Learning Begins At Home
Between birth and age 18,
children spend just 9 percent of their time in school. That’s
why your home environment is so important. Parents help the schools lay
the groundwork for achievement in many ways. A work ethic and
patterns for academic success are largely built in the home.
Here are some ways you can help your children learn during the hours they are at home:
Establish routines for your
child. Children thrive on orderliness. Keep a regular schedule for
meals, play, and work time. Set a regular bedtime. When a child is
used to a routine at home, he/she can adapt to classroom rules more
Spend time every day talking with your
child about his/her interests, hobbies, and friends. Children
learn language at home; spoken language gives children the
foundation for better reading and writing. As children grow older, they
need daily conversations as a way to develop values, test ideas,
and share their thoughts.
Give your child responsibilities at home. These might be:
• Keeping the bedroom tidy
• Sharing responsibility for a pet
• Doing at least one thing daily for the good of the whole family – washing dishes or picking up the living room.
Play games that reinforce
language skills. Try question/ answer games in which one player
tries to learn facts by asking questions.
Have plenty of reading material
in your home. Library visits can provide a constant supply
of books. Newspapers and magazines can also catch a child’s
interest. If possible, consider giving your child a subscription to a
children’s magazine. Set a good example by reading instead of
Decorate your child’s
room with a large map of Connecticut, the United States, or the world.
These colorful inexpensive maps help your child learn about
geography and reinforce the geography skills taught at every grade
Set limits on how much television your
child can watch. At least turn off the television during study
time. Consider making a rule that there will be no television until
all school work is finished.
Display your child’s
schoolwork. Many families use the refrigerator door for this
purpose. Others install a bulletin board on a child’s bedroom door.
Let your child know that you are proud of what he/she has
accomplished in school.
Talk about school every day. Ask
specific questions-what was the funniest thing that happened today?
What was the hardest thing you did today?
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Using the Newspaper - Better Learning
Your daily newspaper provides a source
of inexpensive learning activities. Getting children into the habit
of reading the newspaper will benefit them throughout life. Here are
some ways to use the newspaper to help your child achieve.
Use the weather map to learn
geography. Check out the temperature in the cities where relatives
or friends live. Use newspaper information to make charts and
graphs. A sports fan can track batting averages. A future financial
analyst can chart fluctuations in the stock market.
Discuss an editorial on a
controversial issue with your child. Discuss whether you agree or
disagree with the point of view expressed. Then, listen to your
child’s point of view. Encourage him/her to write a letter to the
editor in response to what you read. This is a good way to share
and explore values.
Understanding sequence is an important
reading skill Cut comic strips into individual panels. Have your
children place them in the correct order. Or, for older children,
follow a story for a week and discuss how and why events unfolded.
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Make Family Time = Learning Time
In today’s hectic world,
families often spend more time apart than together. This is why it
is important to devote some individual time to each child every
day. In addition, spend time together as a family. Here are some
activities that will bring your family closer together….and set the
stage for better learning in school.
Plan activities the whole
family can enjoy. You might try a picnic in the park; a trip to
a zoo; a visit to an art gallery; or an afternoon spent
fishing. These family activities broaden your children’s interests –
and add to their intellectual stimulation, imagination, and
Consider making a family time
capsule. To celebrate the new year, a birthday, or another
special occasion, consider putting together a collection of
items that preserve your family memories. You’ll need to find a
sturdy container that will hold your family souvenirs. Invite your
children to decorate the container with their artwork, a collage of
newspaper articles, or pictures cut from magazines.
Here are some things that you might include:
• Photos of family members and pets
• Favorite cartoons or comic strips
• A favorite T-shirt or old toys no longer used
• Clippings of current events and autographs
• Personal statistics (height, weight, age, school grade level)
• School pictures and copies of old report cards.
Once you have assembled your time capsule, “bury” it in the back of the closet. Then enjoy it in future years.
Read to or with your children
daily. Studies show this is the single most important thing
parents can do to help their children achieve. Encourage older
children to read to their younger siblings. This way, both are
developing the habit of reading while they are forming a special
bond with each other.
Make reading special. On a winter
evening, pop some popcorn and snuggle up together with a book. Or,
during the summer, plan a reading picnic under the stars. Give your
child a book by a favorite author for a birthday or holiday.
Have your child use his/her
imagination to plan a trip around the world. Have him/her think of
places he/she would like to visit. Help him/her how to look in the
card catalog or use the library computer to find books about the
imaginary destination. Ask the librarian if there are fiction books by
authors from this country.
Teach your child how to write
for information about other places. For example, most states
have a department of tourism to whom he/she can write. Most
countries have an embassy that can provide you with additional
information. The local video stores also have videos about the
country you’ve chosen.
Don’t think you need to have all the
answers. Kids ask “zillions” of questions. That’s how they learn.
Say, “I don’t know-let’s go look it up.” (That way, you’ll both
Learn a new sport or activity with
your child. Show your child that learning is a lifelong activity.
As your child grows older, let him choose the activity you will
Sing favorite songs with your
child. Children love the rhythm and the rhyme of music.
Whether you sing children’s songs or your favorite music,
you’ll be introducing your child to a love of language and music. Teach
your child patience. Let him/her know that sometimes he/she has to
wait for something. It is not always possible – or advisable – for
parents to give children what they want. Teach your child that
rewards often come after hard work and effort.
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Kids who have high self-esteem
are willing to take chances in school. They’re able to stay with a
difficult subject until they master it. Here are some ways you can
boost your child’s self-esteem.
Know your child’s
strengths and weaknesses. All children are unique. Even in the same
family, one child may love math and find it easy. While another
finds it a challenge. Some may have trouble concentrating on reading
while another constantly has his/her nose in a book. Challenge
kids in their areas of strength and provide support in areas of
weakness. One way to better understand your child’s
strengths and weaknesses is to talk regularly with his/her
Praise your child’s efforts as
well as accomplishments. When he/she sets the table, say “I
appreciate the fact that you met your responsibility without being
asked. You’re a harder worker.” If you child is doing his/her
homework, say, “You are working hard. I know your work will pay
off.” Studies show that students and adults who make persistent
efforts are most likely to succeed.
Help your child be proud of
your family’s ethnic heritage. Learn as much as you can about the
culture of your ancestors. Read books to learn more about your
family’s roots. Find out about famous people who share your ethnic
background. Talk with older relatives to gather family memories.
Ask your children, “What do you think?” Then really listen to the answers.
Teach your child how to set
goals. First, help your child choose one goal that is both
challenging and attainable. Examples might be, “I will
complete my history reading every night” or “I will receive a grade
of 90 on my spelling test.” Next, write the goal. Post it where
your child can see it. A visual reminder will help keep your child
Now talk about strategies for
accomplishing the goal. These should be concrete steps that help
your child move purposefully toward the goal. For example, a child
trying to improve a spelling grade might:
• Set aside 15 minutes of study time every day
• Make flash cards of the difficult words
• Ask family members to give practice tests.
Check progress. If your child
completes each step, be sure to celebrate his/her effort. If he/she
encounters problems, help him/her get back on track.
Finally, evaluate your child’s
progress. Did he/she reach his/her goal? What did he/she learn from
his/her experience? Praise your child’s efforts in trying to reach
the goal, and teach him/her that even though he/she didn’t succeed
as he/she had hoped, he/she still made positive progress. Then
help him/her set another achievable goal. Every time your child reaches
a goal, he/she is building his/her self-esteem so he/she can
try to reach another one.
Find ways to help your child
feel important. One study by the National Family Institute
found that the average parent spends 14.5 minutes a day
communicating with each child. Of that time, 12.5 minutes are
devoted to parental criticism or correction. Not surprisingly,
those behaviors lead many children to believe they do not matter
to anyone, or that they can’t do anything right. Make a special
effort to tell your child every day that he/she is special.
Pick your child up when
he/she is down. Remind him/her that striking out in the
baseball game doesn’t mean he/she is a failure at home. Let
him/her know that a poor grade on a spelling test doesn’t mean
he/she isn’t smart.
Be aware of your expectations.
Parents who assume boys are “naturally” better at math or sports –
and girls better at reading – may be limiting their child’s future
accomplishments. A recent study by a University of Colorado
psychologist found, for example those parents’ beliefs may lead
girls to drop out of math courses. That, in turn, can prevent them from
entering many high-paying careers. “Girls don’t get worse grades
than boys at any level of math.” The author of the study said. “But
they drop out of it much sooner, and here’s where parents’
expectations are having an effect.”
Encourage your child to take part in
extracurricular activities. After-school drama, athletics, music,
service, language and other clubs give kids a chance to try new
skills and receive recognition for a job well done.
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Improving Academic Achievement
By showing your interest in
your child’s learning, and by holding high expectations for your
child, you can develop attitudes that lead to school success. Here
are some ways you can improve academic achievement.
Make homework a priority.
Provide a quiet, well-lit place for your child to study. Make
sure you have some basic “tools of the trade” - a
dictionary, a ruler, pens and pencils.
Establish a regular study time. Expect
your child to spend some time on schoolwork every day. On days
when there are no assignments, your child can read a book for the
allotted time. During study time, the television should be off and
telephone calls should be returned later.
If your child has difficulty with one
subject, have him/her begin a homework session by completing that
assignment first while he/she is fresh. He/she can save his/her
favorite subjects for last.
Do your own “homework” while
kids are studying, if possible. Pay bills, write letters or balance
your checkbook. When your kids see that study time applies to
everyone, they’ll be more likely to take it seriously.
When your child begins to study
history, help him/her create a timeline that will be displayed in
his/her room. One year, have him/her fill in important dates in
American history. The next year, he/she can add important dates in
Today’s news is history in the
making. Watch the evening news together. Talk about current
events at the dinner table. Choose one or two stories to follow
closely. Read more about them in newspapers and magazines.
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Help your child do better on tests. Make sure to encourage your child to:
- Study for several days before the test. Kids need time to absorb information.
- Get plenty of sleep …. And a good breakfast.
Also encourage your child to:
- Listen carefully to directions. Teachers may deduct points if students don’t follow instructions.
- Look over the test before
answering any questions. Nothing is worse than discovering a 15
–minute essay question when you have only 5 minutes
remaining in class.
- Don’t spend
too much time on any open questions. It’s usually
better to answer as many questions as possible. If there’s
time, your child can return to questions that have him/her stumped.
Turn your child into the teacher. You
play the part of the student. As he/she teaches you, he/she will be
absorbing important information.
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Promoting Your Family’s Values
Parents today are worried
about the values their children are exposed to in society. The
schools share this concern. But schools recognize that a
person’s primary values must continue to come from home. Here are
some ways to pass on your family’s values to your children:
Talk about your values. If you
choose to visit a relative or spend time with your child,
rather than work overtime, say, “I believe people are more
important than things.” If you give money to support a cause you believe
in, tell your child why you’re doing it.
Encourage your child to talk
about his/her values too. Whenever possible, try to support your
child’s values by taking positive action. For instance, many
children are as concerned, if not more concerned, about
protecting the environment than adults. If this is the case, you
could work with your son or daughter to promote recycling in your
Think about the messages you
send with your actions. It’s hard to talk about honesty if you brag
about cheating on your taxes. It’s hard to teach the value of
human kindness and fairness if you condemn other races or peoples.
Teach your children how to make decisions. Ask your child to think
about what might happen if he/she chooses one course of action over
another. But let him/her make some of his/her own decisions – and
discover his/her own consequences.
Let your children know you are
always there to listen. Teens sometimes say they don’t talk with
their parents because they don’t want a lecture. If your son or
daughter starts discussing a problem, make an effort to listen
more than you talk.
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As children grow older, they spend
more time with friends. This is a necessary part of growing up as
teens learn how to get along outside their family. But peer
pressure can lead to unhealthy behavior, including early sexual
activity, drugs, and alcohol. Here are some ways you can limit the
negative influence of peer pressure on your children at an early
Get to know your child’s
friends. Invite them to spend their after-school hours in your
home. For the price of a few refreshments, you’ll soon learn about
who your child is seeing …and you’ll be able to make sure no drugs
or alcohol are used. Parents are usually surprised at how early
children think about experimenting.
Teach your child how to say
‘no’. You might role play a situation in which your teenager is
offered drugs or alcohol. Here are some responses.
- “No, thank you.
- “I don’t need that to have a good time.”
- “I have to stay sharp for my team.”
- “No means no.”
Talk with other parents. You
might learn that “everybody” isn’t allowing kids to have unsupervised
parties. As children move to middle school, organize your own Parent
Support Network with the parents of your child’s friends. The group
- Not to allow parties in their homes when they are not present.
- Not to permit the use of drugs in their homes or on their property.
- To follow certain
guidelines if a party is held at their home, including calling the
parents of children who possess drugs or alcohol.
- To call the host parent to verify the occasion and location.
- To allow their children to attend parties only at the homes of parents who have signed the agreement.
- To call host parents who have not signed the commitment to discuss the guidelines about social gatherings.
- To tell their children they have signed the agreement, and to discuss it with them.
Turn peer pressure into positive
pressure. Encourage your child to work with other teens to tackle a
problem in your community. He/she might volunteer at a soup kitchen,
develop a performance for senior citizens, or clean up a stretch
of highway. He/she will be improving the community and boosting
family is critical to success in school. Indeed, the 'curriculum
of the home' is twice as predicative of academic learning as family
socioeconomic status …. [and] parental influence is no less important
in the high school years."
What Works: Research About Teaching and Learning
US Department of Education