Written By: Theresa Allan, For Gallatin News Examiner
Before your child cracks open the first book, as parents we want to create a proper learning environment. And once school starts, you’ll have to continue your interest in their education. The research results are overwhelming. Your active involvement in your children’s education is the single most important factor in their academic success. It is more important than who your children’s teachers are. It is more important than the quality of the materials and facilities at your children’s school. It is even more important than your own education or economic level.
Become a family whereby parents know how to support their children effectively in academic tasks. They communicate firm and realistic standards and set up a home climate that contributes to positive achievement.
Establish a daily routine. Wake your child up at the same time every day and eat breakfast together. Allocate specific time for playing with friends or video games, and stick religiously to that schedule. Enforce the same bedtime. While children may not admit it, they crave structure, and these rules will help you to enforce other rules at home.
Healthy bodies/healthy minds. Make sure your child has had all regular physical exams and proper immunization. Make sure your child has had regular dental exams and eyesight and hearing checkups. I know this sounds basic, but until my son was ready to take his driver’s license exam at 16 did I realize he was nearsighted when he failed the driving test. Then I wondered what he had missed all those years from the blackboards. Talk about feeling like a bad parent!
Nutrition. The brain can be as little as 2 percent of body weight, yet it uses up as much as 20 percent of the body’s energy. Proper nutrition gives your child the fuel to maximize that energy and to perform well physically and academically. Avoid junk food, and balance menus from the basic food groups. Encourage more fruits and vegetables and milk instead of soft drinks.
Exercise. Another way to supply the brain with energy is through exercise. Exercise seems to help activate brain chemicals for better attention and memory in class, and it dissipates the “wiggles” that strike so many children when they have to sit for a long time. Children who are physically fit also are more likely to participate in school activities such as sports, games and dances.
Back to school shopping list. Ask your child (older children) to take the list, see what items they have already on hand and what new supplies are needed. You could ask them to do a closet checkup as well. What clothes still fit for back to school, and what new items are needed?
Set goals with your child. All A’s may not be realistic for all children. Discuss specific goals for grades in each subject, and go beyond grades to ask what your child is hoping to learn in school. Write these goals down and save them in a special place.
Help your child develop a work area. Children usually do better when they have a private study area safe from interruption. It does not have to be large, but ideally it should not be shared. Equip this area with good light, a clock, pencils, paper and other supplies.
Agree on a regular time for studying. To avoid procrastination, schedule a set time each day for homework. Some children do better when working in shorter stretches punctuated with breaks. Help your children develop a homework “to do” list, and that will help them keep track of homework assignments and make their time more productive.
Start the year out right. Developing a working relationship with your children’s teachers helps you and the teachers better assess your children’s readiness and ability to do the job. Attend your school’s open house or back to school night. Get to know your child’s teacher before problems come up. Listen attentively to what the teacher tells you; he will share what information he considers important. Always remember that your goal and the teachers’ are mutual: to help your child succeed in school.
Lastly, a positive affirmation works well to encourage and show confidence that your child can be successful. Make the encouragement immediate, genuine and specific. This promotes motivation and improvement. Enjoy! There are no perfect parents or children, but together you will experience the satisfaction of working, learning and growing with your child as you observe the amazing process of mental development in action.
Theresa Allan is a family educator at the University of Tennessee Extension office in Gallatin. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/gallatin/2014/07/28/tips-help-kids-succeed-school/13299679/