We are exiting what many professionals call, “The Honeymoon Period” of the school year. That means that students are starting to feel disillusioned that this school year will be any better than the last, parents have stepped away thinking their kids are doing fine, and teachers are starting to increase the challenges in the classroom. Although the year started out well, it is quickly going south. Your child’s school may have already sent out or may be coming out with a “Progress Report” in the next week or so. Despite your child telling you that they are doing “fine” in school, this is often the first indication that this isn’t the case. So, what should you do to help your child?
At home, you can implement the following steps:
- Check your child’s planner, nightly, to make sure that homework is written down.
- Ask to see each piece of completed homework. Your child may protest and say they are “done” with it if you don’t require them to show it to you.
- Spot check a few problems or questions for correctness.
- If you notice errors, look more carefully at the work.
- Review difficult concepts before it is too late (well before a test).
- Praise your child for completed assignments and filling out his or her planner in detail.
- When your child has a long-term assignment, help him or her break it up into manageable pieces and write those pieces into the planner.
- When your child has a test, break concepts to study up into manageable pieces, write the study plan in the planner, and help your child study by quizzing him or her in the car on the way to and from activities.
- Check your child’s grades at least once a week if they are published online. It may be particularly useful to do this on a Thursday so that incomplete work can be gathered on a Friday and completed over the weekend.
- Contact your child’s teacher and set up a conference if you notice him or her having problems in certain content areas (math, writing, etc.). Primary grade parents may attend the conference alone, upper grade and middle school parents should bring their child with them, and high school students should feel comfortable talking with the teacher alone or be the main participant in a conference with parents.
If you are doing all that you can to support your child at home, you may need to enlist the help of a professional. Many parents hire a “tutor” without really knowing the skills that different types of educational professionals can offer.
- A “homework helper” may be an older student (for example, a high school student helping a 5th grader) who helps complete nightly or weekly assignments. A homework helper can be a trusted family friend or neighbor. Often, these students provide the motivation and support to encourage a child who isn’t completing assignments because they seem too overwhelming or difficult. Most parents can fill this role when their child becomes confused or unfocused, but some may find it helpful to have this kind of support. This kind of help may reduce the stress of the evening for the family.
- A “tutor” may be a high school or college student with expertise in a particular subject area. For example, a tutor may be a biology major that is able to explain concepts to a middle or high school student. Tutors are very helpful if the child doesn’t understand the concepts associated with a particular subject. Tutors do not usually have experience “teaching” subjects to students with different learning needs. You may be able to find a tutor through your child’s teacher, school district, or online. Tutoring centers typically have set programs that students use to gain skills. These programs do not typically take individual learning strengths and needs into account.
- An “educational therapist” specializes in learning disabilities or behavioral problems that may be impeding learning. Many hold their teaching credentials. An educational therapist has been trained in the nuances of specific disabilities and in programs that will help your child fill the “gaps” in learning that he or she may have. Most focus on strengthening the skills that the child needs to be able to keep up with content in the classroom. The goal of an educational therapist is to build on your child’s strengths and create coping mechanisms for weaknesses. The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions has educational therapists that specialize in teaching reading, writing, and math to students diagnosed with Executive Function deficits, giftedness, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other common learning disabilities. He or she will also work closely with you to create a positive learning environment at home and with your child’s teacher to monitor progress in content areas.
Before choosing the kind of help that your child needs, be sure you think about the kinds of support that you have tried in the past (for example, if you tried a tutor before and it didn’t help, you may need an educational therapist). Talk to your child’s teacher about the kinds of issues that he or she sees in the class. Ask for references, as well.