Parent conferences took place about two months ago at my son’s school, and I thought it would be a breeze. Before the conference, I thought my kindergartener was doing great since we had been doing homework with ease on a daily basis, and he hadn’t shown any major struggles. We had a solid routine at home, and I thought everything was going good. I left the conference feeling a bit overwhelmed after his teacher told me based on the Common Core and district expectations, he was only approaching grade level and was a bit behind in few areas. I did walk out with a daily plan on how I could help him get on track before the end of the school year, but I could not ignore my nerves.
I sat in my car for a few minutes with racing thoughts and emotions. This was the first time I experienced the Common Core first hand. I had read about it and thought that I understood it, however, now that my son was “identified” as being behind I was panicking.
First I acknowledged my thoughts, the testing method seemed unfair to me. I learned that if he makes small mistakes while being tested, the mistakes measure where he stands. It didn’t matter if he could master the task after the mistake. For example, while counting to 100, he could skip number 15. This means he only gets credit for counting up to 15 because he is skipping it. When testing, it does not matter that he could counting up to 100 without excessive mistakes if he skips 15. This did frustrate me a bit at first, but I focused and put a plan into place.
Since the conference date, my son and I have been working much harder. Now, I know what I should have been doing since the start, but I honestly thought he was doing great for being in kindergarten. Times have changed since my eldest was at this level 13 years ago.
Now that the grading metrics are clear, and I know where he stands, it’s game on for us.
I wanted to take an approach where he was motivated for the challenge. I explained to him what our goals were with counting, reading, and writing. I assured him we would work together to meet these goals before the school year ended and that he would be ready for 1st grade so long as we both worked hard. I made clear this was a team effort.
The following day we had our first session. I introduced myself as his Coach. He seemed to be excited by the idea, as he likes baseball and soccer. I set some rules and I explained, my tone may change a little because I am his coach and might seem a little more pushy than the “cuddle mommy” I normally am. He seemed to understand this too. He has played on sports teams and has watched me work out with a personal trainer, who bosses me around even when I am I huffing and puffing.
I explained how on a daily basis we would be doing additional drills before and after homework, this would be like our warm up and cool down. I bought him additional work books, and his Tía bought him several sets of flashcards.
We do warmups with reading and spelling; this was where he is needing the most help. Those sight words have been a challenge, so I quiz him on a set of words daily. I pick three or four words daily; he writes them out five times each, says them, uses them in a sentence and draws a picture to go with each word. Sometimes we use flash cards too. Once the warm up is done, he then starts his homework assignment. I normally give him a ten minute break after the homework assignment.
We end the training session with a math cool down. We do our homework in the kitchen while making dinner, so I have him count out ingredients and pretty much anything safe within reach. We also use adding and subtracting flashcards.
At the end of each day, we read a story, and I invite him to read the words he recognizes in the story. I also ask him questions about the story at the end to make sure he understood the story.
I realize putting a timer on TV and video games is a must. And while in the car we count cars, traffic signs, read signs on businesses, and play I spy. I am constantly looking for opportunities to teach him new things.
Hearing my baby was behind in school was scary at the start, but transitioning that fear into a challenge has made it fun for both of us. He is eager to learn and knows that working together we can definitely get him to and above grade level following our plan at home.
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