Carrie and Jack’s daughter Katie is four years old and they want to help her get the best foundation for learning before she begins kindergarten. Katie is verbal, inquisitive, and high-spirited, and her parents have great expectations for her. They wonder how they can help her live up to her potential––without putting on too much pressure.
Patty decided to homeschool her children, ages seven and nine. She finds it’s sometimes challenging to motivate her kids to be eager learners every day, but she's always on the lookout for the best ways to help her kids learn. Most of all, she wants to find ways to integrate learning into their everyday lifestyle at home.
Heather’s son Jason, now in the third grade, often forgets to bring his books home, procrastinates on doing homework, and is struggling in math and social studies. His mom found school frustrating in her growing-up years, so she wants education to be more rewarding and positive for Jason. This kid really needs a turnaround! Heather wonders what she can do to help Jason enjoy learning.
Maybe you identify with Carrie and Jack, Patty, or Heather. Or maybe your children haven’t started school yet but you want to help them get a great start on learning.
The good news is that as a parent, you can have a huge positive impact on your children’s education. What you do and how you’re involved in your kids’ learning has more influence on their attitude and achievement than anything any other person does. Your home environment can become one that supports the learning process in positive and long-lasting ways.
Learning starts at home, and no matter what kind of schooling option you choose, you are your children’s first and most important educator. And even if you delegate part of your kids’ learning to a school, you are still the director of the whole long-term, twelve-plus-years process. More than fifty research studies show that when parents get involved in their children’s learning, their kids are more motivated, get their needs met more effectively, and score significantly higher on achievement tests than kids with parents who are uninvolved.
Over and over, I’ve seen that when parents take an active role in their children’s learning, the results are dynamic. Studies of successful kids reveal parents who are actively engaged in helping their children throughout their school years, even in simple ways. When parents are good role models and enjoy learning, showing an interest in what their children are learning by asking questions, students get more inspired and achieve higher grades. When parents know their kids well, they can better help them bypass their weaknesses and amplify their strengths so they can function at their best in the classroom.
As a former teacher who has taught students at every grade level from kindergarten to college, I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents and teachers. I’ve given them ideas to support their children’s learning, turn around negative attitudes, and help their kids get the most out of the school experience, whether they are being educated at home or at a public or private school. I’ve seen parents themselves get recharged with new ideas and strategies that make a huge difference in their children’s learning.
Most parents want to be involved in their children's schoolwork and to see their kids succeed, but many don’t know what to do or where to start. That's why I wrote this book. Through those years of teaching, I began to realize that we parents are the ones who really need the encouragement and help. The key to our children's lifelong learning and success in school lies in the quality of their home lives, not only during the important first five years of their lives but throughout their entire school experience.
In this book, I’ll share with you some simple tools to help you develop a home environment that is rich in learning resources and foundational for an excellent education for your child. You’ll discover how to:
· Integrate fun learning activities into daily life
· Help your children become lifelong writers and readers
· Teach your kids simple study strategies and organizational skills that will multiply their retention and raise their grades
· Enhance your children’s learning and development with music
· Communicate with school personnel, solve problems that arise, and engage in an effective conference with a teacher
· Encourage your kids to keep learning during the summer
With the constant changes in technology and knowledge, we can’t teach kids all the facts and formulas they will need to know in order to succeed in life. But if we can help them learn to think critically, read and write well, and develop a lifestyle of learning, then they’ll continue to learn long after their formal education has ended.
You may be asking such questions as, How long are these activities going to take? and How do you expect me to make time for these educational concerns in my already overcrowded schedule? In this book, I’ll give you ideas that can be incorporated into your lifestyle, whether you are a working or a stay-at-home parent. There are dozens of suggestions for things you can do with your children without becoming a taskmaster or holding a two-hour study hall every night. You’ll discover ways to be a positive role model and teach by example, how your home life can support your children’s development, and how to be an encourager and a homework coach to your children rather than doing the assignments yourself.
As you use these ideas, I think you’ll find that the time you spend with your children in a learning activity will be multiplied back to you as your children grow to become more independent students during their junior high school and high school years. Reading aloud, discussing a newspaper article around the dinner table, and going on a family outing are all effective ways to build a foundation for them to become lifelong learners and successful in whatever paths they take.
One night when all three of our kids were in school, we’d just come back from the second night in a row of Open House. I’d spent my day volunteering at our daughter’s school and helping one of our sons study for a test, and I was exhausted. I looked at my husband and exclaimed, “I can’t believe what a huge part of our lives the kids’ schooling is!” Yes, sometimes it’s draining. But with some preparation, your kids’ schooling can be a positive part of your life together rather than a source of stress.
Recently, I heard a mother say, "I'm not a teacher. I didn't even like school myself, so I don't have much to teach my children." Maybe you’ve felt the same way, but I want to make you realize that you have much to teach your children.
One evening, my young daughter, Alison, and I were riding bikes together. Alison was riding ahead of me on her new bicycle. As we went around the curves and onto a busy residential street, I coached her a little from behind. A car zoomed up behind me. "Stay a little closer to the right curb,” I called out to her. A little later, "Better stop at the corner and look both ways," I cautioned. "Good job when you signaled to turn left!"
Supervising a child's education is much like that bike ride. The educational system is like a busy city street. Most kids need some personal coaching and a lot of encouragement if they are to get through it with positive results instead of calamity.
That’s our job as parents. We can't ride the bike for our children, but we can coach them until they can maneuver through the busy street on their own and arrive safely at their destination. We can make sure they have the right equipment for the trip. We can know where they’re going. We can help them up when they fall. We can even help them get a tire fixed when it goes flat.
This book will equip you to guide your children so that in spite of any problems they may face in school––whether public, home, or private––they will be prepared to learn, get the most out of what the school offers, and develop the skills needed to succeed.
Although many of my examples relate to moms, let's not forget the powerful impact fathers can have on forming a foundation for children's achievement. A dad's encouragement and support is a vital key for a child's learning, whether it's by reading aloud to the family, sharing projects and hobbies, showing an interest in school activities, or even being a volunteer.
As you read this book, choose the activities that fit in with your family's lifestyle and schedule. You can’t do everything, but picking a few ideas to apply in your home will make a difference. While millions of dollars pumped into education often fail to raise children's achievement, I’ve found that a few small reforms made at home can show terrific results.