A Better Education – Part 1

My gift to parents this holiday season is my Top Ten Takeaways from The Parent Backpack workshop. These ideas help you give your children the best education possible and take only a few minutes each day. Here are the first five tips:

1. Remember, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You guide, coach, train, instruct, nurture and yell (we’re all human) at your kids on what to do, how to do it and what not to do, everyday. A parent’s role in sculpting young minds and supporting a child’s education – particularly in the early elementary years – is crucial. The average 8-year-old spends 1,170 hours a year in school vs. 3,500 waking hours at home. What you say and do everyday on the subject of school, learning and teaching shapes a child’s attitudes and behaviors about education. Beware of little “big ears” listening when you think they’re not.

2. Become an active contributor to your child’s education. Being involved doesn’t only mean volunteering in the classroom. The latest research shows talking positively about school and creating connections at home around what kids are learning leads to greater academic success. The more connections kids make to a subject, the more they learn. If your child is studying fractions this week, order an uncut pizza and make up a fraction game as you cut. Percents? Use stats from their favorite football player as an example. Addition/subtraction? Dig out Monopoly and let your child be the banker. Practice math facts, spelling words or quiz them on their upcoming test in the car. You don’t need to know all the answers, just ask the questions. If you do need answers, you can find them on The Parent Backpack resource page.

3. Cast a wide net for reading.  Junie B. Jones and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, included. Kids love these books because they relate to the situations and they’re funny. When children like the material, they’ll read more, especially reluctant readers. So bring on the comic books and magazines. Another favorite is Guinness World Book of Records – including outdated versions at bargain book stores. Read to your children through middle school, particularly a classic or something they won’t read themselves. Make sure they get a library card and visit often. TV addicts? Improve their reading skills by turning on the “closed caption” button so sub-titles automatically appear.

4. Build bridges with schools and communicate carefully with teachers. There’s natural disharmony between parents and teachers in most schools. Try using the Power of P3 to help build partnerships. Be polite, positive and persistent. Keep your words or requests focused on your child’s feelings or your observations, not on other kids or teachers. A parent who claims, “That bully Bobby is beating up my Jamie again!” will probably not hear back from the teacher as quickly as the parent who emails, “Jamie is feeling threatened on the playground again. What can we do to make sure he feels safe?”  Words that teachers hear vs. defend get children what they need. Being polite, positive and persistent pays off.

5. Fuel your children’s minds and bodies so they can thrive. Food is to our bodies what sleep is to our brain. One egg beats cereal or pop tarts in nutrition and cost. The protein from an egg stays with kids longer and helps keep them focused. Studies also show that short term memory converts to long term memory in the last hour of sleep. So making sure your kids get enough ZZZ’s makes them better students. Children need 10 or more hours until puberty. As teens, they need 9 hours. Finally – exercise. It improves kids’ focus, memory and mood so get them outside or dancing to a video.

None of this is easy…but it’s doable. If you can make just one connection every day that supports your child’s learning – you’ll be that much closer to giving your children the best education they can get – and a better future. Tips 6-10 coming next week…

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