Category Archives: Education

Uniforms: The Great Equalizer

Many years ago uniforms were widely added to school dress codes and are mandatory in many areas. Not all schools did this, but there was a clear trend. Many argued for uniforms for valid reasons. Many opposed as well. As a former teacher and parent, I find this topic much more cut and dry than most.

Uniforms have been popular in dress codes over the past few decades.

Uniforms: Socioeconomic Equalizer and Anti-Bully Tool

When uniforms became a new fad, many argued that this type of dress code would help those who cannot afford the newest, coolest clothing. This makes sense to some degree. It’s not easy to buy the most popular brands. Then again, most families in need either accepted donations or purchased sale items which likely cost less than a week’s worth of uniforms. Some families cannot afford to go to the laundromat more than once per week which may mean a child must wear a uniform twice in one week, even if dirty.

If students are good people, being taught to be good citizens by their families, then odds are that bullying is not an issue no matter what others wear each day. Make no mistake, bullying begins at home. When it spreads through schools, you can still go back through the chain to find bullying by one or more families at the start.

On top of that, when a family can only afford a few uniforms, the socioeconomic status is still obvious in the wear and tear or unwashed appearance of the clothing. Bullying can still occur with a uniform dress code in place.

Uniforms: Gang Prevention

Another popular opinion is that without clear markings on clothing, gangs will have less of a foothold in schools. I am thankful that people are concerned about safety in schools. The problem is that gangs are not stupid. They will use hairstyles, tattoos, shoe or sock choices, hairbands, and other ways to show their alliance and gang colors or symbols.

Uniforms: Good for Everyone

The pervasive idea that uniforms are good for everyone is a bit of a generalization. After all, those with sensory issues may very well have negative behavioral reactions to the feeling those polo shirts and collars have. This can cause tardiness, ongoing in class behavior issues, and distractions. On the other hand, children who are raised with love, patience and taught to focus on school will likely not have difficulty moving on from seeing what others wear to do school work.

Uniforms may be comfortable for some students, but not all.

In the end, I found uniforms to stifle creativity of my students and children. I am firmly against using them as a mandatory dress code and encourage others to consider the cons along with the pros. It is easier to teach a student who feels comfortable and happy. This may mean polo shirts and cotton/polyester blend pants or it may mean leggings and a t-shirt. The goal is learning. Don’t let uniforms stand in the way.

 

 

7 Reasons Homeschooling Works and One Reason It’s Tough

 

  1. Flexibility

When a family decides to homeschool, they get to set their schedule. Does mom work the night shift? No problem, homeschool in the morning or afternoon. Does dad have a business trip during the week and you are invited? Awesome! No absentee notes to write and have rejected by the principal because they aren’t sick notes.

Head on out to Boston, New York, or nearly anywhere you’re your wallet can afford. You may even learn something about history, cultures, transportation, architecture, or art while out and about.

  1. Family Time

Because your schedule is not set by the local school, you can decide when you have classes, trips, chores, movie night, and other events. It can be easier to schedule family time when it is convenient rather than in the time left over after dealing with schedules other entities give you.

  1. Developmentally Appropriate Lessons

I hear complaints every day. Either schools are asking students to do things they are not yet ready to understand or schools are giving kids busy work they have already mastered. We can’t blame schools and teachers too much for this. They are stuck. They have many kids and a curriculum which says it is for all, but really has expectations that all students will master the same benchmarks. Sure, teachers scaffold, remediate, and try their hardest, but some kids are ahead or behind the given benchmarks due to their developmental stage.

This means that many come away from public school frustrated because this learning model does not meet everyone’s needs. Homeschool families can choose to work at a student’s developmental stage and build from there. With one on one or small group lessons, such as in a co-op, this is an easier task than in a classroom with 18 or more students.

  1. Time for ESE

There are some fantastic ESE programs at brick and mortar schools for those living with special needs. However, there are also advantages to one on one and small group instruction provided in a home education setting. Students who are easily distracted, are too shy to speak up when they do not understand, or who get lost in the shuffle when there is a large group will benefit from having more attention and help. There is no comparison between an 18 to 1 ratio and a 1 to 1 ratio. There just isn’t. Keep in mind that with less time spent waiting for his turn, your child will have more time to attend therapist and doctor appointments, if needed.

  1. Extracurriculars

Is your child a budding actress? Does your child have an aptitude for baseball? Less time in class waiting on others to complete work or have questions answered equals more time for extracurriculars. Sometimes your local school also allows homeschooled students to join their teams so keep this in mind, too.

  1. Friends

In brick and mortar schools you meet the people who are in class with you. Hopefully, you make friends with them and see each other outside of class, too. After school time is limited, though. During school, your job is to work on academics. You don’t get to practice social skills, navigating friendships with ample time to put towards solving problems.

Homeschool students often have friends of different ages and socioeconomic statutes. They also tend to have more time to devote to getting together, volunteering, and working on social skills such as problem solving

  1. Pursue childhood

Seems like we see articles about recapturing childhood and getting rid of screen-time. One great way to do this is to give your child the gift of time to play and exercise without imposing rules about how they should do this, though safety rules may be needed in some cases. Sure, those who attend brick and mortar schools can do this on weekends and after school. That can definitely work. Homeschoolers can do this, too. They can suspend lessons to enjoy a beautiful day attend a field trip outdoors, or explore a local town.

When It Gets Tough

Homeschooling isn’t without it’s challenges. Personality conflicts may occur between siblings or parent and child. Plus, the time and commitment needed to plan and stick with this schooling model can be overwhelming in some cases. Thankfully, there are online and local support groups which often help for free. There are also bloggers, consultants, and local classes in most areas. The idea is to take a team approach rather than going it alone. Plus, adjusting lessons and activities when you see a need to do so can be beneficial and lower stress.

 

If you would like to discuss homeschool or unschool options, feel free to reach out to me. I receive questions every day and am happy to help. Should you need a more in-depth meeting, reading coaching or lesson writing services, please let me know. I am happy to help. Allow me to put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

 

Misbehavior During Tutoring Sessions? Perfectly Normal.

What To Expect During Tutoring Sessions

I work with many families as a tutor. Most of my clients sought out a tutor due to a special need or because they want assistance in home educating their child. I know that each child is different and each child will have their own strengths and things they are still working to achieve. I want to stress that parents may feel anxiety, but their child’s behaviors and current achievements may be similar to what everyone else is doing, too.

When Your Child Says “NO!”

Your child will probably say no or refuse to participate at one point or another. They may do this often, or rarely. This may be due to illness, a bad mood, or fear of getting it wrong. Also, some children like to control the activities because they feel less anxiety when in control. Don’t worry. We will work on this. We will establish a routine and your child will feel more comfortable with me helping guide activities which are new.

You may see that I change topics or activities if a child is shutting down. This is one way to change the child’s mood and help encourage participation. If we can learn the same information another way, I may try that. I may also come back to the lesson or activity later in the session or later in the year. I won’t skip a topic forever, but I will work with your child to find fun ways to learn the information. We are a team.

When Your Child Is Distracted

Everybody gets distracted. Whether I tutor at your home or a public place, like a library, there will be distractions. Your child may also lose interest. It is rare for anyone, even adults, to have an attention span for long tasks. I will try to keep tasks short and full of academic information. If your child has difficulty with the length of an activity, I may break it up into parts. We may take a break to sing a song, color, or stretch.

I usually set a timer so we use our time to the fullest. This may mean I set a 2-5 minute timer for the break, too. Don’t worry, though, your child is learning about study skills and how to break large or frustrating tasks down into smaller portions. This helps lessen the chance of refusal to participate and enables the child to make similar choices on their own, in the future.

When Your Child Throws Or Hits

There is very little I haven’t seen. I worked as a classroom teacher, have children of my own, and worked in childcare prior to earning my teaching certificate and master’s degree. I have had kids hit, throw things at, bite, yell, and curse at me from time to time. When your child throws or isn’t gentle when handing me a paper or bottle of glue, don’t worry. I will gently, yet firmly, correct the behavior and you are welcome to do the same.

Sometimes kids push, hit, or throw because they feel anxiety over a new situation or difficult subject.

There is a lot of practice in early childhood education. I constantly must remind children to be kind, gentle, and to use words or show me the item they do not have words to explain, yet. I am not offended by your child’s behavior and, depending on your child’s developmental stage, it may be that throwing is part of learning about emotions, self-control, choices, and motor skills.

When Your Child Has Difficulty With Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to movements used to cut with scissors, write with a pencil, and other small muscle motions. Gross motor skills refer to large movements and control of the muscles that allow these movements. Sometimes children have low muscle tone or have a special need which makes them less likely to have control of muscles. When this happens, they may feel pain or frustration when participating in activities such as jumping, climbing, cutting, or writing. Your child may be resistant to these activities to avoid a feeling of failure or potential pain of an activity.

I often break tasks children find challenging into multiple steps with breaks in between. Also, sometimes is becomes necessary to use tablets or computers with keyboards to help students who struggle with writing. If they get stuck on the letter formation part of the task, they will have difficulty with expressing themselves through written word. Another important point is that you can strengthen muscle tone by doing activities that are not writing. I may use tasks which include tweezers and sorting, clay, or similar activities to help with fine motor skills. Sometimes doing something that doesn’t seem academic helps a child feel less anxiety and more interested, though there are still positive outcomes when using the activity.

When Your Child Has Limited Expressive Language Or Is Nonverbal

When I taught in public schools, the common ideal was that even if a child had a special need, the teacher had to find a way to teach and assess understanding. This often meant non-traditional activities, extra lesson planning time, and alternative assessments. One issue that often required a slight deviation from typical lessons and assessments was when a student had limited expressive language, or a limited ability to verbally explain their thoughts.

I encourage parents to work with me so I understand what milestones a child has reached as well as what skills are still being honed. This way, I have a better understanding of what can be done during lessons and assessments to accurately gauge student learning. I am not a big fan of paper and pencil testing, but for those who have limited language, a written test may work best. For younger students, tutor/teacher and parent observation may be best. While these are not the only two options, they give an idea of what can be done to adjust for a student’s needs.

When Your Child Has Limited Receptive Language

Receptive language refers to the ability to understand oral information given in your first language. (English language learners who have a different first language would not be considered low on receptive language for the purposes of diagnosing a special need and may be given different assessments than those for whom English is a first language.) When a student has a low receptive language score, I consider other potential issues such as shyness or refusal to cooperate with the assessor. Sometimes the scores in tests such as these are accurate, sometimes they are not. I often use very basic, one-step instructions for all tasks, whether complicated or not. In addition, repetition is great for all kids, but is imperative for those with low receptive language scores. Predictability and easy to follow processes help.

What Does All This Mean?

There are many other potential issues which may come up during tutoring. Every student is different and deserves attention, patience, and positivity. This may mean that we use activity cards, a specific procedure or order to lessons, or take breaks to get up and move. Don’t worry. The behaviors and choices of your child are most likely something I have seen multiple times.

My job is to work with you and your child.

All I ask is that you work with me, express any concerns or tips you have, and advocate for your child as you already so perfectly do every day. Don’t worry about your child behaving in a way I will dislike. I won’t be offended. I promise. We are a team and it’s all normal.

 

If you would like information about tutoring, homeschool and unschool evaluations, a consultation to discuss mapping out your homeschool year or curriculum writing services, please contact me here or at 407-712-4368. Let me put my experience to work for you!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

English as a Second Language and Homeschool

I recently heard about a local homeschool service provider who was drumming up business by claiming that those who speak English as a second language cannot homeschool their children. This person said that a parent who speaks English as a second language must pay others to provide this service.

This is someone from a small service provider not affiliated with any of the big names in charter or home education. I have left the entity unnamed on purpose. This person also claims that you must teach specific subjects under state law. Again, this is inaccurate information. At this point, I will not encourage clients to seek out this person’s services because preying on homeschool families is unacceptable, in my opinion.

I want to state clearly that any parent or guardian who would like to homeschool their children is welcome to do so under current Florida state law. Speaking English as a second language, or not at all, does not restrict this right.

If you are a parent who would like to homeschool with your child, you need the time, interest, and patience. You can teach subjects in your first language, join a co-op, join a local homeschool report group, use websites and curriculum options with DVDs, or hire a tutor, if you want to do so. This is your choice. It is not required. Remember, many people who speak English as their first language have difficulty with grammar and vocabulary and that doesn’t revoke their right to homeschool or prevent them from learning more about these topics.

The only subject you may want to spend extra time on would be language arts in English. When working on skills, don’t be afraid to learn alongside your child if you teach this subject in a language other than your first language. Many homeschool families learn together. Parents often tell me that they learned more while homeschooling their children in subjects, like science, than they ever did in school when growing up. Homeschooling is a second education for most parents, me included.

It is important for parents to know the law and what can or cannot be done. While I think most service providers have good hearts and want to help, some take advantage of clients. I want to be sure that everyone knows that speaking English as a second language while homeschooling is not against the law in Florida at this time.

 

Helpful Science Websites for Homeschool Families

Every year, homeschool families spend money on curriculum and materials. Here are 5 helpful science websites to help lower those costs just a bit.

  1. Have you ever wondered which bird is making the noise outside your home? Find out using the Macaulay Library from Cornell. Then, consider checking out books from your local library or doing a web search to find out more about the birds local to your neighborhood or state.

2. If your child prefers other types of animals, check out the Sea World collection of sounds               from a variety of animals.

3. Are you working on an astronomy unit? Check out Astronomy for Kids for loads of info about     our universe.

4. The National Math and Science Initiative provides free lesson plans. This site is especially              helpful if your children are heading to middle or high school grade levels.

5. You can find a variety of links and lesson plan information on the Middle School Science blog.     This site is great if you need to see a variety of different ideas before choosing a unit or                 activity.

While these sites can help you get started without breaking the bank, make sure you check out my resource list  for more ideas. Some sites charge money while others are free. Be sure to read all details before you use the sites.

 

If you would like a consultation to discuss mapping out your homeschool year or curriculum writing services, please contact me here or at 407-712-4368.

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

7 Ways to Recharge Your Homeschool

The feeling is all too familiar. The school year is almost over and you feel like you are crawling toward a finish line. Lessons have become monotonous and your kids are less enthusiastic than they were a few months ago. That burnt out feeling is upon you. I totally understand. I think everyone has that feeling from time to time. The question is, how do you get past it? Below are a few ideas that may help.

Are you hitting an end of the year slump?

  1. Take a day or two off. Go on a day trip, relax at home, or visit a local park. This will take the edge off and help relieve some of the tension that was building as you worked hard all year.

 

  1. Consider not focusing so much on a calendar date, but rather in understanding of the information your kids need to know. Remember that everyone learns at a different rate and not every child will know how to read at age 4 or 5 or have a full understanding of algebra in ninth grade. Less pressure can equal more freedom to take risks and be wrong, then learn from the wrong answers.

 

  1. Have your kids choose lessons and activities. You can still guide this process, if needbe, or give rules for what types of things are acceptable. But, consider giving your kids a chance to speak up more often. They might surprise you with what they want to learn.

 

  1. Focus on the positive. Keep a list or jar with all the fantastic things you have accomplished this year. Do the same for the children. List fun trips, interesting facts learned, and skills mastered. Looking back at accomplishments can be the extra push needed to refocus and finish up the task at hand.

 

  1. Take time out with your support system. Go to a mom’s night out, lunch with a friend, or coffee with others who have similar concerns. Chat about your worries or talk about anything but your stress. That’s up to you.

 

  1. Consider donating your time in service of others. Donate time or organize a donations drive. Focusing on the problems others have, and creating solutions for those problems, can help put personal issues into perspective.

 

  1. Education matters, but don’t take every second so seriously that you forget why you are putting in the time and effort to educating little humans. The goal is to help them become productive citizens who care for others. By taking time to be thoughtful, patient, and kind, we encourage these goals in our children.

 

 

Everyone needs a break from time to time. Sometimes in the last leg of the school year “race”, we get tired and that’s okay. Take time to recharge, then finish up your year.

 

If you want more specific information to help with your homeschool or reading instruction roadblock, feel free to contact me for a consultation or at 407-712-4368. Feel free to leave a message if I am with another client. I’m happy to help and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

3 Ways to Teach Handwriting

 

Many times, students have difficulty with handwriting because they have difficulty focusing on the task or due to low muscle tone. Some students may even feel pain when writing for more than a few minutes at a time. This causes an aversion to writing which may last for years.

So, what can you do?

One way to help is to use activities which appeal to the child, but also help strengthen fine motor skills and muscle tone. Check out this link titled Ways to Teach Handwriting Without a Pencil for tips.

Another option is to dive into handwriting without over-doing it.

Try these three ideas to encourage handwriting practice.

Use puzzle pieces, matching sides to plastic eggs, or another similar manipulative. Have your child match the upper and lower case letters, then write them on paper. This is a small amount of writing with breaks in between which may help in cases of low muscle tone or finger pain during writing.

 

Play Write It! Create cards, or purchase cards, with letter shapes on them. You can also do this with sight word cards. Flash a card, then let your child copy the letter shape or word onto paper. For extra moral support, you can also write on your own paper so your child feels less put on the spot. You can add an element of timing this activity, but I encourage you to wait until your child has less frustration with writing before doing this.

 

Take turns. You write a letter shape or word, then your child copies it. Now switch roles. Your child will write the word or letter shape and you will copy it. For extra practice, say the letter sound or the word.

By using activities that are more fun than work, and more about being a team than about dictating a lesson to the child, you are likely to get less resistance and more cooperation. Also, by taking short breaks in between writing letter shapes or words, your child will have time to recuperate a bit if low tone or another fine motor skill issue is present.

 

If you would like to schedule a session to learn more about how to teach reading or writing, please contact me here.

 

 

Step Outside of “The Bubble” – Inclusion Matters

I worked for many years as a public school teacher. I always worked in Title I schools which means that they had a high free and reduced lunch rate indicating a low-income level for a majority of the students who attended the schools. With this label often came behavior issues and other concerns. The job wasn’t easy, but was important. My friends and I would often talk about the schools, especially private or charter, who had this type of socio-economic issue less often. We considered them to be in The Bubble. Some schools were more of an eclectic mixture of people, backgrounds, and income levels. Others were more closed off and likely didn’t even realize it.

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Some of my former colleagues moved to a school in a lovely neighborhood filled with high income housing and 3 to 4 figure incomes. They remarked about how easy it was to get supplies, volunteers, and other resources. They also noted how little the families knew about those with special needs or who lived within a low-income. It was like two different worlds to these colleagues.

I noticed this, too. Sometimes people in The Bubble don’t realize that special needs or not having what you need in life due to income level is a real-life situation every day for many people. I don’t mean to categorize everyone who has plenty of money or a nice home. However, when this cycle of parents in The Bubble raising children in The Bubble continues over and over, it is easy to lose touch with the many, many people not in The Bubble who deal every day with these issues. It’s one of those “you don’t know that you don’t know” situations in many cases.

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The Bubble is about more than the key to a nice home. The Bubble is a place of privilege, away from the stress of other people’s life experiences.

What is “The Bubble”?

The Bubble is a place where privileged folks hang out. It’s more about a comfort zone and state of mind than a place. In The Bubble, you won’t find many people who have a low income or special needs. The Bubble is where you are safe from the unpleasant parts of the human experience. Sounds fabulous, right? The Bubble is a calm, relaxing, lovely place to be. You don’t have to step out of your comfort zone too often and you certainly don’t have to deal with the things that make you feel uncomfortable or sad on a regular basis.

What’s so bad about that?

Here’s the problem. The Bubble isn’t the real world. The Bubble hinders our emotional development and the development of our children. When children attend schools and after school activities in The Bubble, they don’t usually have regular contact with those who have profound differences such as those who are who are living with special needs.

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How will children learn empathy if they don’t see those who struggle and learn to help?

Children need to see differences. They need to work on problem-solving and helping those on their team or in their classroom. Sometimes this may mean physically helping a child who has limited mobility, but other times it means being a cheerleader who urges a friend to try a task until she succeeds. This builds character and empathy.

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What if a child is profoundly disabled?

Though a child may need a carer with them, the child should still be seen and allowed to interact. The Bubble prevents this. By segregating those who are able and those with special needs, we cheat our children out of the chance to help others and emotionally support one another.

But she is noisy and he is messy!

Some children make loud noises or messes due to their special needs. This should not hinder them from typical classrooms or a variety of extracurricular opportunities. The children in The Bubble NEED to see, learn about, and learn to support students with special needs just the same as they would those in The Bubble. Noise, messes, and other differences are no reason to keep someone out of a classroom, school, or extracurricular program.

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Those with special needs that affect attention and distraction will have an opportunity to work on using strategies they have learned to focus and, of course, teachers can give them a quieter space if needed in most cases, too, though this may depend on the school or program facility and staffing specifics.

Real life can be distracting. Our children need to learn that they can ignore these distractions when necessary and help when necessary.

What about the students who are unsafe?

Some students make unsafe choices. This may mean they have a carer with them to help when they become agitated. If a safety plan is in place, and followed, students who are working on making safe, well-thought out, kind choices should absolutely be present in classrooms, even in The Bubble. This allows the student with special needs to learn from those who are typically developing and for those who are considered able and neurotypical to practice setting boundaries, following through on rules and routines, and practice empathy.

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Children grow up to be adults and continue previous cycles.

The Bubble is present in many of our communities. It has perks. However, the downside of The Bubble is that many are not included and children in The Bubble don’t know much about the real world or how to adjust to new and different things. These children grow up to be adults who continue The Bubble by not including others and placing a stigma on those who are different. They may even throw a tantrum when things are not perfect. This sense of entitlement is unacceptable in the real world and hinders the acceptance of those with special needs.

Do we really want to continue this cycle, or is it time to end The Bubble?

The Bubble sounds great. Who wouldn’t like a break from real life? But, we have a responsibility to raise our children outside of The Bubble so they learn empathy, that differences are okay if everyone is safe, and how to handle new or different situations which may slow their day down a bit.

6 Questions to Ask When You Are Choosing a Homeschool Program or Co-op

 

If you homeschool, you may consider joining a program, co-op, or school that partners with you to educate your child. Gone are the days of all homeschool students sitting separately at home with no other options. Today, homeschool students can choose from part day, full day, online, or co-op programs taught by multiple parents, depending on the subject area.

Many times, these options offer free, low cost, or moderately priced courses for students. As programs multiply across the U.S., it is important to ask questions before signing a contract, spending money, or allowing your children to attend a program like this.

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  1. Is the program secular, inclusive, or religious?

A secular program will include religion sometimes, but only as a historical or multicultural topic. An inclusive program may choose to celebrate a variety of multicultural holidays and may also choose to add religious information based on history and multiculturalism into lessons. Neither of these is guaranteed, though, because not all programs encompass all topics. If the program is religious, tenants of the religion may be included. There is, again, no guarantee of this and the program organizer may or may not include history or multicultural studies. It is important for parents to find out exactly what will be taught and from what perspective the lessons come.

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  1. How do the instructors handle discipline issues and is there a set of rules/expectations which is easily understood by students and families?

Discipline is tricky. Every parent and course organizer will have their own ideas about what a wise choice is in the classroom. Be sure your ideals line up with expectations during your child’s time in class. If not, then consider the differences and if they are deal-breakers or something you can accept and work with.

  1. If there is a contract, what are the terms? What happens if these terms are broken?

If there is a contract regarding behavior and/or money, be sure to read it carefully many times before signing. Check into the organizer’s reputation and don’t feel bad asking for references. If the person is new to the job, ask for personal instead of work references, if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions about background, where the program is headed, and other important topics.

  1. Are families required to purchase curricula or other items separately to bring with them to classes?

Find out if there are any fees. Make sure you know about fees on top of basic tuition. Sometimes materials fees, cancellation fees, or other fees find their way into contracts. Having fees is standard in most programs, but you will want to note specific fees, due dates, and be sure you understand your responsibilities before signing a contract.

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  1. What are the backgrounds and certifications, if any, of your staff and parent volunteers? Are they experienced with special needs?

While teaching certification is important to many people, it is not necessarily the only way to prove that you are qualified in a subject area and to work with children. For example, many times artists make great art teachers even without going to college to become a teacher. You may, however, consider being present if your child has special needs or if the program is new. Safety is important. Second to that is your child having fun while also learning. By keeping a consistent set of expectations and understanding student needs, instructors and parents can produce a developmentally appropriate environment where learning is constant.

  1. Find out what type of educational model is being used.

Generally speaking, students need hands-on activities to help them recall information later. This means games, science projects, discussions, books, and other similar tasks. Lectures should be kept to a minimum. Students should have ample time to learn together to separately depending on their needs and the topic. Make sure to ask which educational model is being used (unschool, classical, thematic units, eclectic, etc) and have the organizer explain what a typical day looks like before assuming they see the style of homeschool the same way you do.

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Joining a program, such as a co-op or school, can greatly encourage you and your children to reach higher and learn more. Finding the right program for your child’s needs and family’s beliefs is a large part of the success or failure when joining a program.

Ask questions, be sure you understand what is expected of you and your child, and have fun!

Yes, kids do have to sit and listen all day at school. That’s the problem.

 

Why is sitting at school a problem?

I am often asked why children have such difficulty with focus in after school activities such as homework and extracurricular classes. In years past, early childhood education was mostly social skills, following directions, and practicing basics like how to hold a pencil or use manipulatives in a safe and appropriate manner.

All students, regardless of age, need less seat time and more hands-on learning activities.

Fast forward to the present and you are more likely to see early childhood classrooms utilizing whole group, small group, and individual practice of academic skills. It is rare to see consistent, meaningful social skills practice. Many teachers get creative with how they plan lessons to both please their districts and meet the needs of children. When recess is becoming less common, and removal from recess being used as a punishment for non-violent offenses, we are seeing children leaving school for home or an after-school class only to bounce off walls, chatter with each other as if their lives will end without human interaction, and other behaviors that adults assume to be inappropriate.

But when we break it down and look at a typical day of kindergarten, we see that children do not necessarily have time to practice social skills and interact with one another, which are both human needs, not wants. Children are being made to sit for long periods of time. (No moving from one sitting spot to another is not the same as getting out of the room and exercising or playing with friends and family.)

Here is one sample schedule which is fairly common among kindergarten classrooms.

8 – 8:15 AM Copy work, Pledge of Allegiance, school news

8:15 – 9:45 AM Whole and small group language arts/literacy block of time

9:45-10:15 AM Handwriting/creative writing depending on how far into the year you are

10:15-10:45 AM Lunch

10:45-11:05 AM Recess

11:05-12:05 AM/PM Science/Social Studies block

12:05-12:45 PM Special area classes such as music, PE, art

12:45-1:25 PM  RTI or other similar program for enrichment and interventions

1:25-2:25 PM Math

2:25-2:40 PM Social centers and snack

2:40-2:50 PM get ready for dismissal and leave

As you can see, there is little time for working through social and communication issues in the schedule,. Plus, during social centers teachers are usually working on writing notes home about school events or other things which must be communicated to families which leaves them unable to help students use strategies for appropriate communication and decision-making. Though there is always going to be some variation, that 90-minute literacy block tends to still be the common goal. In addition, RTI or other intervention options must be available in today’s educational model. Keep in mind that there are ESE classes scheduled into the day for some students who have IEPs. These are necessary, but may mean less social skills practice time.

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Yes, students are being made to sit and listen for a large portion of their school day. This is precisely why children are having difficulty paying attention and completing extracurricular activities, even if the children are not over-scheduled.

What can parents do?

You have the right to direct your child’s education. Visit your child’s classroom often. Volunteer, go have lunch, be present and vocal. Teachers have no power to change most of the schedule and expectations, but parents do. Offer suggestions which still help the school meet district and state expectations, but offer relief for students. Demand developmentally appropriate practices in all classrooms. This includes low class sizes, hands-on thematic units, and the limitation of testing, data collection, and canned curriculum choices. Demand social skills free time where your child will have time to both play and work on communicating safely and effectively. This includes how to compromise, not leaving others out, and how to demand safe boundaries which will lower incidences of bullying.

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By offering solutions and volunteering to help, you are offering options. These options may not always be well received, but continue to respectfully share research and your expectations. You are the parent and are looking out for your child’s best interests. Teachers try, but are largely powerless to change the current educational model. Sometimes parents must get involved to make positive change for our children.