PARENTS & FAMILIES NEWSLETTER
Below is the third edition of our Parents & Families newsletter for the 2020-21 school year. If you'd like to receive this monthly in your email inbox, sign up here.
One of my best homeschool hacks this year has been the timer app on my phone. My youngest is still in elementary school, so maintaining his attention on one task is an uphill battle.
Fortunately, I discovered that I can make sure he reads every day by having him pick a book and come tell me when he’s ready for me to start the time. Twenty minutes later, the timer goes off and he’s free to turn his attention to the next activity. Ta-da! Now he’s reading every day, which is especially critical as he approaches the milestone of fourth grade where reading skills become essential for learning.
Knowing what my son needs to know and the skills he should have by the end of this school year is one of the few ways I’m able to relax while we continue to do school from home. This month, as the third edition of our three-month series on Remote Learning Tips and Tricks, I’d like to share resources to help you identify how your student is doing and the essential skills they need to know before moving on to the next grade.
(Quick note: If you only have high schoolers to worry about, skip down to the High School and Beyond Plan section.)
FAMILY GUIDES (K-8)
The first place you can start is the recently released K-8 Family Guides in English and Spanish. I started with the guide for third grade and was able to breathe a small sigh of relief when I saw that one of the key skills is “Asking and answering questions about stories and texts read independently.” My son is already doing that - so we’re ahead of the game!
I also love the “Education Words” section of each guide, which explains common terms used by educators that I’m not always familiar with. For example, in the Third Grade Guide, it includes “Fluency: The ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression that shows comprehension of what is being read.” And then, in the ‘Tools and Resources’ section there’s a link to a specific resource that can help build his fluency skills.
Guides (english): https://bit.ly/family-guides
Guías (español): https://bit.ly/Guias-Familiares
The guides were created by a national organization called Seek Common Ground, in partnership with Ready Washington, a local coalition of education organizations of which we’re proud to be a member. This coalition is made up of more than 20 state and local agencies, associations, and advocacy organizations that believe every Washington student should graduate high school prepared for a successful future––on the education and career path they choose––and we offer tools and resources to support them on that path.
Here are a few additional details on how the guides were made:
- The guides are based on research from Student Achievement Partners about key standards in math and literacy that students should be learning this year in each grade.
- They include activities for families/caregivers to do to support students’ learning in these critical subjects, as well as tips for talking with teachers and “eduspeak” explainers.
- Four focus groups of Washington families contributed to shaping the final products.The hope is that families and caregivers can use these guides as tools in their toolkit during this time of virtual school.
READINESS CHECKS (K-8)
According to a national survey this year by nonprofit organization Learning Heroes, 92% of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level. However, only 39% of teachers say students start the school year prepared for grade-level work. Learning Heroes is driven by their mission to inform and equip parents to best support their children's educational and developmental success. One of the ways they’re helping families is by providing a Readiness Check to get a gut check on how your child is doing with key math and reading skills and easily access helpful resources for learning at home.
I highly recommend grabbing your kiddo and doing one of their Readiness Checks right now. They’re easy, quick, and helpful (and I can’t say that about most online resources).
Learning Heroes recommends having your child start the Readiness Check with the grades they’ve already completed as a fun review. As they say on their website, “It isn’t a test—they can relax and solve the problems—like a game! At the end, you’ll get fun, free activities to help set your child up for success in their new grade.”
Again, thinking about my third grader, this was a really easy way to check his skills against some of the recommendations in the Family Guides. Here’s a screenshot of the instructions for the Readiness Check for third grade literacy skills:
HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND PLAN (9-12)
Supporting a student’s learning in high school is a very different experience from helping a younger child learn how to read or do basic math. I’m not yet there myself, but I do know that in order to graduate, high school students in Washington need to complete a certain set of credit requirements and have a more structured education experience. Ensuring a student is on track starts with checking which credits they’ve already completed and which ones they have left.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be all on your shoulders! The best place to start is with their High School and Beyond Plan. The Plan process supports students in exploring their interests, planning high school coursework that is aligned to those interests, keeping track of major assessment scores, and logging work and other relevant experience. It’s designed to enable students to successfully pursue education or training after they graduate high school. It may be accessible online or it may exist in paper form in your district. The video below from Ready Washington is a quick explainer of how you can support your student as a parent or family member:
BUILD YOUR TEAM
The last thing I’ll say is to remember that you are not alone in this. Your child has a team of people cheering them on including you, their teacher, their counselor, and your entire family. If you haven’t yet, reach out to one of your child’s teachers and find time to chat with them. Building this relationship will help you create a foundation for when you need to support your student through a challenge.
Now more than ever, we’re all in this together. Whether it’s me and my timer or me and my husband, my kids’ teachers, and my colleagues - I know I’m not alone in the unique challenge that is this moment intime. If you do feel alone and would like support figuring out how to advocate for your child’s needs at school, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text at 509-701-4581. Our next newsletter will be starting a new three-month series on supporting your students’ mental health, so please also feel free to send me your suggestions and ideas for resources we can share.
In the meantime, I hope you have a meaningful holiday season and look forward to connecting soon.
Standing with you,