Your child didn’t do so great this year – in fact, his grades put him towards the lower end of the class. And that was with after-school tutors and in class help.
But somehow you and he made it through the end of the year. In fact, when you look back at the year you can see that your child even made a bit of progress.
(Okay, not enough – but you can see the difference).
You’re happy the year is finally over and you’re hoping that next year will be better somehow. Maybe he’ll have a growth spurt, and finally “get it” like the neighbor’s kid did. Or maybe the teacher will be less demanding.
So things are actually looking pretty good…until you get that call from the teacher. The one asking you if would think about letting said progeny repeat the year again.
You feel completely lost. What should you do? Maybe you’ll destroy his self-esteem by putting him in a situation where he’s likely to fail. But then again, we all remember that big lug of a kid who got held back at least once (and sometimes more; it never seemed like holding him back did any good.
What should you do?
The Myth of More Time
For decades parents and teachers alike have held children back as a solution for kids who couldn’t keep up with the class. It was assumed that the “gift” of time will help a struggling child finally catch up to the rest of the class.
Perhaps this was believed to be true because initially children who are held back do perform better that year. Ultimately, though, those same children end up falling behind, until they are again at the bottom of the class.
In fact, research shows that if there are two children, one held back while the other one is sent on, the one that is retained is four times more likely to drop out of school.
If you’re going to fail, you’re better off failing with your own age group.
It’s clear what you shouldn’t do. But what can you do to help your child make it through a year that promises to be a rough one?
Here are some tips you can use to help your child make it through:
Go in prepared.
While usually I advise not discussing your child’s weaknesses until the school year has gotten underway, in this case, it would be a better idea to have everything set into place even before the new year starts.
Even though most teachers are looking forward to finishing up the year, you need to find out what the teacher is like, and what the typical curriculum will be like. The best way to do this is to find someone who has a child finishing up the grade your child will go into.
- If there is more than one teacher, find a child in each class. Find out what the personality of the teacher is like. Is she flexible? Does she object to frequent parent-teacher contact? Is she open to adjusting homework and tests so your child can succeed?
- Take a look at the texts, homework, worksheets, projects, and tests for the next year. Is most of the work memorization? Is there a lot of writing? Does your child have the study habits they need to keep up with the material?
- Compare these tasks with your child’s weaknesses and strengths. You can use this information to determine where your child might have the most (and least) difficulty.
Don’t try and jump the gun by giving your child extra work to do.
Your child deserves a break just as much as the next kid – probably more. Let them enjoy their summer; don’t make them crazy with worksheets and busy work.
Focus on skill-building activities
It’s easy to get stuck on the treadmill of catch-up: you spend so much time just trying to stay on top of homework and tests that you never get a chance to work on building your child’s skills in a particular area.
But if your child masters certain comprehension skills, for example, that can cut down the amount of help they need in order to do their work – ultimately helping them to be more successful in the long run.
It might be tempting to go into worry mode and obsess about what the new school year will bring.
Instead, remember that success isn’t determined by how much progress your child makes, but by how hard they try. Focus on helping your child see that failure isn’t disaster, but a necessary part of success.
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