Dear Amanda: To Enrich or Not to Enrich?

Dear Amanda is an elementary school teacher and parent of two school age children who provides honest and straightforward advice geared toward all things education. Here’s the twist: she will answer your question as a parent as well as a teacher. These two opinions, while different, can provide a refreshing take on topics we care about most. It’s two forms of advice on one burning question or concern. Just ask Dear Amanda!

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Q: Dear Amanda,

My 4th grade son finds school a pleasure. He is motivated to do his work and the lessons come relatively easy to him. If they do present a challenge, he works through them well. With that being said, should I be more involved in enriching his academic development further?

I don’t want him to fall behind or become complacent because the work is not overly challenging – yet I want him to remain genuinely excited about learning. I know from personal experience that when something is simple for me, I check out (unintentionally) because the desire to work hard is gone. My fear is that it will happen to him too.

I was told I didn’t need a parent-teacher conference for the spring round of conferences, which is common in my district. Maybe I need to push for one so I can ask his teacher these questions? To enrich or not to enrich, that is the question…

A Perplexed Parent

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Dear Perplexed Parent,

Oh, how we all wish for our kids to love the school experience! Consider yourself among the fortunate parents. As a mother, we often grapple with the feeling of not doing enough. We question our actions and how they will affect our children. It’s a neverending battle. School fits right in with those concerns. If he is content, well-adjusted and getting him to do the work at home is an easy feat, I would not rock the boat.

The word “enrichment” gets tossed around so easily these days that I think we forget what it actually means. Literally, it means the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something. There are so many ways to “enrich” a child. When my children cook with me, I am enriching their cooking skills – which include reading, measurement and creativity. When we go to a science museum, their science hats go on and all science related learning is enriched. When we take a family hike, their sense of direction, reading and environmental skills are enriched. See what I am getting at?

Let school be school, which is one avenue of learning. At the same time, let life be life and let other avenues of learning take the lead.

Amanda the Mother

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Dear Perplexed Parent,

Students like your son are a pleasure to work with in school! When I give an assignment and no matter how simple or complicated it is, there are those students like your son that jump in with both feet, roll their sleeves up, and get working. It is my job to ensure that this experience, and the many others students are exposed to, are full of enrichment. Meaning, higher level questions are asked, the expectations might be different from group to group, and the overall experience is created to meet the needs of students of varying academic levels.

What parents don’t see is that the work done during those hours in school are filled with activities and assignments that should meet the needs of every student. School is not a cookie-cutter model, it is designed – now more than ever – to reach all students, to enrich them on every level.

However, I understand that you may not be aware of these strategies. The conference notice you received is typical, but it is not a caution line that you can’t cross. If you have concerns about what is going on in class and want to ensure that your son continues to be challenged, request a conference. Ask the teacher how your son’s academic level is addressed (remembering that each subject has its own requirements and standards, so if he is a high ability learner in one area, he may or may not necessarily reach that level in others).

Ask if there is anything you can provide at home. Ask if he is showing strengths in areas you may not be aware of or notice. There is everything right with being an active member of your child’s education. There is everything right with asking questions. Showing that you are involved and care enough to investigate is enriching your child’s life in the best way by showing him how to be a loving parent!

Amanda the Teacher

If you have an educational question related to this topic or any other educational area, write a letter titled Dear Amanda! You can contact her at [email protected] or respond below in the comments section below.

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Amanda Lehrman is a trained teacher and curriculum consultant. She attended Fordham University and received an M.S.T in Elementary Education and has worked with the Accelerated Literacy Learning program as well as Teachers College Reading and Writing projects, Kaplan K-12 and Catapult Learning. Amanda currently teaches 3rd through 5th grade students in a Gifted & Talented program in Edison, NJ.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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