Put learning on the list of things to be grateful for
A positive outlook helps children do better in school. Gratitude builds that attitude. Take time to sit down with your family often and share lists of things you are thankful for. Be sure to mention school and any progress your child is making. Has a teacher done something special to help? Have your child take a few minutes to write or say "Thanks."
To encourage reading, call for blanket time
Here's a tip for promoting family reading: Grab a blanket and spread it on the floor. Have family members each pick a book and lie on the blanket. Then enjoy reading together! When children are young, parents can do the reading, but as kids grow up, they will enjoy reading to everyone else. Blanket time is a great way to connect and turn your children into happy readers.
Look back at learning successes to revive your child's motivation
Is your child less than motivated to do well in school? Put him on the right track by helping him see how much he has already accomplished. Remind him how his efforts have helped him master previous topics. If he's baffled by fractions for example, you might pull out some of his old math worksheets and say, "You really struggled with division, remember? But you practiced and got the hang of it. You can do that with fractions, too."
Positive reinforcement improves self-discipline
Teachers have found that talking to students about the good things they do is an effective way to reinforce the students' self-discipline. These informal talks work at home, too. For example, you can turn a bedtime story into a bedtime chat. When the lights are out, your child may open up. And when you give her a genuine compliment, she'll go to sleep thinking about something she does well.
Collect all the states in a license-plate game
Studies show that U.S. students tend to do poorly in geography. Here's a game to help your child learn where places are. When your child is in the car, make him the "license-plate lookout." He should write down the out-of-state license plates he sees. When you get home, help him locate the states on a map or globe and let him mark each one with a sticker.
Use loving notes to build vocabulary
You can increase your child's vocabulary as well as her self-esteem by including an encouraging note with her lunch. From time to time, write a note for your child to let her know you are proud of her. Use simple words she knows and also a few challenging words that she might have to sound out or look up. She'll enjoy getting it and may even write back to you!
Help your child stay organized with checklists
Help your child be organized for school by teaching him to use checklists. He can use a "head-to-toe" checklist to make sure he's ready to go out the door: "My hat is on my head, my coat is on my body, my backpack is on my back. My gloves are on my hands. My boots are on my feet." Have him make another list of items he needs for school each day. Post it where he can check it as he gets organized the night before.
Creating acronyms can help your child remember
To help your child learn lists of words or facts, teach her to use acronyms (words made up from the first letters of a group of words). To remember the names of the Great Lakes, for example, she can think of the acronym HOMES, which stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. What other acronyms can your child make up for lists of words to remember?
Celebrate Geography Awareness Week with a map activity
November 15-19 is Geography Awareness Week. Here's a fun activity that will give your child practice reading maps. Find a road map of the country online. Let your child choose a place he'd like to visit. Together, try to determine the best route. Have your child use the map's scale to estimate how many miles it is to your destination. How many hours or days would it take to drive there?
School friendships help students thrive
Children learn a lot from their friends, such as loyalty, sharing, leading and following. And research says friends can also help children do better in school. Children who know they have school friends are more likely to take positive risks, such as trying out for a team or participating in class. Encourage friendships by inviting your child's school friends to join your family for an activity.
Promote responsible choices with encouragement
You want your child to learn to make responsible choices, at home and at school. But constant lectures can wear him down. Instead, encourage good behavior by thanking him when he behaves responsibly on his own. Praise his efforts, not just their outcomes. And encourage your child's involvement in activities that keep him busy. Busy kids need less external control than those with too much time on their hands.
You are the teacher your child looks to most
Parents are their children's first teachers. Even after kids start school, they spend only about 16 percent of their time in class. Parents have the other 84 percent of their children's time. Make your child's education a priority for that time. You are her most influential teacher.
True or False? These strategies improve test success
Many tests feature True or False questions. Share these tips for answering them with your child: For the answer to be true, ALL of the information in the statement must be true. Your child should also think carefully if the statement contains absolute terms such as "always" or "never." And if he doesn't know the answer? A guess has a 50 percent chance of being right.
Learning perseverance is worth the effort
Perseverance is hard work. But your child's effort to develop the habit now will help him achieve in school. Teach him that "You're never a failure until you give up." Talk about a time when you wanted to give up, but didn't, and overcame an obstacle. Then have some fun: Set out a jigsaw puzzle to do together, and don't quit until the last piece is in!
Put the focus on learning with a hands-off approach
Sometimes parents help too much with their child's school projects. It can be really tempting. After all, you want your child to get good grades. But there is a better approach. Instead of thinking about grades, think about what your child can learn from doing the project herself. Ask the teacher about the best ways to support your child's efforts.
Celebrate the season with art projects
Art teaches many lessons, including cause and effect, problem-solving and self-expression. And it is creative fun! Help your child explore his artistic gifts by making some seasonal crafts together. To turn a brown paper lunch bag into a colorful turkey puppet, have your child draw a turkey's face on the bag's bottom. Then he can decorate half a paper plate like a turkey's tail. Glue the plate to the bag so it sticks up behind the face.
Show off your child's work in a special gallery
When you display your child's excellent and improved schoolwork, it builds his sense of himself as a capable student. But there isn't always room on the refrigerator. One mom created a family gallery by installing a strip of corkboard along a hallway wall, low enough for her children to reach. Now the kids put their own work up for family viewing, and the displays change all year long!
Chart the moon's phases with your child
Help your child learn more about the moon this month. Watch the moon together every evening. Keep track of when it rises, and help your child create a picture chart of how its shape changes during the month. Have her use her chart to answer questions: For how many days does the moon get bigger? Smaller? How many days does it remain full?
Reading brings the world to your home
Sometimes a pretend trip can be just as fun as a real one. You and your child can "visit" Italy, Argentina, Thailand or anywhere else…by way of the public library and the internet. Choose a country and ask each family member to gather information about it. Then plan a dinner of dishes from that country (check out a cookbook from the library) and discuss the interesting facts each of you has learned from your reading.