Our contributing educator this month is Amanda Lehrman, from The Momma Files. If you have a burning question for her we’d love to hear it, just complete the form below. Now on to this month’s questions:
Lauren Gordon from MommyBreakdown.com asks: Two of my three kids are summer babies. It seems that everyone is holding their summer babies back in school and starting kindergarten at age 6 instead of 5. Are there good ways to determine if your child should be held back or sent to school on time?
Yes, there are many ways to determine your child’s readiness level. Does your child like being in a classroom setting (i.e. preschool)? Does he or she follow directions well? How does he or she interact with other children in a social setting? Do they have basic knowledge of letters and numbers? There are many factors that will affect your decision; your child’s educational, social and emotional development should all be considered.
Kindergarten can be overwhelming; the classroom environment itself can be an adjustment. Sharing a communal space, including toys, school supplies and seating can be a unique experience. As a former Kindergarten teacher, those children that had a hard time adjusting to this setting had trouble in school. Not for a lack in their ability, but the adjustment issues served as a distraction which hindered their development. If you have an idea that they will not adjust well, it can be an indicator that they are not ready for formal school. This alone is not a reason to hold them back though it should be considered.
Along with this factor, parents should also take note of their child’s emotional development. School is different than home; they are not with parents or guardians, it is not their home and there are different rules. Something as simple as learning to walk in a line or where to sit in the lunchroom can be difficult for some. Expressing a need for a new pencil or asking a question can be hard for a young child. If your child does not deal with change or separation easily, it can be a sign that they need another year to get ready, to mature. If it takes them time to warm up to a new situation but you are confident that it will happen, you might be more inclined to send them and keep an eye out.
Of course, educational development is a huge factor but I do not believe it is more important than the other ones. Yes, if your child reads, whether in a conventional sense or just opens books and looks at pictures, color, “write”, and identify shapes and numbers, these are great signs. Many of these children want to learn more and quickly come to understand that they are in school for a reason. These children enjoy listening to stories, answering questions and completing projects. Usually, they will adjust to the setting, even if it takes them a few weeks. Their desire to learn will motivate them to adjust a formal school setting faster. In fact, they will thrive on this love of learning and enjoy sitting at a table as much a listening to a read aloud.
The most important thing to remember is that all three of these do not have to be aligned perfectly because no child or situation is perfect! What matters is that you feel they are mature enough to handle being away from you, to problem solve on their own and respect authority. If they are willing to learn, listen to others and try their best, you are good to go. As a former Kindergarten teacher, I would much rather have a student who is still learning letters and numbers, follows directions and gets along well with others than a student who can read and write and cannot handle a classroom setting. I can teach strategies to improve reading development but emotional development is not something you teach, it often just needs time to develop. Be true to yourself and your child and if your instinct is telling you that they are not ready, they probably need more time. If you choose to enter them into school, keep lines of communication open and be honest with your child’s teacher.
Jennifer Oxenford – www.phillyfun4kids.com asks: I have a question about an educator’s opinion on time-outs. I was on the fence about them but lately have been using them more for my 3.5 yr old. Just not sure if they’re really effective in helping change behaviors. Or, do they just create negative feelings in the child. So conflicted on this one…
Answer: Behavior modifications are tricky because they often produce only short-term results for undesirable behavior. In a classroom setting, when I used time outs, the children became desensitized to it. Often, they would say they were sorry just so they could go rejoin the class. They ran away from me so fast it was like they were never sitting down! So, after doing some research, I changed my approach to include an “after time out” portion of the punishment and it became a learning experience instead of a punishment. You can do the same at home. If it is done in a way that will truly help your child understand what they did and why it was wrong, I say go for it. Try this next time. Point out the negative behavior with clear, concise language and give a consequence such as a time out. The next part is the most important. After they are done with the time out, thank them for staying in their time out and express how you would like them to act the next time. Then, practice this situation with them through role-playing. This will help indicate if they truly heard you and understand how to act. It gives them the opportunity to show you what they learned. This turns a “time out” into a learning experience. Unfortunately, it might take until the next incident to see if the learning stuck. If it didn’t, keep trying and you will both get there, I promise! In the end, it will create a safe space for your child to learn something new and hopefully draw less negative feelings. Good luck!
Amanda Lehrman graduated from University at Buffalo with a B.S. in Business Administration and worked in the advertising and online marketing field. After two years, she attended Fordham University and received an M.S.T in Elementary Education. For the first four years of her teaching career, she taught first grade gifted and talented and in her fifth year she taught Kindergarten. After 5 years of classroom teaching, she chose to expand her educational career and became a curriculum consultant for Kaplan K12 Learning Services. After her work with Kaplan, she became a team member of Catapult Learning. She planned professional development for schools in various states and designed programs appropriate with Title 1, Title IIA, ARRA and IDEA guidelines and funding. All of these opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom have inspired her to continue to educate students and share her thirst and passion for knowledge with schools, families and day-care providers. As an educator and mother, she believes that anyone can enhance a child’s education by doing simple, engaging activities that will instill a love of learning that lasts forever. You can read more by Amanda at www.themommafiles.com.
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