A friend asked for advice recently about a second-grader whose final report for the year was a disaster. This came as a surprise, since earlier reports had included only As and Bs. The final report, though, showed no good grades at all – everything was a C or D.
Worse, the teacher provided no information. If you can imagine it, the teacher sent this report card home and walked out the door. The parents and this child were left on their own to try to figure this out.
Maybe it’s easy for you to imagine something like this. Maybe something very similar happened to you.
So now you’re left holding a burst balloon. Your confidence in your child and in her school progress has been completely deflated. What are you supposed to think about this and what should you do over the summer to get the next school year off to a good start?
First, understand your child probably doesn’t know what happened either. She might, if she’s an older child who can reflect back on her performance, on her on-time submission of homework and on her behavior. But younger students – up through elementary school and maybe even in middle school – may really have no clue. So grilling your child about what went wrong will only increase everyone’s anxiety and frustration and really won’t help. Don’t do it.
However, your child probably is just as dismayed as you are. So as you and she look over this report, it’s good to express your puzzlement and to confirm that this is unexpected. You and she both expected better because you know that she’s really a good student. It’s important that your child know you don’t accept this bad report as truly reflective of her performance and that, at worst, this report is a one-time occurrence.
Next, though, you should plan this summer to do a couple things.
First, support your child’s development of “executive processing skills” of listening, sticking with a task, evaluating his own performance, and controlling any impulsivity. These skills are essential to school success. The child who is weak in these areas may have been more scattered in the last months of school, as disruptions like testing, field trips, and so on interrupted the usual school day. Working with your child in chores around the house is the way to support these abilities, but make certain your child is not treated like a mindless drone but is encouraged to figure out how to do things and to evaluate his own success.
Second, support your child’s independent reading during the summer. Remember that all reading is good reading, so reading comic books, non-fiction, magazines, and even the directions on video games is all fine. Read to your child every day, choosing chapter books you both enjoy (for older kids, this can be Sherlock Holmes, for example, and for younger students Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings or whatever else you both think will be fun). Learning through reading becomes more important the higher children get in school, so being able to read unfamiliar words and make sense of complex sentences becomes increasingly important. This sort of skill comes through practice.
Finally, integrate math into everyday activities. Measuring, estimating, calculating and so on are part of ordinary living and usually you just do these actions on your own, in your head. This summer, make your thinking process plain to your child and get him involved in solving problems along with you. Online resources like Mike’s Math Page on Facebook can get both of you busy figuring things out. This is not just about math, of course. It’s about tackling tricky problems, persisting even when things seem hard, and using brain power to solve problems.
Don’t worry about the past, just get busy in the present. And have a great summer!
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.