Successful students begin at home, not at school. The expectations you set, the environment you create, the examples you project and the involvement you display — all of these things contribute to helping your child become a strong student. Much of this information is from an article by Holly Zwerling, LMFT, LCSW
Moms are often the parent most involved in a child’s education, but it shouldn’t be that way. Fathers can make a big difference in influencing academic outcomes. Research very clearly states that when fathers are involved in their children’s learning, children do better in school. Too many educators say the only time they see fathers is when there is a performance at school and their child is in it. Both parents need to understand the importance of sharing the role of educator for their children.
There’s more to making learning a priority than checking your child’s report card or signing test papers. Whether you are a mom or a dad, here are some things you can do to help create a healthy learning environment at home and support your child at every age.
Demonstrate your interest in learning. Read in front of your children and discuss the new things you learn. Talk about things around you. Get excited about your discoveries. Speak to your children about what they see, read, or learn in school.
Set aside time. No matter how busy you are, carve out time to talk about what your child is learning at school. Have him or her explain it to you in detail. Let this be a time to share each other’s day and connect with few interruptions. Listen to your children as if they were teaching you. Thank them for the information, which will add value to it.
Encourage their participation. Children need to have an accepting environment in which they can take risks in answering questions and get positive feedback for trying. Children who have opportunities to speak up at home are more comfortable in expressing themselves and sharing their ideas. This interaction prepares them to be active participants in school.
Allow children to make mistakes. Be understanding of your children’s errors in a non-threatening way and help them learn from their mistakes. They should never be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions or try new things. Take ownership of your own mistakes and show how you, too, are always striving to be better.
Create a learning environment. Have books around the house and share which ones are your favorites. Read together daily, just for fun. Talk about new topics and experiences to increase your children’s vocabulary and comprehension. They will feel more prepared to handle their schoolwork.
Use your imagination. Make up stories and songs together. They will become special between you. In this way you encourage your child’s imagination, creativity and sense of humor, which will help him with his writing in school and at home.
Encourage independence. You may not be available after school, when it’s time for your child to do homework. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is your child’s work, not yours. Express confidence that your child can tackle any assignment, and review the work together when you can. Praise your child’s efforts to deal with his or her assignments, even if some of the answers are incorrect. Instead of saying, “That’s wrong!” say, “I’m proud of you for working on this on your own, and you almost got it right. Let’s try again or figure it out together.”
Focus on your child’s learning. Be attentive while reviewing your child’s homework. Designate a time when you will have few or no interruptions so your child can look forward to working with you. By doing so you are demonstrating how important you think learning is. Also, you are teaching your child the importance of being attentive and focused, which will help in school.
Demonstrate your work ethic. Every child struggles with some subject sometime. It can be frustrating, but you want to teach your child to persevere. Be patient, and work on finding answers or practicing together. Be honest when you don’t know something, and show your own willingness to learn. Hold your child accountable for getting help from the teacher and for finishing assignments.
Apply learning to life experiences. Help kids see connections between what they learn at school and what they do daily. Show them how knowing math can help them to save money. Knowing how to read is important if you want to write a letter to a favorite friend or relative. Work together in the same space so your child can observe you doing your own “homework,” even if it’s just paying the bills or writing a grocery list.
Be aware of your child’s capabilities and challenges. All children have different learning styles, temperaments, and learning capabilities. To be of maximum support to your children, speak to your child’s teachers, counselors, pediatrician, etc. to get information about his progress and how best to work with your child.
Get involved in your child’s school. Children feel special when you come to their school, visit their classroom or volunteer for positive reasons. Participating in school is for your child’s benefit, not just the school’s, so find the time. This is another way to be there for your children and see firsthand what their learning environment is like.
Parent from a distance if necessary. Even if there is distance between you because of military service, incarceration, or separation from your child’ other parent, it is important for you to stay involved in your child’s life and school. Use Skype or Face Time. Share stories of your daily activities. Send books (homemade or bought) with personal notes encouraging your child to read. Promise to talk about the books after you both read them — and don’t forget to do it. Meanwhile, hold your child responsible for homework and doing his best in your absence.
Sharing responsibility for raising children means both moms and dads working together to provide the home advantage for their children. The investment you make in your children’s academic future by being a hands-on parent will be the best investment you will ever make.”