School is where kids acquire the bulk of their learning, but it is hard to have success at school without a solid foundation of education in the home, starting at a very early age and continuing through the teen years. Most parents are aware of the things they can do to prepare their young children for the school years, but too many parents neglect to continue their early efforts, assuming that the teachers will take care of the rest. If you want your child to have the best chances of success later in life, it is important to continue your educational efforts. Here are just a few ways that you can help.
1. Reading – According to the U.S. Department of Education, parents should make an effort to read to their children at least 30 minutes a day. Because very young children often do not have the patience for reading sessions this long, it may be advisable to break it up into several short reading periods throughout the day. This prepares the child to learn to read, and it strengthens the parent-child bond. Even after a child starts reading on his or her own, it is an essential activity.
2. Talk about should – Many children are in the habit of putting school out of their minds as soon as they get home, but if you want your child to remain engaged and perform well in her homework, try to make sure she does not forget what she learned that day. At dinner and other convenient times, ask about what types of things she learned in school that day, and be sure to ask follow-up questions and engage in real conversation. This will keep her thinking about what she learned, which will assist in internalizing the new information.
3. Fill your home with books – Studies have shown that children who grow up in houses that are full of books tend to fare better in school. Even if you do not have tons of books, just a few dozen high-quality and interesting books can make a huge difference. Having newspapers and magazines around can also help.
4. Be involved with school – Parental engagement translates into child engagement, and it keeps you abreast of what is happening during those hours when your child is at school. As much as your schedule allows, try to be active in the parent-teacher community, and make sure that you establish strong relationships with all your child’s significant teachers. A positive side effect of this is that it will set a positive example of community involvement for your children to emulate.
5. Be open to questions – Children usually get the chance to ask questions at school, but in many cases there either is not enough time, or kids are simply too embarrassed to ask certain questions. Try to make yourself into a go-to educational resource that your children can use whenever school is inadequate. Inform them that no questions are too silly, and that you will help them track down the answers to any questions you are unsure of.
6. Offer continuous encouragement – Most parents try to find a balance between overpraising their kids and not giving them enough encouragement. While your particular approach will depend on your child’s personality and your own parenting style, it is always a good idea to make sure your child knows you notice the work he puts into learning, and that you are proud of his achievements. Kids get reinforcement at school, but parental encouragement is much more valuable.
7. Place limits on media – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that parents permit their children no more than two hours of media consumption per day. This applies to television, video games, the internet, and mobile devices. When you add all these things together, two hours of media time may seem draconian to the youth of today, but kids have a remarkable ability to get used to these things.