The Christmas season is often hectic. It seems that this time of year has almost become synonymous with busy-ness. Decorating, cooking and baking, shopping, scheduling out holiday events...all wonderful activities that can bring us together with family and friends. Yet all of this hubbub has the potential to drown out the deeper meaning of the season. Sometimes it almost feels challenging to find Jesus in Christmas.
As parents, it's worth asking ourselves, "What are my children learning about Christmas through the way I approach the holiday? What am I communicating, directly and indirectly, about the meaning of Christmas?"
Choosing a school is arguably one of the most important decisions parents make as their children grow from the preschool years into formal schooling. Over the course of a child's K-12 education, they spend thousands and thousands of hours in their school context; it is safe to say that a school has a profound influence on our children. Nowadays, there are so many factors for parents to consider as they seek to make the best schooling choices for their children. For many, there are myriad opportunities--private schools, public schools, and robust homeschooling options.
Many parents associate reading issues such as dyslexia with the first years of formal schooling, Kindergarten, first, and second grades. This is the time when children typically begin systematically learning to read through phonics and high-frequency words, so it stands to reason that this is also the time when reading challenges surface. This is a common misunderstanding of dyslexia; in reality, dyslexia can begin to present itself in preschool-aged students as early as age three. Early identification of and intervention for specific learning challenges can serve to set students up to be successful readers as they progress through their education. And an understanding of how the brain works and what to look for in a child’s literacy development can serve to empower parents (and educators) in supporting a student’s growth as a reader.
[Editor's Note: The following has been adapted from an interview with "The Art of Neighboring" co-author Dave Runyon on the "Navigating Your Child's Education" podcast for parents. Make sure to check out the full conversation here.]
Perhaps you’ve noticed your Kindergartener or first-grader reverse letters and numbers as they write. Maybe you’ve heard your second or third grader consistently struggle to read out loud. Or it may be that you’ve witnessed your elementary schooler face difficulties in reading fluency, spelling, or getting their thoughts out on a page. Which of these are “normal” parts of learning to read and which signs indicate a child may need additional help? What do parents need to know about the reading process and what should they do if they suspect their child is experiencing atypical reading challenges?
It may sound ironic, but the summer months are some of the most important in the school year. You read that correctly: the summer months play a vital role in a student's academic momentum and growth. According to data collected in 2020 through the MAP Growth assessments, students in 3rd to 5th grade lose an average of 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading over the summer months. Young elementary students are also, and perhaps even more so, at risk of suffering the "summer slide" because they are earlier in the development of their academic skills.
[Editor's Note: The following has been adapted from an interview with "The Art of Neighboring" co-author Dave Runyon on the "Navigating Your Child's Education" podcast for parents. Make sure to check out the full conversationhere.]
Periodically throughout a school year, students are required to take some sort of standardized test or tests. A few common tests middle schoolers take in private and public schools are the CoGat tests, MAP tests, and Terra Nova testing. It can be tempting for parents to gravitate towards one of two extremes when it comes to their students' testing and results: apathy or obsession. These tests are certainly important--they provide a glimpse of a student's growth and capabilities, help to guide curriculum planning for schools and districts, and inform classroom teachers of students' areas of strength and opportunities for growth. But they are, by no means, the "end all, be all" of a student's progress, achievement, or growth. Parents who have some understanding of the types of tests their students take and how to interpret their results are better equipped to develop a healthy approach to testing and make informed decisions about their student's education.
In our world today, we can share posts with the click of a button. We can copy a picture from Google images and use it in a variety of ways. There are endless images and words on the internet, and it is all so easily shareable. I don't think that giving appropriate credit for work, ideas, or words is emphasized. For young people, this shareable world is the only one they've known, and this reality presents a particular challenge as they grow into the middle and high school years: plagiarism. That is, using someone else's words or ideas without giving proper credit.
In years past, many high school students and their parents followed a similar script as they planned for college: take the most challenging classes in high school to boost their GPA, be in as many extra-curricular activities as possible, earn the highest ACT or SAT score possible, apply to a college with said score, and get "in" based on the institution's formulaic criteria for admission. While this approach worked for many students to gain admission to colleges and universities in the past, the landscape of college admissions has changed significantly in the last few years.
In 2018, a global study was conducted in several countries around the world to assess the mental health of incoming college freshman. Based on data collected and analyzed in this research project, the American Psychological Association reported that one in three college freshman "report symptoms consistent with a diagnosable mental health disorder." While their findings are alarming, they are not altogether surprising.