In my time as a middle school teacher over the past twelve years I have noticed an unsettling trend of education becoming less of a priority for students. As a parent, you know how important a sound education and the choices it brings are to the future of your child.
Like most things that are worthwhile, establishing and engaging with your child in an education centered life style will require hard work. Here are some steps you can take to ensure an emphasis on education is as important to your child’s daily routine as your cell phone is to yours.
1. Meet with each of your child’s teacher’s at least once face to face. If you could not make the open house or are new to a school district, most schools will set up a group conference with all your child’s teachers on the same day and time. You can also set up individual conferences on different days if that is not possible. However it has to happen, know the names and faces of the people educating your child and make sure they know yours.
2. Discuss and establish clear academic goals for your child with your child. Too often “bad grades” are all a child is concerned about. But have you as a parent defined what is academically acceptable with your child? Do you want your child to maintain a certain GPA, to improve by one letter grade in a certain subject, or make a certain score on particular assignments? The letter grading system (interim reports and quarterly report cards) is by far the easiest way to monitor and set academic goals, but it is not the only way. Academic goals do not need to be limited to grades. An academic goal could be to master a means of memorizing vocabulary terms, to eliminate all run on sentences from essays, or to journal each day about something new learned in each class.
One of the best academic goals to set for children is to have them teach YOU, the parent, something they learned in school. This could be something parents and children do nightly, weekly, or even monthly. You can make it as simple as a conversation over dinner or you can make this teaching session a real event and have a notebook where you take notes and let your child use a computer, dry erase board, or other visual aids. However you do this, please be sure to give your child your undivided attention while they teach you—be sure there is no TV on in the background or cell phone surfing while your child teaches you. Show them by example that education and learning is important!
3. Establish structured homework time every night of the week. It should be a predetermined amount of time and if possible at the same time of day every day. Cut down on the amount of time over the weekend if your child’s grades are meeting the targets you set together, but never eliminate home work time completely—study should be a daily part of your child’s life, like breakfast and a good night’s sleep.
4. Too often parental involvement in homework consists of simply asking, “Did you finish your homework?” That is avoidance not involvement! Homework time should include independent work and study for the child but some of the time should be parent/child interaction. A good minimum to gauge your involvement in homework time is the 10% rule: whatever amount of time your child studies alone, you as the parent spend at least ten percent of that amount of time discussing what was studied with your child. So if your daughter was in her room studying science for an hour then she should be able to talk to you for at least six minutes about what she was studying. If your son was reading that chapter of his novel for English class for half an hour, he should be able to discuss what he read with you for a minimum of three minutes. Discuss school work with your child, review vocabulary terms aloud, engage in the material they study, read the same books they are reading, and most importantly ask your child to explain things to you. It doesn’t matter if you know the material they are studying or are completely in the dark, having students explain and paraphrase what they are studying builds higher order thinking skills and can lead to longer retention and a better over all understanding of the material for the learner.
5. Education isn’t limited to school work! A school is a building, but an education can happen anywhere. Spend time teaching your child that learning is important by setting an example: make crafts, put up a shelf, hammer a nail, boil water, do something! You’ve got a lifetime of skills to pass on to your child, so do it! Even better, learn something new together with your child. There are tons of resources online and at the local library. Go to nasa.gov and learn about the first satellite launched in to space, figure out how touch screens work, learn how to play your favorite song on the ukulele! This is what makes education such a great and important touchstone for children—there is always, always, always something new to learn. And if you show by example how important it is to learn, your child will hopefully take that to heart and make learning a priority in his/her life. And once learning becomes a priority in a child’s life, then schoolwork will practically take care of itself.
Being a parent is not easy, but being a good parent is the toughest job on the planet. You have a long road ahead of you and an unenviable amount of hard work and dedication required as a good parent to ensure that your child reaches his or her full potential and becomes a well educated, contributing member of society. I am hopeful that you are up to the task and wish you the best of luck in seeing it through!
Christopher Brewin has been a writer and educator for over twelve years.
Do you have any advice on making education a priority?