Alternatives to a Sink-or-Swim Attitude

“Does my children’s schoolwork just look a lot harder than when I was in the same grades or did I just (mercifully) forget how hard it really was? The first half of the year was okay but now they’re both beginning to slip.”

Schools definitely expect much more from students now, beginning in preschool and continuing all the way through high school. While the debate over the pros and cons of increased expectations and earlier mastery of skills is on-going, many are suffering the consequences. Many students are benefiting, but our concern is for the ones for whom the stepped-up pace is out of sync with their natural rhythm of learning.

Many educators and parents view a child’s natural rhythm of learning like riding an ocean wave.  It begins powerful, high and far off, and diminishes in strength the closer it gets to shore. If a student’s motivation or readiness to learn is below what is needed, the prevailing reaction is to wait and see what happens with the next wave. If grades dip, anxiety increases, or avoidance takes hold, just wait. Unlike waves, children who fall behind because of an underlying problem, tend to continue falling behind. Riding the next wave becomes more challenging.

Now the good news. There are plenty of lighthouses, lifeguards, and marine biologists – whatever it takes. Because expectations are so much greater now than in previous generations, we have a heightened duty to keep a watchful eye on changing currents and prevailing winds. If you have noticed a sudden decrease in grades or significant increase in struggling to keep up, the following have each been successful in helping students “stay afloat.”

Action Parents Can Take:

  • Check to make certain your child is not overbooked and there is sufficient time for homework.
  • Make certain your child is getting enough sleep.
  • Set up a successful structure that maximizes attending school on time and on a regular basis.
  • Open up communication with your child’s teachers and encourage your child to do the same.

Action Children Can Take:

  • Write down homework every day.
  • Use a long-term calendar.
  • Study for every class every day, even it is only a 5 minute review.
  • When reading, ask yourself questions.
  • Sit up front.
  • Find a good student to use as a model for your “successful student behavior.”
  • Do extra credit work.

Is More Intensive Intervention Needed?

  • Is this an on-going dilemma that gets worse each year?
  • Does your child have a significant weakness in basic skills?
  • Is weak or varied attention an issue?
  • Have there been, or is there about to be major changes at home?
  • Is there much more success if material is slowed down even a bit?
  • Has your child been absent too much from school?

After exhausting your options without success, it is time to have your child evaluated to get a better handle on what is really going on. An educational evaluation by Total Learning Centers with our school psychologist would help tease out the intermingled issues of academic skills, attention, intelligence, study habits, motivation, etc. Try first what you can by yourself and with the teacher and school counselor. The key is not to wait so long that your child floats out of reach.  Learning to catch the next wave, no matter how big or small, is one important way to prepare today for success tomorrow.

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