Supplies have been purchased. Outfits have been laid out for the first day. Backpacks are stuffed and ready to go. Yes, metro families are preparing for the start of another school year. Some of us are holding back (or hiding) tears at the realization that our babies are growing up too fast … some headed off to pre-school or kindergarten, others making the leap from elementary to middle school or, even bigger, from middle to high school! However, regardless of the age or grade, there is more to helping our children succeed this year than Googling how to convert fractions to decimals. Here are some ways to help them do their very best in school and teach them valuable life skills along the way:
- Make a time and place for homework or practice. Visit with your child to determine a specific time and place for homework or reading. If there is no homework, he or she can always read! Make your home a place where learning is easy and fun. Keep books, magazines, writing materials and art supplies easily accessible. Be sure your child has a place to study where the lighting is good and the distractions are limited. Be close enough to answer questions or give praise.
- Read often and discuss what you are reading. Reading to children is so important. If your child is too big to sit on your lap at night time, encourage him or her to read chapter books aloud to you. It is also great for your child to see you reading. Show him or her that, as an adult, you read different types of writing for different reasons. Whether it be the best-seller you are reading for your next book group gathering, or an article out of today’s newspaper, model good reading for them. Then, discuss what you are reading. Let your child hear you support opinions you’ve developed about that controversial front-page topic with reasons from the article, then have him or her do the same about something they’re reading. Read something together, and retell it to one another; or, discuss different sides to a controversial piece.
- Write. Model good and effective writing for your child and help him or her to see its importance. Write thank you notes and letters; send well-written emails. Point out the apostrophe that should not have been used on that billboard or on that holiday card and explain why. Have your child practice writing by doing the same. Encourage him or her to write thank you notes, letters or stories. Or, for those just learning to write or spell, encourage them to practice their letters and numbers while you are writing, or even help you make out your grocery list.
- Make learning real and authentic. The best learning is hands-on. Show your child how the skills and concepts being taught in the classroom transfer to everyday life. A child who helps prepare dinner can work on fractions, practice keeping track of time, and read and follow multi-step instructions. Let him or her witness you not knowing the answer to something or having a problem you are unable to fix, then ask for help generating a solution. Let your child help you balance your checkbook, or let them do it for you. Allow him or her to keep track of how much you are really spending at Target as you throw those absolutely necessary items in your cart!
- Don’t help too much. Your child’s teachers are working hard to help him or her be an independent and resourceful learner. You will not always be there to answer the questions or do the work, so it’s important to be actively involved, but not to do the long division, write the essay, or do the science fair project for him or her. However, if you find you are becoming overly involved because the work is too difficult, contact your child’s teacher and share your concern.
- Be a cheerleader. Encourage your child and praise his or her efforts. Show a great interest in their schoolwork and the events of their day. Be enthusiastic about their learning and he or she will follow suit.
Showing our children the importance of learning and the need for success in school is crucial. Modeling at home the skills which they are learning in the classroom is essential. Encouraging them and rooting them on as they both struggle with and master these skills is vital to our children understanding the value in what they are doing every day in school. It definitely takes a village!
Have a great school year!