John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan wrote, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”Incredibly, the school year is already half over. We’re each about to turn the page on a new month and a new year. It’s a great season of life and year to evaluate what’s working, and what’s not working as well as we’d hoped. Nowhere is that act of inquiry more critical than with our educational system. The halfway point of the school year offers an excellent window of opportunity to peer into the development of mind, skills, stress, attitude, and approach that comprise your child’s educational constellation. Here are some suggested questions you could use to make this kind of vital assessment.
- Is actual learning taking place? What new things has your child learned so far this year? This list could include vocabulary words (definition and spelling), music, artistic development, scientific foundations, or higher math skills like fractions, decimals, percentages. In which topics does your child struggle, and in which does he or she excel?
- Have any new aptitudes come to light this year?If so, how can those be encouraged?
- Is your child manifesting signs of stress? Have you noticed changes in eating habits, weight gain or loss, changes in sleeping habits, reluctance or opposition to going to school, attitude changes about doing homework, hopelessness, frustration, negative self-talk? Any or all of these merit your full attention and inquiry.
- Is your child being bullied? Checking their social media regularly for signs of an attack can minimize the chances that things get out of hand. Talk with your child to find out how they feel about what’s happening, and tell them you’ll work together to remedy the situation.Bring any issues to the attention of the school administration.
- What aspects of education are causing a struggle or stress? How can those be addressed with educators and counselors? Document your observations about amounts of homework, the time it takes for your child to complete the assignments, their ability to complete assignments, their stress levels, and areas that need more targeted intervention or different teaching approaches. It can go a long way toward teamwork to also make a point of commending educators for all the things they’re doing well, not just focusing dialog on things that need attention.
- What is your child excited about or passionate about right now? Interests can be quite mercurial and quixotic, so providing reading material, movies, hands-on tools or supplies, lectures or demonstrations, and other validations of your child’s interests are a fleeting opportunity to dignify your child by demonstrating that what’s important to them is also important to you.
- Is your child falling behind, especially in reading, comprehension, and writing? Processing issues such as dyslexia and some sensory integration disorders can take a while to manifest. Now is the time to dialog with educators about getting your child back on track. Children have a small window of time in which to learn to read well, after which they must read well to learn. What programs are available in your school? Advocacy is one of the greatest ways to show love for your child.
I invite you to take this time with your child to encourage them to keep up the good work, while also crafting a plan to address the misfires of your child’s educational system, whether you home-school or your child attends private/public school. Let go of what’s not working, and begin again with a fresh approach. Your child will be glad you did! And stay tuned for my January newsletter, focused on fresh starts and new beginnings!