Elementary school children experience learning in vastly different ways. Boys and girls develop at different rates and respond to school subjects differently. Yet we as a society tend to impose standard expectations on each year of school, which sometimes can leave you as a parent feeling as if your child lags behind his or her class. How can you be sure? Will your child simply grow out of it? Does your child have some more serious learning issue?
In the elementary school years, students develop what we call the fundamentals – they learn to read, principally at literal comprehension and moving to more advanced forms that involve inference and reflection; they learn to write, first sentences and later fully structured paragraphs; they learn arithmetic and move on to first-level problem solving techniques. If your child has difficulty with any of these areas – meaning he or she cannot meet class proficiency standards – you should consider some type of intervention, either through a tutoring program or perhaps a psycho-educational assessment.
Middle school often challenges parents more than any other stage of educational development, and with good reason – not only will the curriculum demands increase, but puberty begins in earnest and children become independent agents who want to rebel against parental demands. What can a parent reasonably expect of a middle school child? When should a parent take steps to improve performance?
In many ways, middle school sets the table for the rigors of high school. Middle school represents a transition from the more tactile, in-class learning of basics to a tiered system of tracked learning based more on individual ability with a greater emphasis on out-of-class learning. Middle school introduces the foundations of advanced learning – logical and analytical reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving. It also introduces the more competitive grading system. In middle school students tend to find academic labels attached to them or they begin attaching academic labels to themselves, both very critical moments in development. Poor organizational and study skills in middle school can impose a heavy burden once in high school, as can a false sense of competence. Parents need to help their children with structure and routine that fosters success and creativity and independence.
We have found that every middle school student needs some sort of help with transitioning to high school and laying a solid foundation, but how proactive must a parent be? Each child is different, but certain trends appear. Does your child do well in middle school but spend less than thirty minutes a day on homework or independent reading? Does your child struggle in middle school despite working very hard in and out of the classroom? Does your child do homework in a consistent setting conducive to learning and retention? Does your child have any anxiety about school performance? Does your child repeatedly express highly negative feelings about school? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you have cause for serious concern.
Remember: the longer an educational performance issue remains unaddressed into the high school years, the more likely your child will limit his or her opportunities for college, or worse, embed long-term impediments to learning that will limit his or her ability to succeed on a chosen career path.
High school sets the stage not just for college, but for graduate school and for a career. Success or failure in high school does not automatically translate into success or failure in college or in life. However, the poorer one performs in high school, the more limited the opportunities for college and the more difficult the path to a successful career. Conversely, strong academic success in high school cannot guarantee great college choices or success in college.Given that most employers in practically any field at any pay range will expect a college degree or beyond in today’s modern economy, every high school student needs to think seriously about high school success, which means not simply good grades, but developing the vital skills necessary to survive (and hopefully thrive) in college and beyond. In high school, everything counts, so one bad freshman year weighs just as heavily as a bad junior year, if not more, given that it is hard to play catch-up.
We encourage parents to seek comprehensive assistance for the high school child early in the freshman year. We will evaluate your goals, your child’s strengths and needs, and discuss what type of program would assist you in reaching your goals. We encourage you to think beyond the short-term and look to long-term implications, to start with career options and work backward to now. And remember – the longer you wait to intervene, the more your student cannot undo, from grades to SAT and ACT results to applications for college.