How to Know What Your Kids Should Be Learning in Public School and Help Them at Home

Do you know what your children are supposed to learn each year? Do you know what they are learning this year? Since we are their parents, it is primarily our responsibility to make sure they are getting what they need each year. There are a few resources available to you that can help you do that. I’ve only just stumbled onto them since I have pulled one daughter out to homeschool her for the rest of the year, but they’d be valuable for every student!

Check Out Your State’s Standards

When my children have a teacher that communicates with parents regularly and sends home graded work, I feel pretty comfortable because I know what they are working on in class. We are even able to reinforce it at home. When I don’t see a lot of work come home and don’t hear from the teacher, I begin to get concerned. Every time that happens and I voice my concern, I am told to visit our state’s education website to check out the standards. However, I have never done it diligently. I have browsed past the information and gleaned a little, but never explored it in depth.

The homeschooling partnership that I consulted directed me to those state standards once again, but this time it was necessity. I had to know what to teach my daughter for her to stay up-to-par with the rest of the students in her grade. There is truly a wealth of information on our state’s education website.

I found that there was a large part of the state’s standards that she had missed this year. Part of the missing information was due to her own problem of not paying attention, but some of it was missing because the teacher just hadn’t gotten to it. I knew she was missing some things, and this, of course, was one of the reasons that I had to pull her in the first place, but now I know specifically. This gives me the power to help her.

Every state has their standards available. While some of the links on this Education World page are broken, it can give you an idea of how to find the standards of education for your state. The standards are generally divided up by grade level and subject. I challenge you to take a look at them for your students.

I plan to do this every year from now on for each of my children, perhaps over the summer so that I know what to look forward to in the next year. Then, my eyes will be open to any troubles early on.

Check Out the Standardized Test for Your Students

Another resource that I found is the state’s standardized test. People say that the teachers “teach to the test” nowadays and this removes creativity from the classroom. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use that test to help educate your child. If you use the test and supporting materials to focus your efforts, you can help your student learn AND maybe even be more successful on the test.

At the local learning store, I found practice workbooks and solution manuals are available for every grade for our state’s annual test. I know that my children go through these books in class each year, but the book has a glossary of words for each tested subject and the solution manual has a breakdown of the concepts being tested. It is an excellent resource for parents for working their children to supplement what they are getting in class.

In Washington state our test is called the “Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL)”. When I visited the state’s education page, I found sample test questions from previous years and other resources for teachers. As parents, we can also use these to help our kids.

Find Out What Subjects They are Teaching in Class

It is important to know what your teachers are teaching in class. If they don’t share the information readily, all you need to do is ask specifically. Find out what their focus is on in the current year in science, social studies, math and reading. Use this information to give you focus on what to talk about as a family and how those subjects affect real life.

I recently found out that in 5th grade the students learn about the Revolutionary War at my daughter’s elementary school. What a great opportunity it is for me to refresh myself on the subject and talk about it with her. We even found some engaging documentaries on Netflix to watch together.

My 7th grader was studying unit rates in math, so I made her figure out how much we would spend on gas for our spring break trip knowing the average gas mileage of our car and the price of gas…yikes!

**Added 4/13/12** Core Knowledge Series

When we got home from our vacation I came across another important resource that I forgot to mention, but that I’ve found to be very helpful. I bought the book “What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know” from the “Core Knowledge” series. They publish these books for kindergarten through sixth grades.

Not only does the book tell what they should be learning during that grade, but it also covered each topic. You can use it almost as a textbook. You can go over each subject and learn what you’ve undoubtedly forgotten since you were in 5th grade. For 5th grade there is history of explorers, science topics, math skills, poetry and other literature. It is all-inclusive.

If you were looking to supplement what your child was learning in class and make sure they didn’t miss anything. This would be a great book to buy.

I have not come across any similar resources for upper grades, but I would love to know if anyone has a good resource for this type of book for junior high and high school.

Those little moments you share in what your kids are learning make their education matter and come to life for them. Supplement what they are getting in class by using the resources readily available to guide and focus you on what is relevant for them. It takes extra time and effort on your part to do this, but it is worth it. As Christian parents, when we know what our kids are learning at each level, we can also take the opportunity to fill in the gaps with our Christian worldview on those subjects.

About Shawna Wright

Shawna Wright has three daughters currently in 4th, 7th, and 9th grades. While she graduated college with a degree in Chemical Engineering, she chose to stay home and begin raising her family. She and her husband, Michael, purposefully chose to put their children in the public school system with much prayer and perseverance. Shawna volunteers in the local school district. She is also a hobby web designer, writer, speaker, graphic artist and Director of Communications at her church. Her heart's desire is to be a light in her community and help her own children to be lights in theirs.
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