FAIRWEATHER: Teachable Moments

Tommy Fairweather
Tommy Fairweather

First few weeks of school

Parents of kindergarten children are usually anxious at the beginning of school because it is a new adventure for their child.  However, parents of older children just send their children off without thinking much about it. Children of any age can have transition issues that make the beginning of school a time of concern. The object of this article it to point out some areas that parents might consider if the opening of school is not going as easily as it has in the past.

When a child has done well in school and then suddenly has troubles, I always recommend that parents check out the physical issues. For example, ear infections can cause hearing problems long beyond the infection because the fluid lingers in the ear. Another is a change in eye sight. Most schools check for eyes in early fall (some schools do it every other year), but you might want to take your child to an eye doctor if you suspect a problem.

Getting enough sleep is very important. It helps your child to keep a regular schedule every day of the week. You will know if your child is not getting enough sleep because he/she will be cranky, but the teacher might also tell you that your child is falling asleep during the day. Fifteen percent of the general population suffers from Excessive Daytime Sleep (EDS) which causes the child to sleep during the day. Researchers at Penn State recently found that children suffering from EDS often have learning problems, attending problems and conduct problems. A doctor can assess this if your child is falling asleep often in class.

The saying goes, “you are what you eat.” Well, this is true for children. Checking your child’s food intake and the time the food was eaten will give you a clue to how their diet is causing a problem. For example, if your child is having difficulty in morning classes, check the breakfast menu. If the problem appears after lunch, check the child’s lunch menu. Remember, if your child eats food high in sugar, the blood sugar spikes quickly and then leaves your child feeling lethargic and unable to concentrate.

Last of all, check your child’s emotional state. We often forget that emotions affect the child’s ability to think clearly.  Emotional issues can stem from home life. Perhaps a grandparent or pet is dying or parents are not getting along. Any of these will cause the child to feel insecure. The issue can be school related, too.  Perhaps the child is having trouble making friends. This can be solved by establishing play time with new classmates outside of school. Also, belonging to a group outside of school such as sports, scouts and church activities will help your child have other sources of friends to help them through rough spots. Schools provide counselors to help with these issues and will make more recommendations of how you can help. If deemed serious, you might seek the medical assistance of a physiologist.

It is possible that your child has lost academic ground over the summer. If children do not read over the summer, research shows that they lose reading comprehension skills. Since the teacher might expect your child to pick up where he/she left off, your child might be struggling to catch up. You should be expecting your child to read for at least 30 minutes every night. If your child is behind in math because he or she has forgotten math facts, it will take a few weeks of practicing the facts nightly to cure the problem.

Excessive media use can cause problems. I remember when my granddaughter’s grades took a dive in high school. A check of her cell phone showed she and her boyfriend had been texting in the middle of the night. The solution was simple; the phone was taken away at 9 p.m. and given back at 7:30 a.m. Her grades went right back up. You should always monitor media use.

Issues that cause learning problems can also pop up during the school year, so be on the lookout. Hopefully, this will be a great school year for your child.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher and educational consultant who lives in Destin.