The school year is quickly approaching and we're here to guide you and your family in the right direction to prepare for that the first day of school. Read on to hear some smart ideas from America's educators.

Math and Reading Tips

Turn your child into a mini Sherlock Holmes: someone who thinks logically and step-by-step to solve problems -- like math equations! Here’s how: Play board games that exercise the left side of your child’s brain, such as backgammon, Clue, dominoes, Mastermind, Monopoly, Othello and rummy. -- Linda Morris, Cornelius Elementary, Cornelius, NC

Stir your child’s curiosity and creativity about what she reads. With a little one, say “Gee, reading this makes me think of x, how about you?” or “I think y will happen next. What do you think?” Ask an older child: “What do you (or don’t you) like about this book? Why?” and “If you could make this book into a movie, what would it look like?” You want to help your child connect, predict, visualize and question -- all critical thinking skills used in school. -- Gail Karwoski, Daniels Farm School, Trumbull, CT

Spend quality time with your child working on hobbies and family projects. Use the opportunity to reinforce concepts learned in school. For example, if she is studying measurements, ask her to help you plant the garden. Let her find the perimeter and area of the plot using a yardstick or ruler; then sow the seeds at equal distances apart. -- Linda Morris

Homework and Test Smarts

Avoid haggling with your child over better grades by drawing up a contract with him. Together, agree on a few goals, a length of time to complete them, rewards and consequences. Your child will appreciate being treated like a young adult. -- Oscar Abbott, Division of Educational Accountability at Detroit Public Schools, Detroit, MI

Give your child a timer to help her stay productive while doing homework. Allow, say, 20 minutes for each subject; then, when the buzzer sounds, let her decide whether to continue or move on to other lessons. Make time for short breaks too, like stretching or taking a walk. But avoid letting her watch TV or play a video game because she may lose her focus and momentum. -- Katherine James, Rudolph Elementary, Washington, DC

Try not to be a homework boss; instead be your child’s interpreter and consultant on schoolwork. When she doesn’t understand directions or needs specific help with an assignment, she can ask you. You want your child to believe in herself and to work independently. -- Carl Coffman, Jackson Environmental Discovery Center, Stevens Point, WI

Ask your child’s teacher or principal to provide stress-reducing activities on test days -- for example, playing calm music or giving a pep talk before the test starts. I gave my students a vote of confedence by handing out pencils engraved with the positive message doing my best on the sol test. It helped! -- Merle Herndon, Perrymont Elementary, Lynchburg, VA

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