Helping Your Child Succeed in School
With activities for children aged 5 through 11
SourceU.S. Department of Education
Parents and the Schools
ForumsEducation and Kids
Related ArticlesHow Parents and Families Can Help Their Children Do Better in School
How Can I Be Involved in My Child's Education?
Helping Your Child With Homework
ForewordThis is the question we parents are always trying to answer. It's good that children ask questions: that's the best way to learn. All children have two wonderful resources for learning--imagination and curiosity. As a parent, you can awaken your children to the joy of learning by encouraging their imagination and curiosity.
Helping Your Child Succeed in School is one in a series of books on different education topics intended to help you make the most of your child's natural curiosity. Teaching and learning are not mysteries that can only happen in school. They also happen when parents and children do simple things together.
For instance, you and your child can: sort the socks on laundry day--sorting is a major function in math and science; cook a meal together--cooking involves not only math and science but good health as well; tell and read each other stories--storytelling is the basis for reading and writing (and a story about the past is also history); or play a game of hopscotch together--playing physical games will help your child learn to count and start on a road to lifelong fitness.
By doing things together, you will show that learning is fun and important. You will be encouraging your child to study, learn, and stay in school.
All of the books in this series tie in with the National Education Goals set by the President and the Governors. The goals state that, by the year 2000: every child will start school ready to learn; at least 90 percent of all students will graduate from high school; each American student will leave the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades demonstrating competence in core subjects; U.S. students will be first in the world in math and science achievement; every American adult will be literate, will have the skills necessary to compete in a global economy, and will be able to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; and American schools will be liberated from drugs and violence so they can focus on learning.
This book is a way for you to help meet these goals. It will give you a short run-down on facts, but the biggest part of the book is made up of simple, fun activities for you and your child to do together. Your child may even beg you to do them. At the end of the book is a list of resources, so you can continue the fun.
As U.S. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander has said:
The first teachers are the parents, both by example and conversation. But don't think of it as teaching. Think of it as fun.
So, let's get started. I invite you to find an activity in this book and try it.
Assistant Secretary and Counselor to the Secretary
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The good news is that every child in every family has the power to succeed in school and in life, and every parent, grandparent, and caregiver can help.
But how do we help our children succeed? How do we give them the power? The most important thing we can do is be involved with our children's education even before they are in school, then stay involved once they are in school.
This book is about what we can do in our own homes, right now, that will help our children go to school wanting to learn. It includes:
What we know about success in school is a combination of common sense mixed with new ideas about learning.
We do know the following:
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Where Our Children LearnAt Home
It's no surprise to anyone that children need time with their parents. And even though most parents are extremely busy, whether they work outside of the home or not, they do find time to spend with their children. But they want that time to count in helping prepare their children for the world they will find outside the home.
What counts most is what we say and do at home, not how rich or poor we are or how many years of school we have finished. When children can count on getting attention at home, they have a greater sense of security and self-worth. This will help them do better not only in school, but also when they grow up.
If you think about it, school, while very important, does not really take up very much time. In the United States, the school year averages 180 days; in other industrialized nations, the school year can extend up to 240 days, and students are often in school more hours per day. So, the hours and days a child is not in school are important for learning, too.
Communicating. This is probably the most important activity we can do in our home, and it doesn't cost anything. Ask questions, listen for answers. These are no-cost, high-value things to do.
Think of conversation as being like a tennis game with talk, instead of a ball, bouncing back and forth. Communication can happen any time, any place--in the car, on a bus, at mealtime, at bedtime.
When our children enter and continue school with good habits of communication, they are in a position to succeed--to learn all that has to be learned, and to become confident students.
Here are some things you can do when your children are young:
These are the messages to get across to your children about homework:
In the Community
In many parts of our nation, the ties among neighbors have been weakened. For the sake of our children, they need to be rebuilt, and you can help. Be sure to introduce your children to your neighbors. You might even try a "child watch" program where adults who are home during the day keep an eye out for children when they walk to and from school and stand at bus stops.
Some schools are helping families connect with the community by, for example, becoming centers for social services as well as for education. Getting to know your child's school can help you, in a very real way, get to know a major part of your community. It can also help you build a network of wider community support for your family.
Parents can become involved with the schools in several different ways, by working with children at home, volunteering, sharing information, and helping to make policy. We need to remember that what works in one community (or for one family) may not necessarily work in another.
It may no longer be possible for parents to volunteer as often for school activities. However, working with children at home and sharing information with the school are two things all parents can do.
The section after the activities, "Parents and the Schools," has some suggestions on how to get the most out of talking to your child's teacher. Many teachers say they rarely receive information from parents about problems at home. Many parents say they don't know what the school expects of their child. Sharing information is essential, and both teachers and parents are responsible for making it happen.
With our help, our children can become confident students, able to handle the challenges of school. This means:
What Our Children Learn From UsSometimes we think that all our children need to know to be ready to start school are the ABCs and how to count. The reality is that most children can learn these things pretty fast once they get to school. What they do need--and what you can give--is the message that education is valuable: through education, people can shape their own future.
So, talk about learning, share the fun and excitement of new skills. Show your children that you are always learning, too. Read aloud, play games, and talk about events around the block and around the world.
Children tend to follow the examples set for them. When we say one thing and do another, children watch and learn. When we practice what we preach, children watch and learn.
The bottom line is that when we give our children the support and information they need, and expect them to do well, they do better in school and in life.
How Our Children Learn From UsChildren need active, even noisy, learning as well as quiet learning such as reading. Active learning includes asking and answering questions (and trying to get more than just "yes" or "no" answers); solving problems; and discussing a variety of topics.
Active learning can also take place when a child plays sports, spends time with friends, or goes to a museum or zoo. The active learning suggestions in the next section will help you think of even more things for you and your children to do.
Limit TV watching. Watching TV is an example of a quiet activity that children can learn from, but one that is a problem in almost every home. We know that children who watch a lot of TV learn less and get lower grades than students who watch little TV. And in international comparisons, U.S. students rank high in watching TV, but are near the bottom in doing homework. The result is that U.S. students know less than those in other countries.
Encourage active learning. What can we do? We can listen to our children's ideas and respond to them. We can let them jump in with questions and opinions when reading books together. When this type of give-and-take between parent and child happens at home, a child's participation and interest in school increases.
What Messages To SendThree of the important messages our children need about success in school can be sent by:
Throw a stone into a pool and the circles widen and overlap. None of us lives in isolation. The circles of home, community, and school overlap also. For our children to learn and thrive, they need the support and encouragement of all of the circles in which we live. But the circle in the center is the home and that's where it all starts.
What We Can Do To Help Our Children Learn
Office of Educational Research and Improvement
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Publication of this book was managed by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. Listing of materials and resources in this book should not be construed or interpreted as an endorsement by the Department of any private organization or business listed herein.
The idea for this publication was suggested by Diane Ravitch when she presented her vision of OERI to the education community. This book was prepared under the direction of Francie Alexander; Cynthia Hearn Dorfman, Chief, Publications Branch; and Theodor Rebarber, Special Assistant, Office of the Assistant Secretary; with help from John B. Lyons, Thelma Leenhouts, Gerard Devlin, Tim Burr, Liz Barnes, and Elizabeth DeBra. The book is based on the award-winning design by Margery Martin and Phil Carr.
Note: Graphics Omitted for on-line version (as well as notes where graphics would have been)Back to top