5 Ways to Improve Your Kid's Education--Part One.

The education system is failing in many ways. As parents, we must ask, “What steps can I take to improve my kids education?” Through homeschooling, I have gained firsthand experience on how parents can be better advocates for their kids. In this five part article, I hope to share some of those strategies with you.

I have purposely excluded "volunteering" from this article. In many schools, it’s required and for numerous parents, it's an obvious first choice. It puts you on the front lines which can be extremely valuable. Resource starved schools love the extra help. However, some of us have been there, done that and may have felt that the school reaped the rewards of our investment and our kids gained nothing. And, the fact remains, that in working families, many parents simply can’t be there. This article features other strategies you can use. The good news is that your kids might benefit more from your efforts at home and behind the scenes if you focus on five key areas.

Strategy #1: Know your state standards:

Whether we like it or not, public schools (and many private schools) teach to state standards. What gets measured gets focus. Because funding sources and rankings are driven by test scores, you can bet that your kids will be measured to these standards. Standardized testing is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it provides a framework for measuring kids education. On the other hand, the standards are debatable and in the process stifling educators while repressing a love of learning in our students.

By understanding what your kids are required to learn, you can better support their education during homework sessions and provide “teachable moments” outside the classroom. Five minutes invested here and there in your kids education outside the classroom will help them see the bigger picture can make a tremendous difference.

How do you find your state standards? The resources I have listed at the end of this article will get you started. When you have located a copy, review them carefully. Some of it will make sense and some of it won’t.

Now what?

Request a meeting with your child’s teacher or principal. Explain that you are proactively trying to understand what your child will be learning this year so that you can better support the teacher. Ask them to provide a copy of the Scope and Sequence for all subject areas, and request a copy of the table of contents for all the text books.

During your meeting, ask the teacher the following questions:

What portions of the material seem to be the most difficult for the kids to understand?
What would teach the kids if you had more time?
What additional resources they would use if they had more money?
What are the most important things my child can do to succeed?

From this, create a “teachable moment’s wish list” and find ways to supplement their education outside the classroom. Videos, family field trips, library books, websites, and discussions around the dinner table all can be used to enhance the learning. If you know what is being covered inside the classroom, you can time your activities appropriately.

Plan B: You might meet with resistance from the school or the teacher in providing this information. Be persistent. If they don’t want to give you the information, ask if you can come in and look at the books.

Plan C: If the school/teacher is not cooperating, purchase grade level standards practice books at any teaching supply store or even Barnes and Noble. A quick look through the material will show you what your children will be required to learn. The simple act of becoming informed will give you a new sense of empowerment, and opportunities for supplemental learning will naturally arise.

Here are a few resources that can help you get started:

Education World: This is a great place to get started in your search for state standards. Many states also provide practice test booklets which you might be able to get through the school, or through the state.

National Standards Movement: There is a movement towards National Standards, and no matter what side of the issue you support, it’s here to stay. You can review a draft of the standards online. I found the report very interesting and helpful.

Spectrum Books by McGraw Hill: Reading state standards can be somewhat complex and tedious. If you are a more visual person, the Spectrum series of books can come in handy. They are written to exceed National Standards, and certain states, like California have state specific standards. The series was designed to help students prepare for standardized tests. In my opinion, it is "fill in the bubble learning." However, you can purchase Spectrum books for all major subject areas. The lessons are clear cut and well organized, and by perusing the contents, you will understand scope and sequence of the material your child will be expected to master.

The bottom line is that it is worth the investment of time to understand your kids education path. With the resources and ideas I have mentioned, you will be armed and ready. Stay tuned for part two of this article, coming soon.

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