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Let's face it, it's harder to excel in school than perhaps ever before. Case in point, the father of my amazing daughters recently came across his elementary school report card. Under comments, his teacher wrote that she was "looking forward to the day when Ned would remember to bring a hankie to school." Really? I suspect that most teachers today would give up several paychecks in order to have "hankie-less-ness" be a student's worst problem impeding school success.
Your kid is competing with all of those kids of "tiger" moms and the kids who have been headed to Harvard since the womb, and on top of that school budgets are being decimated and class size is growing while resources are shrinking. What's a parent to do?
First, relax. Your kid will be fine. Just the fact that you care is a huge boost to her success. But, to help you along a bit, here are three simple things you can do every day that will matter. Really, you can do all three each day and the whole thing will take less than five minutes.
1. Let her see you reading something. It can be a book, a magazine, a website, anything that can be read is okay. The point is, she needs to see you read something each day. It doesn't have to be for a long time but the visual impact of Mom reading daily cannot be overstated.
2. Look at her homework. I'm not saying you must check it and I'm certainly not saying you should do it (because you should definitely not do your child's homework), I'm just saying look at it. She'll know you care about it and that will matter to her.
3. Ask your daughter to tell you one thing she learned or observed that day. Tell her one thing you learned or observed. This doesn't have to be a brilliant insight. Maybe you saw an ant carrying a huge crumb across your kitchen floor. Maybe you learned that the term "in utero" is Latin and that's why spell check doesn't recognize it. (Okay, those are two things I learned today and that's without leaving the home.) The point of this is simple. Your daughter learns from you that absorbing knowledge is ongoing, it's fun, and it's lifelong.
What do you all think about the best and most practical way parents can help their kids do better in school? These don't have to be daily things, just important things.
1. I think parents should make sure they talk to their children. Your kids have a voice and they need to feel heard. Learning today is no longer spitting a concept back verbatim, it's understanding how it applies to you. Ask your kids why they like Sponge Bob or what is so cool about Justin Bieber? They really need to be able to think for themselves and part of that is understanding why you think the way you do.
2. Give your child the gift of independence. Let them pack their book bag, help pick out their clothes even contribute to making their own lunch. They are your children and you love them, allowing them to take ownership of themselves is important. Why should you have to do all the work all the time? The earlier they feel comfortable taking responsibility the more likely they will want to do it when they are learning. It will build their confidence, they will blossom.
3. Let your daughter be a writer at home. Writing is the hardest area to teach because it is usually only addressed in school. Parents are always reading to their kids but often their kids are not writing at home. Encourage your child to keep a journal, it's great exercise for their brain. It doesn't have to be something you read or correct 9in fact please don't correct it, cause if you do you're just crazy) but just provide an opportunity for your girls to put their thoughts down in writing. Don't go getting any ideas either about reading it, that's not cool. Unless there's a serious issue let your daughter have some privacy. She deserves a place in writing where everything is accepted.
1. Read to your daughter. Kids love to be read to. They work hard all day, and it is nice for them to be able to sit back and listen to a story. If you pick a good chapter book, you can read a chapter a night and keep them on the edge of their seats to hear more later. They might even want to read to you some times. Not only will it help with their reading, but it's a nice way to bond.
2. Teach them some manners and patience. There is nothing I like better than a polite and patient child. I think being nice is just as important (if not more) than being able to spell all your spelling words. A little manners go a long way.
3. Give them an opportunity to problem solve for themselves. Don't solve all their problems for them. Help them solve their problems, don't just do it without them being a part of the solution. Too often children aren't sure how to solve their own problems (even if it's something as small as their pencil broke). It is never too early to start learning to problem solve. Forgot to bring their homework home?? Hmm...how can we fix this? Call a friend, do some practice math problems to hand in, write all the spelling words you remember, read a story and write what it was about. I think we forget to teach children to be resourceful. Aren't children supposed to be some of the most imaginative people out there? Let them use that imagination for good.
1. Listen to music. Music is one of the greatest educational tools there is, and most of the work has already been done for you. Simply putting on music in the car or at dinner can teach your kids about politics, to love themselves for who they are, and can help them develop creativity.
2. Ask them about their day. Kids want to know that people care about what is going on in their lives. Make sure they know that they are important even if they are very young. The kids in my class are constantly trying to share little anecdotes about their lives with me (usually at the most inappropriate time, like in the middle of math class). They just want to know that the adults in their lives care about what they have to say.
3. Communicate with the teacher. Make sure the people at school know that you are involved and care about how your child is doing. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying become a helicopter parent. But as a teacher, I know how frustrating it is to try to reach a parent about their child's grades or behavior and get no response at all. Not only does it not help me, but it's really worst for the child. If kids know that their parents and their teacher talk to each other, there's a chance they will be motivated to try harder in school.
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