Back-to-School Thoughts: The Elementary Years

I started blogging when my daughters were well past their preschool years and I don’t often write about parenting subjects. While I am a mom who blogs, I’ve never considered myself to be a “mommy blogger.”

Abacus

After last week’s post about what I wish someone would have said to me during a particularly grueling season of motherhood, though, it seemed to make sense to continue this theme a bit longer.

You see, now that both my girls have graduated from elementary school, my perspective about those active years is a little different than it used to be. So today, I share the following nine thoughts about this stage of life that have been culled directly from my own experience as a public-school mom.

• Knowing math facts is a life skill. Children need to learn them, and sometimes, that process takes a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the parents. Case in point: Lilly learned all her basic fact families by doing timed, written quizzes at home. Once she was able to do 24 problems of every set in a minute or less, she earned a small prize and moved on to the next set. She memorizes things easily and was highly motivated by little trinkets, so this strategy worked well for her.

Molly, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about prizes, does not enjoy the pressure of timed tests and did not find flashcards to be overly helpful. She finally learned her facts by using IXL.com, a wonderful educational website that clearly tracks students’ progress.

Bottom line? Kids need to learn math facts at their own pace, in their own way. And the speed at which they are learned is not necessarily an indication of future math prowess.

• Sometimes you don’t know an older child is really good at something until you see a younger one struggling in that area (or vice versa). Instead of comparing negatively and wishing one were more like the other, view this as an opportunity to be thankful for and encourage the strengths of the one, and then look for ways to help the other that fit his or her personality and learning style.

• Keep track of patterns in how your children respond to different scenarios so you can anticipate and help them prepare for transitions that may be difficult for them. For many years, it took several weeks for Molly to get used to going back to school after summer vacation and other longer school breaks. Once I realized this, I was able to talk with her ahead of time and help her understand that, while it was going to be a tough adjustment, she would survive, just as she always had before.

• Nutrition can influence behavior, so make sure physical needs are met before you assume your little darlings are acting badly for some other reason. Coming home grouchy every day doesn’t necessarily mean your child is picking up bad habits at school. It might just mean she is famished and needs more protein for lunch.

• If your schedule allows it, try to volunteer in the classroom regularly. Serving as a room mother wasn’t my cup of tea, so every year, I asked Molly’s teachers if I could come each week and do something educational with the children. For example, I did flashcards with all the kids in her in second-grade class and helped students with writing assignments in fourth and fifth.

Having a regular presence in the classroom allows you to get to know the other children personally, and it gives you a chance to see how your child responds and reacts to his or her classmates. It also helps you get to know the teacher, so when concerns come up, you may feel more free to communicate about them.

• This kind of volunteering also might build appreciation in you for your own children. After observing other kids in action, you may find that the things you think your child struggles with are relatively minor, or that your child is actually much better at certain skills than you originally thought.

• Have lunch with your kids regularly if that is an option at your school. If cafeteria food scares you or you are too tired to pack a lunch, you don’t actually have to eat anything. I used to just go and sit with my girls and their friends—for as long as they wanted me there. For Lilly, it was all the way through fifth grade. It was often exhausting to be in that noisy lunchroom with all the spirited children in her grade, but now, I’m so glad I did it!

• Extracurricular activities are not a necessity in elementary school. Some children do well with a packed schedule of sports, music, dance and church-related activities, and some prefer (and even require) the quietness of their own home after school and on weekends. (I have one of each so I know this for a fact.)

• Pray. About everything. This is the most general and broad of my post-elementary-school thoughts, but also the most important. Sometime soon, I will devote an entire blog post to it—not because I am an expert (far from it), but because I think the parental prayer strategy that works for me just might help you too.

Now it’s your turn. If elementary school is a thing of the past in your household, what perspectives about that season of life would you be willing to share with moms and dads of younger kids? 

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Crystal Storms at Intentional Tuesday, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.


18 Responses to Back-to-School Thoughts: The Elementary Years

  1. Mollie says:

    That was a great blog post and I might use ixl.com this year in the 6th grade. it might help me in math

    Love you Mom

  2. Great list here Lois! I also made sure mine had regular bedtimes, and we usually had to start about a week before school to get them back into the swing of things after a lazy summer. I miss those days:) Crystal

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oh yes, Crystal … regular bedtimes are a must. 🙂 Of course, the Olympics sort of interfered with our ability to start that before school began this week, but we are working on it now!

  3. Lisa notes says:

    Because I homeschooled my kids, I never knew what it was like to be a room mom, per se. So now that my daughter is a teacher in a public school, I’m enjoying visiting her kindergarten classroom and volunteering at last. 🙂 I’ve found that, like you, I enjoy doing the educational things best. So she lets me go over sight words with the kids one-on-one and I’ve loved getting to know the children individually. Great points here, Lois.

  4. Liz says:

    Great advice! I have one entering his last year in elementary… So true about how they are all different! And even the age they are in a particular grade can make a difference. My younger son is just 4 months younger than his brother was in the same grade and that has made a big difference in some areas! Blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You make a great point about ages, Liz. I think the speed at which they develop can also be included in that … some kids mature much faster and others take a lot longer, and that also makes a HUGE difference in so many areas. It took me a long time to realize this, but once I did, I was able to relax about a lot of things I had been fretting about previously!

  5. So great, Lois! Your tips are both practical and wise. My son is starting eighth grade this year and one thing we’ve found that has helped him build resilience is teaching him to problem solve independently. My instinct is to swoop in and rescue, but inviting him to work through a problem on his own builds some far reaching skills. Sometimes it means he fails – but there are valuable lessons in that, both for him and for us as parents. Always love your insight and encouragement, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Tiffany, I have that same swooping-in instinct and have also been trying to train myself not to do it (for the same reasons as you). Watching our kids struggle is hard, but you are absolutely right … nothing builds character better! Thanks for sharing your own wise perspective here!

  6. ~Karrilee~ says:

    Yes and Amen to all of these great tips! I am an empty nester now – but we incorporated all of these as best we could and, well… our girlie is all grown up and we all still love each other –and bonus: we like each other, too!

  7. Mary Geisen says:

    I love your wisdom. As a former public school teacher, many parents could learn from what you have discovered about your children. The better parents know their children, the more they can help them in all areas of life but also in the integral school years. Thank you for sharing this. Great post!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you, Mary. I do try to study my kids … I don’t always get it right, but God is faithful to direct me when I have no idea what I’m doing! Have a wonderful evening!

  8. Lois, such wise words here, and I’ll add my hearty Amen. My youngest will begin sixth grade this year, so this is our final year of elementary school. I loved your suggestion to keep track of our kids’ patterns, so we can prepare them for transitions. My oldest struggled with the transition to middle school for most of the year. I wish I’d known earlier in the year how to effectively help him. I’ll know for my younger one. My younger one HATES any kind of change. You can bet we’ll be preparing him early for the huge changes coming in seventh grade!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Jeanne, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in those preteen heads, isn’t it? I think my younger daughter (who is more resistant to change normally) has gained some confidence from having watched her older sister survive middle school, so maybe that will happen with your boys too. Meantime, my soon-to-be-freshman is reminding herself that there are adults all over the place who got through high school, and so will she. 🙂 (And I am reminding myself the same thing about parents who have helped their kids through high school!) One day at a time, my friend. One day at a time!

  9. Karla says:

    Great thoughts, Lois! My kids are in college/university ages now, but these are still relevant as a mom with more mileage behind me! God bless you as you seek to bless others with your gifts! Visiting via #IntentionalTuesday. Karla @HopenHisPresenz

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