Families play a key role in ensuring their child’s success throughout their academic years. Although the role evolves as children grow, one thing remains constant: we are role models in our children’s learning. Our attitudes about education influence theirs, so here are 7 tips to help them make the most of their educational journey.
Be a role model for learning. In the early years, parents are their children’s first teachers — exploring nature, reading together, cooking together, and counting together. When a young child begins formal school, the parent’s job is to show him how school can extend the learning you began together at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be. As preschoolers grow into school age kids, parents become their children’s learning coaches. Through guidance and reminders, parents help their kids organize their time and support their desires to learn new things in and out of school.
Pay attention to what your child loves. “One of the most important things a parent can do is notice her child. Is he a talker or is he shy? Find out what interests him and help him explore it. Let your child show you the way he likes to learn,” recommends Dalton Miller-Jones, Ph.D.
Tune into how your child learns. Many children use a combination of modalities to study and learn. Some learn visually through making and seeing pictures, others through tactile experiences, like building block towers and working with clay. Still others are auditory learners who pay most attention to what they hear. And they may not learn the same way their siblings (or you) do. By paying attention to how your child learns, you may be able to pique his interest and explain tough topics by drawing pictures together, creating charts, building models, singing songs and even making up rhymes.
Practice what your child learns at school. Many teachers encourage parents to go over what their young children are learning in a non-pressured way and to practice what they may need extra help with. This doesn’t mean drilling them for success, but it may mean going over basic counting skills, multiplication tables or letter recognition, depending on the needs and learning level of your child. “There may be times to review, but don’t take on the role of drill master,” adds Diane Levin, Ph.D. ” And when you do review it should feel as if your child wants to be a part of the practice.”
Set aside time to read together. Read aloud regularly, even to older kids. If your child is a reluctant reader, reading aloud will expose her to the structure and vocabulary of good literature and get her interested in reading more. “Reading the first two chapters of a book together can help, because these are often the toughest in terms of plot,” notes Susan Becker, M. Ed. “Also try alternating: you read one chapter aloud, she reads another to herself. And let kids pick the books they like. Book series are great for reluctant readers. It’s OK to read easy, interesting books instead of harder novels.”
Connect what your child learns to everyday life. Make learning part of your child’s everyday experience, especially when it comes out of your child’s natural questions. When you cook together, do measuring math. When you drive in the car, count license plates and talk about the states. When you turn on the blender, explore how it works together. When your child studies the weather, talk about why it was so hot at the beach. Have give-and-take conversations, listening to your child’s ideas instead of pouring information into their heads.
Help your child take charge of his learning. “We want to keep children in charge of their learning and become responsible for it,” says Dalton Miller-Jones, Ph.D. “We want them to be responsible for their successes and failures, show them how engaging learning is, and that the motivations for learning should be the child’s intrinsic interests, not an external reward.”