Starting first grade is an exciting event for children, and a bittersweet one for parents. It means that your child has graduated from the throws of pre-school and is entering an academic world where they will be the youngest amongst older kids, have more educational demands upon them and will start learning the responsibility process associated with the higher levels of education. Up until this point, the main goal of school has largely been socialization with the hopeful expectation of learning the ABC’s, and 123’s along the way.
Looking back, it is amazing to see just how much your child has learned. Most children upon entering 1st grade are reading sight words, can write their names fairly legibly, and are entering a very exciting phase of learning. At this point, they still want to learn and the lessons are power packed with fun, hand on activities that fuel their desire to soak it all up. As a parent, you will also find that your involvement in the classroom – once welcomed and invited daily, will be less so. The teachers are not only working hard to teach your children everything they will need to know to make it to 2nd grade, but also enabling them to stand on their own two feet, without the constant intervention of parental hugs and softness. This transition can be tough. Just a few months ago, you were a partner in their education and suddenly – an over presence invades their space and stymies their advancement.
If your child is starting first grade, perhaps the most obvious transition you will notice is the workload. A lot of research has gone into formulating grade appropriate curriculums and around the 1st grade year, they start becoming fast moving and extremely challenging. A decade ago, 1st graders were not learning the mathematical skills or expected to achieve reading levels that are expected of them today. If you look at the curriculum, you will be surprised just how much they will be expected to learn in a year.
One of the things that can make starting first grade difficult is the newly introduced pace of learning. Last year, they learned a letter a week but this year they are learning 5 letters a day and making words out of those letters to form sentences. The pressure can be difficult on your child at first. The bulk of first graders also come home with at least one hour of homework per night, which often includes reading chapter books or participating in Accelerated Reading programs that will quickly expand your child’s reading capabilities. It is vital as a parent, to ensure that your child does their homework and that they are able to achieve the expectation of reading placed upon them.
If you feel your child is falling behind or is overly stressed by the pace and levels of education, you should contact your teacher immediately. Many students perform academic work during school completely differently than they do at home. However, set up a conference with the teacher so you can see some of their work and get your teacher’s opinion on where they seed in the classroom. If your child is at the bottom of the barrel, make a push for entering them in Early Intervention Programs (EIP) available at your school. One of the benefits to having your child in the EIP program at their school rather than seeking outside tutoring, is that the teachers will be able to design help in the exact areas where they are struggling, and within the state guidelines or regulations for your district. Another benefit to EIP is that your child will receive one on one attention and be in a group of students that is much smaller, where they may feel more confident and successful. Truly, it is the parent’s responsibility at home to take notice of any struggles your child might be having.
Gauging how well your child will do by looking at their kindergarten achievements is not always the best way to handle things. Statistics indicate that boys, whose birthdays make them one of the youngest in their grade, often fall behind the quickest due to issues with development and maturity. Each parent must take a realistic look at their child in comparison to others, and take their age into consideration. If your child is the youngest, and you feel that they may struggle – holding them back may be an option at the end of the year. Consider that often a child’s confidence and self-esteem as it pertains to their academic success is often measured by their place in the classroom, compared to other students. Waiting one year can make a massive difference in your child’s life. If a teacher suggests holding your child back, rather than take offense – remain willing to put your child’s best interests first.
Starting first grade is fun. During this all-important year, it is a good idea to help your child develop study habits that will help throughout their educational career. Make sure you spend ample time reading with your child, as this is one of the most important skill sets they will be achieving during this school year. Picking out books interesting to your child will help them want to read. Don’t forget that reading to your child out loud, pointing to words along the way, and using positive reinforcement will help your child excel at school. Try to allow your child to walk away from you a bit during school, but develop a good repore with your child’s teacher that invites communication and participation. Just because your child is in elementary school now, doesn’t mean they don’t need you. But realize that they also need to learn to count on themselves and be responsible for remembering things, doing their work, and participating fully in the learning process. When this is coupled with positive parental reinforcement and expectation, most children will find this year exciting and full of educational opportunity that makes them love school.