Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Three things parents can do to help their children in life and in school

I moved about a year ago and in doing so left teaching behind. Some days I really miss teaching, I mean really really really miss it. But other days when I think about all the report cards, school meetings, extra classes, and now all the slack teachers get about, "US students are behind in almost every subject because of teachers, they must the reason students are failing," I don't miss it at all.

I agree with many others who ask, "What about the parents!?!?" Because when you think about it teachers come and go every year, but parents are around for a lifetime. Teachers cannot be held accountable for what happens before school, after school and when school is out.

How many parents take time to have a conversation with their child about anything? How many parents spend 10+ minutes reading to their kids? How many parents take their kids to museums and talk to them about the exhibits (not just, "oh wow look at that")?

One interesting article discusses play at home, causes for why kids don't play at home, and why play is so important. Having a child is a lot of responsibility and not all children are self-motivated to learn and achieve. Based on my teaching experience and education there are (at the very minimum) three things parents can do to set their child up for success:

1) Read to/with your child at least an hour a day and discuss what you're reading. This hour doesn't have to be in one sitting, and you don't have to always be reading a book. You could read a recipe, comic book, newspaper, magazine, online article, email, picture book, etc. Most importantly talk about it! Don't just read it and put it away! Ask questions, share your thoughts, talk about your experiences, make predictions, make connections, talk about the vocabulary used, ask what ifs...

2) Talk with your child. In the teaching world we have moments called "teachable moments." This is when something happens that may or may not be related to what you are teaching but you use this opportunity to teach. This happens ALL THE TIME! This can be about anything (i.e. when the trash truck comes, why does it come and where does it go; why do we wash our hands; why is it important to eat healthy foods; why are there commercials on tv; why do some people wear glasses; why do we use plates; how does a vehicle work, depending on the age of the child depends on how in-depth an answer you give). But just talk to them, and it's ok if you don't know. Then you can work with your child to find the answer out together, an even better opportunity for your child to learn how to conduct research!

3)Spend quality time with your child. If you are doing # 1 & 2, then you are most likely already doing this. I don't mean time where your child is in the same room and you're watching TV or working on the computer or talking on the phone. I mean time where you are at your child's disposal if they need help or have a question. You are focused on them. This doesn't have to be every waking moment, but make sure you have time allotted just for this.

Can you imagine how different our students would be if all parents did at least these 3 things?

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