Thanks for the feedback folks. I’m better understanding what you need. You need PRACTICAL TOOLS IN A HURRY. I got you…
Today’s blog will be about two critical areas upon which you should focus: 1) Home Learning Resources and 2) How to Structure the Day (this will be in my next post).
Free Learning Resources Ahead!
There are two resources that I will make available for free in this blog. The first are a series of Math Fact sheets that are FANTASTIC for any child aged 6-14 years. The second is a free online reading system that is also FANTASTIC. (I’m offering the reading resource for free to the first 30-parents who respond — see information below).
Let’s start with Math.
Learning Content – Math Facts
When my youngest daughter was in 3rd grade, she was struggling in math. It took her forever to complete math homework and then, one day, she said the words that no parent wants to hear from their daughter. She said, “I don’t like math.”
When I heard it, my knees went weak. But, after I gathered myself, I made it a point to focus on math during the upcoming summer break.
The Summer of Tears
The summer between my daughter’s 3rd and 4th grade were filled with Math facts. I quickly realized that she didn’t know the basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts. Without these, every assignment was difficult. So, three times a day, we spent 10 minutes on the following math facts. After a month, she was doing SO MUCH BETTER! But it was not without pain. She cried a lot in the first few days… and occasionally afterwards. I told her, “You don’t have to like it, but we WILL be doing this every day.” I told her, “This is difficult, but I KNOW you can get this!” And we kept at it.
I approached this situation exactly like a Head Coach who realizes that his star player has a deficit in a critical skill. I have seen too many kids — especially girls — give up on math early in their education. This usually ended their chances at any number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. I did not want that to happen to my daughter.
Don’t Be Like Me
Only months later did it occur to me that my daughter’s tears were, in part, because she was ashamed. She felt embarrassed at how poorly she performed on these basic Math Facts. Next time, I’d take it MUCH more slowly… only doing one or two columns per day… with a maximum of 5-minutes instead of 10. I’d have her quiz me on these… some were hard for me, too! I would have also reminded her more regularly that Math Facts are skills… just like shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball and, the more you practice, the better you get. So don’t be like me… take it slow and steady… and watch your child bloom with less tears.
She made it through the Summer of Tears (ok, it really wasn’t THAT bad). When she got back to school in the fall, she CRUSHED her math assignments! She ROCKETED past her classmates and shot to the top of her class in math! It surprised us all. And, because she started seeing her success, she began enjoying math! I was amazed at how just one summer could change a child’s direction. And, she’s been at the top of her class in math ever since! This is the opportunity that is in front of you as you face schooling your child at home. Take advantage of it!
I am attaching Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication Math Facts tables below. (If you want Division, send me a note at Matt@TheEducationGame.com.) Print each sheet and use them as a foundational math skill in your home. (Follow the instructions closely!)
PROGRESS IN THE ORDER LISTED BELOW! Yes, even if your child is in middle school (or even high school) you’ll be surprised at how weak they are in simple addition and subtraction. Start with Addition, then move to Subtraction, then Multiplication. Take it slowly… and only move to the next column when your child proves their ability to complete a column in 12-seconds or less. Feel free to print these and use as you’d like. (See the instructions on the Parent Answer Sheets).
I can’t underestimate the importance of reading. Let me take a moment to remind some of you about why reading is just SO IMPORTANT.
From PreK until about 3rd Grade, your child is “learning how to read.” They are slowly progressing from basic letter recognition, through phonological awareness (understanding the sounds that letters make), to a greater focus on comprehension. After 3rd Grade, most schools expect your child to be able to “read to learn”. That means, from 4th Grade on, your child is expected to read well… and most of what they will now learn, will come through the books they read. In fact, every subject will expect your child to learn primarily through reading. History, Science, English (of course), and even Math will have heavy doses of reading as a part of the curriculum. If you’re child is not exceptionally strong in reading, they will struggle for years to come! I’ve seen this in WAY too many of my clients!
The truth is that most kids in America have not mastered reading by 3rd or 4th grade. Where I live, only 30 percent of the kids are reading at grade level by 3rd grade. ONLY 30 PERCENT!
You, the parent, have the power to fix this in your family by increasing the amount of time your child reads while at home.
Free Online Reading
Online reading resources are the way to go in the 21st Century. Most public libraries have free online books… as does Amazon and many many other programs. One of my favorites for younger readers is Starfall.com. My clients have been using an online system that has “leveled books” (which allow your child to find books at their precise reading level… more on this in future blogs).
The first 30 people who respond to this post by sending an email to Matt@TheEducationGame.com (put “Reading Resource” in the Subject Line) will receive free access to my reading classroom. It works great for ages 4 – 14years. (For those who already have reached out to me, I’ll be in touch to give you access).
For Parents at Home — What You Need to Know
The key to supporting your child’s reading at home is to protect a space and a time for regular reading. In my next blog, I’ll post a few draft schedules that parents can use to structure the day. For now, here is what you need to know:
- 1. Read as a family.
Since most of us are at home, now is the time to read as a family. Depending on the ages of your kids, find a book that YOU might like, and read it as a group. (If you like it, you will likely signal excitement to your kids.)
Tell the family that, at (pick your time), the family will gather to read together. Everyone should sit within reach of the other and take turns reading. The older kids should read a page or two and the younger children should, depending on their reading level, read a word or two… even sound out a few letters would be OK. This is a group activity!
- 2. START SLOWLY by setting a kitchen timer.
Most kids have not developed the self-control necessary to sit with a book. (This is why kids who rely on videos and games is destructive to their academics.) So, when you schedule your family reading time, set a kitchen timer for no more than 3-5 minutes. When the timer rings, finish the sentence and close the book. Keeping it short will help to keep them attentive.
- 3. Get your “reps” in.
More important than reading for a long time, is getting several “reps” (repetitions) of reading completed each day. So, instead of reading for 30 minutes in one sitting, schedule six, five minute reading sessions throughout the day. Maybe designate the first 5-minutes at the top of each hour as “family reading time.” The more your children practice sitting and reading, the easier it will be to expand the amount of reading later.
- Make this time non-negotiable.
Decide beforehand what freedoms your child will lose if they do not participate in “family reading time.” Your child must, 1) sit still for the allotted reading time and, 2) be present with the family with a reasonably positive spirit (It is unlikely that they will look forward to this initially, but obvious resistance and sourness should not be allowed.)
Tell your kids what the consequence will be if they resist or have a sour spirit. Examples of consequences could be: if the child does not meet your expectations for the 5 minutes of reading, they lose access to their preferred free-time activity during the remainder of the hour (video games, phone access, etc). Younger kids might need to miss out on dessert or have to sit with mom for the first 5 minutes when the kids are playing at the park.
Next Post: Sample Daily Schedules
One of my readers, Martha, asked for help with her daily schedule. I’m working on a draft for her — and you. Because each child and family structure are different, you may need to individualize this a bit to your interest, but, this should help get you started.
Sign up her to be notified of the next blog post. Thanks for reading! Please keep your questions/comments coming.