Education – Part 3

Now we will discuss the last, but not least, of the three E’s – Education. (Note: If you haven’t read the previous two posts, I recommend that you do in order to put the three E’s into context.) This post, Education, encompasses the traditional basics of education comprised of the three R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Have you heard the adage, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”? Well, as it relates to parenting, I like to swap the word “planning” for “preparation”. But do know this, if you neglect to prepare your child educationally it will constitute an emergency later on in life – for your family, the community, and society. So the adage becomes. “Lack of preparation on your part will constitute an emergency on my part.” Here are some statistics from the PBS School to Prison Pipeline series to help bring the point home:

  • 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma
  • 40% of students expelled from U.S. schools each year are Black
  • 70% of students involved in “in-school” arrests or referred to law enforcement each year are Black or Latino
  • Black students are three and a half times more likely to be expelled from school than Whites
  • Black and Latino students are twice as likely to not graduate high school as Whites

And this one from The New York Times article about a study on the high rate of imprisonment among drop outs (October 8, 2009)

“About one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates.”

Here’s where I’m going with this – if your child is a good or top student, he is far less likely to be involved in activities that lead to prison and other destructive paths.

Children who are good students get all kinds of positive reinforcement from school (from teachers, administrators, coaches) community, and family which is an incentive to continue to do well. (Caveat – For those parents whose children are being ridiculed by their peers for being top students, you need to teach them how to stand up for themselves or better yet, if you can, move them to a school where achieving is held in high regard by faculty and students. In other words, put them in a school where there are other high achievers.)

A key component for educational success is a desire to be in the school environment. If your child hates school, she probably isn’t going to operate at a high level. There are various reasons why children dislike school. One reason is based on the epigenetic principle of development – if your child doesn’t master a basic concept, he/she is not going to be able to advance to the next level. Who wants to continue to go to school if it reminds them that they are inadequate or unsuccessful in the environment? The PARENTS’ JOB – Make sure that your child is adequately prepared to excel in school.

Below is a timeline of sorts that gives basic rubrics for how to achieve success from grades K-12. Before we get to that, there are two pieces that will facilitate your child’s success that we need to touch upon.

Establish a Routine. Children’s brains become “wired” for learning in infancy. What we do early on in their development impacts how the brain synapses will develop and whether they’ll make more (successful learning) or fewer connections. Establishing a routine or habit of teaching and developing your child from the start makes the process easier for you and easier for the child. If you read to your child at certain times of the day, he/she will come to expect and accept that reading is part of the routine. Also, having scheduled meal times, bed time, etc. helps the child understand and accept (particularly later on when school work and extracurricular activity are required) that there are times for play and times for work. Having a routine facilitates the learning process.

Establish a partnership with teachers. Get to know your child’s teacher well and establish a good rapport from the outset. Make sure that the teacher knows that you are committed to your child’s education and that you can be counted on to hold your child to the highest standards for academic achievement. If problems arise, try to resolve them promptly and in concert with the teacher, counselor, and/or administrator. Be proactive with your child’s education, not reactive. Get involved in the life of the school (PTSA, fundraisers, etc.). If work or other demands make it impossible for you to be involved, it is critical that you maintain communication with the teacher through regularly scheduled visits, phone calls, or email/other written communication.

If your child is in an underperforming school, request a meeting with the principal with the goal of learning about plans and efforts towards improving the school and a timeline for implementing changes. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, talk to other parents and invite them to join with you in advocating for school improvement. Talk to your child’s teachers and let them know that you and other concerned parents are taking steps to improve the school (curriculum, facilities, etc.). Teachers can give you valuable insight and information that may help further your cause as you seek to inform and enlist influential allies (community leaders, school board members, and other elected officials) who can help accomplish your goal.

Facilitating learning at different stages (make adjustments based on your child’s development)

Infancy            Hold, love, and talk to your child (lifelong). It’s never too early to begin reading to him/her.

Ages 1-3          In addition to age-appropriate play/learning games (blocks) etc., read to her/him; sing alphabet songs; introduce letters, numbers and colors.

Ages 4-5          Teach reading/writing using phonics and site words.

Ages 5-7          Mastery of addition and subtraction (ones, tens, and hundreds)

The summer before third grade, introduce multiplication (explain that it’s simply fast addition) and help your child memorize multiplication facts.

Mastery of all the above by third grade means your child is well on her/his way to academic success. Basic reading, writing, and math are the foundation for all higher level academic pursuits. If your child does not have a solid foundation (i.e., mastery), he/she will likely struggle. Conversely, if he has a solid foundation all subsequent learning will be relatively easy.

Every summer throughout their K-12 education, your child should read at least three books. Let her choose the reading selections with your guidance and approval. Summer enrichment programs are great opportunities for academic reinforcement and to meet friends and families who are on the same academic path.

To help your child transition from the summer lull and back into the routine of homework and study, a month before school opens he should spend an hour a day (you can divide the time depending on age) reviewing the core subject lessons from the previous year. Search for websites that offer subject matter workbooks and worksheets for downloading, printing, and online learning activities. A few are below.

Next month we’ll delve into why and how you should Advocate for Your Child.

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