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Ask an Educator: Advice Column

I have a lot to say about education. So much, in fact, that I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like some of what I’m responding to people is simply a repeat of previous advice I’ve given. Therefore, it occurs to me that there are a lot of families who have the same questions and concerns about their child’s school and educational queries. The “Ask an Educator” is a new series I’ll be writing on monthly to respond to some of those questions. You may leave your question in the comment section below.

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Question: In first grade my eldest son did lots of writing. His teacher encouraged them to write nonstop (regardless of inability to spell). So much so that by the end of the year parents were given a book of their first graders’ “writings”. I still have it, and cherish it. He is now in 6th grade and LOVES to write. My daughter is in first grade now (different school), and for the first time this year she has been asked to write something. She’s hysterical because she has no idea how to do it. They haven’t been having the kids write at all. No journaling. Nothing. I’m actually started to get a little concerned. Should I be?

Answer: I don’t mean to alarm you, but yes. She should be doing some writing by now even if it’s creative and completely made up which, of course, it is at this age. The stories that children make up and the fantasies they have in their heads are priceless at this stage. Careful reading, by 1st grade, helps that process. If she’s a reader, that’s great! But if you’re not seeing the writing happen for your daughter like it did your son then I suggest asking about curriculum changes especially since you saw such success with your older child. As with anything that happens in schools (or doesn’t happen), make sure you’re supplementing at home as well. Maybe your daughter would benefit from telling her stories aloud, too. There are so many apps and programs for children to make up their own stories right now that she could pursue a career in technology as a filmmaker!

Here’s a great example of a child telling her own story that her dad made into animation.

Question: My son is in sixth grade at a private school. He skipped 5th and is kicking 6th’s ass now too. (This kid was made for school.) His sixth grade class has ten kids, total. I think he’s very comfortable with the size of the school and the attention he is able to get. Problem is, his current school doesn’t go all the way to 12th grade. In fact, there’s no 11th, and only one kid in 10th. So I need to figure out where to send him to high school. The public high school down the road is very good — lots of AP courses which I know he’ll want to take, and good programs — but there are 2000 students. I’m afraid sending him off to such a huge place when he’s a vulnerable teen making a big transition could be a disaster. My husband is convinced that’s where Jack should go, since both he and I went to big public high schools. But Jack is a sensitive, old soul academic. I’m afraid it would be a mistake, which means I’m now looking at all these private high schools that cost a FORTUNE. Help!

Answer: When it comes to high school these days it’s all about choice and, of course, where you live. Some parents opt to homeschool their children at different times so I’m wondering if that’s an option for Jack. First of all, there are a lot of new options in taking classes online for high school that are through accredited programs. I’m assuming that’s what you’re looking for, but what about taking Jack for a high school visit before he gets to that age? In my job I get a lot of requests for younger children to come for a visit (either a half or whole day) and allow them to shadow another student for the day. One good thing that comes of that is that they get to ask the other students their thoughts about what it’s like in the school. Luckily, for your family, you have a few years to make this decision and you can fully explore some of these options now. I also wonder if, at the current growth rate, the high school sees a need to expand or break off into smaller campuses which is becoming more popular as well. You’re smart to start looking into this while he’s a 6th grader, but remember that he’ll go through more changes and growing between now and when he’s ready for high school.

Do you have a question to Ask an Educator? Leave a comment in this post or e-mail one to me at kelly [dot] mochamomma at gmail [dot] com.

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