HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 4, 2006, Herald Journal

Every child can succeed in school


How was your school experience? Was it positive?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the good news is that there are many things that we can do to help our children so they have positive school and learning experiences.

We want our children to have happy memories of their school years, because it certainly can impact future learning experiences and environments.

The Office of Educational Research and Improvement, US Dept. of Education, notes in its booklet, “Helping Your Child Succeed in School,” by Dorothy Rich, that what we say and do can build a child’s maturity, self-confidence, sense of security, and self-worth, which will help them do better in school and when they grow up.

What our children learn from us is important, the booklet notes. We need to make sure we give them adequate attention. When children can count on this attention, they will have a greater sense of security, which can only help them do better in school and beyond.

We need to send the message to our children that education is important. Talk about learning and share the excitement in learning new skills, Rich stresses. Show your children that learning is an ongoing process. Read together, play games, talk about events and activities around your neighborhood, and around the world.

Children watch and learn from what we say, and even more so from what we do. We need to practice what we preach and teach.

Rich states that when we give our children the support and information that they need, and expect them to do well, they do better in school and life. We need to have high, yet reasonable and realistic expectations for our children.

Children need to have the satisfaction of having expectations met. They need to take part in making decisions, and they need to find out what happens as a result of decisions they have made.

How our children learn from us is important, the US Dept. of Education emphasizes. All of us teach our children every day, and we can make sure we give our children a variety of ways to learn.

Children need active, “noisy” learning, as well as quiet learning, such as reading books. Rich explains that active learning includes asking and answering questions and solving problems.

Active learning can and should take place in many places beyond the classroom – when a child plays sports or participates in band, spends time with friends, or goes to a museum, for example.

Here some suggestions from Rich (and others) of things that we can do with our children when they are young so we can start our children down the path of positive learning experiences and attitudes:

• Have pencils, crayons, washable markers, and paper handy for notes, lists, and schoolwork. Writing takes practice.

• Teach children to do things for themselves, rather than do the work for them. Resist the urge to do things for them that they can do for themselves even though it may be quicker. Patience with children pays off now and later.

• Help children, when needed, to break a job into small tasks, and then do the job one step at a time – whether it’s doing a job around the house, getting dressed, or a homework assignment. This helps prevent children from being overwhelmed by the task.

• Develop with your child a reasonable and consistent schedule of chores around the house. It’s important to teach our children that being a part of a family means sharing in tasks, too, which makes it easier for every family member.

• Every home needs consistent rules children can depend on. Put a plan into action and follow through with it.

• Give each child an easy-to-reach place to put things away.

• And, of course, let your children see you read, and read with and to them. Have books, magazines, and newspapers around the house – a literature-rich home.

Rich also emphasizes these points to remember:

• Every home is a learning place.

• We can all be great teachers.

• We don’t need a lot of time to do a lot of good.

• Everyone’s abilities and skills can be improved.