Ask the Teacher

The last few days of school always seem like such a waste of time. I am thinking of getting an early start on our vacation to beat the crowds. Would missing those final days be that big of a deal?

Although the last few days of school are not typically filled with new concepts or academic rigor, there are activities that are meaningful for students in other ways. Reflection on the past school year is very valuable; it is important that students of all ages learn to look back and recognize what they have learned over the course of the school year, even if it is in a general way. But that is not the greatest good that comes from those last days.

Having kids celebrate achievements of the year, remember experiences shared with classmates and appreciate friendships that have formed are more than just being nostalgic; they help reinforce community and camaraderie and strengthen student values of ethics and hard work. Skipping the last few days of school is like leaving a movie five minutes before it is over! Let your child wrap up the year with his or her classmates – the end of a school year is an important milestone that should be recognized.

Our oldest child turns 5 this summer and we are moving to a new state. How do we know if he is ready for kindergarten?

If you and your pediatrician have watched your child progress on track physically, socially and emotionally, he is very likely ready for kindergarten. If he is hopping and jumping, holding a pencil/crayons and cutting with scissors, and managing his own bathroom needs, your son is physically ready. Listening to stories, being attentive for short periods, knowing general times of day, understanding basic expectations of behavior, and recognizing the causes and effects that result from his actions are all indicators of social readiness. Emotionally, your child should be able to separate comfortably from you and respond to changes in routine without becoming upset.

Expectations for academic skills upon entry into kindergarten vary a great deal among schools. Visit your new school’s website for a checklist or schedule a consult with a kindergarten teacher. Some kindergartens receive children with very little academic development, but others expect children to have mastered the alphabet as well as the phonetic sounds associated with letters and to understand some basic mathematical concepts. If you recognize a significant gap in what your son knows and what the starting point is at his future school, think about waiting for a year to enroll him. Providing exposure in those areas where he may be lacking might be in his best interest long-term.

 My third-grade daughter does not seem to appreciate anything. What can I do to help her be grateful not only what she has, but for the people in her life?

Learning not to take things for granted and to be grateful requires a mature perspective. To help your daughter develop a more appreciative outlook, begin by recognizing themes of gratitude – and lack of gratitude – that are around her in stories, books, movies and television. Keep the conversation light to invite discussion rather than fuel a lecture. For instance, in a story of someone’s success, rather than list off a litany of factors for which the character should be grateful, ask an open-ended question such as, “What contributed to this person’s success beyond her own effort?” or “Would this have happened if so-and-so had not supported her?” Hearing her observations and thoughts will give you some insight into how to help her see parallels in her own life.

Model gratitude at home and in public. Offer her a genuine “thank you” for simple kindnesses like carrying in a bag of groceries, helping with dinner or making her bed. Talk about situations in which you feel grateful for others, for example, a co-worker’s help during your work day, your sister’s support in a frustrating moment, or a neighbor’s gesture of bringing up your trash cans on a rainy day. When at a restaurant, thank wait and bus staff kindly and talk with her about the challenges of their work. You might even encourage her to leave a thank you note at the table to make someone’s day. Thank the clerk at the store or the fast food chain with more than an offhand “thanks” by mentioning something specific like, “I appreciate your cheerful attitude today” or “Thanks so much for your patience when I changed my mind about my order.” Allow her to see how people lift one another up through simple acts of thoughtfulness and how it can have a ripple effect on others.

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