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REACH!

School days are here again!

All parents want their children to succeed at school. Most parents understand that it is vitally important for their children to learn. Why? Because we live in a very competitive world and success in finding and keeping a job can start in kindergarten. The early years of a child’s life and the early years in school is the time when children learn the basic skills on which all future learning and earning depends.

Parents are convinced that learning is important but are often unsure of the role they should play. I look at learning as a triangle made up of three legs: the child, the parents, and the school. All of the legs are important and in order for the triangle to “walk” all of the legs must work together.

REACH is the acronym I use to outline the parent’s role in their child’s education.

“R” stands for READ. Every parent knows it is important to read to their child. Alas many parents are very busy these days and many may not have done much reading to their children. It’s never too late to start. Read to your child, read with your child, let the child read to you and be sure your child sees you reading. Start a daily family reading hour. Set aside some time–15 or 20 minutes will do– when the whole family reads together. Read to the children for a few minutes. Then let the children pick what they want to read (or look at the pictures if they are not yet able to read) while you’re reading the paper or a magazine. The idea is that the whole family is reading together.

“E” stands for EXPECTATIONS. Children live up to the loving, high expectations of their parents. Expect your child to learn at school and succeed at this “job.” Make education the number one priority in your child’s life. Let your child know you expect him or her to do well at school. Take pride in your child doing well at the job of school just as you take pride in your job or your homemaker role.

Expect that your child will enjoy school. Teach your child that it is fun to learn and that learning is what life is all about. Stress that one of the joys of life is self pride in a job well done. Be sure to praise your child and display your child’s art work or papers that earned a good grade.

“A” is for ACTIVITY as opposed to passivity. Learning is an active process. Whether your child is learning how to catch a ball or do long division, he or she has to be actively involved in the process. Expose your child to all kinds of age appropriate activities: sports, crafts, hobbies, rather than the passivity of TV. There are lots of reasons to curtail TV (violence, sex, consumerism) but the most important reason is to counteract passivity. Every hour spent passively is an hour not spent in activity.

“C” stands for COMMUNICATION. Talk to your child about school. Ask your child about school using questions that require an answer, not a monosyllable (“What was the best thing that happened today?” or “Tell me what your teacher looks like.” rather than “Did you learn anything today”? or “Did you have a good day at school?”)

Communicate with your child’s teacher. Respond to notes and requests. Look at the papers your child brings home. The comments the teacher makes can point out your child’s strengths and weaknesses so you can reinforce the strengths and help with any weaknesses. Pay attention to the teacher’s assessment of your child. The teacher is a professional who understands child development and the dynamics of learning. If the teacher notices a problem follow through on all the suggestions.

“H” stands for HELP. Although one school of thought holds that parents should not help their children with school work because it dilutes the child’s acceptance of responsibility for the task, I don’t buy this.

Parents should:

1) Provide the proper environment for homework. Your child needs a quiet place to work. Get all the necessary equipment like paper and a dictionary before school starts Model organization for your child by letting the child see where and how you keep all the things you need to pay bills, for example.

2) Help out if a child is stuck. It’s silly to let a child stare at a piece of paper not knowing what to do. By all means offer help but do it the right way. You can help the child recall by asking “What did your teacher tell you to do?” You can give the child an easier example to boost his or her confidence. You can help the child break the problem down into do-able parts. You can check the answers to see if most of them are correct. Don’t ever do the child’s homework but encourage the child to come to you for help when needed.

Be sure you help the child make the transition to doing homework alone without your help. My daughter would ask me to “test” her on her spelling words every Thursday night before the Friday quiz. One Thursday I had to work so I showed her she could test herself by covering up each word, writing the word, and then moving the paper to check if her spelling was correct. She enjoyed this “game” of playing both pupil and teacher, and didn’t need or ask for my help any more.

Why do I feel parents should work with children if they need help with their homework? Because the parents refusal (“Ask your teacher”or “It’s your problem”or I’m too busy”) gives a message that you don’t care about school, the most important thing in your child’s life.

So REACH with your child to his or her success at school!

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