You want your children to be successful in school and in life. You can start right now by giving your children a foundation for success.
1. Make your home a learning place.
- Ask your children about the things they learn in school. Ask specifics that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
- Have a set of encyclopedias in your home or access to encyclopedias and reliable information online so you can look things up when someone has a question. Even an old, used set can answer most questions.
- Keep many good books in your home. Some can be bought cheaply at used bookstores or library sales.
- Notice your children's interests and praise them for what they are learning.
- Limit the amount of television to allow for other learning activities, such as reading, talking or exploring.
- Also limit the amount of time spent in front of a computer if there is one in the home.
- Provide a special place for your children to keep their books.
- Display your children's drawings or schoolwork on the refrigerator or wall.
- Have a special box or treasure chest where your children can keep their special projects and papers.
2. Plan family learning activities.
- Take your children to the library. Help them pick out books. Help them get their own library cards.
- Take your children to ordinary places with you and talk about what you see. Trips to the grocery store, hardware store, post office and bank can all be learning opportunities.
- Ask your children questions. "How do you feel about that?" "What do you think that means?" Listen carefully to what they say.
- Encourage hobbies that will help them learn and feel successful: building, cooking, drawing, collecting bugs, collecting stamps.
- Provide paper, crayons and markers for drawing and writing.
- Set a special time each week when the family can get together to talk about their family heritage, play board games or just have fun together.
3. Start early and adapt to the needs of your children.
Birth to two years:
- Even when children are very young, they enjoy having people talk to them lovingly and tell them stories. Help them learn the names for things even before they are able to talk.
- Use everyday routines to teach children. For example, while getting dressed, talk about the names of the body parts and the clothing.
- Begin to look at books together. Select books with sturdy pages that children can turn. Sing together.
Two to four years:
- Talk in simple sentences with your children. Listen to their ideas without criticizing their mistakes. Talk with them about things that interest them. Children at this age enjoy silly rhymes, guessing games, tongue-twisters, riddles, chants and secrets. Enjoying language with them is important at this age.
- Notice and compliment your children's ideas. Say things like: "What a great idea." "I'm glad you thought of that." "I like your ideas."
- Play games with your children in which they listen to and follow directions. Games like "Simon says" are good.
Four to six years:
- Assist children in solving everyday problems. For example, instead of directing children on how to get ready for bed, ask them, "What do we need to do next to get ready for bed?"
- Four- to six-year-olds enjoy imagining, talking about their ideas and feelings, and telling tall tales. Help them with reading and writing. Reading familiar stories with them may allow them to take part in the story. Let them tell parts or all of a story.
- Provide children with writing materials and encourage them to make signs, to draw, to scribble and to write.
- Use everyday situations to help children understand math. Ask them to help you count. Play with adding and subtracting things, dividing things into groups and other math concepts.
Six to eight years:
- Let your children help you plan, shop for and prepare meals.
- Let children write, produce and present short skits for family gatherings and holidays.
- Give children small responsibilities. Put them in charge of recycling aluminum or feeding the pets.
- Encourage your children to develop hobbies such as stamp collecting, drawing or bird watching.
As children get older, they can take more responsibility for their own learning. You can help them by asking questions, encouraging their explorations and providing many learning opportunities.
4. Work with other people who will help your children learn and develop.
- Build good relationships with your children's teachers. Ask the teachers what you can do at home to help your children succeed at school.
- Support your child’s involvement in co-curricular activities such as clubs like the 4-H program where science and math skills are integrated into life skills such as leadership and character development. Research indicates that children whose parents are involved and interested in their schooling and their children’s interests will be successful in the future.
You can make a big difference in the attitudes your children have about learning. As you learn and involve your children in learning, they're likely to develop into successful students.
You can help your children by being understanding when they experience failures, too. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone mispronounces a word. Everyone fails in something once in a while. It helps children when you offer understanding and support. It discourages them when you expect perfection.