Strategies for a Successful School Year
Now is the time to prepare for a new school year by resolving problems that occurred repeatedly last year. Below are some questions to help identify those problem areas:
* Was homework a constant battle?
* Was every morning a picture of pandemonium in getting the children off to school?
* Did extracurricular activities cause academic or family problems?
* Were before- or after-school arrangements satisfactory?
* Was money for lunch, supplies and school trips handled satisfactorily for everyone?
* Did TV-viewing interfere with schoolwork or family life?
* Were your children reluctant to talk about what was happening at school?
Ask your children what areas were trouble spots and work together to resolve these problems.
No matter how prepared children and parents are for the new school year, it is often a stressful time for children who may be anxious about new transitions. Clear your own schedule as much as possible so it will be easier to help your children at this time. Postpone business trips, volunteer meetings and extra projects. Consider freezing a few easy dinners so meal preparation does not add to household tension at this time. (For more tips to make home-cooked meals easier, see Susan Vanden Berg'seasy home-cooked meals fit the schedule and the wallet.)
Question: My third-grader is going to be in a combined class with second-graders. He was specially selected for this class. It will only have 24 students while the regular third grade will have 30 students. I'm wondering about how well he'll be able to achieve in this class.
Answer: Research seems to show that children achieve at about the same levels in combined classes as in single-grade classes. This may be because the children, like your son, are often selected for these classes because of their ability to work independently, motivate themselves, behave appropriately and interact agreeably with others.
Some benefits to combined classes may include a greater development of social skills, more cooperation between classmates, and enhanced leadership skills for the older students. Younger students can benefit from having older students to model.
Parents are often concerned about the amount of individual time their children will receive from the teacher. This is usually the same as in a single-grade class since it is based primarily on class size. Furthermore, combined classes are usually smaller.
The success of a combined class depends greatly on the ability of individual teachers to handle this type of class. It is obviously more work to cover two curricula. The most successful teachers combine teaching as many subjects as possible with extension assignments for the upper grade. At this level, it works especially well with language arts and math. Social studies and science are often taught separately except for common themes.
In a well-thought out program involving the careful selection of students and teachers, combined classes can work well. This is not to say the picture is completely rosy. When teachers teach in a back and forth fashion, each level may not receive sufficient instructional time to learn a subject. When children are not selected carefully, the classes may have students with extremely different academic needs and quite disruptive behavior.
Question: My sister's family is home-schooling their 10-year-old boy. He is a good reader but seems to know far less than other children the same age, particularly in math and social studies. Are there any laws that ensure home-schooled children are receiving a good education? Shouldn't he be taking standardized tests?
Answer: Individual states have their own laws about home schooling. And they definitely are not the same for each state. Some spell out in great detail what must be taught. They may even ask for documentation that these subjects are being taught. Others list a few subjects or have no specific requirements. State laws also vary on whether home-schooled children are required to take standardized tests. North Carolina law requires home-schooling parents to administer an annual standardized test any time during the school year, which must be made available upon request "for inspection" by the state.
If your sister's state doesn't require testing, it will be hard to know if the child is actually working at his grade level. Legal requirements that must be met by home-schooling families are available by state at www.hslda.org, the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
For more on home-schooling legislation in North Carolina, visit the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education at www.ncdnpe.org. Find more local home-schooling resources at Carolina Parent's online education directories available at www.carolinaparent.com.
Question: In some areas, it has become the norm for children to know how to read when they enter kindergarten. Is this expectation reasonable?
Answer: Reading is much like walking and talking. Every child will have his or her own timetable. Of course, early instruction will result in some learning to read. Unfortunately, there are a great number of children who aren't ready to take this step. Many countries delay reading instruction until children are 7.
Expecting all entering kindergartners to read is not reasonable and sets children up for an early failure in school.
Parents can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.