A Better Education – Part 2

In my last post, I gave the first five take aways from The Parent Backpack workshop. Here are the last five tips that will help your children thrive and get the best education possible.

6. Respect your child’s unique journey. Each child’s path from kindergarten through grade five looks different. The journey through elementary school ebbs and flows like a winding river, up and back, rarely a straight line. Sometimes the water is calm, other days it’s turbulent. At times it may seem like your child has stopped on the bank for a rest, and this may indeed be the case. Many children need to take a few steps back before they make a leap, especially when they are learning to read or moving into new territory. This is all part of a child’s individual journey.

7. Recognize how your child learns. There are three types of learning styles. Visual learners learn best by seeing information; they prefer to read, write things down and study by flashcards. Auditory learners connect more to spoken words and sounds; they like books on tape. Kinesthetic learners grow impatient with listening or reading for long periods of time; they prefer to touch and do. Most kids are some combination of a visual learner with either auditory or kinesthetic traits. But learning styles evolve as children grow and temperament also plays a role. The more you and the teacher understand your child’s learning style the easier the journey. If you’d like to know more about your child’s learning style, check out the test at schoolfamily.com. You can test yourself too!

8. Connect to your child’s homework. A best practice among schools for an appropriate amount of homework is 10 minutes per grade. So a 4th grader has an average of 40 minutes of homework per night – if done straight through. Our role as parents is to supervise the process and help with time management and organization, not do the work for our kids. If your child is consistently stressed and takes too much time to get through homework, write a quick note to the teacher. When homework is used as a lens into what children are working on, parents can reinforce the learning by making connections to the subject at home. See my prior post on homework  for ideas on how to do this.

9. Build bridges with teachers.  Your child thrives when parents and teacher communicate about what’s working and what’s not for your child. Respect your child’s teacher preferred communication style – email, note or phone – and use the power of P3 to communicate effectively. Everything you say and do either strengthens or weakens the bridge you build. Begin the year by filling out the student information form that shares your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers also appreciate a heads-up when something out of the ordinary is going on in your child’s life because it affects their learning, more than we realize. A strong family bridge to your child’s current teacher usually gets you closer to the right teacher match for your child next year. And remember, a great teacher for one student is not always the best teacher for another.

10. Coach your kids on how to self advocate. It’s never too early to begin. Take cues from your child – some are naturally ready to ask for what they need in kindergarten; others will need prompting and nudging through high school. This is an important life skill that builds confidence and resiliency. Guide your kids by role playing a particular situation at home. For example, if your child disagrees with a grade on a writing assignment or wants a seat change, give them “I” language to use with the teacher and offer words that focus on their own concerns – not what other kids are doing or saying. Encourage them to ask sooner rather than later so anxiety doesn’t build up. Most importantly, praise the genuine efforts that your kids put into this skill. It will pay off in the end.

Most parents want to give their kids the best education possible but it takes skills, strategies and a little time to actually do this. Remember, you are your child’s most important teacher and the role you play in their learning is crucial. What greater gift can we give our children than the best education possible.

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season.

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