There’s always lots of griping going on about what’s wrong with education, but truth be told, what happens at home directly impacts what happens at school. How you raise your child is the key factor to how he will fare educationally.
Here are 10 things you can do NOW to help your child.
“We know from talking with teachers that children are sleepy in the classroom and that this is a significant problem,” says Dr. Carl Hunt, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders. Families don’t go to sleep as early as they need to, Hunt says, often because of late-running after-school activities combined with homework or watching TV and just plain old losing track of time. Since lack of sleep interferes with your child’s learning, make an effort to help your child get his zzz’s. Elementary school children require at least nine hours of sleep at night to be well rested and some children need even more.
TV. IPad. Facebook. Video games. Cell phones. Yuda yuda yuda, enough. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2010 that heavy media use can lead to poor grades and lower levels of personal contentment, meanwhile media use has only increased since then. Since there’s an obvious relationship between restricting media usage and improving academic performance and personal lives, parents can insist on unplugged zones at home. How about a conversation about world history instead?
MAKE TEACHER CONTACT
Yes, you’re busy, but what’s more important? The work that will always be there or the little boy who will one day move away from home? To really understand how your child is doing in school — and to help him do his best — reach out to his teachers … and not just at the start of the year. Make a continuing effort to know what’s happening in your child’s classes, what he’s studying, how you can be of help to your child’s teachers, etc. Furthermore, BELIEVE your child’s teachers when they offer assessments and observations of your child. That way you can better guide your child at home.
LIVE WITH LEARNING
Every summer when kids get out of school parents and educators worry about “brain drain.” But why should the learning stop just because school’s out or on break? Many successful homeschooling families say the secret to a good education is living with learning. In other words, taking a break from learning is like taking a break from eating. It’s an adjustment for many parents who come to this idea late with their children, but to improve a child’s education, taking the time to teach and explain as a day goes on is invaluable and at the essence of a solid life-long learning.
BUILD POSITIVE FEELINGS
If your child is prone to negative thinking, once he gets on that negative roller coaster at school, it’s very difficult to stop the disorienting effect it has on learning. What can you do to help your child? According to Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller, help him build tools that will keep negative thoughts at bay: 1) Develop good study habits and organization at home; 2) Read and reread directions and underline things for emphasis at school and home; 3) Organize thoughts to the task at hand so there’s an order to the work; 4) Don’t panic. Teach your child to ask himself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” 5) Encourage and encourage some more.
Kids are not born knowing what they want to be when they grow up. That’s why parents need to make sure they have plenty of exposure to the different things in life that interest them. Additionally, when your child discovers an interest, help him to be mindful of his experiences and don’t rush him along, says Robert Holden in his book, Happiness, NOW! (Hay House Publishers).
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there’s a class offered called “How to Make (Almost) Anything,” which emphasizes hands-on experience. The “learn by making” idea is like a magnet for kids who love being able to get their hands on anything — often while adults are pushing them away. Educators around the world agree that the physical act of making things helps with learning, so find ways to engage your kids by allowing them to DO things with their hands in order to learn.
If your kids are overscheduled with activities, you can’t demand A’s from them without being cruel. One after-school activity or sport is all a kid needs, says Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., in the book The Over Scheduled Child (St. Martin’s Griffin).
Whether your child’s class studies butterflies, your hometown, baby animals, or math, the topic is a way to train kids to think, remember, make connections, and theorize. Help to stoke your child’s curiosity and enthusiasm about whatever subject is being covered at school by engaging in talk at dinner, in the car or during homework time, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If your child is not performing well in school, help him with his schoolwork, meet with his teacher, find him the support he needs. Perhaps he needs a tutor. Many schools have ways to help kids overcome their learning problems and many offer peer tutoring for free.
Dawn Ramsey is a mother and freelance writer.