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How Schools Have Changed Since You Were a Kid

It’s become cliché to talk about how much schools have changed in the last few decades. While many things about schools are the same as they were when you were attending, it’s also true that there have been many changes. Unless you work in a school setting, you might not understand how schools have adjusted to a more modern world.

Many of the changes in schools depend on district choices, funding, and individual administrators. Schools with less funding will have a harder time buying into new technology, and rural schools may not have virtual learning available, for example. However, other changes, like security measures and adjustments to the standards, are more universal. For parents who may expect their kids’ school experience to be just like their own, these changes may come as a surprise.

Kindergarten is the old first grade

Kids are learning academic skills earlier than ever, and in many classrooms kindergarten is no longer considered to be preparation for more serious school. Six-year-old kids are expected to be reading, adding, and writing well before the end of the year. While expectations vary, in many cases kids are learning sight words, sounding out short words, and practicing with real books. Compulsory homework in kindergarten is common. Even the cut-off date for starting kindergarten has changed in some places, meaning there are now 4 year old children starting kindergarten.

Security is Vital

Security is probably the most visible of the changes in schools. Security is now one of the most important talking points for politicians, and with good reason. Parents are more worried about their kids’ safety at school than in the past. Features such as armed school security guards and metal detectors have become commonplace even in smaller rural schools. Lockdown and armed intruder drills are a normal part of school life now.

Tech is King

Remember learning to type in high school? Now kids learn to use the computer in elementary school, including beginning typing lessons. In addition to special computer classes, many classrooms have access to more tech gadgets than ever before. Electronic whiteboards have replaced blackboards. Children watch educational movies frequently since they are easy to access and play in the classroom.

In many schools children have access to tablets in the classroom where they use educational apps. Young children are even learning basic coding in some elementary and middle schools. Educational apps might be assigned for homework, and classrooms often use apps to help teach math concepts, practice reading, and even do digital experiments like digital dissection.

Phones in Class

Your kids are likely to use their phones for school. Whether it’s for research, scheduling, homework assignments, or learning apps, more and more kids have access to phones and internet, and teachers are embracing that. In fact, your kids might even be encouraged to use their phones during class. Some classrooms use certain apps or sites for giving out homework assignments. Children without phones in high school might actually be at a disadvantage in the classroom as teachers have come to expect them to be available.

The New (New) Math

Your kids might learn to solve problems differently than you did-at least to start with. Common core math has been criticized, but it seems to be here to stay. While kids might learn different ways to get to the answer, they’re usually taught the “old” way too. Eventually. These new ways can be confusing for parents, but they’re designed to get kids thinking about the problems mathematically, rather then simply memorizing methods. Parents can help with homework by letting their children show them how they learned to do it. In addition to helping parents understand, teaching someone else is a great way for kids to learn!

Handwriting (Yes, Really)

While it’s become a common criticism to talk about schools not teaching cursive anymore, it’s actually happening. Of course kids still learn to write by hand, but the focus on careful penmanship has disappeared. Instead, students are more likely to learn digital note taking, typing skills, how to use word processors, and coding. This shift seems to be a reaction to the changes that have already happened in the global workforce and a preparation for a more digital future. Parents that are worried about this shift can easily pick up some handwriting workbooks and teach cursive over summer break.

Homeschooling is Cool

Since the pandemic started, school has changed in many ways. In many places, education at home became commonplace, not just for a few months, but for more than a year. More children than ever before are being educated at home. Some are enrolled in public or private at-home schools. Some are enrolled in local school that are still having some virtual learning. Other families have switched over completely to homeschooling and aren’t looking back. For better or for worse, the school environment has changed, and it doesn’t seem to be going back to the way it was before.

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