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Understanding Your Child's Needs and Abilities

(This post is part of a series of 5 blogs meant to help families of children grades K-3 cope with school this fall. Links to the other four at the end of this post)

This post serves two purposes. The first is to explain the different types of needs that each child requires for healthy learning. The second is to share five major differences between home learning and school learning and how to maximize learning at home.

Explore your child's needs and abilities:

Every child is different, but every child follows the same developmental paths as they grow. As

Young children in classroom, happy and engaged in learning

teachers, we assess every child at the beginning of the school year to see where they are along their learning journey. We set our pace for the year based on this information.

As parents, we already have a sense of what our own children are capable of, well kind of. What we see is much more than their learning abilities. What we need for this fall is a starting point to set our pace and expectations if we are going to monitor learning at home.

This is why I have put together a list of questions for you. Take some time to observe your child over the next day or two before you complete it. Here is a printable version.


1. My child can sit down and focus on school work for about ___________________ minutes.

2. My child has enough control of their hand muscles to:

a. Write legibly _____Yes ______No

b. Write an entire sentence on a line _____ Yes _____No

c. Color inside an outlined area _____yes _____No

d. Cut a specific shape on the line _____yes _____No

3. My child can write or draw continuously for _____________minutes at a time.

4. My child can read with some help for ________ minutes and without help for _______ minutes.

5. My child can:

a. Count to ______________

b. Write numbers up to _____________

c. Recognize numbers up to ____________

d. Add numbers up to _____________, subtract numbers up to ___________

e. Multiply numbers up to __________, divide numbers up to ____________

f. Read and solve word problems based on the above knowledge _____ Yes ______No

6. My child can copy text accurately for _______________ before they get tired

7. My child can play (not screen-based) independently for __________ minutes. (Examples are lego, play dough, puzzles, trains, dolls, pretend play...etc)

8. My child requires _____________ of active play time for every ______________ minutes of work time or quiet time.


While this is a simplistic approach to assessment, it will give you a sense of your child's needs and abilities and help you get started at home. In case you missed it, here is a link to the printable version.

Your child's teacher will be performing a much more in-depth assessment once the school year starts. You can reach out to teachers and ask them for a copy of your child's assessment if you wish. Just give them some time to go through this process. It is time-consuming for teachers. If you would like to purchase a more complete assessment to try with your child at home, some teachers sell assessments at Look for "beginning of year assessment" or "beginning of year snapshot".

Ok, so now that you know what to expect of your child as a learner, you can probably set up your day in a more productive way already. But I want to share with you a bit more yet.

Just like learning at school has its advantages, learning at home also has its advantages. This is a very special year to get the best of both worlds, so why not?

Advantages of school-based learning:

* Learns with a professional who is trained to teach

* Speed Training

* Creates rhythm

* Ignites team-work and competition

* Promotes friendship building

Advantages of home-based learning:

* Time! Children have time to learn more deeply, at their own pace, explore, and practice.

* 1:1 instruction with parents and potentially tutors too

* Freedom to go at their own pace

* Freedom to learn however works best

* More physical and mental space

To maximize learning at home, give your children these gifts this fall:

* Time:

  • When your child is busy studying, playing, exploring, or reading, then please do not interrupt them. What they are going through is very powerful and deep learning. The only exception is screen time.

* Independence:

  • Any time your child can manage something, allow it. It may be getting ready in the morning, deciding which subject to start their day with, or maybe plan their own morning. If they can manage it, let them run with it. Say "let's check-in after lunch" or "Tell me what you've accomplished at dinner time"

  • If they are not getting themselves in trouble or spending too much time on screens, leave them alone.

  • When faced with a struggle, allow your child the honor to wrestle with it before offering help.

  • When your child comes to you for help, respond with a guiding question instead of rushing to explain.

* Social/emotional confidence:

  • Set an intention and celebrate an achievement every day.

  • Whenever the opportunity presents itself, say things like "I trust you", "you've got this", "you are learning so much already"

  • Connect with friends and family often. Schedule regular virtual visits during the day if possible.

  • Consider dreaming together. One main wish that the whole family can participate in, like a vacation for example. Something that is doable and the whole family would consider a reward.

* Fun:

  • This time is particularly taxing on all of us, so let's not forget to have a little fun when we can. Ideas include a virtual dance party, dress-up dinner, movie night, game night, explore a new park, or special dessert day.

That's it! You have set up your home in part 1, you have figured out your child's needs and abilities in this post. Now you are ready to set some expectations and build a routine for your family in part 3 of this series.


More from this series to help families with children grades K-3 get their homes and families ready for school this fall:

* Understand your child's Learning needs and abilities (This post)

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