Academic Expectations. A young girl wearing a school backpack rides a make-believe pencil through the clouds.

Academic Expectations and the Fear of Falling Behind

When are expectations useful, and when are they a scourge?

The first in ParentTalk’s series on expectations examined how to manage preschool expectations that didn’t seem to match your child’s age or level of development.  These expectations multiply in number, complexity, and potential confusion as children enter kindergarten and their grade school years, as the prominence of standardized proficiency tests and the pressure to keep pace intensifies.  These pressures can serve to motivate some children and their families, but for most, they engender concern in parents, and more devastatingly, a fear of classroom learning, or learning altogether, in children.  So how should parents handle these academic expectations, or the conversations these expectations produce between themselves, their children, and their children’s teachers?

This week’s episode of the ParentTalk podcast addresses each of these questions individually, and provides parents with pathways to productive conversations with their children’s educators, and importantly, signposts to recognize when academic expectations have gone too far, or demanded too much.

“What we’re talking about is someone in a child’s school raising an alarm.  And then the question is: is the alarm being raised because the child is going along their very normal and robust developmental pathway, and just hasn’t hit the milestones that the teacher expects them to hit?  Or is there something keeping them from making further progress?  That’s like trying to foretell the future.  You really don’t know.  But it’s what you’re up against when teachers raise these questions.  Is the academic expectation not being met a sign of a long term issue, or a just a part of normal development? ”

– Arthur Lavin

Episode Highlights:

– Academic expectations: when should a child learn to write their name?

– How to identify when your child is actually behind in his or her writing, and when there is nothing to worry about.

– Signs that your child’s reading is developing, whether or not they read in structured settings.

– Questions parents can ask teachers who present reading concerns.

– When children SHOULD develop reading skills.  Hint: it’s later than they’re being asked to read in school.

– When to seek an evaluation, and how to access free and reliable assessment services in your community.

– The perils of pressuring children in early childhood education, and how parents can address and counteract these pressures.