Steps to help children succeed in school
Posted: Friday, October 8, 2010 10:19 am
By: Kathryn McDonld, Special to The Press
I would like to comment on Gov. Bredesen’s recent open letter regarding the higher academic standards for Tennessee students.
The governor’s letter anticipates some students receiving TCAP scores at the “Basic” or “Below Basic” level, and has advice for how their concerned parents should proceed. I’d like to add a little more advice to parents who are concerned with helping their children succeed in school.
I have been a school teacher for more than 20 years; first in traditional schools (public and private, in the United States and abroad) and, for the past 12 years, teaching my four children at home and tutoring other children.
I firmly believe that parents, not the schools, are the most critical factor in student success. I hope all parents will follow the governor’s lead and instead of finding fault with the tests, the teachers, the schools or “the system,” will accept the responsibility to do what they can to help their children succeed in school.
Parents, please recognize that teachers’ resources are limited, especially by the numbers of students they teach. It is impossible to give every child in a class of 20 the best education. In the past, teachers focused mostly on the middle largest group of children, but with such programs as “No Child Left Behind,” the focus has shifted to the most challenged, leaving the more capable students largely to learn on their own. This is not to fault the teachers, but to recognize their limits.
If you want the best education for your child, you have to work for it.
So I’d like to offer parents 10 ways to ensure their children’s success in school:
1. Recognize that you are your children’s first and most influential teacher. This does not change whether you send you children out of the home to school or school them at home. Schools exist to assist parents in teaching, not to replace them.
So you must know what your children are learning, what their homework is and how to help them. If their work is beyond what you understand, find someone who can help you. Whenever I tutor a child, I have the parent right there with us, because my goal is to work myself out of a job.
2. Make sure your children are physically fit:
Feed your children well, especially provide them with a good breakfast. Pop-tarts or sugary cereal are not good breakfast food. It’s a good rule to allow no sugar in your child’s diet until after school.
Make sure your children get adequate rest and daily outdoor exercise.
3. Limit or eliminate screen time. If your child is struggling in school, pull the plug on the screens—TV and computer! If computer is required for your child’s school work, then limit it to that.
4. Spend more time in the real world; less in the virtual world. Go to live performances of music and theater. Play real music at home (see #5). Take walks and exercise together–outside. Take more family trips.
5. Read to your children every day. This is easier to do with younger children, so, if your children are young, start a daily habit of reading to them.
If you read books at a level or two above the child’s reading level, you will help increase their own reading vocabulary and, besides, it is lots of fun. My junior high age son still likes to sit in on our family reading time.
6. Talk to your children. Make use of time together to discuss topics and tell family stories. Ask what your children are studying in school and discuss issues. Or read your children’s school books to find out for yourself what they’re studying and present topics for discussion.
Talk about things you find interesting from the newspaper, books or even something from the mail. Discussions will greatly aid in your children’s learning and it will keep your family better connected.
7. Give them music lessons. This is not only enjoyable but will increase your children’s reading ability.
8. Set a “reading example.” Let your children see you read. Read real books and periodicals and share what you read with your children.
9. Teach your children the maxim “work before play.” Every member of the family, according to age, should have home “chores” that contribute to the running of the household. These chores and the children’s schoolwork are their work and should be taken as seriously as the parents treat their jobs.
10. Make your home the center of your lives, not a re-fueling station.
Limit outside activities where everyone’s going in a different direction.
Work toward having a meal together at least once a day.
Better schools and higher standards are not going to solve the educational problems of our state or country. Only better and stronger families can and will.