As the smell of new boxes of crayons and freshly sharpened pencils fills the isle at the market, parents might be thinking “Help! My child is behind in school and I don’t know what to do. How can you start out behind?” This realization brings a feeling of failure before the new school year has even begun. Although the education system in America has many problems, one of which is constantly allowing students to be promoted to the next grade regardless of their failing to meet the standards required to be promoted, there are many things that parents can do at home to help their child succeed and grow as much as possible.
1) Read, read, read everything in sight!
Children of all ages need to hear fluent adults reading to them on a regular basis. This helps them to develop expressiveness in reading, fluency and accuracy, increase vocabulary, and better understand figurative language. It also greatly influences a child when they see that their parents or guardians love to read and have a respect for education in the home. One thing I’ve always told parents of my students is that, although chapter books and novels are wonderful, reading in the home does not always have to be a 500 page book. Students can read the newspaper, magazines, product catalogs for their favorite toys, the outside of the cereal box, the instructions for the playhouse that Dad is trying to build, anything! The basis of all education throughout your entire life is reading and comprehending content all around you, in both educational and practical life settings.
2) See math in every place you go!
I love to see parents in the grocery store, teaching their children to add up the cost of the items in the cart, calculate the discount on the item based on the price and sale sign, or to count nutritional information on the sides of products. It is vital that students understand that math will be used in their everyday lives as adults and they must know how to perform basic calculations. They may not use advanced calculus every day, but they will need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. You can help them to see math problems in the bank, grocery store, gas station, restaurant, and even public restrooms! For example, if you estimate that every person uses two paper towels per visit and 30 people come in to the restroom per day, how many paper towels are used daily?
3) Increase vocabulary every chance you get!
With today’s technology and students’ understanding of that technology, there is no reason why students should be using happy and sad as the only adjectives in their descriptive writing. If you notice that your child is repeating the same words over and over to describe situations or write notes, encourage them to look up new words in the online dictionary or thesaurus, as well as teaching them other words and meanings that are a part of your vocabulary. You can even have a word of the day where you learn a new word and the whole family tries to use it as much as possible that day. Some families might even want to make it into a game or a competition.
4) Make learning fun!
Utilizing technology, art, music, dance, and all other types of creativity, students can learn, grow, and express themselves across all subjects of education. Instead of simply regurgitating facts, students can present information they have learned in a wide variety of presentations. The most important thing is to find out what the student is interested in, be it skateboarding, football, princesses, drawing, singing, or bugs! If you can think of a way for a student to research and learn or share what they are learning using the subjects they are interested in or feel they are good at, they will be 100% more invested in the project.
5) Be there!
While I have known some very wonderful parents who were extremely involved in their child’s education and did everything they could to help their child succeed, the sad fact is that more parents than not have simply left education up the school. While it obviously takes a great teacher to make a difference in a child’s educational career, their parents and guardians have an enormous impact on their opinion of education and how they view their success or failure in school. While most parents are working hard just to provide for their children and may not have time to be involved at the school or may not have many hours at home with the child, do everything physically possible to be there for them. Be involved, ask questions, follow up, keep them accountable, know what’s going on in their education, and be their most personal educational example of how we should all strive to be life-long learners to better ourselves and our lives.