What to Expect From Your Child’s Kindergarten Screening

Odds are, your child is going to have to take a test before going into Kindergarten. These days, public schools around the world require them. In the United States, they’re usually mandatory. Twenty-six states require kindergarten screeners, and others have plans to make them soon.

It’s hard not to get nervous before your child’s first standardized test, so it might be good to know that failing one of these things isn’t the end of the world. There was a time when kids who couldn’t pass kindergarten screeners would be held back, but they’re not so cruel anymore. Today, they’re only used to help teachers know which children need extra help and to make sure they get it.

Still, it’s worth getting ready. A screener is more than just a test – it’s a list of everything the school expects your child to be able to do. It’s a good idea to know what your child is expected to know before they start school.

Why should I get ready for a screener?

A child’s self-confidence on the first day of school has a big impact on their education. If your children feel capable and intelligent, they’ll do better in school. Knowing everything they’re expected to know plays a big part in building that confidence.

Even in Kindergarten, keeping your child up on their education is incredibly important. Pre-kindergarten math skills have a huge impact on later achievement. If a child’s reading is behind at the end of the first grade, there’s an 88 percent chance they’ll still be behind at the end of the fourth grade.

Quiz your children on all of these skills before they take the test. Make a note of the things they have a hard time doing, and spend as much time you can trying to fill in those gaps before they take the test. If they can go into the first day of school knowing everything they need to know, they’re going to feel a lot more confident – and they’ll do a lot better.

What’s going to be on the test?

Every test is a little bit different. There are dozens of kindergarten screeners out there. Your child might do a Brigance Test, a KDI-2, a Kinder-IQ, a DIBELS, an AABL or any number of other tests.

All of these different screeners, though, are more or less the same. There are a few things you can expect. For one, the test probably won’t take more than 30 minutes. For another, the tester will probably only expect your child to be able to do about 66 percent of the things they ask.

Make sure your child can do most of these things, and they’ll do fine:

Motor skills:

  • Catch, throw, and kick a ball
  • Use a fork and a spoon
  • Hop on one foot on each foot
  • Stand on one foot for 10 seconds
  • Trace or draw a line
  • Walk backward five steps

Speaking skills:

  • Speak in sentences
  • Be understood by a stranger
  • Follow two-step directions
  • Say their first, middle, and last name
  • Give their address, phone number, and birthday

Reading skills:

  • Identify and read the letters of the alphabet
  • Identify the phonetic sounds of the letters of the alphabet
  • Read, spell, and write their first name
  • Listen to a story, including answering and asking questions
  • Recognize rhyming words

Math:

  • Count to 20
  • Say which number comes after any number under 10
  • Understand the concepts of addition and subtraction
  • Add together two numbers with the help of coins or sticks
  • Recognize and follow a simple ABAB pattern

Visual recognition:

  • Distinguish common colors
  • Compare two shapes using words like “longer” or “taller”
  • Organize shapes from biggest to smallest
  • Recognize basic shapes, such as circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and diamonds
  • Draw basic shapes

Body awareness:

  • Recognize the basic body parts
  • Distinguish left from right
  • Draw a person who has five body parts

Social readiness:

  • Recognize and express emotions
  • Wash hands and use the bathroom
  • Put on clothes and shoes, including managing buttons and snaps
  • Understand rules and behavior
  • Share and take turns
  • Request and accept guidance from adults
  • Focus on a task patiently

What if my child fails?

Some kids are late bloomers. Some kids get nervous during the screener or have a hard time talking to a stranger. The truth is, these tests aren’t very accurate – and so, even if your kid’s a genius, it’s completely possible that they’ll do badly.

Don’t worry about it. Worst case scenario, your child will get a little extra help and attention in class. Getting a low score on a kindergarten screener does not mean your child is dumb or that you did a bad job as a parent.

What matters is that you got your child as ready as possible for the first day of school. If your children go in knowing their shapes, letters, and numbers, they’re not going to feel like they’re behind the other kids – and that’s going to make all the difference in the world.

How to Encourage Responsibility, Time Management, and Learning Without Homework

Six simple ways for parents to reinforce academic skills, foster good work habits, and teach responsibility at home without homework.

The boy across from me was fighting back tears. He was tall for his age, with long, sandy brown hair that grew over his eyes and hid his emotions in a way that was not entirely unintentional.

He wanted to succeed and – as a new teacher – I wanted to do everything I could to give him that chance. Now, as the tears welled in his eyes, he stood up and pushed the desk over. He hadn’t completed his spelling homework (again) and I, his teacher, had to administer a test we both knew he would fail. He’d requested more time to study but there was none left. The class had to move forward.

This was a weekly dance for us and there had been days, though rare, when I could coax him into finishing his work at home through heartfelt pleading and thinly veiled bribes. Today was not one of those days and since I couldn’t let him skip the test while the rest of the class took part, he knew he faced another failure. The homework designed to support him was actually leaving him further and further behind when he didn’t do it. And I think a part of him hated me for it.

Five years later, I’m no longer a teacher but I’m now a parent and I have to admit, I cheered a little bit on the inside when I read the letter announcing that our local elementary school had done away with homework. Teaching at a new charter school that was attempting to assert itself as a balance between arts integration and academic rigor, homework had been a regular part of our routine. And just as regularly, I had students who did not, or could not, complete it. It was always a difficult balance.

On the one hand, there were students who were working hard at home to complete the tasks assigned, and on the other I had students who sometimes did not understand the work, had no help at home to complete it, or had a schedule so filled with extracurriculars that they didn’t even sit down at the table until past 8 p.m. The deck was stacked against us.

While there does exist plenty of research supporting the academic boost from homework in older grades, most of it also suggests that these benefits don’t begin in earnest until middle school. Even an overview of the studies revealing academic advantages of homework notes that for elementary students “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero,” meaning there was no relationship.

Other studies found that too much homework, in fact, can have negative effects. Opponents assert that homework can increase boredom with schoolwork and decrease the time that kids have for leisure activities such as sports, music, and playing outside – in short, the stuff childhood is made of. Another study reveals that homework widens the achievement gap and reinforces socio-economic disparities. 

But is homework always a bad thing for our youngest students? One study suggests that homework does in fact produce positive outcomes at the elementary level, but not specifically in terms of academics. Instead, it proposes that homework for elementary students is a good thing because it fosters positive work habits and responsible character traits, encourages parental involvement in school-related work, and reinforces simple skills learned in class.

This is also the argument from local parents in our town who were concerned about the shift away from formal homework. They echoed the lead researcher who notes that, “a little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits and learn skills developed through practice.” But can these skills only be learned through homework?

What’s a parent to do? Are there ways to reap the benefits of homework at the elementary age without actually subjecting your grade-schooler to potentially fruitless work? Of course there are! The benefits of homework for elementary schoolers are skills easily reinforced at home, without any actual assignments from school. Here are six simple ways for parents of grade school students to reinforce academic skills, foster good work habits, and teach responsibility at home without the help (or hindrance) of homework.

1 | Talk to your kids about what they’re learning

Make a habit of checking in daily with your children about what they’re currently doing in school. Go through their backpacks every afternoon or evening to find completed work and ask your child to explain it to you. Or start a family tradition of sharing over dinner one new thing they learned each day. It can sometimes be tiring to pull all of the details out of your child, but there are some good tips on how to get them talking here.

Also make sure to keep communication open and flowing with your child’s teacher. Most teachers can now be reached easily through email and will be happy to keep you updated on current curriculum and any skills that your child may need reinforced at home. Studies on academic achievement agree that high-achieving students have parents who work together with teachers to support learning at school and at home.     

2 | Give your children real responsibilities at home

It’s never too early for kids to start taking some responsibility at home. Even toddlers can be in charge of turning off the lights or wiping out the sink. In the beginning, share the work with your child by starting the task and then inviting them to help. Young children will initially be more willing to work if they view it as a team effort.

Also, make sure to model responsibility yourself and talk about it as you go. For example, when you come in the door, hang up your coat and put your shoes away while saying aloud, “Now I put my coat on the hook and my shoes on the mat so that no one will trip on them and I can find them when I need them next.”

A family is a child’s first introduction to community life and children who do chores learn to support a community and work towards common goals. They also experience higher levels of confidence and self-esteem. It may take more time to teach these skills now, but the long term benefits are well-documented.   

3 | Foster an appreciation for reading

Some schools may ask students to keep a list of books they’ve read or time they’ve spent reading at home. Even if yours does not, encourage your child to keep track of what she reads and how much she likes it.

Set reading goals together and support your child in her efforts to tackle them independently. Let her choose books that she’s interested in and encourage her to seek input from friends, teachers, and the librarian once she knows what she likes. Read together to tackle new subject matter or trickier chapter books. Talk often about what she reads.

Children who read for pleasure build vocabulary and are exposed to new ideas more frequently. While the link between reading and achievement in language arts is obvious, recent research shows that reading for pleasure is also associated with higher achievement in math and sciences. 

4 | Create a space in your home where your child can work

He may not have formal homework, but kids are naturally curious and by providing him space and resources to explore, he’s more likely to learn independently. Make sure your child has a desk, table, or counter space dedicated to him and keep age-appropriate learning toys and books available there.

Younger students might keep educational games, books, art supplies and puzzles in this space. Older students might have reference books like a dictionary, atlas, or thesaurus, and even a computer if there’s one available. 

Children who play with blocks and puzzles have been shown to develop better spatial skills than children who participate in parent-led activities. And beyond that, children who have more cognitive stimulation in early years have been shown to have a more refined brain cortex as teens.   

5 | Teach time management

Most children struggle with time management because the area of the brain responsible for executive functioning is the last to develop. While their brains are maturing, children will need support in grasping this concept.

To teach time management, begin with the basics of telling time on an analog clock. A child who cannot tell time cannot be expected to independently manage it. Keep analog clocks visible throughout your home and make a habit of noting the time and guessing the time throughout the day.

Once your child can understand the basics, practice estimating time through simple games. These can easily be played in the car or while waiting in line. Expand her knowledge by challenging her to estimate time spent on simple tasks. Children with a better grasp of time will naturally develop better time management skills.

You can reinforce basic time management skills through structure and routines. For example, your child should know that after dinner, he must put away his toys, take a shower, brush his teeth, and put on pajamas before he can watch a show or play a game on the computer.

Rather than using the screen time as a reward, it’s the positive end result of his actions. The logical consequence of not completing his after-dinner routine in a timely manner then becomes not having enough time to use the computer. Sometimes setting a timer or alarm can help to reinforce that time is not flexible.   

6 | Support organizational skills

Organizational skills are another concept linked closely with executive functioning. While their brains are still developing in the prefrontal cortex, children will need support in developing organizational systems that work for them.

On the small scale, help your child with daily organization by providing written checklists of the day’s activities, responsibilities, and commitments. Very young children might need pictures instead of words. Though you may need to fill them out for your child initially, keep him involved so that he can make the lists himself in the future.

Another way to support your child’s developing organizational skills now is to lay the foundations for daily routines that can continue when your child is older and does have homework.

Set up a filing system that is easily accessible to your child. It could be color coded folders, drawers, or boxes. Have one box for things your child wants to keep over the long term, have another drawer for works in progress, and have one last drawer for papers ready to be returned to school, like completed permission slips or reading logs, and completed homework further down the line.

Help your child to go through his backpack each night and sort any papers into the filing system. Keep a recycling bin handy so that anything that doesn’t warrant keeping can be efficiently purged.

Finally, keep a large monthly calendar accessible in your home. This will reinforce for your child that organizational skills are a lifelong process. Have your child help you to fill it in at the start of each month and add important deadlines, commitments, and responsibilities together as they arise.

Don’t let a lack of homework mean less responsibility at home; instead, let it be an opportunity for more meaningful, authentic responsibilities. Though the absence of homework might initially seem like permission to let skills slide at home, it’s really an invitation for parents to become more involved and invested in their child’s development.

Schools, especially crowded or understaffed ones, cannot possibly be responsible for teaching our kids everything they need to be successful in life. When parents and teachers work together to nurture well-rounded kids and to reinforce budding skills both at school and at home, everyone comes out on top, homework or no homework.   

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10 Simple Ways to Empower Girls to Love STEM

While the government works to increase the opportunities for women, here are ten ways you can help your daughter fall in love with STEM.

According to UNESCO, only 28 percent of the world’s researchers are women. In the United States, women hold less than 25 percent of the jobs in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Not only do women working in STEM tend to earn more money than women in non-STEM fields, but their perspective can reveal problems, solutions, and markets that male researchers may have overlooked.

The White House Council on Women and Girls has been focusing on closing the gap with studies on higher education for girls, the role of STEM mentors, and representation of female researchers in the movies and television.

While the government works to increase the opportunities for women, here are ten ways you can help your daughter fall in love with STEM.

1 | Praise her for working hard rather than being smart

Focus on the attributes she can change rather than concrete attributes. Telling her she’s smart or ‘good at math’ can be discouraging when she encounters subjects that she may find more difficult.

Instead, tell her you’re proud of how hard she studied for the science test or how she didn’t give up on the math problems. If you reinforce positive study habits, she’s more likely to keep up those habits when she’s struggling.

2 | Ask her how she thinks things are made

Have a conversation about the way things are made, whether it’s computer programs, video games, or the layout of the telephone poles. Make a game of pointing out ordinary things and talking about the people who make them.

By demystifying building and designing, you change her worldview. She’ll start to wonder what she can build and what problems in the world need to be solved. From there, it’s only a matter of experimentation.

3 | Encourage experimentation

When your daughter comes to you with a question, ask her how she can figure it out on her own. Ask her to try new things without fearing that it won’t work.

If she wants to change a recipe, let her try and see what happens. If she wants to a new desk, let her design one and see if it works. Experimentation is a great way for her to learn new skills, ideas, and ways to think about problems.

4 | Don’t gender her passions or let anyone else do it

Keeping gender out of STEM is more difficult than you might imagine. If she likes coding or making apps, don’t make a big deal out of it in front of her. If she loves bugs, don’t let your friends tell her how strange it is to meet a girl who likes bugs.

Gender biases are going to slip in from her peers, her friends, and maybe even her teachers. But you should be steadfast in reinforcing the normality of her interests.

5 | Introduce STEM role models

Introduce your children to STEM role models in real life and in stories. If you know an engineer, introduce her to your daughter. If you know an app developer, talk about the nature of her job. Read about Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, and the women who made the moon landing possible. Normalize women in these fields, so she can see herself in them as well.

6 | Discuss the types of STEM professions available

Children typically only know about the professions they’ve seen in person, books, or movies, which can be a narrow worldview. Talk to your daughter about what other jobs exist without putting any pressure on her.

When you’re at the zoo, talk about the scientists who keep the animals healthy or the engineers who built the water systems. When you’re at the beach, have a conversation about the people who study the ocean or the people harnessing wave energy. Reference the various apps on your tablet and the problems they help solve. Tell your daughter that electrical systems are designed and bridges are built so she can begin to imagine what it might be like to do those things.

7 | Use math around the house

Math teachers are used to hearing, “When will I ever use this?” But basic math is all around us. Show your daughter how useful it is. Talk about discounts and notice receipts. Have her do the conversions for your batch of cookies. Explain the angles in your woodworking or the distances between your plants in the garden or how you can rearrange the furniture and make it all still fit. When math seems useful and normal, she’s less likely to shy away from it.

8 | Use educational toys and apps, but don’t make them the only toys

Code Academy and Girls Who Code are great tools to get girls interested in computer science. But if she’s only playing with educational toys, she might lose out on the creativity in other toys. Encourage her to think about how her interests can be combined in interesting ways.

If she likes science and dancing, ask her how she can combine the two. Can she combine her coding skills with her love of make-up or snow globes or stuffed animals? The answer is almost always yes.

9 | Encourage her to stick with her passions and skills as other girls start to drift away

At a certain age, girls can start believing they aren’t good at STEM. Your daughter might begin to feel self-conscious about her math skills or about being a pre-teen who’s still fascinated with lizards. Encourage her to be herself anyway.

She might decide to stop talking about her favorite subjects, but keep praising her for her hard work and don’t let her pretend to be dumb to fit in with the other girls. Teach her early that if she loves a topic, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

10 | Don’t discourage her if she starts leaning into something else

After all this, your daughter may still lose her interest in STEM, and that’s okay. If you try to force your daughter to be a veterinarian or an astronaut or a mathematician, she’s only going to resent you until she becomes unhappy enough to do what she wanted to do anyway. Or, she might return to STEM one day after she gets tired of whatever caught her fancy for a while. Perhaps she’ll combine her new interest with the old ones.

You can help her become a woman who works hard to solve problems and experiments without fear of failure. But you can’t make her follow a set career path of your choosing. It’s up to her to do those experiments.

Let Them Sleep: Why High Schools Should Start Later

Teens often experience a natural shift in their sleep patterns. This shift toward staying awake later is at odds with most school start times.

Teenagers who are night owls are more likely to have difficulty regulating their behavior, a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports.

Adolescents who were sleepy during the day and more alert in the evening hours ranked low on measures of self-regulation – the ability to alter behavior, thoughts, and emotions depending on the situation. Learning how to self-regulate is an important skill for teenagers to develop, and with chronic fatigue preventing it, the answer may be pushing school start times back to a more reasonable hour.

The study by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Tulane University aimed to find out if chronotype (the tendency to be a “night owl” or a “morning lark”), daytime sleepiness, and number of hours slept per night were associated with the ability to self-regulate.

A sample of 2000 12- to 18-year-old students were asked if they had problems similar to the ones in statements such as “I don’t plan ahead for school assignments,” “I get upset over small events,” or, “It bothers me when I have to deal with changes.” Participants who reported that they often experienced these or similar occurrences were rated as having less self-regulation.

Study participants were also asked questions about the number of hours slept per night, how awake they felt at different points in the day, if they ever fell asleep during school, and if they had difficulty staying awake during the day.

The researchers found that students who were more alert in the evenings and sleepier during the daytime were more likely to have difficulty self-regulating. The sheer number of hours slept at night, however, was not associated with self-regulation.

Adolescents require eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, but the average high school student gets far less. By their senior year in high school, 75% of students are sleeping fewer than eight hours per night, significantly less than the 8.5 – 9.5 hours a night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.

This widespread fatigue among adolescents has its consequences, with the AAP regarding it as a public health issue. A lack of sleep can have serious health consequences beyond simply feeling tired. Sleep loss has a significant impact on mental health, with teens who are overtired being at a greater risk for depression and suicidal ideation. Insufficient sleep can also increase the risk of obesity, and puts teenagers at a greater risk for driving accidents where drowsiness is a major contributing factor.

And, as this study suggests, a lack of sleep can also have an impact on a teen’s ability to regulate their behavior and emotions.

Learning self-regulation in adolescence relates to better outcomes in adulthood, including better physical health, financial success, less criminality, and less substance abuse. With a lack of sleep impairing students’ capabilities, teenagers aren’t best equipped to manage their thoughts, emotions, and behavior at a time when their actions may begin to have life-long consequences.

So should we just start making teenagers go to bed earlier? It might not help. Researchers found that the number of hours slept per night was not associated with better self-regulation, however, having night owl tendencies did mean more difficulty controlling emotions and behavior.

This correlation means that teenagers who are at their most alert in the evening experience circadian misalignment when forced to start school early in the morning. With teenagers experiencing a natural shift in their sleep patterns, many cannot fall asleep before 11 p.m., meaning there’s no way they can achieve the recommended amount of sleep and be at school by 7 a.m.

When high school and middle schools start before 8:30 a.m., teenagers are at their lowest level of alertness. Waking early likewise causes them to miss out on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is critical for knowledge retention. Trying to squeeze extra hours of learning into the early morning could actually be causing teenagers to learn less overall.

Nationwide, only 14 percent of high schools start after 8:30. Opponents of moving school start times later cite difficulty in managing bus schedules, after-school jobs and sports, and parents’ work schedules. But the benefits of pushing start times are clear.

High schools that push start times back see significant improvement in student achievement. A study of five school districts in three states with later school start times found that students, unsurprisingly, were more likely to sleep eight hours or more each night. The later start times also led to improvement in school attendance, reduced tardiness, and higher national achievement test scores. Students were also more likely to report that they were in good health, and less likely to report being depressed or to use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

According to Start School Later, a non-profit organization that advocates for later start times, early morning classes also may play a hand in widening the achievement gap between low and high income students. Public schools are more likely than private schools to start before 8 a.m., and parents with inflexible working schedules are often unable to make accommodations for a child who overslept and missed the bus.

Teenagers are at a point in life where they’re given more freedom and responsibility than ever before. Learning to navigate these new opportunities can be challenging even under ideal circumstances. When you add in the hurdle of chronic sleep deprivation caused by early school start times, it’s easy to see why teens would struggle to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

While moving school start times later than 8:30 might require the shuffling around of schedules and a good deal of logistical rearranging, it could be just the thing teenagers need to improve their physical and mental health.

How to Talk to Your Reluctant Teen About Going to College

Every teen takes a different path to college, and some may just take longer than others. But you have to support them along the way.

Two years ago in spring of 2014, I graduated from college, decorated with honors cords from graduating cum laude and student leadership cords for being an officer in a prominent school club. You would think with such success and involvement, I’d always wanted to go to college – that is not the case. In fact, when I was in high school, college was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

As a teenager, I absolutely hated school. I constantly did the bare minimum to pass my classes, and the thought of continuing my education after high school, and paying to do it, was horrible. I honestly didn’t even want to finish high school, but knowing that high school diplomas are held in higher regard than GEDs, I knew I had to graduate. I was lucky that my parents never pressured me to go to college – and you shouldn’t pressure your kids either.

You may think your insistence that your kid go to college is pushing them towards future success, but it may just be stressing them out to the point of anxiety and depression. While you shouldn’t pressure your teen, there are ways to encourage them to explore their post-high school options.

Have a conversation with your teen.

It seems like a simple suggestion, but anyone who has a teen knows how difficult it can be to talk with a teen sometimes. Ask your teen why he or she doesn’t want to go to college. It could be that high school is causing too much stress and anxiety, and the pressure of college level classes will be too much.

Help your student tackle stress and mental health before you start pushing for college. Once your teen feels that he or she can has the stress under control, you can start exploring different options for the future.

Suggest taking some time off.

I remember hearing all the time that if I didn’t go straight to college after high school, I would never go at all. On the contrary, taking time off is the only thing that made going to college feasible for me. Taking a break from being formally educated helped me gain an appreciation for it.

It also gave me time to figure out what I loved and was passionate about – something I couldn’t figure out while hating every second that I was in school. Many teens likely feel this way, and taking a break from sitting in a classroom to gain some real life experience in the working world could be just what they need to appreciate school again.

Suggest a test run.

With all the pressure from everyone in my life (excluding my parents), I did actually attend a semester of college right after high school. I wanted to see what college was like – it did not go well.

Some schools offer the opportunity to try college without enrolling. Arizona State University recently started a program called Global Freshman Academy that allows anyone to try a handful of freshmen level classes completely free. If the student decides that he or she doesn’t like the classes, or if the student is failing the classes, there’s is no penalty. If the student does like the class and the overall experience, and decides to enroll, he or she pays for the credits and the class is counted toward requirements. It’s a great chance for newly graduated teens, or anyone wondering about college, to check it out with no commitment.

Having a conversation with your teen about college is important, but remember that the reluctance doesn’t mean he or she won’t eventually go. Every teen takes a different path to college, and some may just take longer than others.

Debate Club: Do Kids Need to Attend Preschool?

Education is a big deal. But how early should we focus on it? Two Parent Co. writers offer differing opinions on the importance of preschool.

What kids learn at preschool that they cant learn at home

by Jackie Semmens

“Do you want to stay home from preschool tomorrow, honey?” I asked my son. ”Grandma is here, and we can spend the morning playing with her instead.”

“No!” he answered emphatically. “I have too many important things to learn!”

I chuckled. It takes a lot to convince my son to miss a morning spent with a grandparent, but if anything can, it’s preschool.

A few months ago, I had been wavering on whether or not to send my oldest son to preschool. What was he going to learn that I couldn’t teach him at home? He knew most of his letters and numbers, and I figured he would pretty easily pick up the rest by the time he reached kindergarten. I exposed him to a wide variety of activities – hiking, music hour, trips to the science museum, art, and of course, reading plenty of books.

Ultimately we decided to enroll him in a small, affordable preschool close to our house. “If he doesn’t like it, we can always take him out,” my husband reminded me.

So what can a children learn at preschool that they can’t learn at home? And is it really so important that they learn it before kindergarten? I decided to start looking into the matter, and as it turns out, children can gain a lot from a quality preschool experience. It’s also critical that the learning happens early.

As parents, we tend to be concrete thinkers, looking for measurable benefits. When I asked my husband what our son could learn at preschool that I couldn’t teach him myself, I had been focusing primarily on the academic side of the matter.

The academic benefits for attending preschool are certainly numerous. Preschool programs geared towards disadvantaged children have been shown to increase the intelligence quotient (IQ) by an average of eight points. Preschool also prepares children better for kindergarten than their peers who did not attend.

Preschool is about more than playing with blocks; it’s about gaining the building blocks needed for academic success down the road. A multi-state study of children who attended a state preschool found that kids in preschool programs had stronger vocabularies, improved math abilities, and better print awareness, setting them up for success in elementary school.

But that still wasn’t enough to convince me. I had heard critics of preschool point out that the early academic boosts wear off by mid-elementary school. Looking into the matter, I discovered that, while some studies suggest that boosts to IQ fade out by third grade, many of those studies were methodologically unsound and could also be attributed to teachers having to play “catch-up” with children who didn’t attend preschool.

But the real benefit to preschool lies in the “soft skills” that children develop, in addition to the academic ones. Our brains are at their most malleable and impressionable in early childhood, and by developing social abilities at this age, children gain skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. By interacting with other children outside of their typical home environment, preschoolers learn to socialize with other children their age, manage stress, and problem solve.

Learning how to “play nicely with your friends” is perhaps the most important skill that preschoolers develop and the one I have the hardest time teaching at home. While my son has a younger brother and we play with other children frequently, I couldn’t provide him with an environment where he would have to independently learn to share, compromise, and follow directions from people who weren’t his parents.

These soft skills are best learned in preschool, and translate to success in the workforce down the road, according to Noble Prize-winning economist James Heckman. Decades after attending a preschool program 1960s, the kids in the study were employed more, had higher salaries, got sick less often, and also went to jail less often than those who didn’t attend preschool. The earlier kids learn to cooperate and resolve conflicts with each other, the better.

These benefits were all starting to sound pretty enticing. But a part of me was still skeptical. Most studies about the benefits of preschool focused on inner city, low-income children. We are college-educated, middle class, and live in a small town.

I had read headlines proclaiming, “If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool” (an argument that assumed disadvantaged families weren’t even bothering to research preschool, which sounded a bit presumptive to me). But I was curious if a middle class child like mine would actually gain anything from attending.

While low-income children see the most progress from attending preschool, middle class children benefit as well. These children, just like low income children, gain pre-reading skills, social-emotional skills, and even see an increase in lifetime earnings. Perhaps most interestingly, a multi-state study showed that all children gained increased listening and comprehension skills when they were in a classroom with greater income diversity. Treating preschool as if it was something only for disadvantaged kids means that everyone misses out.

In the end, we decided to send our son after seeing how bored he got on the days that we were stuck in the house catching up on chores. I figured my younger son would benefit from a little one-on-one time with mom as well. The best part has been seeing how much he enjoys preschool, spending time with his friends, and seeing his teacher.

Like he says, he doesn’t want to miss out because there are too many important things for him to learn. Having done my research, I know he is right.

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Preschool can happen at home, with great results

by Kathryn Trudeau

Blink once. That’s about the time it takes for your newborn baby to be picking out his back to school shoes and a Paw Patrol backpack for preschool. Preschool is a big milestone for any three- or four-year-old, but in some places the hyper focus on preschool does actually begin in infancy.

Some preschools in big cities such as New York City have cutthroat application processes, wait lists, and tuitions as high as college tuition. It may seem silly to fight so hard for a spot in a preschool, but there is an underlying truth. Kindergarten readiness is important.

Little children are sponges in what they can absorb. What children learn at this age affects them on many levels: academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. But despite the sheer importance of preschool, a good preschool education does not need to be stressful, expensive, or elusive.

In fact, you don’t even have to leave your home! If you have a little one nearing preschool age, keep in mind these four benefits of preschooling at home.

You’re in control

Even if you don’t plan on homeschooling your child throughout elementary school, choosing to do preschool at home has one huge advantage: you’re in control. As the teacher, you plan your child’s day, what your child eats, and what technology she is (or isn’t) exposed to. Being in control also means you’re in control of what your child doesn’t do.

My son regularly requests to work in his math workbook. I never try to force it on him. Rather, I let him lead. I doubt he would get such a personalized, one-on-one approach with this specific interest in a traditional preschool. Being in control means I can focus specifically on my son, his interests, passions, and unique skill sets.

Sibling bond

One morning, as I sat at our school table, I watched my preschooler as he colored a picture of different plant parts. I was explaining to him how plants grow, their need for water, and how sunlight helps them to grow. My toddler took a green crayon and said, “Help brother. Me help brother.”

At the moment, I thought it was sweet and how great it was that he was sitting so nicely. Then it really hit me. When we “do school” we have routines, and one habit is that my two boys always sit next to each other. My toddler doesn’t have to sit there; he has a whole room of toys to play with, yet he chooses to sit next to his brother.

As we venture into homeschooling, I am continually made aware of just how much their bond is strengthening. They are friends, companions, buddies…and sometimes partners in crime. You know how much a toddler loves someone if they are the first name called upon waking up. How lucky I am to help my boys learn how to love each other! Even if you end your homeschooling journey after preschool, that extra year of sibling bonding will take them far into their lives.

It’s easy – no rocket science degree required

I’ll be the first person to admit that when my husband and I committed to homeschooling, I panicked. The question “How could I teach a child to read?” quickly turned into
“How will I be able to teach Advanced Algebra IV?” Clearly, I was in panic mode.

The thing is this: teaching preschool is easy. It’s an extension of what you’re already doing as parents. Parents teach colors, shapes, animals, manners, and preschool is no different.  Preschool is about “kindergarten readiness,” not learning to read chapter books or multiplying fractions by age five. 

In fact, some studies indicate that such rigorous “academic” studies do not really benefit the littlest learners. Interestingly, the age of compulsory attendance in Finland is seven. Prior to that, their preschool is all play-based. Play-based learning is easy on mom and amazing for the kids. Without strict expectations to learn to read by age five, children have the freedom to explore their world and learn through creativity.

This type of learning fosters a rich way for children to focus on their own personal and social development. Reading books to your child, playing imagination-based games, and teaching basic life skills (things like eye contact or greeting someone when they come over) are all easy things to do. 

It’s important to remember that just because an experience is categorized as play doesn’t mean it’s not an educational experience. A walk through the zoo is fun and opens up a whole new world to children. Making play dough cars can quickly become a counting game. I learned through experience not to overthink or overcomplicate preschool.

Socializing is on your schedule

When I tell someone we homeschool, you can bet they will make some comment about socializing. Socializing with peers is important for any human in any age group. Humans are social animals. It’s why moms join mom groups, why men attend poker nights, and why Grandma never misses Bingo. Likewise, our kids need socialization, too. But there’s no rule that says it has to happen at school.

My son has regular play dates with friends and attends a weekly gymnastics class. He also regularly sees extended family. He is one of the most social people I know, and he is definitely more social than many adults. Chatty Cathy (as I sometimes call him) does not lack socialization because he preschools at home.

The educational decisions we make on behalf of our children are not to be taken lightly. No matter which route you choose, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as feeling validated in the choice you do make. For me, it’s hearing my preschooler excitedly say three little words, “Let’s do school!”

Confessions of a Reluctant Unschooling Mom

Discovering the best ways to educate our children often leads us down paths we never could have envisioned ourselves traveling

I did not set out to be an unschooling mom. Honestly, I did not know the meaning of the term until very recently. I am a product of the conventional educational system, and I wholeheartedly believed in it. There was no reason for me not to.

Growing up, I had some of the best, most dedicated teachers helping me shape my life and become who I am today. I have fond memories of the classrooms, playgrounds, school events, friends, and everything else that are quintessential of the traditional schooling model.

So, when our son was old enough (barely 3), I did exactly what I was conditioned to do. I enrolled him into a “play group” at a school which was to be his second home till K12. And I happily went about my way, daydreaming of “me-time” projects for the afternoon hours.

But during the next year, as our family of three keeled under the pressure of art projects, activity sheets, assessments, PTMs, and results, we started questioning this crazy need of our society to shove little ones onto the path of formal education at such a young age.

Six months ago, we came to the reluctant conclusion that this unhealthy pressure could not go on for long. And just like that, we did the unthinkable and pulled our son out of the formal education system.

Being the stay-at-home parent, the onus then fell on me to “educate” our son and help him grow up to be a productive member of the society. I took my role very seriously. I focused on my job of being his teacher with all earnestness. I made a list of all the “skills” that he needed to master by the end of preschool, then kindergarten.

It did not take me long to realize that I had just succeeded in replacing his classroom education model with a one-on-one tutoring model, nothing more. And it was not helping.

Eventually, I stopped with all the “teaching” and left my son alone to discover and learn with curiosity as his only guiding force. And just like that, from a reluctant homeschooling mom, I transitioned to an even more reluctant unschooling mom.

It was not easy for me (it still isn’t), and it did not come naturally. But as I watch our son carve out his own unique learning path from his environment, I must confess that maybe, perhaps maybe, we should let our children be a little more and make our children “learn” a little less.

I am still a newbie at this. So, honestly, I’m just fumbling through this whole unconventional educational system at best, but here are some of the lessons I have learned so far:

You need to be a facilitator, not a teacher

Children, especially the younger lot, don’t need you to teach them as much as they need you to point them in the right direction. And once you’ve done that, you should simply back off and let their hearts and minds make the connection for real learning to happen.

Taking fun out of the equation is taking the learning out

Children learn because it’s fun to know new things about the world they’re living in. Not because someone is going to question them later on. The moment you make the learning about their grades – for younger kids, it’s when we compare them to other children – the fun-o-meter suffers a complete breakdown and learning becomes a chore.

Children learn from everything, period

In the beginning of our homeschooling/unschooling journey, I stressed out plenty about the curriculum to follow, the books to read, the worksheets to complete and what not. Turns out, children do not need focused resources for learning to happen. They learn to read from cereal boxes and movie subtitles, they practice writing on their toys (and sometimes on the walls), and they learn science and mathematics from observing nature at work.

Levels or grades don’t necessarily map directly to a child’s age

Some children fit snugly into a given school grade, but they are the lucky few. Most others are somewhere in between two grades. A few are spread across three or more. To this day, I fumble when someone asks me which grade our son studies in because, honestly, I don’t have a clue. With respect to some skills, he is a kindergartener. For others, he is in Grade 1. Then there are some skills that I cannot map to any grade just yet.

Sociability does not depend on schooling

One of the biggest criticisms about the whole homeschooling model is the lack of peer-to-peer interactions during the day for the homeschooled child. And it is true to some extent. But what I have learned is that being social and outgoing is about the nature of the child and not about his schooling. Our son loves being friendly (even to strangers!), but he also equally enjoys being all by himself at home, learning at his own sweet pace.

It comes down to each child

I would love to say that unschooling is the best type of education there is, but it wouldn’t be true. At the end of the day, optimum education is about using the best approach customized exclusively for the child in question. Whether it’s a conventional classroom or the laid back, unstructured, unschooling home environment, your guiding force should be the glint of excitement in your child’s eyes – or the lack thereof.

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Homeschooling

Helpful words of wisdom and experience from a homeschool mom who felt just as intimidated as you might be feeling now. The bottom line is: you can do this.

My one-year-old son, Sam, sat on my hip as my three-year-old daughter, Wren, ran around the backyard before the oppressive Texas heat settled in for summer. Squatting on the ground to investigate a flower and the bee crawling on it, Wren turned her face to me and asked excitedly, “Mom, how do the bees do what they do?”  

I stared at her, unsure of what she was actually asking me. How do bees what? Pollinate? Fly? Sting? No matter the question, I had no answer, so I tried to fake it.

“Well, um, bees use pollen, or make pollen, or nectar…they for sure make honey and that’s good. They die after they sting you, so whatever they do, they don’t do it after that.”

Wren gave me a halfhearted smile before turning back to the flower she was observing. Suddenly, I doubted everything I thought I knew about what it would be like to homeschool, brought to my knees by the curiosity of a three-year-old.  

I wasn’t homeschooled, but I knew from the beginning of my life as a parent that I would be a homeschooling mom. Now my qualifications seemed shaky at best. There was so much I didn’t know but needed to, and that day I started grasping in the dark for answers.  

Here are 10 things I wish someone had told me before I started my homeschool journey.

1 | Homeschool parents don’t have to be experts – they just need resources.

No teacher has all the answers to every question, but the good ones know when to seek help. That’s the key to teaching a child how to be a lifelong learner: be the example.

Be a model of curiosity, exploration, experimentation. Avoid developing the habit of reaching for a predictable teaching tool or another worksheet. Instead, model active learning by asking questions, trying out ideas, and making adjustments.

2 | Teaching a child to read is 90% of the battle and 100% of the solution – but don’t rush it.

Focus on not rushing this basic, vital part of learning. Rushing equals struggles, and can take the joy out of reading and writing. So lead your child gently with lots of read-alouds and playful explorations of the letter sounds and shapes.

Once a child can read, they’ll find books and information on topics that interest them. Before I knew it, my kids were teaching me about squirrels, Mars, and why the Headless Horseman couldn’t be real because they read up and learned themselves.

3 | Socialization isn’t going to be an issue.

When people think of homeschooled children, they tend to imagine unsocialized outcasts who lack people skills. This simply isn’t the case. Socialization takes place in a variety of settings, not just at school.

For parents who want more support in the socialization realm, Homeschool World offers a way to search for homeschool support groups by area. The lists are extensive and include co-ops that offer everything from book clubs to weekly playdates. In fact, the only problem a parent will have is information overload.

There’s also nothing like Meetup.com to connect with like-minded individuals. Homeschool groups abound on the site, but parents should make sure the group they join meets the needs of their family. Some of the Meetup homeschool groups are extremely structured, while others just offer a place for kids to hang out and play.

Sports leagues are another great way for kids to make new friends and learn about sportsmanship. Children will interact with kids who are homeschooled and public schooled in leagues, and this will help them understand the other side of schooling.

4 | Playtime is brain food.

In fact, many schools are adding more playtime throughout the day to let kids work off fidgety energy so they can focus on learning. When the kids spend time engaged in imaginative games in the yard, that’s school.

The key is to give kids mini breaks throughout the day. Instead of expecting them to sit for hours and hours and then receive one 15-minute break, let them get up and play after 30-45 minutes of work or when you notice they’re distracted and having trouble sitting still.  

Play is a way to refill their cup and bring them back to the learning table ready to focus. Also, don’t use play as a reward. Make it a part of the everyday homeschool plan, an essential part of learning and exploring.

5 | Start the day with a loose plan.

It’s not necessary to micromanage when homeschooling, but it is a good idea to start each morning with a written list of what is to be accomplished during the day. To make sure these expectations are realistic, sit down the weekend before and look at the calendar. How many playdates or field trips are planned for the next week? Are any visitors coming to town? Are there holidays or special events that will interrupt the normal flow of the homeschool week?  

Once all of this is taken into consideration, use index cards or a weekly planner to sketch a plan for each day. If something doesn’t get finished on Monday, move it to Tuesday. If much more is accomplished on Wednesday than expected, make sure to note it.

Daily planning can become a learning experience for your older students. Give them a planner of their own and show them how to make a checklist to organize their day or their schoolwork. Check things off and create a new list the next day.

6 | On the hard days, decide what it’s worth.

Kids will have days where they get out of bed and knock out all their work quickly. Other days will feel like a struggle from start to finish. This is normal. The upside is that homeschool parents have the chance to decide whether to push forward on the hard days or to let their child run in the backyard and make up the difference tomorrow.

7 | Teaching children at multiple academic levels is possible.

Though it takes work and planning, teaching children who are different ages and doing different levels of work is possible. This plan will change throughout your children’s development, but here’s an example of how it works for a mom with three kids – a toddler, a kindergartener, and a second grader:

  • For the toddler, make sure the child has a sensory station with kinetic sand or water that he or she can play with. Whatever keeps the toddler happy for the longest period of time should be offered.
  • Move on to working with the child who is the most self-sufficient, probably the second grader. Take some time to review information or cover a new skill before letting this child work independently until they need their work checked.
  • Finally, move to the child who needs the most guided help, such as the child who is just learning to read or properly trace letters (around kindergarten age). You’ll need one-on-one time to dedicate to helping this child develop essential skills that are the foundation of his schooling.

It’s also possible to purchase curriculum that is designed for multiple ages and includes activities based on grade level.  

8 | Borrowing vs. buying resources

Some libraries have STEAM kits that offer hands-on math work and materials for science experiments. While there is usually a waitlist and we only get to keep the kit for a designated amount of time, we have the opportunity to sample tons of different items without purchasing.  

There are exceptions. If a child loves math manipulatives and will work on math more willingly with them, then invest in manipulatives to enhance the learning experience. It will be worth the cost.  

9 | On creating a “real school” vs. a living homeschool

There are parents who like to segregate home and school within the homeschool environment. They want their children to be in school mode and see them as only a teacher during certain times of the day. They may even set up a classroom-style area in their house complete with school desks.  

For me, this didn’t work, but it could have been because of my prior teaching experience. As a former teacher, I needed to actually pull away from what I thought school was supposed to be to open myself up to all homeschool had to offer.

In our house, it’s always home and it’s always school, so everyone feels free to discuss science experiments at dinner or to talk about problems with a friend during math lessons.

10 | You don’t have to teach every subject every day.

History and science are great, but elementary-aged children don’t have to go over those topics every day. Math, reading, writing, and play are the daily essentials, with focused history and science lessons on the agenda two to three times a week.  

Once kids master reading and other basic skills, it’s much easier to fold in other subjects. Plus, children inadvertently study science every day. All those questions about where the earth came from, why slugs come inside when it rains, and what life is like on the moon? That’s science, and kids never stop asking questions.  

••••

The afternoon of the bee question, we went to the library and grabbed books. Wren and I read them during Sam’s naptime and then looked at videos and pictures of bees on the internet. Wren fixated on the notion that bees communicate by dancing.  

As the sun began to set that night, my daughter led me outside. She put her two index fingers straight up over her head, shook her bottom, and made a raspy noise from her throat.  

“Do you see them?” she asked.

“Who? The bees?”

“Yes!  This is how they tell each other where the pollen is, remember?”

I put my fingers on my head, shook my bottom, and buzzed back at my daughter. I’m not sure if the bees ever arrived, but it didn’t matter. We laughed and learned together, and I realized we were going to be just fine.  

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Oak Meadow partnered with Parent.co to sponsor this piece because they strive to keep the wonder and excitement of childhood alive and to spark each individual’s passion for learning.

On Teaching Tolerance and Inclusivity in Early Education

As a teacher, you can be the advocate for kids who challenge the ideas of what boys and girls “should” do.

He was such a handsome little boy in my preschool class. His eyes were large and brown, his hair full of perfect black curls. During playtime he’d be the first one to dig through the milk crate of dress-up costumes to pull out his favorite flowered dress and a strand of plastic pearls.

I watched quietly from the sidelines as he admired himself in all his frilly regalia, oblivious to the other boys playing police officer and fireman. Back then there were a few disapproving looks from some adults, mainly parents picking their little ones up early who saw him click-clacking around the classroom in heels three sizes too big with a long strand of pearls around his neck.

Those who frowned were oblivious to the facts, that one’s sexual orientation is certainly not determined by what a five-year-old chooses to dress up in. It is innate, who that person already is inside. He was just a little boy doing what comes naturally to all children, which is to explore when given an environment without constraints.

Many years later, I often think of him when conversations about gender stereotypes become a hot topic at dinner conversations or in the news. Although there is a call to be more accepting and inclusive, there are still those who are adamant about what little girls and little boys should and shouldn’t do.

I often wonder as a former teacher if there was more I could have said or done as I watched this little boy play in his favorite floral dress to reassure him it was okay to be different, to choose something other than the norm.

I wish I had told his mother at the end of his busy day not just that he wrote all of his letters or about the details in the drawing of his family he made, but also how tenderly he rocked a baby doll. I wish I had handed her a Polaroid photo of his wide smile in that flowered dress and let her know her precious child was just as precious to me in case she was wrestling with the biases of others.

So if you are the preschool teacher teaching that little boy, this is an open letter to you.

Dear Preschool Teacher,

I hope you smile and give the little boy in your class who likes to dress up in dresses extra special compliments, even if it’s about how he pours a pretend cup of tea for you to sip so perfectly. Let him know that his type of creative play is just as valued as the little boy (or girl) who chooses to dress up in a police or fireman uniform.

I hope you think of him as a budding flower in bloom and nurture him with empowering words that will help him be confident in whatever journey he sets out on. People may view him differently than other boys and he’ll need those words to anchor him. Trust me when I say he will remember them when he grows up and thinks of you. 

I hope you keep your eyes and ears open for the negative comments of other adults or children and shield this child. Be his keeper. Challenge others to think differently.

I hope you embrace the parents of this child. Mind your words and your tone when you speak to them because they may already be overly sensitive having to battle the gender biases of family members, friends, neighbors, or perfect strangers and need someone in their corner.

I hope you have a bushel of books that are inclusive and representative of people in non-traditional gender roles. Barriers need to be broken down and what better place to start than with a great picture book for young children.

I hope every month or so you get out your magnifying glass and go through your classroom to see if there’s something you’ve missed, or something you need to change so that every child feels he is free to be who he or she wants to be in your learning space.   

Every day is a chance for you to help a child’s heart sing, to bolster the child who may one day have fingers pointed at him or her for being different, and to teach tolerance and acceptance.

I put my faith in you as a teacher. You rise to meet so many challenges when you walk into that classroom. I know you can do this, and I thank you in advance.

How to Help Kids Practice Using Math in Real Life

Adding math concepts to daily conversations helps kids see that learning extends beyond the classroom, and is used in many ways all the time. Here’s how.

As a second grade teacher, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by parents is, “What are some things we can do at home to help support classroom learning?”

Reading is absolutely essential to intellectual growth and should begin when your child is a baby, and continue even when your child can read to himself. Writing begins with drawing simple pictures, then adding labels and short lines of text to these pictures. Children begin to develop number sense by counting items or holding up their fingers to illustrate how old they are.

Once children begin school, much of the learning is transferred from home to the classroom.  Parents can transform daily chores into valuable learning opportunities for their children as they take concepts learned in class and apply them into real life settings. 

Throughout the day, opportunities abound to increase your children’s mathematical abilities, no matter what their age. The following concepts – most often taught in school – are easily transferred to home, and can make learning fun:

Classifying and sorting.

Do the laundry. Examine and talk about the different patterns and designs in fabrics with your child. Measure the detergent, and talk through the steps involved in the sequence of doing the laundry. Use terms like “first,” “next,” “then,” and “finally” to help your child sequence the actions.

Make patterns with coins. Expand simple repeating patterns such as penny, nickel, dime, penny, nickel, dime– to include growing patterns like penny, nickel, nickel, dime, dime, dime, etc.

Children love to have collections of objects from shiny rocks to trading cards, cars, or dolls. Sort these collections by different attributes, such as color, size, function, and design, depending on the collection.

Working with money.

Before going to the store, give your child a list of items to locate. Once at the store, read the signs above the aisles, and ask your child where they think the items can be found.

Older children can look at the unit prices or price per pound and calculate the costs.

Have an extra calculator? Kids love to use a calculator to add up the costs of items and figure out the correct amount of change.

Use the scale in the produce department to estimate and weigh fruits and vegetables.

Have your child open a bank account. Calculate interest, subtract withdrawals, and add deposits.

Measurement.

Cut a string in various lengths to equal one foot, one meter, and one yard. Challenge your child to find things that measure greater than, smaller than, or the exact length of the measurement string.

Estimate and calculate volume by filling measuring cups with rice, beans, or water.

Some foods are often divided into equal portions and come in a variety of shapes. Use graham crackers to illustrate fractions, waffles to explore area and arrays (rows x columns). Divide snack crackers in half to demonstrate symmetry, or divide crackers among several children to illustrate the concepts of multiplication and division.

Adding and subtracting.

Ask your child questions like, “If I give you 15 crackers now and 10 crackers later, how many will you have eaten in all?” or “If you ate a total of 25 crackers, some in the morning and 10 in the afternoon, how many crackers did you eat in the morning?”

Add different groups of items, and have children use the terms “more than,” “less than,” or “equal to,” to describe the relationships between or among the groups.

Adding math concepts to daily conversations helps children see that learning extends beyond the classroom, and is used in many ways on a daily basis. Applying what they’ve learned in an interesting and fun way throughout the day helps children practice what they know, form connections between old and new learning, and see the practical application of learned mathematical concepts.

Having fun doing math is key to helping children on their journey to become life-long learners.