to improve your chances of getting the response you want?
Just like teachers are told to give as much positive feedback as critique of a student’s work, include equal parts of positivity and for any concerns you’d like to address when you speak with your child’s teacher. If you only use terms that convey confusion, concern, or especially anger, the teacher will be on the defensive. Additionally, it’s hard to convey tone in an email, and it is always recommended to schedule face-to-face meetings whenever possible.
If your child is doing well or receiving scores that are appropriate for the amount of effort that you see him or her putting in, then a brief message of support and kindness to the teacher is all that is needed and will be appreciated. Here is a sample email or letter you could send:
“Good morning Mrs. Hardy,
I hope you’re doing well. I just wanted to check in and let you know that Gabrielle loves your class and is excited about the upcoming quarter. Thank you for the thoughtful response to her latest essay on George Orwell. She took those notes to heart! Please let me know if there is anything we can do to prepare for the upcoming unit on Shakespeare.”
However, if your child is getting low scores, or you have a concern that there are gaps in understanding, or perhaps a miscommunication with a teacher, it is best to address those concerns and schedule a face-to-face meeting right away. Moreover, “concern” here can be rephrased as “proactive goal-setting”. Keep the note brief and ultimately positive as well:
“Good morning Mrs. Hardy,
I hope you’re doing well. I’m writing to let you know that we are aware of Gabrielle’s “C” in your class, and I’m eager to discuss how we can better help prepare her for success. I’m especially concerned about the low test scores, and would like to know if there are any test-prep strategies you recommend. Please let me know if you have 30 minutes to meet with me and Gabrielle in person over the next week. We really appreciate your help.
Either way, teachers appreciate hearing from parents. Your effort to communicate will show that there is buy-in and support at home. Teachers who have large classes of students may not have the time to reach out to every parent to let him or her know what is really going on in class. By extending a hand, you can help your child get ahead of any upcoming hurdles, or simply show that you see the good work his or her teacher is doing.
Director of Education
If your child is applying to attend a private middle or high school next fall, you are probably in the middle of Open Houses, application essays, and helping your child prepare to take either the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE), Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT), or the High School Placement Test (HSPT). Here are a few tips to helping your child prepare for standardized tests:
Most students register for the December tests, but some schools will accept tests taken in early January. Give your child as much time as possible to prepare for his or her entrance exams. And, don’t forget to be yourself in your applications. The match between your child, your family, and your school should be an authentic one. Good luck completing your applications and good luck to your children on the tests.
Rachel Fisher, MA
By this time in the school year, your child may have received his or her first progress report. Perhaps it’s lower than you thought it would be. Or maybe now that the semester is underway, and the pace of instruction has picked up, your child is starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Should you be concerned at this point, is there something you can address with the school, or is it simply a matter of working out the kinks at the beginning of the school year?
The key to determining whether or not your child needs a tutor at this point is figuring out the difference between your child’s expectations for each subject versus what he or she is actually experiencing. It’s time to sit down and have a heart to heart with your child.
If your child is struggling in a class that he or she usually performs well in, then it may be a matter of getting used to a new teacher’s style, or perhaps there is a steeper learning curve with some of the class content. Some subjects, like English or History, have a somewhat natural progression of themes and skills that are easier to anticipate and prepare for. As a result, perhaps a tactful email to teacher to introduce yourself and to set up an in-person meeting would be enough to understand what your child may be overlooking.
With other subjects, like Geometry, a transition at the beginning of the year can be jarringly different from last year’s subject, and may require a wholly different approach. Even if your child has the best teachers, it is sometimes necessary to provide him or her with after-school support in the form of an engaged, knowledgeable tutor.
The good news is that if you can start your child with a tutor at this point in the year, many of these concerns can be addressed without low grades impacting your child’s transcript. A good tutor can present the material in a different way, help to figure out a new teacher’s style, and proactively anticipate what will be coming up for each class.
If you and your child sit down and talk about what is happening at school, and really open up the expectations versus reality conversation, you will be able to figure out the level of support your child will benefit from throughout the school year.
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