Essential Parenting Lessons for Enriching Your Child’s Education“We have a science project due in two days and I don’t know when I’m going to get the time to finish it.”
“I did research on the internet for the social studies report until midnight last night.”
“We wrote the spelling words ten times before they were finally right.”
“I made flashcards for all of the multiplication and division facts in preparation for the big math test.”
Do you think the above comments are from students, committed to working hard to get good grades? Unfortunately, not. These are just some of the things I hear from parents who enable their children to take short cuts in school or who are too heavily invested in their kids’ homework and school assignments. Parents who feel the need to do the work for their children aren’t helping their children. “We” do not have a test or a project due, the son or daughter does, so why is mom or dad doing the work?
As a professional educational consultant and owner of a busy in-home tutoring service, I hear these comments at least three times a week from the clients I visit. My job as a tutor broker is to match qualified tutors with students. To make the best match possible, I meet every student and parent(s) in their home to get a better idea of the students’ academic needs, as well as personality and learning style. I interview the student, with the parent present. We talk about school, the subject in which they need tutoring and their study habits. What I discover is an increasing number of parents are more stressed out than the kids because they are doing the work for their children instead of teaching them good study skills and independence.
It is difficult to break the bad habit of doing too much for your children, however, the following suggestions might help:
1) Realize that not all kids have the potential to get straight A’s. Some parents believe that if their kids don’t get all A’s there is something wrong. Absolutely not true! A well-rounded student is one who tries their very best scholastically and is involved in social activities as well. Not everyone can achieve a 4.0 average. There is nothing wrong with a passing grade in all subjects, regardless of whether it’s an A, B or C.
2) Keep your expectations realistic. If your child is doing all of their homework every night, studying to the best of their ability and taking school seriously but not pulling all A’s, it is possible that they are just not capable of living up the high expectations you have for them. If one excels in reading and is less talented in math, accept that. Not everyone can be excellent in every subject.
3) Make sure your child has a healthy mixture of academics and other activities. A child who gets all A’s at the cost of having no friends or social outlets is definitely going to suffer for it down the road. When colleges look at a student’s academic record, they also look at extra curricular activities, volunteer work, involvement in sports or the arts. Grades and test scores are important, but so are being able to balance the good grades with a well-rounded lifestyle.
4) Teach your child early on to be independent when it comes to school work. In the primary grades, it is important to help your youngster establish good study habits. Sitting with them and guiding them through homework assignments, explaining or reading the directions to them is perfectly normal and acceptable. By third grade, they should be able to do their homework with much less involvement from you. Checking it over for them and pointing out errors for them to correct is a good habit. By fourth grade, homework should be reviewed by the parent. If there is a mistake, for example, suggest that they review their work again because you found three mistakes on pages one and two. Let them find the errors with limited guidance from you. Fifth grade and onward, they should be totally on their own.
5) Help your child establish a homework routine and provide a quiet place for homework. Some kids come right home and do their homework immediately. Others need to wind down and do it right before dinner. Others are productive after dinner. Tune in to your child’s most productive time and try not to deviate from an established schedule. They will get so much more done if homework time is defined for them. As they get older, changes will probably need to be made to accommodate other activities. The key is consistency. Provide the right environment for homework and studying. If you have children who are toddlers or younger, be mindful that it is distracting for a brother or sister to try to concentrate if the television is blasting or the other kids are being loud.
6) Communicate with your children’s teachers. Know what is happening in class and what is expected to be done at home. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and all parent-teacher conferences. Get to know the teachers and establish clear lines of communication with them. Be aware of how and where homework assignments, quizzes and tests are communicated to the class. Many teachers utilize a school website to post assignments, etc. Check the site regularly and ask to see the completed work. For older students, DON’T correct it, but instead make sure it’s done neatly! Know when the exams are and when big projects are due. This way, if your teenager informs you they are heading to a friend’s soccer game and you know a big exam is the next day, you can inquire as to whether they have studied. Knowing what is happening in a class is very empowering for a parent.
7) Encourage your student to think for themselves. Provide a dictionary, thesaurus, calculator and any other tools they may need to do their work. By fifth grade, if your child is still asking you how to spell words, they haven’t learned how to be independent. When my fifth grader asks me “How do you spell ‘special’?” I reply, “I don’t know, how you spell special?” She gets infuriated, but she knows I won’t tell her and she begrudgingly looks it up in her dictionary. I could have given her the answer, but then she would always ask me and not learn to do it on her own. After all, I’m not the one who has to take the spelling test or write the book report, she is.
If your child is consistently confused and always has questions about school work, your antennae should go up. One of three things is happening:
a) They are not asking questions in class when they don’t understand. Shyness, embarrassment, or drawing attention to oneself by asking a question is the most common reasons for not asking. Encourage your child to speak up and that it is “OK” to not know the answer to everything. Chances are if your child has a question, others in the class have the same one and are also too embarrassed to ask.
b) They are lazy or something else is going on that you may not know about. When any student, regardless of age and grade is over their head, it is common to just shut down and tune out. To this kind of student, there is no point in taking notes because they don’t get it anyway, so why bother? Homework is too confusing for them; they have scored poorly on every test, so why try? It is also possible that something else is bothering them. Have they recently changed schools from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school? Some kids don’t handle transition well. Has their group of friends changed? Have they suddenly become loners or too social? Tune in to your students’ behavior and talk to them about it. Elevating their self-esteem will do wonders and is often the cure for the lazy syndrome.
c) It is possible they might have a learning disability. A child who has struggled since the early grades might have a learning disability. For example, if your sixth grader is still reading at a third grade level or your ninth grader hasn’t mastered his math facts, there may be a legitimate problem. The best thing to do is talk to the school first. You have a legal right to ask for your child to be tested by the school. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts in education nationwide, this process is not always as easy as it should be. Talk to your pediatrician and ask for a referral for a qualified psychologist who specializes in learning disabilities.
Teaching your child to be independent will result in a much healthier relationship between you and them and a much more peaceful home life. I have heard from so many of my clients who have not fostered independence in their children that homework time results in tears, screaming and a general sense of rebellion and indignation from their children. This can be avoided by setting your children up to be winners – and that doesn’t mean straight A’s, it means they are capable and willing to do their best and you are capable and willing to accept the results.
Laurie Hurley is the Founder & President of Bright Apple Tutoring Service, Inc. based in Southern California and Home Tutoring Business, available for purchase in the U.S. and Canada. If you are looking to begin a tutor referral service in your community without the high cost of buying a franchise, contact Home Tutoring Business, http://www.hometutoringbusiness.com at 1.805.376.0033.
About the author:
Laurie Hurley is available for media interviews, discussions on education and home-based business opportunities such as starting a tutor referral business. Contact her at http://www.hometutoringbusiness.comor http://www.brightappletutoring.com1-805.376.0033
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