Help Your Child Be a Better Student
By: Doreen Nagle
School's open, and you want to help your kids get the best education possible. Here are some new ways to morph those "I don't want to go to school today" blues into "Puhleeease, can I go on the weekends, too?"
Your child's mood affects how well he learns. Obviously, a positive outlook is most beneficial. Strive to keep his mood upbeat, especially on the way to school and as he starts his homework for the day.
Computer and TV screens tire us out cognitively and visually, so limit viewing. Set an example by keeping your own viewing down as well. This will also free you up for homework projects and learning fun.
It is true that most kids will procrastinate; don't think that yours is unusual.
Take care of the really basic needs: make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, eats the right foods, and wears comfy, clean clothes that fit well.
Prove to him that his education is important with your particaption. Show up at games, open school nights, plays, and PTA meetings. Volunteer in the classroom, especially in the younger grades.
Put an "I love you" or "Have a great day" note in your kids' backpacks. If they can't read yet, ask if the teacher could read it to them during snack break. (Just another way to make their day a cheery one!)
Get to know your child's favorite teacher, subjects, and classmates. Keep teacher-parent communication ongoing throughout the year.
Buy the right supplies and check their condition regularly. Some of the supplies recommended by the U.S. Department of Education (and, of course, depending on the child's grade) include a notebook, dictionary, pencils, sharpener, scissors, paper, tape, and glue.
Be patient with your child student--never get angry and never use sarcasm as a rule, but especially when it comes to school. If you find you're losing patience, try to remember what the pressure of school was like for you as a child.
Not getting a response to: "What did you do today?" Probe until you do: "Did you learn a new song?" "Did you have a math test?" "Did an elephant serve you lunch?" or simply wait until later, when you're child is in more of a talkative mood.
If your child seems to have more learning problems than his classmates do, have him assessed professionally. If he checks out physically okay, ask teachers, friends, or your pediatrician for recommendations of psychotherapists and learning behavior specialists. Call your school district if you have trouble locating the right professional.
Less Homework Hassles
Experts now say if your child works well listening to music, it's okay to let her have some on in the background as long as the volume is low. The same is true if your child prefers reading on her bed vs. at her desk. In other words, create an environment that she'll learn best in.
The work/study area should include an appropriate size desk with drawers, a chair that's not "slouchy," and good lighting. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the child's room: try the living room, a nook, or the family room.
Work with your child to set up a homework time frame that matches his rhythm. After snack and downtime? Right after school? Keep the time free of other commitments (soccer practice) and phone calls. Make it a family "study" time: read the newspaper while your son studies. Always check his finished work. This will show you care and point out any problems your child may be having with the assignment.
Support your kids' efforts, but don't do their homework for them. Teach them how to use the dictionary, the library, and find online resources rather than look up the question for them. It is much more beneficial for them to learn how to do the work on their own than have you fill in the blanks for them too quickly.
Be there to offer support, make gentle suggestions, know due dates, review completed assignments, and of course, offer help if requested.
If your child is an active rather than passive learner, make the work come alive: Learning about birds? Make an eagle costume. Studying ancient Egypt? Serve up a feast at home and eat without forks. Also, help kids envision what a finished assignment will look like to keep motivation high during long-term projects.
The newest thinking says rewarding kids for schoolwork is not akin to bribery. Businesses offer incentives to employees in order to meet and exceed goals; your child's schoolwork is his job right now and means a lot toward the quality of his future. At the same time, teaching your child a sense of self-pride and satisfaction is optimal in creating a long-term learner and student of life.
If you do choose to offer rewards, set up ground rules. Assignments are to be completed on schedule and without arguments. Privileges should be taken away if rules are broken.
Many parents now offer everyday privileges in exchange for completed schoolwork: new clothes, allowance, a trip to the arcade or better yet, a trip to a museum, zoo or other place that complements his current assignments.
The Bottom Line
Your support + love + enthusiasm of learning = an optimal learning environment and a good student.