Can you believe it – it’s time for school to start already! Where did the summer go?
Even though we may complain about having to get up earlier, settling into a routine and helping with homework, everyone realizes the importance of education. As parents, we want to make sure that our children take advantage of every opportunity that will benefit them later in life.
In order to ensure that your children get off to a good start, be sure that you create a supportive learning environment at home. Practical Parent Education has these suggestions for doing this:
Model a love and respect for learning. Through your own attitudes and behaviors, show that you place a high value on education. Be a learner yourself … read, write, visit the library, take on new challenges that require learning and perseverance. Demonstrate respect and support for schools and authority.
Set reasonable expectations for your child. Get to really know your child through observation, communication with teachers, evaluation of tests and schoolwork, and most important, time spent with our child so that you can have a better understanding of him as an individual and of his level of ability. Set expectations that are appropriate for his development level and abilities and that will encourage him to stretch within that level of ability.
Read to your child. Research tells us that it is critically important to read daily not only to young children but to children of all ages. During the years that a child is learning to read, it is especially important that we continue to read aloud to our child. Remember that a child learns verbal expression, increases vocabulary, broadens their world through mental images, experiences a nurturing closeness with parents and, most importantly, develops a life-long love for reading and books when we take the time to read to them.
Create a home environment that encourages learning. Have accessible age-appropriate books; simple science, math and art materials; an atlas and globe or map; and any other materials that enhance learning. Having the actual materials may be better for your child than having websites. Let family activities function around learning…family games, trips to museums, concerts, the zoo, the woods, traveling, etc. Use daily trips to the grocery store, bank or even the backyard as learning experiences.
Create a balance for learning within the family. Establish learning and school as a priority over extracurricular activities but be sure to allow time for play and relaxation. Avoid demanding schedules that place stress on both parent and child. Over-scheduling a child’s day with activities and demands can deprive a child of independent thinking, creativity and the tools to develop self-reliance and self-esteem.
Show an interest in your child’s learning. Get involved with your child’s school. Get to know your child’s teachers, his daily routine and his friends at school. Take time to browse through textbooks so that you are familiar with subject matter. Have lunch with your child at school. Attend meet the teacher night, open house, plays and other functions at school. Take time daily to talk with your child about school. Be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that require no more than a “yes” or “no” or a shrug. Ask questions such as “What is the funniest thing that happened at school today?” and “What was the best part of your day?”
Encourage success and be accepting of mistakes. Let your child know that you are proud of his accomplishments but also help him understand that we all make mistakes. Mistakes can be an opportunity for learning. In talking with your child, use language that encourages such as “You are making good progress on that project. I know that you are feeling good that it is almost finished.” Use material rewards sparingly. We want children to develop an internal reward system for learning.
Create a setting conducive for learning. Some children function best in a quiet setting away from all distractions. Others may be more comfortable at the kitchen table. Know how and where your child studies best. Distractions should be at a minimum; TV and cell phones should be turned off. Some children are comfortable studying listening to music to limit distractions but the volume should be low. Be sure to establish routine study times. Monitor homework and provide reasonable assistance.
Hope your school year goes well!
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.