Help your child make the grade

PARENTS' CORNER

October 10, 1999

Editor's note: Jerdine Nolen today writes about ways to encourage children to be successful lifelong learners. Her column appears biweekly.

Remember when you were entering third grade? Do you remember your fourth grade teacher? Do you remember what it felt like to leave the elementary school building behind and enter the middle school building for the first time?

Using these memory cues can help parents walk down memory lane and anticipate the challenges facing children at these milestones. Here are some other tips about what occurs at each grade level.

* Kindergarten: Socialization within a larger group, different from the family, half a day, desks aren't usually used, they sit in a big circle on the floor, lots of sharing time.

* First: Socialization and the beginnings of formal learning, it is all day long. They may sit at desks for a good part of the day.

* Second: Socialization and formal learning come together and real learning strides can be made.

* Third: The Great Leap toward independence, becoming aware of themselves on many new and wonderful levels.

* Fourth: Remember the book "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume?

* Fifth: Another huge leap. The last hurrah before they go off into the sunset of middle school.

* Sixth: "I'm a big kid now! ... but not a really big kid, because those eighth graders are much, much bigger!"

Now, consider how your experiences can help guide your children through these first weeks in their new school setting.

* Have patience with your children's fears and worries about entering a new grade/school.

* Give them snapshots of your experiences, if they want to hear it; talk about yourself, show them photographs, etc.

* Talk with friends about concerns you may have for your children; form a support group.

* Make sure your child is rested, fed and prepared for school.

* Make yourself available to meet the staff at your child's school (teacher, principal, guidance counselor, school librarian, cafeteria staff, custodians, etc.).

* Model to your children how you show respect to authority figures.

* Return forms to school in a timely fashion.

* Plan to volunteer in whatever way you can.

* Support the PTA/PTO in whatever ways you can.

* Talk to your child's teacher about their progress.

* Take an active interest in what your child is learning.

* Remember, we are all learners. And, we are all learning, all the time.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" and "Raising Dragons." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education, and has personally field-tested her suggestions on her son and daughter.

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