Beating the Report Card Blues

It feels like we just headed back to school, but time is flying and report cards are already making their way home. This can be a stressful time for students and families, when the first indication of how a child is doing at school becomes apparent in ink. As a child enters a new grade, it can be hard not to be shocked by what is coming home on the first report card. You know that your child is smart and that they have succeeded in the past, but maybe this report card is sending red flags and you don’t know what to make of it.

Instead of letting this one piece of paper set your household in to a tailspin, there are a few things that you can do to set your child on the path to seeing better results next grading period. It is always important to remember to encourage your child, even when they bring home grades that are undesirable. As adults we have seen our fair share of failure, and have used that failure to direct our efforts and teach us lessons..this moment is a perfect opportunity to share insight about moving on from failure with your child. After having this chat, consider some of these options to to set your child on a better path for next grading period, and/or find out what is really going on behind the grade.


Communicate with your child

Talk to your child about the report card and see what they have to say. They may be just as surprised as you are, or they may not be surprised at all. Ask them how the subject is going in school, what they feel like when they are in class, and what is going on around them when they are learning. It could be that they sit next to someone who is too noisy for their concentration level, can’t see the board, can’t hear the teacher, don’t understand the material or a number of other things. Your child may tell you something that gives you really great headway on how to help remedy the situation, or something that you can discuss with the teacher to find a fix.

Set a goal

Maybe you find out the reason for the unexpected grade is that your child didn’t do all of the homework, or that they did not get enough practice with the material to master it. You can help your child set a goal to fix the problem, and then hold them accountable for reaching that it. This may even be a good time for you to set a goal that your child can also hold you accountable for. Make sure to discuss and write down the steps or behaviors that will need to be accomplished in order for the goal to be reached. For example, if the aim is for your child to complete 95% of the homework assignments and get them turned in, the steps or behaviors might be: Get the homework folder out and complete all assignments right after school. Let someone in the family check or look at my homework. Check to make sure all homework is back in my bag before bed time. Hand in my homework when my teacher asks me for it. Sometimes writing steps down can help a child see that accomplishing their desired behavior is achievable and also can help them remember what they need to do. After setting the goal, show support for your child by asking them “How can I help you reach your goal?” or “How can I help you be successful?”. These questions help you show support, while still keeping your child responsible for their own goal. Obviously, your assistance depends on the age of the child.

Communicate with the teacher

Reach out to the teacher and see what they have to say about your child’s grade. Since the teacher is the one who is up close and personal with your child’s school work, they may have some insight as to how to remedy the situation. You can also communicate to the teacher what your child feels they are struggling with in class. Collaborate with the teacher to see what you need to be doing at home, and they may decide to also do something different with your child based on your insight as well. Make sure not to sound accusatory or blame the teacher for your child’s grade or performance. Also remember to give the teacher a few days to get back to you after you first reach out, report card time can get VERY busy for teachers. Chances are there are some other parents also contacting the teacher with concerns.

Make adjustments to your routine

Sometimes the report card can be a sign that the routine is just not working for your child in the same way that it did last year. The new demands of a new grade, or extra after school activities may signal time for a change in the routine. Consider changing the time at which you do homework. Maybe your child will get more done if they do homework right after school, while they still have momentum from the school day. Alternatively, you may discover your child gets more done if they have a 1-2 hour break to clear their head and recharge before they try and tackle their homework. If homework isn’t the issue, consider bed times, breakfast, or nightly routines. Play around and see what is going to work best for your family this year.

Seek outside help

You may find that your child has gaps in their learning that are making it hard for them to succeed at the level that their grade is currently working. Or your child may need more practice with subject matter than they are getting at school. Seeking help from a tutor can be a great option for students who need extra practice, or who need to fill in gaps in learning. A tutor is able to help your student learn in ways that work for them and create activities and practice that cater to your child’s learning style. When I am first meeting with clients, I always make sure to ask what specific areas the parent is worried about in their child’s academic progress. Make sure to communicate with your tutor often to ensure that everyone is on the same page. A tutor can help your child in a way that can greatly impact their experience and performance in academics long after tutoring sessions have ceased.

There is no guarantee that these suggestions will work in your individual situation, but I have found that they are always a good place to start. When dealing with your child’s academic struggles remember that you are not alone. You have a community of teachers, tutors and mentors right around you.

Happy Learning!


Creating an Interest in Reading

I have a confession to make…I haven’t always been the voracious reader that I am today. Though it may come shocking to some people that know me, as a child I came pretty close to hating reading. Yes, I know that hate is a strong word, but as a young person I probably would have told you that I at least “did not like all..period”.  I did not find reading books enjoyable, and I for sure was afraid of reading out loud in class.

Many things contributed to my fear and distaste for reading in my childhood. In general I think I felt that I was not good at reading so I did not feel like trying. I also never was guided to books that I was interested in. It took me until my Junior and Senior year in high school before I discovered that reading wasn’t that bad..that reading was actually THE BEST. It took me having friends that guided me to books they thought I would enjoy, and me enjoying those books enough to work though the reading skills I was struggling with.

One of the reasons I became and educator was to make sure that this didn’t happen to as many children. When I think back to the years when I “did not like all…period” I tend to feel sad. Reading has become an oasis for me that I use to help relieve anxiety, as well as for entertainment and stimulation as a curious adult learner. Sometimes I think about how much more I could have enjoyed and learned if only I had started at an earlier age.

When children or adults tell me that they do not enjoy reading I have an automatic response. “Well you just haven’t found the right book yet!”. Usually the adults that I tell this to just stare at me. The kids usually get excited though 🙂

If your child does not show an interest in reading it is completely normal. The good news is there are things you can do alongside their teachers, tutors and mentors to help them become interested and aware of the joy and importance of reading. Please do not misunderstand, I have not performed any scientific research. I am not claiming that I am an expert or that I am an authority on this subject. These are simply methods that I have seen work with some children.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

  1. Read Together

This may seem like a no brainer, but I know that it is also harder than it sounds. Everyone is busy, especially during the school year. Try to make time to pick out books with your child that they would like to read and read them together. This doesn’t have to be a bedtime routine, this can occur at any time during the day. You might even find it helpful to keep the book with you as you go about other daily routines so that you can find small times before sports practice or while waiting in lines to read with your child.

   2. Let them see you read

Kids always want to be like their parents. They idolize you! Not only will they repeat what you say, they will also repeat what you do. If your child sees you reading on a daily basis they will also want to read. Keep some books, magazines or newspapers that you are reading laying around the house to remind you to read them in a place where your child can see.

   3. Allow your child to abandon books

In America we have a mentality that quitting is bad. I have started to realize that this is not always the best mentality to have. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge when something isn’t working for us. One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy reading as a child was because if I wasn’t enjoying a book, I felt like I needed to slog through it anyways. Now however, I probably abandon a book per month. If your child has tried the book but cant “get in to it” or is not enjoying it, encourage them to put it down and make a different selection.

   4. Find them answers to their questions

Kids can ask a LOT of questions. They are trying to find out everything about the world around them, and they can become curious about subjects that you would have never guessed they would even think of. When your child asks you a question, help them look for the answer in reference books or on the web. If you are worried about web searches, you can do your own quick search and then print articles to read with your child.

   5. Make accessing books easy

Make sure that there is plenty of reading material around the house that your child can pick up. Books are expensive, and your child’s reading level changes quickly sometimes, I know. If you have a public library close by, see if you can make a routine of going with your child to pick new books ever couple of weeks. This helps you keep new and interesting books around without breaking the bank. If you do not have a public library close by, see if you can set up to exchange books with other families in your area every couple of weeks. Having lots of reading material around will increase the chances your child will get hooked on the perfect book!

Try one of these methods next week and see what it does to your child’s view on reading. Always remember to keep reading a fun and relaxed experience whenever possible.

Happy Reading!