Building Better Students

                           Gabrielle Grace Photography

                          Gabrielle Grace Photography

As we head into a new school year, it’s important to remember that we, as parents, have a responsibility to help our children become successful students. Whether it’s being proactive when an issue arises, working with them at home to make learning fun, or finding improvement strategies that fit their needs, there are things we can do (and avoid) to help our kids become confident successful students.

Tavia Young, founder of Young Learning, was a teacher for more than a decade.  She now works directly with families to help their children become better students, reach their potential and sort through learning delays and disabilities. According to Tavia, there is SO much we can do to help prepare our children socially, emotionally, and academically for a new school year. You may recall reading Tavia’s tips for Staying Sharp Over Summer Break in the June 12, 2018 edition of The Mom Report. It was a big hit with everyone! We are lucky enough to have her with us once again to educate us on how we can help our children become confident and successful learners.

What is the most common struggle you see in elementary school students and your advice to parents?

The most common struggle is reading (accuracy, fluency, and comprehension) and writing.  If weaknesses arise in early grades (K5 or 1st grade), interventions will most likely help and shouldn’t take too long to notice a change.  If your child’s weaknesses aren’t noticed until 2nd-4th grades, interventions will take longer to work.  If you suspect a problem, follow your instinct and do something about it.  I always tell clients the benefits of psychoeducational evaluations. They are very informative and are completed by a licensed psychologist.   

What is the most common struggle with middle and high school students?

Time management, note taking, and study skills are big problems I see with middle and high school students.  An academic coach or tutor can help with these weaknesses. I always recommend a good student planner and a note taking plan.  I have a note taking/study skills video on my Facebook page that may help.

If you notice your child struggling, what are things you can do at home?

School age kids:  talk to the teacher first (just to get another person’s opinion that spends a lot of time with your child), then call your pediatrician.  Your pediatrician can guide you to a Psychologist if he/she feels a psychoeducational evaluation is needed. A psychoeducational evaluation is worth every penny.  You will learn so much more about your child; their strengths and weaknesses, how he/she learns, recommendations of accommodations (if needed), and any possible diagnoses.

Younger kids: You can provide your children with educational toys to foster a love of learning; books (easy, simple books), puzzles, magnetic board with letters, sorting toys, writing/coloring (fine motor skills), music, etc.  If you feel in your gut that there’s a problem, talk to your pediatrician. Also, keep a close eye on your child’s speech. Articulating certain sounds incorrectly (although it can be super cute) can confuse a child when learning sounds for letters, which then in turn can affect reading development.

If you suspect a problem, follow your instinct and do something about it.
— Tavia Young

On the contrary, if you suspect your child may be ahead, what to do?

Enrichment activities are wonderful.  Do not…do not… have a 6 year old doing things that an 11 year old is doing.  He/she is not developmentally ready for that. If a 6 year old is reading on a 5th grade level, it does not mean that he is ready for those books.  Just because he can read the words of 5th grade leveled books, does not mean he will understand the vocabulary and comprehend what he’s reading.  Read more challenging books for 6 year olds, have your child write their own ending to a book, work on logic puzzles, work on math skills he/she understands, but incorporate them into word problems…there are so many things you can do.

What should a child know before entering kindergarten?

As a kindergarten teacher, I was always pleased when the children could write their name, write the alphabet (preferably lowercase but uppercase is great), name all of their letters, identify at least 20 sounds, write numbers 1-10, and count to 20 aloud.


What are some things parents can do with toddlers that can prepare them for Pre-K and K5?

Here is a quick list of things to consider:

  • Structure – Structure, consistency, and clear expectations are huge for children at this age.  We can help structure our days with little ones (so that time management is easier for them later on) by talking about daily schedules, keeping them consistent, and even having them posted somewhere in the house.  Keep it simple and add pictures if you have a non-reader.

  • Learning Toys – Provide toys that encourage learning like puzzles, lacing blocks, stacking toys, magnetic letters, toy kitchens, etc.  We do not want to fight with our kids to play with certain toys, but we can provide a variety that encourage learning, imaginative play, and fine motor skills.  I also love a good dry erase/chalk/magnetic easel – the possibilities are endless! Feeling desperate for some me time? I also love Leap Frog’s Letter Factory video.  It’s simple and teaches the letters and their sounds!

  • Be Aware – Make sure you are aware of developmental milestones.  Speech and articulation weaknesses are often unnoticed by parents.  If you hear your children mispronouncing words or sounds, talk with your pediatrician.  Articulation problems can change the way our children hear sounds when beginning to read and spell, but can easily be fixed when caught early.

Kellie SmithComment