Is your child getting the most out of school?

October 03, 2005

Starting Early

Long before kids start school, their potential school success begins. When children enter and continue school with good habits of communication, a sense of community, and stable role models, they're in a position to succeed -- to learn all that has to be learned, and to become confident students.

Here are some things you can do when your children are young:

  • Let them see you read, and read to them and with them.
  • Visit the library. If they're old enough, make sure they have their own card.
  • Keep books, magazines, and newspapers around the house.
  • Teach children to do things for themselves rather than do the work for them. Exhibiting patience when children are young will pay off later.
  • Help children, when needed, to break a job down into small pieces, then let them do the job one step at a time. This works for everything -- getting dressed, a job around the house, or a big homework assignment.
  • Develop, with your child, a reasonable, consistent schedule of jobs around the house. List them on a calendar, day by day.
  • Set and enforce consistent house rules your children can depend on. Put plans into action, and follow through.
  • Set limits on TV viewing so everyone can concentrate and get work done.
  • Watch TV with your children and talk about what you see.

Handling Homework

Here are some helpful messages that will encourage your children to do their homework:

  • Stress that homework has to be done -- no exceptions.
  • Set up a special place where each child can study.
  • Help your children plan how to fit in all the things they need to do -- study, work around the house, play, etc.
  • Let your children know you have confidence in them. Remind them of specific successes they have had in the past, perhaps in swimming, soccer, cooking, or in doing a difficult homework assignment.
  • Don't expect or demand perfection. When children ask you to look at what they've done -- from skating a figure 8 to a math assignment -- show interest and praise them when they've done something well, or at least tried hard. If you have criticisms or suggestions, make them in a helpful way.

Forming a Community

Building and strengthening your child's connection to others can improve his social and teamwork skills. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Introduce your child to your neighbors. You might even try a "child watch" program where adults who are home during the day keep an eye out for children when they walk to and from school, and stand at bus stops.
  • Become involved with your child's school by volunteering, sharing information, and helping to make policies.
  • Talk to your child's teachers. Sharing information is essential, and both teachers and parents are responsible for making it happen.
  • Talk with your child about what's happening in school. Keep up to date on his curriculum and report cards.
  • Stress the importance of teamwork.
  • Set up playdates for your child and his school friends.
  • Find out about resources in the community in which you or your child can participate.

Teaching at Home

Parents need to instill in their kids the message that education provides them the opportunity to shape their own future. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Practice what you preach. When we say one thing and do another, children watch, learn, and repeat the behavior.
  • Talk about learning. Show your children that you are always learning, too.
  • Share the fun and excitement of new skills. Read aloud, play games, and talk about events around the block and around the world.

Children need active, even noisy, learning as well as the quiet learning at school. At home, encourage your child's active learning by inspiring them to:

  • Ask and answer questions (and try to give more than just "yes" or "no" answers)
  • Solve problems
  • Discuss a variety of topics
  • Play sports or go to a museum or zoo
  • Spend time with friends

Sending the Right Messages

Your involvement in key. Here's how you can hit home the important message about success in school:

1. Share our own experiences and goals. Children tend to adopt our ideals. They need to know how we feel about making an effort, working hard, and planning ahead.

2. Establish realistic, consistent family rules. Set rules for work around the house so your children can develop schedules and stable routines. Children need limits set even though they will test these limits over and over again. Children need to know what they can depend on -- and they need to be able to depend on the rules we make.

3. Encourage your children to think about the future. Children need realistic, reasonable expectations, and they need the satisfaction of having some of these expectations met. They need to take part in making decisions (and to learn that sometimes this means sacrificing fun now for benefits later), and they need to find out what happens as a result of decisions they've made.

Source: Helping Your Child Succeed in School, by Dorothy Rich (U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1992)

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Healthy Kid