By Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.  A Note from the Teacher – There are regular questions that come up often in discussions about students, education, and parenting.

In this column, we’ll answer a few of your most common questions about your children and education in 2010!

Q: My daughter listens to her music while she works on homework. Is this too distracting?

A: It’s a common child-parent argument- music during homework. Most kids are able to have music on in the background while they work and still maintain the level of focus needed to successfully complete assignments. Bookwork, short answer written assignments, and computation are often rote skills that can be done with music playing.

However, areas that require stricter focus, including studying for tests, reading novels or passages for comprehension, and working on mathematical reasoning can all be too demanding for split focus. Watch your child’s grades on homework and tests. Grades not up to snuff? Think about making some guidelines on the music during homework time.

Just a note, be watchful regarding how much time your child spends with earphones or earbuds in during the day. Overuse and high volume can create a combination that can lead to a permanent hearing loss. Don’t forget to check at night, too. Many kids like to go to sleep with earbuds in, so the damage can occur even when they’re sleeping.

Interview with Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

Q: My child’s penmanship is awful. Should they get occupational therapy?

A: If your child’s handwriting is illegible, it can be a sign of fine motor problems, especially in children over the age of 6 or 7. Ask your local school district to arrange an occupational therapy screening, a short test to assess your child’ motor function. Depending on the results, your child may be recommended for further evaluation or services.

However, just because your child has messy writing does not automatically require therapy. Some children take longer to master the skills of writing, while others find that neat penmanship is a lifelong struggle. For many students, additional low-stress practice over time can make a significant difference.

Q: My son’s report card comes home each term, but not every subject has a grade. Why?

A: Some school curricula cover specific skills or subjects at certain times of the year. For example, fractions may be covered in term 1, while decimals are covered in term 1. With many schools, especially elementary schools, using skill-based progress reports, some topics that are not covered in a specific term cannot be graded and are left blank for a period of time.

Questions about the skills being taught? Ask your child’s teacher to explain the grading and evaluation system of the class to you in a private meeting.

Q: I always go to the open house, but I don’t know really what to do there. The teacher’s don’t want to talk, and I don’t know what to say. Why go at all?

A: Open house is a great time for you to show your child that you’re interested in where they spend their time each day. They can show you their classroom, their desk, and often some work they’ve done. Teachers often cannot discuss specific students at the open house, as the many parents milling about make it inappropriate to discuss private matters.

Rather, use the time to simply introduce yourself to the teacher and wish them a great school year. Some teachers will even have wish lists for the class or copies of the class rules available to familiarize you with the daily class routine. However, use scheduled parent-teacher conference nights or a privately arranged conference time to discuss concerns more specific to your child’s needs.

Q: My daughter is 8 and wants to invite some friends from class to our house for her birthday. The teacher won’t allow invitations to be passed out in class unless they are for everyone. I can’t have 25 kids at my house. Why is the teacher making this rule, and what can I do?

A: Some schools absolutely do not allow personal invitations to be passed out in class. Everyone remembers a time when they were the ones ‘left out’ of a classmate’s event and the feelings of hurt it can cause. Some schools try to limit this type of social pressure by banning social invitations in the classroom because they can be distracting and socially difficult for youngsters to handle well.

Whether you agree personally or not, the policy is there to maintain the class learning environment. Consider contacting the class party parent, talk to parents at sporting events, or try to find phone information for your child’s friends.

Older kids can be responsible for getting a phone or email information themselves and passing it along to you. Be respectful of the class policies; it’s not worth putting your child in a situation they may get in trouble over when there are other ways to get the information to the people you want.

School questions come up every year, and many people have the same questions. Just as in school, don’t think you’re the only one with a question!

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Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings, author, and editor of the Education and School Section, she has a psychology and an M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She was an elementary teacher in Massachusetts serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. CummingsA Note from the TeacherMusic,Parenting,Party,School and EducationBy Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.  A Note from the Teacher - There are regular questions that come up often in discussions about students, education, and parenting. In this column, we'll answer a few of your most common questions about your children and education in 2010! Q: My daughter listens to her music...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids