Students and teachers will soon be starting another school year. It may seem that summer was too short and school days are long. But if you think about it, school does not really take up very much of a child's time. The average school year in the United States is 180 days. In other countries, the school year can last up to 240 days and students are often in school more hours per day than American students. Clearly, the hours and days that a child is not in school are important for learning too.
For children to be successful in school, parents and families need to be actively involved in their children's learning. They need to become involved early and stay involved throughout the school year. In fact, many studies show that what the family does is more important to a child's school success than how much money the family makes or how much education the parents have.
By showing interest in their children's education, parents and families can spark enthusiasm in them and lead them to a very important understanding -- that learning can be enjoyable as well as rewarding and is well worth the effort required. Here are some things parents can do to help their children be successful in school.
Encourage your child
Helping your child become a reader is the single most important thing that you can do to help a child succeed in school -- and in life. Reading helps children in all school subjects. More important, it is the key to lifelong learning.
Make sure that your home has lots of reading materials that are appropriate for your child. Keep books, magazines and newspapers in the house. Reading materials don't have to be new or expensive. Search them out at yard sales; give books and magazine subscriptions as gifts.
Show that you value reading. Let your child see you reading for pleasure.
Monitor TV viewing, video game playing
American children on average spend far more time watching TV or playing video and computer games than they do completing homework or other school-related activities. Too much screen time cuts into important activities such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.
Model good TV viewing habits because children often imitate their parents' behavior. By taking the TV out of a child's bedroom, parents will be better able to monitor what he's watching.
Watch TV with your child when you can. Talk about what you see and be ready to answer any questions after the program ends.
Let your child know that you think education is important and homework has to be done.
Have a special place for your child to study. A desk in the bedroom is nice, but a kitchen table or a corner of the living room works fine, too. The area should have good lighting and be fairly quiet. Provide supplies such as pencils, pens, erasers, paper, stapler, calculator, scissors, dictionary, and thesaurus.
Set a regular time for homework. Remove distractions. Turn off the TV and discourage your child from making and receiving social telephone calls during homework time.
Don't be reluctant to help your child with homework because you don't know the subject well enough. Helping with homework doesn't mean doing the homework. It isn't about solving the problems for your child; it's about supporting him to do his best. You may not know enough about a subject such as calculus to help your child with a specific assignment, but you can help by showing that you are interested, helping him get organized, providing a place for the materials he needs to work, monitoring his work to see that he completes it and praising his efforts.
For more tips, see "Helping Your Child Succeed in School," U.S. Department of Education Office of Communities and Outreach. The "Helping Your Child" series provides parents with tools and information to help their children succeed in school and life. View the entire series at www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/hyc.htm....
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District-Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.