Monday, January 18, 2010

Your Child's Having Learning Troubles? Relax and Breathe

Recently, a conscientious mom with five children told me she "held her daughter back a year" from beginning kindergarten due to her little girl's delayed speech and fall birthday.

Please remember: Attitude is everything!

Anyone who has raised children will tell you that all kids come with their own package of challenges, and parents are 3-dimensional humans as well. That's what keeps parenting interesting.

Here's the thing: If you believe your child deserves an extra year to mature before starting school, don't tell people: "I held my child back a year."

Instead say: "I gave my child an extra year at home (or in preschool), so she could be one of the older kids, instead of the youngest in the classroom."

If your child struggles with learning, relax and breathe.Just because society says it's time to read or write or learn a bunch of math concepts doesn't mean all children mature at the same rate. Don't mention the time it's taking for your son or daughter to get it together. Have some fun while you watch skills develop on your child's own timetable.

With picture books, try these ideas. Eventually independent reading skills will come.

  • Read stories together frequently.

  • Play rhyming games and "I Spy" when driving from place to place in the car, waiting in the doctor's office or in line at the grocery store. Besides, making these mundane tasks more fun for everyone, these activities help children to hear and use letter sounds, which helps in learning to read.

  • Point to the words with your index finger as you read the aloud. This will help your child's eyes learn to track from left to right and to start recognizing high frequency words.

  • Ask what your child likes about the pictures. Illustrations make the plot of a story more accessible for the younger set. Where a child may not understand all the language, drawings make story details more clear. Also the pictures can help motivate wiggly kids to stay engaged in a story.

  • Find out what your child thinks will happen next. It doesn't matter whether your child's predictions are right or wrong. Whether guesses are proved or disproved in the following pages, your child's comprehension will improve by leaps and bounds.

  • Ham it up! Read with as much expression as possible to keep the story interesting. You don't have to be a movie star to be a good story teller. Be patient with yourself and remember practice makes better (no such thing as perfect).

  • Pick out fun books to borrow at the library. Most public libraries allow you to read all day if you want to (or for 10 minutes if that's all the time you have), and you can check out books for a month. I recommend writing down the due date on your calendar because borrowing books from the library is only free if you remember to turn them in on time. Believe me. I've learned this the hard way.

  • Go to the bookstore and make it an outing. Barnes and Nobel, Borders, and others have coffee shops inside that sell kid-friendly drinks. Read a couple picture books to your grade schooler in a comfy chair in the children's section. Then choose another book to buy and read aloud in the Starbucks or Seattle's Best over a fruit smoothie or a hot chocolate.

  • Whatever you do, make sure reading is a FUN, POSITIVE experience! - At least at home or with the family.

Some kids have trouble with anything to do with math, but parents can step in to make that journey much for fun and successful, too. Don't tell your child about how you stink at math if the subject never came easy for you either. Instead, do some things to make messing with numbers and patterns fun. You may find that your math skills improve as well.

  • To help with learning how to tell time, ask your child what time it is throughout the day. After you practice this for a while and telling time comes easier, you can start asking second, third and fourth graders how much more time they have to get ready before you have to leave for school or baseball practice, or how much more time there is to play before you have to go home, etc. By third and fourth grade, you can also ask how much time they have already played. - If we got here at 4:04, and now it's 5:15, how much time did you get to play with your friend today?

  • To help with counting or numbers or patterns, set a pile of Fruit Loops, or any food item that comes in various colors, on a plate on the kitchen table for your child to group by color, to make long lines of repeating patters, to count, to add, and to eat (perfect for learning more about subtraction). Even making pictures out of the small pieces helps develop strength and dexterity in the small muscles for writing, so the activity doesn't have to be structured. In other words, if you're making dinner and you can't be there to supervise, don't worry about it.

Remember: Your child will go through lots of phases on the path to maturity. Keep a positive attitude (even when something your child does makes you nervous), do things with your child that make learning FUN, and enjoy the ride!

If you have a fun activity you'd like to share, make sure to leave a comment so that other parents can try it out. :-)


Rick said...

Parents need the training worse than teachers. As an in home tutor I've seen the primary answer to better grades to be punishment and removal of possessions


Trish Wilkinson said...

I agree parents need training, especially as society gets more complicated. My dad used to say, "Anything's easier when you know how to do it." That's why I'm writing the Grade by Grade book.:-)

As a teacher and a parent, I also find punishment and removal of possessions can be effective, but even more so when there is a carrot included with the stick. That is, when there is a reward for good behavior, such as time playing at the park or at a friend's house once the work gets done.