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Date: May 3, 2010

<b>Q: Even though my children, who are in the second, fifth and sixth grades, have desks in their rooms, they all like to study at the kitchen table while I am cooking dinner. They seem to get a lot done; however, I think that this is too distracting for them, and they should be studying in their rooms. What is your opinion?
— Busy in the Kitchen</b>

A: Every child has his or her own learning style. Some children can concentrate even though the radio or television is on and family members are talking, while others need total silence if they are to do any homework. Most study-skills experts suggest that students study in a quiet area off the beaten traffic pattern; however, this doesn’t work for everyone.

If your children enjoy studying together and are getting good grades, then it is a good choice for them. Besides, you can clearly see that your children are actually working and can easily answer any questions that they might have about their assignments. Plus, they do have a set routine for studying the same time every day, which is a part of having good study skills.

We’d love to hear from our readers about the successful homework routines their families have. We’ll put them in a future column.

<b>Q: We have a great deal of concern about our son’s speech. Compared to other 3-year-old children, his vocabulary is very limited. He only says about 10 words and uses “mom” for everything he needs. And he calls everyone in our family “mom.” We do not know how many words he should know by this age. Would you please point us in the right direction?
 — Delayed Speech</b>

A: By age 3, most children will acquire a vocabulary of about 450 words. Your son has not reached this milestone in normal speech development. Have you addressed your concerns with his pediatrician?

Your pediatrician may refer you to the Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) that serves your county. This agency serves infants and toddlers in the coordination of early intervention services, which are provided by federal law under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Under this program, your son might be eligible to receive services, which are usually free or at reduced fee based on your income.

For more information, visit North Carolina Early Intervention Services Web site, a division of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, at www.ncei.org/ei.

<b>Q: How can I motivate my 2-year-old daughter so that she will be ready to enter school?     
— Anxious</b>

A: Relax; you don’t have to do anything to motivate young children to learn how to do things. They are born eager to acquire new skills, from rolling over to walking and talking. Of course, even if 2-year-olds want to tie their shoe laces, chances are they won’t be successful. However, you may kill their desire to learn this task and other developmental tasks if you take full responsibility for getting every job done and don’t even let them help.

As babies grow into toddlers and then preschoolers, parents need to pull back a bit so they remain motivated to keep learning to do more and more for themselves. And parents need to encourage their young children’s efforts when they begin learning how to fasten buttons and pull up zippers so they will remain self-motivated to keep learning to do more and more for themselves. At the same time, you have to be careful with your daughter’s desire to learn to read, write and work with numbers, to be sure that these activities remain fun for her and don’t become academic ventures. Most 2- and 3-year-olds are quite satisfied to “pretend read” books; it is not likely that they need or would enjoy formal phonics instructions.

Besides learning to do things, your daughter has intense curiosity about her world. She has an inner drive to explore, interact with and make sense of her environment. Build on this drive by giving her numerous opportunities — using magnifying glasses, studying insects, watching the tide come in and observing the sunset. Turning on the TV or computer is a very poor substitute for real-life experiences. It can lead to boredom.

<i>Parents should send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Piedmont Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395 or e-mail dearteacher@dearteacher.com.</i>



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