Learning techniques that teachers use also help at home
Many of the strategies that teachers use to help children learn will also work at home. To help your child think more deeply about something she has learned, ask her to tell you about it. Can she come up with a practical example? (For 3x3, for example, three groups of three chocolates make nine chocolates.) Ask her to draw a picture of what she is learning. If she's reading, ask what questions she would like to ask the author.
Discuss ways that school is like a job
It's not always clear to young children why parents hold jobs. Talk to your child about your reasons for having a job and the responsibilities it involves, such as being on time every day. Then discuss the ways that being in school is like having a job: like you, she is counted on to be there, work hard, etc. She'll learn that school is an important daily responsibility.
Tune in to a special news report from your child
When it comes to school, no news isn't necessarily good news. Parents need to know as much as they can. Find out more by asking your child to give you an "evening news report." After school, have him make a list of a few things that happened during the day. Ask him to report on what made him happy and what was tough. Then, over dinner, enjoy this very special news program.
Let your child make some schoolwork choices
Giving your child some choices about how to do school assignments can reduce study time problems. Let your child decide things like: whether to work in a bedroom or at the kitchen table, whether to start right after school or after relaxing a bit, and whether to start with math or reading. If a choice doesn't work out, let the consequences teach your child to make a different choice next time.
Create a chart of family rules and consequences
At home and in class, children need to respect and follow rules to function well in a group. To make discipline easier, create a chart of four or five of your family's most important house rules and the consequences for breaking them. Make sure your child understands them. Then enforce them consistently. Point to the chart and say, "Taylor, you broke rule #3. What is the consequence?"
Consider these features when choosing digital products for your child
Computers, tablets and smartphones are part of children's lives and learning these days. But not all content labeled "educational" really is. When choosing programs or apps for your child, look for games with levels that change as your child improves. They should encourage him to discover the content for himself, without distracting him with unnecessary flashing lights or buttons to push. Look for programs that let you interact with your child and talk about the content together.
Offer your child funny and interesting reading
Sometime between ages seven and nine, children typically transition from mostly listening to and looking at books to reading them on their own. How can you ease this transition? Boost your child's motivation to read. Seek out books that make her laugh or want to know what happens next. Nurture her curiosity. Then show her how to look up the answers to her questions in reference books or online.
Start your sleepyhead's morning with Snuggle Time
If it is a struggle to get your child up for school on time, try waking him 15 minutes earlier for Snuggle Time. Turn on the light and call his name. Have him acknowledge you verbally, then turn off the light. That's the signal that your child can snuggle in for a little more snooze time. This transition time may make it easier for him to get up when you return in 15 minutes.
Replace greed with giving
Holiday commercialism makes it easy for kids to focus entirely on their own needs and wants. This year, help your child learn that it is important to think about others. Look for ways to help people as a family. Is there an elderly neighbor who needs help taking out the trash? Could you collect blankets or food for a shelter? Your child will learn that she has a lot to give to the community.
Build math recall with flash cards
Using flash cards to quiz your child is a great way to help him learn math facts. You can have him write or say the answer as you show him the problem. Or have him write a problem that fits the answer. Flash cards are a perfect way to fill odd moments. Just keep sessions short and frequent. Spend more time with math facts that are harder, and end each session with praise for your child's efforts.
Create afternoon routines for easier mornings
"Where is my library book?" "I can't find my math worksheet!" If your mornings sound like this, add some routines to the afternoon. Designate a special box for your child's school materials. As soon as she walks in the door, have her go to that box to unload. After completing assignments, she should put them back in the box. Each evening, your child can pack the contents of the box into her backpack, ready for the next day.
Keep the focus of sports on sportsmanship
If pressure is taking the fun out of sports for your child, talk with him about what it means to be a good sport. Remind him that fun should come first. If everyone is having fun, winning and losing don't seem so important. Make sure your child understands the rules of the game, too. Praise good sportsmanship when you see it, and always be a good sport yourself. Cheer for all the kids on both teams, not just yours.
Start with easy questions to keep communication flowing
If you worry about whether you'll be able to talk to your child when she's a teen, you're not alone. Worrying won't help, but good communication habits will. One helpful way to get a quiet child to talk is to ask specific questions, such as "What was the best thing that happened today?" Start with questions that aren't threatening, like "What do you think of this picture in the catalog?" Try it when you're relaxing together.
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!