What do you think of divorced, or not even fully divorced, parents bringing a girlfriend to a child’s conference? Look, teachers are not referees. Parents need to come to conferences to discuss their children’s progress. Teachers should not take sides, and everyone at the conference should stay focused on the child. There is no reason to bring a boyfriend or girlfriend to a conference. If there is tension in the relationship for the separating parents, there is no reason to add to that tension. Over time, it will hopefully get easier, but don’t come to a conference ready to make everyone uncomfortable.


Six Year Old Having Trouble with Math

My child is having a really hard time with timed tests in First Grade. We practice the flash cards, but he cannot remember. Each time it is like he has never seen them before. Is this normal?
I completely understand the question, but it is a tricky one. Parents often get nervous when they notice something different about their child. Being different is never bad, and being different is normal. We are all unique. Some kids catch on to math facts right away. Some resist learning the facts. Some love to count on their fingers. Some have no idea what the teacher is talking about and they wait for someone to tell them the answers. Everyone is different.
Before starting math facts, kids should be able to count from at least 1-30 aloud. They should also be able to count objects, such as blocks or something small, and have what we call one-to-one correspondence which means they touch and count one object at a time, without counting objects twice or losing count and saying two numbers at once while touching the object, etc. This is why playing board games is so meaningful for young kids. Also, make sure kids can identify written numbers out of order 1-30. These steps usually happen in Kindergarten, over the course of the whole year.
In First Grade, kids need to start off the year demonstrating that they can still do all of the above, and then we move into addition and subtraction concepts. The kids have to understand what it means to add and subtract. Hold out a number line and show him that if you are asking 3+1, you are asking for the next number on the number line. Show him also that you are talking about counting objects. Use something like blocks and show him that if you have 3 and then add 1 more, you will have 4. Stop to check if your child seems to understand these concepts.
After this is established, we begin memorizing facts. I would say that if a child is having trouble with facts in First grade at this time of the year, you would have to go back through each of the steps I described and make sure there are no gaps. If your child seems stuck or troubled by the concepts in some way, talk to your teacher about your concerns. If your child can do all of the things described, you can have him begin memorizing math facts. If he is resisting flashcards, you could try online math games (you can find some free games at my website www.goasktheteacher.com) You can also write out math problems on paper, starting with 10 problems, then 20, then 25, then move up to 40, then 50 problems after he gets strong. Give him 5 minutes to do the 10 problems at first. Sometimes these tests are better than flashcards. On these types of math tests, you would do only addition, then only subtraction, and you would start with 1-10 before moving up to 1-20.


If My Child Does Not Pass the GATE Test, Then What?

I have a question and I'm hoping you can help me. My son took the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) test this past February he is in 2nd grade. He was referred by his teacher. I received a letter last week saying that he was not going to be admitted to the GATE program and if I wanted to see or discuss the results to please make an appointment with the principal. I had been having a bit of a problem getting an appointment with the school, however it looks like this coming week I'll be meeting up with the GATE program coordinator. I was wondering what kinds of questions should I ask and what can I do? Can I have my son re-test and if I do it outside of the school would those results be considered? Please advise.
My Answer:
Do not worry about a list of questions. Simply ask for a thorough description of his results. You can ask if he was close to qualifying. If he was not close, and they should show you his score along with the score that would have qualified for GATE, then do not worry about retesting at this time. It is not a sign that your son will not do well in school and he is not missing out on anything. He just didn't qualify for this type of classroom.
If he is close, you can ask if there is a way to retest or ask the coordinator about outside testing. Districts sometimes have lists of people for you to consider. Again, if he was not close, I would not recommend this.
Do not leave disappointed if your son did not qualify or feel like it is a statement about his future in school. He will somehow know he did not "get" something you wanted for him, but there is nothing he could have done. It is a small check into him as a student. One day and one test will not determine if he is successful.
Do not make it your mission to get him into a program he is not ready for yet. You can ask the coordinator when the district retests kids. Often, they retest after a year has passed, so when your son is in fourth grade. This gives the kids a break and helps.
Remember: he can get into honors classes in high school, AP classes and all the best colleges without GATE. GATE is under the umbrella of special education and it is there to catch students who display a need for a different type of classroom with a different delivery. Not all students qualify because not all students need this. Your son may be suited to perform well, or better than that, in the average classroom. That does not make him average, it just means he will perform in a standard classroom.
It is all in how you look at it.
Contact the writer by visiting her website at http://www.goasktheteacher.com or email her directly at goasktheteacher@yahoo.com

How Do Art Classes Help Kids Succeed in School?

Do art classes help children do better in school? My husband thinks our children need to focus on school work only. It is the only key to success. My son does well in school (third grade), but he really wants to take an art class. He can’t really draw too well, but he loves drawing. My husband knows he can’t draw too well, so he thinks it is a waste of time. He says it obviously isn’t his ‘thing’ so why waste the money. I want to convince him that we should try. Are there ways art supports good grades? Also, are there classes for kids in the Mission Viejo area that you can recommend to parents?
My Answer:
Art classes certainly enhance the education of children. Children need a variety of experiences in order to develop as learners. If your child is interested, but not adept at art, it is the perfect after school activity. Your child sounds bright and is learning in the classroom and seeking enrichment. Not many children would ask to take a class in something they are not already good at, so it is a testament to your child’s creativity that he is asking for this experience. Your child is young and he is still developing physically as well as intellectually and art classes will help him focus on details, creativity, expression, as well as develop fine motor skills and observational skills that are important for all children. There is an art class I highly recommend called, Kids Art, Fine Art Classes. They have classes all over California in Los Angeles and Orange County ( http://www.kidsartclasses.com ). My child attends the Mission Viejo class and we love the program. The environment is totally positive and all the children are so peaceful and happy while they are there. The owner is a mother with vision and passion. She told me how much confidence the children build as they progress through the program, and I see it in my own child. They take all children, both those that have artistic skills and those without, and they show them what they can do. Classes fill up quickly, and they take ages 4 to adult, so contact the Mission Viejo class if you are interested. They give one free class to allow you to see if the program will work for your family. Contact them directly (949)454-9555 kidsartmv@dslextreme.com

Do Class Sizes Need to Be Small in Elementary Grades?

Question:I have a great deal of respect for teachers. My grandmother taught country school for 37 years starting with a horse and buggy, however, I don't understand the need for a class as small as 20 kids. I graduated from high school in 1957. All of my classes were from 30 to 35 students. There were no drop outs in my class of 350 students. All of us received a good education. If I could point out one problem today it would be the lack of discipline. This is from school and also from parents. I sent my two girls to Catholic school where they received a good education and lots of discipline.
My Answer:
Can teachers teach kids in a classroom with 30 to 35 students? Yes. It has been done before and it can be done again. Will it be better for our kids? No, of course not. The No Child Left Behind Legislation tried to address reasons to stop our schools from falling further and further behind.
The system that you and I were both in growing up was not continuing to work. The smaller class sizes were suggested for our earliest learners, Kindergarten, First, Second and Third Graders. Learning the basics, reading and math, became the focus. These children are 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 years old. It is extremely important to have children reading and fluent by nine years old if that fluency is going to be applied to later learning and development.
I am telling you as a teacher who has had small and large classes, you really can catch a lot more and spend a great deal of focused effort with smaller class sizes. I can work with larger groups. I can even reach the kids in the larger class sizes because I will commit to doing that, but if I have a smaller group, I will be able to do more individualized instruction. When you teach a child to read, it really helps to be able to sit down with the small groups and hear them read and progress as they should. In the past, kids worked in large groups in desks arranged to listen to the teacher lecture and then perform tasks.


Cutting the school year 5 days short?!!?

What is up with this idea to cut the school year 5 days short? This is outrageous. I know, 'let's just let them out early, who cares, it's only the end of the year, they aren't doing anything then anyway.' What a better way to send the message, 'school really isn't that important to us in California, but please move here because it is so desirable.'

I am curious how this will play out. Cutting the school year will save a great amount of money. I was surprised how much it will save, $1.1 billion. If we are sure there will be cuts to schools, if the government really is about to run out of money, then cuts have to come some way. I get the impression that it is going to happen, but I doubt we will be posting it on any ads for our state. You have a good point.


Write to Stop Mid Year Budget Cuts this Nov '08

There will be a special session in the within the next month to decide on the cuts coming to our schools. Right now a mid-year cut is being proposed. Mid Year cuts will cause a disruption to the school year and to our classrooms. Students will be moved mid year, programs will be stopped, and it should not happen. If cuts must come, they must be planned for and schools must prepare.

WRITE OR CALL YOUR LEADERS now since the special session will occur within the month.

Our leaders pile these letters in piles FOR and AGAINST to see what the electorate think. We all need to tell them. Here is all the contact information I have so far:

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor (R)
State Capitol Building Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: (916) 445-2841; (213) 897-0322 Fax: (916) 445-4633

California Senate Districts Senator Dick Ackerman - Senate District 33 (R)
17821 E. 17th Street, Suite 180 Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 573-1853 • FAX (714) 573-1859
e-mail: senator.ackerman@sen.ca.gov

Sacramento Office—Room 4066 •
(916) 445-4264 • FAX (916) 445-9754

Find your representatives and assembly members here:


Click “find my district” on this page http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/defaulttext.asp

Other Contacts

Senator Tom Torlakson
Senate Education Committee
7th Senate District State Capitol Building,
Room 5050 Sacramento, CA 95814 Fax:
(916) 445-2527

Assemblyman Fabian Nunez Speaker of the Assembly
California State Assembly State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849 Sacramento, CA 94249-0046
Fax: (916) 319-2146

Senator Don Perata
President Pro Tempore California
State Senate State Capitol Building, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 327-1997

Assemblyman Michael N. Villines
Assembly Minority Leader
California State Assembly State Capitol, Room 3104
Sacramento, CA 94249-0029
Fax: (916) 319-2129

Special Education Funding Congressman John Campbell House of Representatives – District 48 610 Newport Center Drive, Suite 330 Newport Beach, CA 92660 Fax: (949) 251-309 Congressman Gary Miller House of Representatives – District 42 1800 E Lambert Road, Suite 150 Brea, CA 92821 Fax: (714) 257-9242

Educating in the Digital Age

I am a successful teacher, and I have been writing an educational advice column for the OC Register for four years. I am here if you need me. Post a question or use this page to find websites for Preschoolers, Elementary Kids, Junior High, and High School Students, Parents, and Teachers. I'll keep working on this site. Please use it and pass it to others who might find it helpful. If we work together, we can help one another, tutor each other's children, provide resources, steer each other to paths that are out there for all children.