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Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
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Keep Your Child’s Skills Sharp this Summer

June 11, 2014

By Dawn Stevens

A photo of a completed worksheet by Mariana.

Summer vacation is here, and the thought of it brings different reactions from children and parents. Kids look forward to long, lazy days, while parents try to juggle childcare, summer schedules, and jobs.

It’s important that summer vacation be relaxing, recharging, and mentally challenging to your children. Studies show that children lose some skills over the summer vacation if they are not reinforced regularly.

Your child will benefit from the educational and recreational activities offered at many daycare centers. If you have a small, independent daycare or in-home childcare, you can still provide your children these important benefits with a little planning on your part.

As your children finish up school for the year, try to have a conference with their teachers to discuss areas where your children may need additional work. Then, visit your local school supply store for educational workbooks related to your child’s grade. Make sure you browse the store, as there may be fun projects outside the math/English/spelling books you are looking for! (Of course, age-appropriate projects are important for the safety of all.)

When the school year ends, give the kids a few days of vacation before discussing a schedule of activities for the summer months. Depending on other camps, classes, or lessons your child is involved in, you can establish a goal of one hour a day for workbooks and reading. Check your local library to see if they have any summer reading programs available.

By planning ahead, you can make your children’s summer both relaxing and educational, leaving them well prepared when the school bell rings again in the fall!

To get your kids off to a strong start, we made this worksheet for first through third graders to practice their fractions. Download and print it for your kids today!

1. Circle the shapes with the equal parts.

2. How much of this circle is purple? 3. Is this half of an apple or a whole apple?

4. There are 4 people in the Rodriguez family. If Mom cuts one equal piece of pie for each family member, how many pieces of pie are there? 5. If Mom eats a piece of pie, how much is left?

Worksheet illustrated by Libby VanWhy

I want to be involved with my children’s school but don’t speak much English. Is there anything I can do?

May 30, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A empty colorful classroom with green walls, yellow, blue, and red chairs.

Question: My twins are starting kindergarten in the fall at an English-language school. My English is not very good and I’m worried that I won’t be able to communicate with the teachers. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: You are already taking the first step by voicing your concern to us. It’s great that you aren’t letting a potential language barrier get in the way of being involved in your twins’ education.

When you register your children for school, ask the registration person whom you should contact at the school for communication services. Many schools have bilingual staff or funding available for hiring translators for parent-teacher conferences and other times when you need to speak with teachers or administrators. There are other things you can do to stay involved with your twins’ school life, too.

  • Volunteer to help with events at the school. You can help decorate classrooms or the cafeteria before an event, or chaperone a field trip.
  • Take an English language class. If your twins’ school offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, sign up and improve your English. You might be able to better communicate with their teachers.
  • Do what you can. If the school cannot provide a translator when you need to speak with your children’s teacher, draw a picture or use a sign to fill in the words you don’t know in English. The teacher will appreciate that you are involved and trying to communicate with him or her.

These tips will help you make the most of your situation, but be sure to ask the school if they have translation services available when you need to speak with your children’s teacher or administrators.

For more information on preparing for the first day of school and bilingual education, please see the Through Elementary and Middle School book in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.


Find Your Child’s Learning Style

March 12, 2014

By Lorena Villa Parkman

Tweens use magnifying glasses to examine objects.

Helping a child with his or her school chores is usually a challenge for parents. There are many things to address in order to help a child be a well-rounded student: time efficiency, best test-taking strategies, smart study tips, and overall helping your child acquire good academic habits.

But even with all of these skills, your child may still need a head start in school, which you can provide through one simple task: understand how he or she learns.

Figuring out your child’s learning style can make his or her education a better experience. Children have different ways of learning, so when parents know their child's best way to learn, they can help him or her more effectively with homework, tests, and overall academic chores.

Test your child

There are many online resources to determine learning styles. Here are some of the best ones:

Study tips for each learning style

Once your child figures out his or her preferred style, you can create a study plan to help him or her understand concepts better.

Include your child’s counselor or teacher

It would be great if each teacher could adapt to the different learning styles that each of their students have, but in today’s school system that is almost impossible. However, sharing this information with your child’s teacher might be useful.

When you talk to your child’s counselor or teacher, let him or her know about your child’s preferred learning style and how this can be taken into account when assigning homework or tests.

If it turns out that even after you have pinpointed your child’s learning style, none of the study strategies are helping, you may want to rule out a learning disability. Seek help from his or her teachers, school staff, or your healthcare provider in order to eliminate this possibility.

Remember that information and engagement is the key to successful education. Knowing your child’s learning strength before you begin a study or educational strategy is important for his or her progress.


My special needs child is falling behind in school. How can I help?

March 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

F on a test

Question: My daughter is special needs and is falling behind in school. I don’t think she’s getting the extra attention she needs in the classroom. How can I help her succeed?

Answer: With any child, it is important that you as the parent are involved in your daughter’s education. Since she has already been diagnosed as special needs, it is important that you follow up with the school regarding her declining progress. Both public and private schools are required to educate every child who enrolls in them. There are many rules and regulations in place for public and private schools. In either case, to help your school make the best accommodations for your daughter, talk to the administration about adapting your daughter’s curriculum using these five techniques:

  1. Scheduling. The teacher may need to allow your daughter extra time for assignments.
  2. Setting. Your daughter may perform better if she works in a smaller group or one-on-one with her teacher.
  3. Materials. The teacher may need to provide class material in various formats or include extra notes.
  4. Instruction. The teacher may need to reduce the difficulty of assignments or reading requirements.
  5. Student Response. Depending on your daughter’s needs, the teacher may be able to accept her responses in a different format, such as verbally instead of written, or in an outline instead of an essay.

You may also need to speak with the school regarding an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which would provide a different level of special education services. If your child is enrolled in a private school and the above options are not adequate, you will need to speak with your local or state educational agency (LEA or SEA) about further accommodations.

You can learn more about special needs education and an IEP in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, specifically on pages 16-17 in Through Elementary and Middle School and page 23 in Through High School and Beyond.

Do you have a question you would like answered and featured on the site? Submit it here.


Teachers: Energize Your Students!

March 5, 2014

By Bruce Marchiafava

A teacher acts for his students

Of all the times of the school year, the most challenging is the winter months between New Year’s and spring break. Students can become lethargic even though the curriculum intensifies. Teachers may be pressured by the teaching schedule, the administration, even by parents (especially those concerned about their children’s grades for college applications). Under these circumstances, teaching can be difficult and learning may be lagging. What can you do?

First, compare teaching to another occupation: acting. The teacher and the actor are alike in some ways: each performs for an audience on a stage or in front of the room, each tries to communicate information to an audience, and each is responsible for engaging his or her listeners.

Actors are sensitive to their audience, quickly recognizing if they are emotionally engaged or bored. Good actors are exceptionally skilled in catching their audience’s attention. Good teachers need to do the same. One of my favorite bits of advice for both occupations is: if your audience is not listening, reevaluate your approach.

Especially during the winter doldrums, as teachers we must actively engage our students in instructional activities and learning. There are many different strategies to engage students: class discussions, demonstrations, cooperative learning, group projects, hands-on activities, Socratic questioning, and many others. Even lectures can be engaging if done well.

Remember your teachers who were spellbinders, engaging your attention and your mind? Think about what they did to keep your attention. Did they break down complicated topics to an easy-to-discuss level? Did they use humor or extra energy to spice up the material? Try some of those techniques.

By finding new strategies to capture and engage your students’ minds, you can reenergize them. Successful learning is based on the teacher’s mastery of content and his or her presentation. Determine if your students are engaged by looking in their eyes, encouraging their questions, watching their activities, and assessing their products in quizzes, homework, and in other forms.

Parents can also help by making sure their children eat a balanced breakfast in the morning for energy, have a nutritious lunch and snacks, and get enough sleep overnight so they are ready to learn throughout the day.

This month, take a look at what’s happening (or not happening) in your classes. Look for new ways to present the same old lessons. You could energize your students and recharge yourself.

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