Helping Your Child Succeed in School
With activities for children aged 5 through 11
The good news is that every child in every family has the power to succeed in school and in life, and every parent, grandparent, and caregiver can help.
But how do we help our children succeed? How do we give them the power? The most important thing we can do is be involved with our children's education even before they are in school, then stay involved once they are in school.
Success in school takes hard work, planning, a few basic skills, and the will to want to succeed.
Where Our Children Learn
It's no surprise to anyone that children need time with their parents. And even though most parents are extremely busy, whether they work outside of the home or not, they do find time to spend with their children. But they want that time to count in helping prepare their children for the world they will find outside the home.
What counts most is what we say and do at home, not how rich or poor we are or how many years of school we have finished. When children can count on getting attention at home, they have a greater sense of security and self-worth. This will help them do better not only in school, but also when they grow up.
The hours and days a child is not in school are important for learning, too.
This is probably the most important activity we can do in our home, and it doesn't cost anything. Ask questions, listen for answers. These are no-cost, high-value things to do. Think of conversation as being like a tennis game with talk, instead of a ball, bouncing back and forth. Communication can happen any time, any place--in the car, on a bus, at mealtime, at bedtime. When our children enter and continue school with good habits of communication, they are in a position to succeed--to learn all that has to be learned, and to become confident students.
Here are some things you can do when your children are young:
• Let them see you read, and read to them and with them. Visit the library. If they are old
• make sure they have their own card. Keep books, magazines, and newspapers around the house.
• Keep pencils and paper, crayons, and washable markers handy for notes, grocery lists, and schoolwork. Writing takes practice, and it starts at home.
• Teach children to do things for themselves rather than do the work for them. Patience when children are young pays off later.
• Help children, when needed, to break a job down into small pieces, then do the job one step at a time. This works for everything--getting dressed, a job around the house, or a big homework assignment.
• Develop, with your child, a reasonable, consistent schedule of jobs around the house. List them on a calendar, day by day.
• Every home needs consistent rules children can depend on. Put a plan into action, and follow through.
• Give each child an easy-to-reach place in which to put things away.
• Set limits on TV viewing so that everyone can get work done with less background noise.
• Watch TV with your children and talk about what you see.
Handling homework. These are the messages to get across to your children about homework:
• Education is important. Homework has to be done. Let children know that this is what you value.
• Try to have a special place where each child can study.
• Help your children plan how to do all the things they need to do--study, work around the
house, play, etc.
• Let your children know that you have confidence in them. Remind them of specific successes they have had in the past perhaps in swimming, soccer, cooking, or in doing a difficult homework assignment.
• Don't expect or demand perfection. Show interest and praise them when they've
done something well. If you have criticisms or suggestions, make them in a helpful way.
The time we spend exchanging ideas at home with our children is vitally important in setting the tone, the attitudes, and the behaviours that make the difference in school.
In the Community
In many parts of our nation, the ties among neighbours have been weakened. For the sake of our children, they need to be rebuilt, and you can help. Be sure to introduce your children to your neighbours. You might even try a "child watch" program where adults who are home during the day keep an eye out for children when they walk to and from school and stand at bus stops.
Some schools are helping families connect with the community by, for example, becoming centers for social services as well as for education.
Parents can become involved with the schools in several different ways, by working with children at home, volunteering, sharing information, and helping to make policy. We need to remember that what works in one community (or for one family) may not necessarily work in another. It may no longer be possible for parents to volunteer as often for school activities. However, working with children at home and sharing information with the school are two things all parents can do.
With our help, our children can become confident students, able to handle the challenges of school. This means:
What Our Children Learn From Us
- Talking with our children about the value of hard work and about the importance of
- Talking about what's happening in school
- Reading report cards and messages that come from school
- Going to school and meeting with teachers
- Taking part in school events when you can
- Finding out about resources in the community.
Sometimes we think that all our children need to know to be ready to start school are the ABCs and how to count. The reality is that most children can learn these things pretty fast once they get to school. What they do need--and what you can give--is the message that education is valuable: through education, people can shape their own future.
So, talk about learning, share the fun and excitement of new skills. Show your children that you are always learning, too. Read aloud, play games, and talk about events around the block and around the world.
Children tend to follow the examples set for them. When we say one thing and do another, children watch and learn. When we practice what we preach, children watch and learn. The bottom line is that when we give our children the support and information they need, and expect them to do well, they do better in school and in life.
How Our Children Learn From Us
Children need active, even noisy, learning as well as quiet learning such as reading. Active learning includes asking and answering questions (and trying to get more than just "yes" or "no" answers); solving problems; and discussing a variety of topics. Active learning can also take place when a child plays sports, spends time with friends, or goes
to a museum or zoo. The active learning suggestions in the next section will help you think of even more things for you and your children to do.
Limit TV watching. Watching TV is an example of a quiet activity that children can learn from, but one that is a problem in almost every home. We know that children who watch a lot of TV learn less and get lower grades than students who watch little TV.
Encourage active learning. What can we do? We can listen to our children's ideas and respond to them. We can let them jump in with questions and opinions when reading books together. When this type of give-and-take between parent and child happens at home, a child's participation and interest in school increases.
What Messages To Send
Three of the important messages our children need about success in school can be sent by:
1. Sharing our own experiences and goals with our children, because children tend to adopt our ideals. They need to know how we feel about making an effort, working hard, and planning ahead.
2. Establishing realistic, consistent family rules for work around the house so our children
can develop schedules and stable routines. Children need limits set even though they will
test these limits over and over again. Children need to know what they can depend on--
and they need to be able to depend on the rules we make.
3. Encouraging our children to think about the future. Our children need realistic,
reasonable expectations, and they need the satisfaction of having some of these expectations met. They need to take part in making decisions (and to learn that sometimes this means sacrificing fun now for benefits later) and they need to find out
what happens as a result of decisions they have made.
Throw a stone into a pool and the circles widen and overlap. None of us lives in isolation. The circles of home, community, and school overlap also. For our children to learn and thrive, they need the support and encouragement of all of the circles in which we live. But the circle in the center is the home and that's where it all starts.
There is no one "right" way of doing these activities. Make changes, shorten or lengthen them to suit your child's attention span, or think up some activities of your own. Above all, enjoy them. And don't worry about what you might not have done in the past. Start where you are now, with the resources you have now.
Ability in schoolwork is like ability in sports: it takes practice to gain confidence, to become motivated, and to win.
The activities for these early school years focus on helping children get ready for schoolwork and get a head start on the habits and behaviours important for ongoing success in school.
These activities help children become organized and build early study skills and work habits.
These projects for children in the upper elementary grades continue to focus on work and study habits, with more emphasis on making personal decisions.
Homework Made Easy
- We can all be great teachers
- Every home is a learning place
- We don't need a lot of time to do a lot of good
- Everyone's abilities and skills can be improved.
Homework without nagging is much to be desired. Have your child try a homework
1. Have (or help) your child do the following: Create a homework chart out of a sturdy, large sized piece of paper.
Attach a colored marker or pen so that it is always handy.
Each day after school, put a check mark in each box in which there is a homework
assignment. Circle the check when the homework is completed.
2. Make a new chart for each week. Depending on how many subjects you have, you may be able to put 3 or 4 weeks on each piece of paper.
3. Try to figure out how long it will take to complete homework assignments so you know when you need to start working.
A homework chart can show exactly what needs to be done when, and gives a feeling of
accomplishment when an assignment is crossed off.
Divide It Up
Just about anything is easier to do if it's divided into smaller pieces. As assignments get longer and more complicated, more organizing and planning skills are needed.
1. Choose a big assignment to talk about, such as a geography project. Decide together, and have your child write down, what he or she needs to complete the job.
2. Decide the order in which the parts of the job need to be done. Number the steps.
Try to estimate how long each step will take. Work backwards from the date the paper is due in order to see when each part needs to be started. Put start and finish dates next to these steps, then put the assignment on a calendar or homework chart.
3. Together, think about a household job, such as gardening or cleaning. Divide it up into
4. Talk about how adults divide work on their jobs or at home.
This trick of dividing big jobs into small pieces helps make all jobs easier and can save a lot of wear and tear on everyone when it's time to hand in a school assignment.
Decide how you are going to use TV. Watching television can be educational or something we do in our spare time.
1. Decide together how much TV your family will watch. Read the TV schedule. Have each family member decide what he or she would like to watch. Put initials next to everyone's choices.
2. Try to find time to watch TV with your child. Be sure they understand what's real and
3. Have board games, books, or projects handy so children can do other things when TV
time is used up.
4. If your children watch too much TV, try cutting down a little at a time. Avoid leaving a
TV set on all day.