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.”
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?