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Take your teens back to kindergarten to see if they are ready for high school
Summer is just starting, but already you may be thinking about how your teenager is going off to high school in September. This is completely understandable as high school is a huge step in their lives! However, there are ways to prepare your teenager for high school that should make the transition a bit easier. This may seem counterintuitive, but before your teen heads to ninth grade, take them all the way back to kindergarten, another exciting moment in their lives and their first real entrance into academia. In kindergarten, your child started with the basic building blocks to lay down a solid foundation for all their subsequent levels of education. By taking them back to kindergarten, you remind them that they can rely on basic skills, that they have to take it upon themselves to learn for the sake of learning, and that they need to take charge of their own activities. Some of the basic skills that children learn in kindergarten are essential for all active members of society. They include good manners, communication, expression, and collaboration. As basic as these are, consider the importance of communicating clearly and working with team members as an adult. Your teen probably understands the importance of these skills, but many times they can still forget these or choose to ignore them once they enter adolescence. The best way to do this is to have them model off your own behavior. Your relationship will be best cultivated through reciprocation, meaning if you treat your children with respect, they will return that respect. Portray good manners when dealing with teens by saying “please” and “thank you.” Likewise, if you communicate openly and express yourself, teenagers will feel safe doing the same, so you are not left in the dark. Lastly, remind teens that it is important to be helpful members of the community by sharing and working with others as part of a team. The second thing kindergarten focuses on is learning to learn. Children entering kindergarten are not in an advanced stage of education but the very, very beginning. They are learning what it is like to learn, and so the emphasis is placed on the process. They use their senses to figure things out on their own with some outside guidance; this gives them a feeling of control. High school will be a stressful time with increasingly difficult levels of education. All those honors and AP classes and the reward systems like Honor Rolls and valedictorian title can feel overwhelming. Teenagers become driven by those extrinsic factors, such as good grades and GPAs. Outside academics, extrinsic factors include popularity, sports victories, party invitations, and social media likes. The focus drastically shifts to the results. Strip back the fancy titles and reward system in order to strip away the stress on your teens. Remind them that it is all about how they learn rather than what they accomplish. It is good to have ambition and goals, but colleges only use those results to gauge whether youths have established good self-discipline and worked on self-improvement. They use those results to check on the process--does this child have what it takes to grow and handle stress that the real world will throw at them? Enjoy the lessons and the classes. Accomplishments will naturally follow. It is the same with relationships; it is better to nurture healthy ones and get to know people rather than count how many friends and followers they have. In particular, it is imperative that teenagers realize the importance of building a network of supporters through connections and mentors. This leads to the last point: teenagers will have to take charge of their activities. They will have to be proactive in order to become truly independent adults going into college. Although they have more freedom and mobility (hello, drivers licenses!) than kindergarteners, the latter can teach teens a thing or two about taking charge with a hands-on approach. Kindergarteners are innately curious because they are at an early developmental stage where they are trying to understand the world around them; and therefore, they are constantly touching, experimenting, and asking questions (even if it is just “Why?” over and over again). Teenagers need to do the same and start taking charge of the future. This is truly where JEI’s Self-Learning Method® comes into play. They need to develop a growth mindset, head out, and test out different things, such as clubs and activities at school. Just like how kindergarteners dig their hands without restraint into the mud and try out a funny-looking slide, teenagers need to get their hands dirty and blindly go down new adventures by trying out different activities, actively finding what they like and do not like, meeting new people, and keeping an open mind. High school will introduce a completely new realm of possibilities, such as varsity athletics teams, volunteer programs, retreats, external academic programs that require applications, clubs ranging from theater to car mechanics, and part-time jobs. It is an exciting time for teens to dig in and see what sticks, and learn from all the experiences rather than shying away or passively letting life happen to them. Then, they would have a better idea of what to get out of college and what to pursue after graduating! Let your teenager go back to their kindergartener roots. High school and kindergarten are similar in that they introduce your child to completely new environments that give plenty of opportunities for learning and growth. Do not fear the change because you have gone through a similar change before when you dropped them off at kindergarten--rather be as supportive and helpful as possible while giving them room to do their thing! If you want to prepare your children in advance for high school, find a JEI center near you so they can absorb the Self-Learning Method® as much as possible before!
Are there girls in this book?
Empathy is a big factor in emotional intelligence. It allows us to navigate social situations by inferring or inquiring about how others are feeling. Empathy is crucial to building relationships in any professional setting whether it be the workplace or the classroom. Studies show that reading increases empathy, so why wouldn’t we want boys to empathize with the other half of the human species? Writing for the Washington Post, children’s author Shannon Hale recounts the myriad ways in which adults discourage boys from reading stories with female lead characters: A school librarian introduces me before I give an assembly. “Girls, you’re in for a real treat. You will love Shannon Hale’s books. Boys, I expect you to behave anyway.” At a book signing, a mother looks sadly at my books. “I wish I could buy some for my kids, but I only have boys.” A little boy points to one of my books and exclaims, “I want that one!” His father pulls him away. “No, that’s a girl book.” Hale’s books, particularly the ones with “princess” in the title, are often bait for this sort of treatment. However, based on reports she’s gotten from parents, boys love her books as much as girls do. The only thing making them “girl’s books” are the adults in the room. And if literature is a major means of learning empathy for others, adults are in effect teaching boys not to empathize with girls. When we tell our boys that they should avoid the stories of women, we are teaching them not to listen to women. These lessons trickle down into classroom behavior and, when the children grow up, the workplace. But even if we aren’t explicitly or implicitly shielding our sons from books with female protagonists, they may still be hard to come by. A 2011 study found wide disparities in the gender of central characters in book publishing overall, finding that books overwhelmingly opted for male leads. To combat this institutional bias, we must actively ensure that our boys are reading books with female main characters. Further, we need to stop treating books with female leads as lesser books only for women’s entertainment, especially to our boys. When we teach them these stories don’t matter, we teach them that the female experience doesn’t matter. That lesson carries into the workplace, the classroom, even their love life. At JEI, we believe that reading is for everyone. Our Reading & Writing enrichment program takes children through a whirlwind of literary genres, including non-fiction. For instance, our curriculum includes Matilda, Roald Dahl’s classic novel. In it, the title character, a precocious five-year-old girl, survives her world of abuse at the hands of her parents by playing ingenious pranks on them. At school, Matilda’s classmates are terrorized by the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull whose punishments are so outlandishly severe that no parent would believe their child. Matilda uses her wit, her leadership skills, and her unexpected powers of telekinesis to run Miss Trunchbull out of town. This novel shows boys that girls can be powerful and intelligent, able to take control of the world around them. Matilda and other female-led stories such as Harriet the Spy and The Cam Jensen Mysteries teach boys that women can take proactive roles to change the world they live in. The first step to our boys seeing female characters with a full range of emotion and experience is getting these books into their hands. JEI’s Reading & Writing program is a great way to start that process. Summer is a great time to get started with this program. Each month, your child will read one book while completing assignments testing core competencies like reading comprehension and vocabulary, usually as essay prompts. To get started with our Reading & Writing program, find a JEI Learning Center near you.
How our children’s social lives affect their academic success
Having friends teaches our children social and emotional skills that cannot be taught through instruction. But did you know that friendship can also boost academic achievement? Research has consistently shown that friendship and group membership in school is positively related to academic performance. In a 2018 meta-analysis of 22 different scientific studies, Kathryn Wentzel and her research team concluded that “working together with a friend and simply having a friend were related significantly and positively both to cognitive and performance outcomes.” As parents, we can’t control our children’s acceptance by their peers. We can, however, help them develop the social skills necessary to build and maintain friendships. First, parents need to model good social behavior. When talking to your child, it’s important to talk to them in a manner that your child can emulate. This means demonstrating good emotional management by resolving conflicts in a civil, constructive way. Another way parents can teach good social skills is to validate their child’s emotions. This means not trivializing or punishing problematic emotions, but rather talking through your children’s emotions with them so they can better understand and control their feelings. One thing that might be particularly difficult for parents is granting their children the freedom to figure out social relationships. This doesn’t mean disconnecting entirely from your children’s social life, but rather asking questions about their friendships. Ask them what they do with their friends, how they feel about who they hang out with, and what kind of influence those friends are having. We can’t control our kids’ social lives, but we can help our children take stock of their relationships to make the right choices when choosing friends. We can also put our children in enriching social situations where they can develop friendships around positive activities. At JEI, our intimate classroom environment allows our students to build relationships centered around learning. Our Reading & Writing program, in particular, puts children in conversation with each other around classic children’s stories as well as some non-fiction. To enroll your child in our programs, find a JEI Learning Center near you.