Turn your child into a stronger student by creating the right support structure and expectations. Use these nine tips to help maximize your child's academic success.
Your child’s success in school is dependent upon a wide variety of factors. Certainly, the quality of programming at your child’s school, the quality of your child’s teacher, and access to quality resources are all critical components of your child’s success. But the factor that is most important for your child’s academic achievement is your involvement in their educational process.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, parental involvement is twice as predictive of a child’s academic success than socioeconomic status. Yet, the same report also notes that a lack of parental involvement is the largest issue facing public schools today. There are likely many reasons for this gap, not the least of which is that some parents just don’t know how to help their children when they bring schoolwork home. However, involvement in your child’s education does not begin and end with struggling to help them with homework. There are many methods you can employ to help your child achieve his or her academic potential, and here are nine ways you can naturally incorporate into your child's academic support.
Create a Routine and Stick to It
A major barrier that many parents face is simply finding the time in their schedules to sit down with their children to talk about school, review work, and provide assistance when needed. This has become even more difficult in recent years as children have become so involved with technologies like mobile phones, tablets, and social media that can occupy much of their time.
To overcome these barriers, develop a daily schedule whereby your child has a specific time to attend to their schoolwork. The time that your child uses for homework may vary, but their input should be sought as to when homework time will be. Bear in mind that it is generally accepted that homework should not be done right after school. Children need some time to unwind, have a snack, and let their brains recharge after a long day of academic work. Instead, setting aside time before or after dinner might be a good fit. Whatever the time, be sure that it is consistent from day to day in order to help you and your child get into a routine and stick to it.
Create a Homework Space
Some children can do their homework while curled up on the couch, yet others need a more formal space to work. Whatever your child’s preference, their workspace needs to be theirs and theirs alone during their homework time. The space should be quiet and without distractions. TVs should be off, phones should be on silent, and tablets or laptops should be used for homework purposes only.
If you have the space, consider developing a dedicated homework center. Doing so will further your child’s ability to get their work done in an efficient manner. Being able to organize supplies will keep things tidy and help your child keep track of their assignments. Keeping all their work in one specific place will also help prevent lost or missing work. Installing a bulletin board in the space will also help with organization. You can add a calendar to write down impending due dates or examination dates so your child stays on track with his or her work, and so you can keep an eye on things as well.
Establish Some Rules
As with all activities with a child, there is a need for some ground rules for homework. Simple rules can keep your child organized and provide the structure he or she needs to complete their duties. When devising rules, they need to be short and easily understood by everyone in the family. Rules should be posted to remind all family members of the expectations. And when rules aren’t followed, reasonable consequences should be enforced.
There’s no need to by tyrannical about homework, however. Simple and clear expectations are all that is needed. Specify when and where homework will be done. Outline your expectations for your child’s effort, and identify what your role will be during homework time. But be sure that if these expectations aren’t followed that you can enforce the consequences. There is no point in devising rules if no one is going to follow them.
Some parents believe that they shouldn’t reward their children for doing something they should do anyway, and that’s okay. But some children require incentives to do their schoolwork because they find it boring and aren’t motivated by praise from their teacher or by good grades. A simple incentive might be to offer a fun activity once all homework is done. This could be playing a game, going outside with friends, or having time to watch TV.
More elaborate incentive systems can also be utilized if your child has a habitual issue with completing work. These larger-scale schemes can also be used to encourage completion of long assignments over the course of several days or weeks. A popular incentive system is to use a token economy, in which children earn points, stars, or some other kind of token that they can utilize later to “purchase” a reward or privilege. Involving your child in the decision-making process, including what the rewards or privileges might be, is important for the success of a token economy.
Set High Expectations
Ensuring your child’s academic success is dependent in part on your expectations of their performance. Establishing high expectations does not mean demanding your child earns perfect scores on all their assignments. Rather, setting high expectations means challenging your child to achieve beyond what they think they can achieve. Realistic expectations will depend on a wide variety of factors, including your child’s age, inherent abilities, and areas of interest.
It’s perfectly fine for your child to be a “C” student in math, but expressing the expectation that he or she strive for a “C+” or a “B” will help them set their sights above and beyond what they think is possible. Conversely, if your child has a specific aptitude or interest area, establishing high expectations can take on a wholly different form. For example, if your child is particularly gifted in the arts, setting the expectation of going to a good art school is not overly ambitious. The point is, regardless of your child’s level of academic prowess, they need to be challenged to reach higher, and they need to know that you expect them to try their hardest to do so.
Read, Read, Read
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the single most important thing you can do to boost your child’s academic achievement is read to them and with them. Children acquire the ability for literacy long before they ever learn to read, so establishing a routine of reading to your child early is vitally important. Experts recommend that parents should read to children 30 minutes per day from infancy through childhood. Once children acquire the ability to read, this time should be split more evenly between parent and child reading. Children develop the majority of their capacity for learning before the age of three, so reading to your child early and often can facilitate the development of their learning potential.
Reduce Test Anxiety
Many people get nervous when a testing situation arises, and children are no exception. What your child needs is to learn how to approach an exam with the greatest level of preparation possible. This means beginning to study well in advance of the test date in favor of cramming the night before. Studies show that repeated interaction with the material over the long-term improves retention and the ability to retrieve that information. Giving themselves at least a week to prepare for an exam will get them in the mental space they need to be in to remember the material and put it to paper on test day.
Another way you can help facilitate optimal test performance is to ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before. This might be a chore, especially if it is a major exam with broad implications on your child’s grade. However, if cramming is removed from the situation by studying for an appropriate length of time, there shouldn’t be a need for your child to pull an all-nighter. Supplementing a good night’s sleep with a good breakfast the next morning will give your child’s brain the energy it needs to perform at an optimal level.
Among the most common test-day tips to reduce anxiety is to arrive in early to familiarize one’s self with the testing environment. Unless it is the ACT, SAT, or another standardized test, chances are your child will be tested in his or her normal classroom, which will aid in their comfort level. Remind your child to read all directions carefully as well. More often than not, mistakes are made because kids breeze through instructions they think they already understand. Similarly, reading each question thoroughly is vital to success.
Promote Positive Attitudes About Education
Not all of us had a great experience in school. If you fall into that category, be wary of passing on those negative attitudes to your child. The notion that school is too hard or that teachers play favorites or that there’s no point in learning will discourage your child from the outset, and that will show in his or her level of achievement in the years to come. Instead, try to put aside any negative feelings you may have about education and inspire your child to approach school with a positive attitude. This will encourage his or her dedication to achieving their academic goals, and it will make your life much easier by having a child that seeks to do his or her best at school.
Another aspect of promoting these positive attitudes is to involve yourself in your child’s educational process. Ask them what they learned in school today, but don’t leave it at that. What was their favorite part of what they learned? How does what they learned today fit in with what they learned last week? What was the most difficult part of today’s lesson? Having a detailed conversation about education on a regular basis will signal to your child that it’s an important endeavor.
Keep in Touch With Teachers
Second only to you, your child’s teacher is the most important person in the educational process. As a result, you should do your best to maintain open lines of communication with all of your child’s teachers. Attend school open houses at the beginning of the year so you can meet your child’s teachers and establish a rapport with them from the start. Provide them with your contact information and the best times they can contact you if the need arises. If possible, get their email address so you can quickly and easily communicate with them when you need to.
Attendance at parent-teacher conferences is also critical, particularly if your child is struggling. Taking time to discuss specific issues, needs, and areas of improvement will help you and your child’s teacher take a cooperative approach to boosting their academic success. But don’t rely on one or two conferences per year. Maintaining communication throughout the school year will help keep you up-to-date on any problems or issues before they become major obstacles to your child’s success.
When communicating with your child’s teacher, it is imperative to be diplomatic, especially in written communication when tone and intent can sometimes get lost. Use “I” statements so you don’t put the teacher on the defensive, and approach any questions you have with curiosity rather than blame. Remember too that you are on the same team and have the same goal: for your child to reach his or her potential.
What remains most important is that you engage with your kids about education in a genuine manner. This doesn’t mean that you have to rule homework time with an iron fist. Nor does it mean you need to nag and bother your children when they aren’t meeting your expectations. Instead, be a positive force with regard to education. Ask questions. Be genuinely interested in what they do each day in school. Help them with their homework, or if it’s above your understanding, sit with them while they complete their work. Take proactive measures to ensure their success. This positive approach to education will help your child achieve their potential and will promote long-term success as well.
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