Homeschooling can be right for some children

Dear teacher,

My son is not doing very well in fourth grade, even though he is quite bright. In fact, he has come to hate school. All the homework robs him of the opportunity to participate in sports or take music lessons after school — activities that he really loves.

How can I find out if there are any cooperative homeschooling groups where we live so both of us could have some support?

Dear parent,

One significant advantage to homeschooling is that children do not need to spend as much time on schoolwork in this environment. This is largely because they are working one-on-one with a parent, instead of sharing a teacher’s time with 20 or even more than 30 other students. Another big advantage of homeschooling is that each lesson can be tailored exactly to the child’s needs and interests. In regular classrooms, the teacher is trying to help children with a wide range of abilities, which often means that many lessons will not be appropriate for your child. In the homeschooling atmosphere, children can learn rapidly. Most will outscore their classroom peers on standardized tests.

Homeschool cooperatives are very diverse. Some are limited to field trips, study of a specific subject, or musical, art, or sports groups. Others offer a great variety of options. Most meet once a week. A few offer a complete program of classes taught by parents and others, especially retired teachers.

You can easily find where cooperatives, as well as other homeschooling families, in your area are by going online and searching for “homeschool” and the name of your area.

• • •

Dear teacher,

My daughter is 6 and in the second grade. She cries because she can’t keep up with her classmates. Is this a reason to hold her back next year?

Dear parent,

Meet with your child’s teacher immediately to get the teacher’s perspective on your child’s ability to handle the work. Find out what the school can do to get your child on track. Find out if a tutor would be a good idea. Find out what good opportunities there are in your area for more help this summer: summer school, college remedial programs, learning centers. Also, find out what you can do to improve your child’s skills.

Your daughter would appear to be young for a second-grader. On the positive side, young children change fast. Your daughter may suddenly catch up with some help.

Parents do need to think long and hard about enrolling very young children in kindergarten who just make the cut-off date. This decision becomes very important later on if the young child encounters a lot of difficulty in the early grades, and retention is considered. Retention is almost always a traumatic event for children — on a par with losing a parent.

• • •

Dear teacher,

Next year, my children’s elementary school will begin looping and keeping the students for three years with one teacher. The children will only have two teachers in elementary school — kindergarten, first, and second grades, and third, fourth, and fifth grades. Is this good preparation for middle school where they will have several teachers each day? What are the pros and cons of looping?

Dear parent,

Whether students attend an elementary school where they have a new teacher each year or the same teacher for two or more years, there will be an adjustment to having several classroom teachers in middle school. In some countries, looping continues into high school where students have the same content area teacher.

On balance, there are more pros than cons to looping. The big advantage for students is a continuing relationship with a teacher. Other advantages for them include an easier transition at the start of the school year, stronger relationships with classmates, more individualized instruction, more self-confidence in the classroom, and greater continuity in what they are learning.

There are advantages to teachers also. In the second year of looping and beyond, teachers save time at the start of the year because they already know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and what they have been taught. They also have more time to develop solid relationships with students and their families. Plus, they have more time to meet the special needs of their students.

There is one big con for both students and teachers: a poor match with each other. Another is a poor match between students. And it can be difficult for new students who join a class that has been together for more than a year.

Parents should send questions and comments to [email protected] or ask them on the columnists’ website at www.dearteacher.com. ©Compass Syndicate Corporation, 2012. Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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