Herald Journal Columns
August 21, 2006, Herald Journal

Helping children succeed in school


With a new school year fast approaching, children and families are preparing for a fresh new start again. There certainly are things we can do, as parents and caregivers, to help our children prepare for school and ensure good learning experiences that will help them prepare for future learning.

We want every child to have the power to succeed in school and in life. Success in school takes some hard work, planning, some basic skills, and the desire to succeed.

We can help pass these ideas on to our children through our actions and words, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational and Research Improvement, stated in a publication, “Helping Your Child Succeed in School,” by Dorothy Rich, 1992.

This federal publication offers many tips and suggestions for us as parents and caregivers, emphasizing that where our children learn is important.

We can find easy and inexpensive things to do at home – their first and continuous learning environment – that will make them want to learn. We can strengthen our ties with the community and the schools, where learning continues.

One of the most important things we can do at home is communicate; ask questions and listen for answers. And the good thing about this is that communication can happen almost any time, in any place – at mealtime, right before bedtime, in the car, etc.

The U.S. Dept. of Ed. publication, as well as the publication, “Parents Can Help Children Learn . . . and Help Them Do Better in School,” by the Parent Institute, among many other sources, also offer these suggestions:

• Help your children establish a regular, consistent time and place for homework, with no major interruptions, such as television. Help your child get in the habit of having all the necessary supplies for completing his/her work, such as a pencil, dictionary, calculator, ruler, etc.

Make homework time a daily habit. Getting into this habit helps children develop self-discipline, independence, and study skills – all of which are important skills throughout their life.

• Let your child know that they can succeed and that you have confidence in them. Don’t expect or demand perfection.

Show an interest in their work and praise them when they’ve done something well. When offering suggestions, make them in a helpful, not harmful way. Children (adults, too) may just give up if all they hear is what they do wrong.

• Sometimes, turn the tables and allow your child to be the teacher and you be the student. Your child (and us as parents, too) will be learning when she doesn’t even know it.

Maybe the lesson is on state capitals and you, as the adult student, may not remember them all, so the teacher (your child) must research the right answers.

• Help your child break long assignments into manageable time chunks so it is not overwhelming.

• Help your child use the SQ3R method when doing a homework assignment – Survey, Question, Read, Restate, and Review.

Survey means to look over the material to see what it is about. Check out the chapter headings, photos, pictures, graphs, bold print, questions at the end of chapter, etc. if there are any. This will help your child determine what information is important for them to know.

Question stands for developing some questions that the assignment might answer. What is the main idea? Who are the main characters?

Read. Now read the assignment, and as the child reads, have him look for answers to the questions he’s formulated.

Restate. Have him tell you the important parts of the assignment or story in his own words.

Review. Did your child find the answers to the questions? What did he learn from this assignment?

As an adult, I continue to use this method when I do an assignment for a course I take, so it is a process that certainly helps make study time more effective and efficient, and children can start to use this at very young ages, as appropriate. Small children can look at the pictures to help determine what is important in a story that they are reading and that is the beginning of developing effective study and learning habits.

In the next few columns, I will continue to focus on ways we can continue to support our children in all of their learning environments and enhance their experiences to help them be successful.

Here our some other things we can do to help our children learn: read with them; tell family stories; look up words in the dictionary; encourage them to use an encyclopedia.

Share favorite songs and poems; take them to the library, museums, historical sites; discuss the daily news with them.

Explore with them. Study the planets, animals, geography.

Review their homework. Meet with their teachers. Be involved in school.

Listen to them and pay attention to them. And, love them unconditionally.