Help for Parents Supporting Their Child’s Math Skills 

You have probably heard that you should be helping your child learn math at home through everyday activities. But perhaps you have been reluctant to do so, either because you didn’t know where to begin, you find the new math curriculum is confusing, or you have always thought that you were “bad at math.” For parents of students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Mathnasium has a booklet of Math Tips for Parents. They have a companion booklet called Math Tips for Students Grades 6 & Up as well. 

The booklet for parents covers the basic math concepts that students should be learning and provides examples of questions to ask to support those concepts. The booklet covers ideas like: 

  • Counting 
  • Grouping
  • Fractions
  • Problem Solving
  • Money
  • Visualizing Problems
  • Learning Addition and Subtraction Facts
  • Learning to Tell Time

The focus of the booklet is on helping your child learn math concepts, which is much more important for later success in math and science than learning a certain way of adding or how to solve a specific problem. 

What Your PTA Can Do 

Mathnasium is also a founding sponsor of National PTA’s STEM+Families program. In partnership with National PTA, Mathnasium has created a Math Night program that provides a ready-to-use collection of games and materials to help kids explore math at their own level. The step-by-step materials are part of the Math Grants Toolkit, and your PTA does not have to be a math grant winner to use the kit. The toolkit includes everything you need for a successful Math Night, including planning materials, promotional tools, and wrap-up items, with most pieces available in both English and Spanish. Start planning your Math Night today. 

Helping Your Teenager Get More Sleep

Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep to function at their best, but only about 8% of American teenagers are getting the sleep they need and, according to a recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, more than half (59%) are suffering from severe sleep deprivation, meaning six or fewer hours of sleep most school nights. The Child Mind Institute has a Parent’s Guide to Teenagers and Sleep that covers why teens are sleep deprived, what the consequences are, and how parents can help their teen get more sleep.

The Child Mind Institute also has an article that goes into depth about how you can help your teen get more sleep. There is a lot of evidence that parents can play a critical role in helping their child set limits on bedtime, study time, and media usage, though with teenagers’ desire for autonomy, you can expect some pushback if you haven’t started these limits when they were younger. Among the things you can do to help your teenager develop better sleep habits:

  • Be consistent, even on the weekend (with a little flexibility)
  • Screens off an hour before bed
  • Limit the after-dinner snacking
  • Consider a low dose of melatonin to jumpstart normal sleeping patterns
  • Be realistic with their activities and don’t overschedule
  • Set a good example
  • Streamline mornings
  • Focus on productivity to maximize the time available to sleep
  • The bed is just for sleeping

Find out more about these ways to help your teen get more sleep by reading the article at Child Mind Institute and read or download their Parent’s Guide to Teenagers and Sleep.

Photo © 2007 by Becka Spence under Creative Commons license.

Getting to Know Your Child’s PE Program

Physical Education (PE) at school can help children build lifelong healthy habits to exercise. Illinois was the first state to mandate daily Physical Education (PE) with at least 100 minutes per week, and in 2015, Illinois adopted Enhanced PE standards. But in 2018 that requirement was cut to three days with no minimum time requirement. With the loosening of PE requirements, it is important that families know what their child’s school PE program actually includes. To help, Shape America has partnered with National PTA to create Getting to Know Your Child’s PE Program: A Parent’s Guide.

The guide provides you with 13 questions to ask about your child’s PE program and explains why it is important to ask these questions. Among them are:

  • Is physical education taught by a certified teacher with a degree in physical education?
  • Is the physical education class size similar to that of other content areas, to ensure safe, effective instruction?
  • Does the program provide maximum participation for every student (e.g., inclusion, no elimination games, all students active at once, developmentally appropriate activities)?
  • How are students with disabilities included in your physical education program?
  • Is physical activity—or the withholding of physical activity—used as a negative consequence when students misbehave?
  • Are social and emotional learning skills integrated into the health and physical education classroom?

Share the guide with your families, or use it as a basis for a program at your next PTA meeting on how your school does PE.

Photo © 2011 by Brad Barth under Creative Commons license.

KIDS Can Help You Support Your Kindergartener

Every year, about 150,000 Illinois five-year-olds have their first day of kindergarten. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has recently begun measuring kindergarten readiness as a way to improve this critical first year of school. The measure, known as Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), uses teacher observation of daily classroom activities like playing, working, and lining up during the first few weeks of school. ISBE has also created a family toolkit to help new kindergarten parents better support their child and build a solid foundation for their education.

KIDS is not a pull-out test, but simply kindergarten teachers observing their students throughout the day during the beginning weeks of school, looking at four key components for education success:

  • Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Language and Literacy Development
  • Cognition: Math

By understanding their students’ strengths, challenges, and dispositions, kindergarten teachers will be able to better support and build on what those students already know and can do.

Because family engagement is a critical part of student success, ISBE has created a family toolkit to help families understand the KIDS measure and to provide at-home activities to support their child’s education. The toolkit includes:

  • An overview of the KIDS measure in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Tagalog, and Urdu
  • An introduction video in English and Spanish
  • 14 at-home activity sheets in the four domains in both English and Spanish

Sending your child off to kindergarten is often a big event for families. Your PTA can help make the transition a little smoother for those new kindergarten parents in your school by sharing the KIDS family toolkit with them. Doing so is also a great opportunity to invite them to join your PTA and support the work you are doing for student success at your school.