Just a little | Mark’s Remarks

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I’ve often wondered how many prospective parents would benefit from looking into a crystal ball to see what parenting is like. Or what if we all took tests for a good year before we became parents? Think about how things might be different.

We all think our kids are exceptional. Those of us who are realists, though, know our kids (and yes, grandkids) are capable of messing up. Sure, we may think they hung the moon, but we should also be realistic about the fact that our kids are humans.  

Regardless of what we think, there’s going to be someone out there who doesn’t think they are the best. There are going to be people who may not like our kids or think they are ordinary and far from exceptional.  

I see plenty of kids come through school with lots of advantages. Yet, they can’t read well. They have trouble focusing.  They aren’t able to divide because they didn’t learn to subtract or multiply well.

I blame schools somewhat. But in turn, I also blame parents. We push these kids through school because, heaven forbid, we tell any parent or grandparent their kid isn’t ready to move on. If the kid fails, it’s totally the school’s fault. Right?

Kids need structure. They need a schedule. They need people in their lives who are the boss and who don’t let them control things. They need to have that stupid iPad taken away from them. Things need to be regulated – especially screen time. Kids need to be outside and moving as much as possible. 

I’m sorry if you need your own “me” time; you decided to give birth to these kids. Now take care of them properly, please.

After teaching for over 30 years, I think a lot of our problems would be solved if we had a good smack of reality in our faces. I’m talking to educators and parents alike. Sometimes, kids learn at different speeds. It benefits the kids if they can work at their own pace and developmental level. Why did we get away from this type of mentality?

In this day and age, every kid has to be pushed along. We might hurt their feelings.  Their parents’ pride may be injured. “They aren’t ready to move on to the next grade because they haven’t mastered some of the skills needed to move on,” schools say. “Who cares, I don’t want my child to be embarrassed or be away from their friends,” say parents and grandparents. “And furthermore, how dare you tell me my child isn’t the best!” 

Schools may have to admit they failed in some way, even if they feel they did everything they could for a kid. After all, it isn’t always easy to figure out what went wrong when it comes to why a kid isn’t progressing.

Along with a crystal ball and a smack of reality, I’m wondering what parents would think if they knew how little really needs to be done to give their kids a leg up.

We all brag about how smart our kids are when they are toddlers. Of course they are! They are like little sponges, drinking in lots of knowledge. They are learning vocabulary and language and all sorts of things. Kids who are just beginning to talk and process things are fascinating to watch. And we all think our kids are a cut above. Surely our 3-year-old is the shining star of the preschool class. 

We need to harness that “spongey-ness.” We need to be reading to our kids a little every day or so.  They need to see how a book is set up, how to read from left to right. They need to hear inflection and see written words with punctuation. They need to make assumptions about how characters feel and what they are doing to solve problems.

Kids need to learn their basic math facts. They need to work with them a little each day. Good old-fashioned flashcards are still fantastic tools, but there are plenty of online resources that will appeal to young kids in this techy world. 

Practice those facts.  Do a few math problems each day. Talk to your kids about real-life problems. Have them practice mental math in their heads. Use pencil and paper. Hang a chalkboard in your kitchen like one of my good friend’s parents did for her back in the day.  

I’m not a fan of homework. I think it’s pretty silly. But, I do feel that time should be spent on the things I mentioned above. Every day or so.  Take the weekend off if you must and maybe skip a day during the week. It won’t hurt.

Schools need to stand firm when it comes to judging whether kids are ready to move on in school. Parents need to be open-minded and check their pride at the door when it comes to what is best for the child. 

These people are professionals, parents.  Listen to them and know they are merely trying to take care of your kids.

I’m a person who blames parents a lot. That’s probably not fair, especially since I know how stinkin’ hard parenting can be. I can’t keep blaming parents for all the problems of my students, and the parents of my students can’t keep blaming all the problems of their children on education.  We gotta figure something out.

But until we do, parents, read to your kids. Practice math facts with them.  Spend time with them and have conversations with them.   

Schools, knock off all the fluff and superfluous stuff and focus on what kids really need. Kids need to know they are being well taken care of. You don’t have to be the most popular teacher. You have an obligation to get these kids equipped.  

And as I said, it only takes a little.

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