There are many developmental milestones along a student’s path. We often focus on the obvious transitions, such as entering Kindergarten or moving from the Grammar to Upper School. But what about the middle Grammar school years? Parents and teachers alike recognize the tremendous growth that happens beginning in Third Grade. We widely refer to this as the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” While there is some truth to this, it is not the only thing that defines these critical years. How can we maximize this time and be a part of God’s magnificent design for our children?
Independence is essential to a child’s growth. The tricky part is that we struggle in finding the balance between too much parental dependence and a hands-off approach that could leave our children drifting. Let’s face it: This is the greatest parental challenge of all time, and the “middle years” are no exception. That is why prayer and wisdom are essential. As we turn to God and ask Him for guidance, we see His plan unfold for each unique child He created. One thing that will serve us well is to maintain high expectations while providing a scaffold underneath with our involvement. Empower and encourage the positive things. Shepherd and steer the areas that need molding. Always look ahead to what your child will need in the future. Sowing seeds now will produce a plentiful harvest.
Creating study habits is a skill that will serve a student well for a life. We are not born with built-in instincts about how to best digest information. How can parents assist their child in this endeavor? First and foremost, parents can directly work with their student on organizing materials. We can all identify with the folder that comes home oozing papers. The brain is easily overwhelmed with clutter. Help your child develop a simple system to manage homework. Hold your child accountable for putting every paper in its proper place. Additionally, the brain learns best when we stimulate it in multiple ways for the same concept. For example, the more ways we expose ourselves to the content, the better it is cemented into our brain’s filing system. Read it, write it, say it, and listen to it. You can even make a song or rhyme and move to it. Carve out a space and time for learning at home. Important things don’t happen by accident. Make studying and homework a family priority. Unfortunately, our busy schedules often take over our lives and crowd out this essential component. Nothing takes the place of unrushed, quiet learning time. Set up an environment that has supplies, good lighting, and is conducive to studying. Take frequent breaks. A little work each day is much more effective than a long study session the night before.
Nothing is more gratifying to a teacher than seeing students jump from concrete to more abstract thinking. The “middle years” are fruitful in this way. Students begin to take what they have learned and make connections across the disciplines. They also begin to see the broad overarching concepts in subjects such as Literature, History, and Bible. Believe it or not, they also start to see how these things can be applicable to their own lives. After all, this is the primary aim of a classical education. We don’t have to wait for the Rhetoric years to see these budding minds blossom.
While at times you may feel “stuck in the middle,” take a moment to reflect on the ways your child has grown and thank God for the work He is doing.
by Amy Davis, CCS 4th Grade Teacher