|PARENT GUIDE TO HELPING YOUR CHILD SERIES||
Helping Your Child Series
The Helping Your Child series aims to provide parents with the tools and information necessary to help their children succeed in school and life. These booklets feature practical lessons and activities to help their school aged and preschool children master reading, understand the value of homework and develop the skills and values necessary to achieve and grow.
Helping Your Child Learn Science
What Is Science?
Science is not just a collection of facts. Of course, facts are an important part of science: Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees Celsius), and the earth moves around the sun. But science is much, much more. Science involves:
Science involves trial and error—trying, failing and trying again. Science doesn't provide all the answers. It requires us to be skeptical so that our scientific "conclusions" can be modified or changed altogether as we make new discoveries.
Children Have Their Own "Scientific Concepts"
Very young children can come up with many interesting explanations to make sense of the world around them. When asked about the shape of the earth, for example, some will explain that the earth has to be flat because, if it were round like a ball, people and things would fall off it. Presented with a globe and told that this is the true shape of the earth, these children may adapt their explanation by saying that the earth is hollow and that people live on flat ground inside it.
Even older children can come up with unique "scientific" explanations, as in the following examples provided by middle-school students:
"Fossils are bones that animals are through wearing."
"Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun, but I've never been able to make out the numbers."
"Gravity is stronger on the earth than on the moon because here on earth we have a bigger mess."
"A blizzard is when it snows sideways."
As mentioned earlier, it's important to encourage your child to ask questions. It's also important to ask your child questions that will get him talking about his ideas and to listen carefully to his answers. Keep in mind that children's experiences help them form their ideas—ideas that may, or may not, match current scientific interpretations. Help your child to look at things in new ways. For instance, in regard to the blizzard, you could ask, "Have you ever seen it snow sideways?" or "What do you think causes it to snow sideways sometimes?"
Such conversation can be an important form of inquiry or learning. Encourage your child by letting him know that it's OK to make mistakes or admit he doesn't know something. Rather than saying, "No, that's wrong," when he gives an incorrect explanation, give him accurate information or help him to find it. Going back to the blizzard, you could ask your child, "How could you check your definition?" "How does the dictionary's definition of "blizzard" fit with what you said about snow moving sideways?"
Knowing that you are willing to listen will help your child to gain confidence in his own thinking and encourage his interest in science. And listening to what he says will help him to figure out what he knows and how he knows it.
Hands-On Works Well
Investigating and experimenting are great ways for children to learn science and increase their understanding of scientific ideas. Hands-on science can also help children think critically and gain confidence in their own ability to solve problems. Young children especially are engaged by things they can touch, manipulate and change; and by situations that allow them to figure out what happens—in short, events and puzzles that they can investigate, which is at the very heart of scientific study. While hands-on science works well, it can also be messy and timeconsuming. So, before you get started, see what is involved in an activity—including how long it will take.
Less Is More
It's tempting to try to teach children just a little about many different subjects. Although children can't possibly learn everything about science, they do need and will want to learn many facts. The best way to help them learn to think scientifically is to introduce them to just a few topics in depth.
Finding the Right Activity for Your Child
Different children have different interests and will respond differently to science activities. A sand and rock collection that was a big hit with an 8-year-old daughter may not be a big hit with a 6-year-old son.
Fortunately, children whose interests vary greatly can find plenty of science activities that are fun. If your son loves to cook, let him observe how tea changes color when lemon is added or how vinegar curdles milk. Knowing your child is the best way to find suitable activities for him. Here are some tips:
Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics
Helping your child succed as a Mathematics Student
Here are some things that you can do to help your child be a successful mathematics student:
Visit your child's school. Meet with her teacher and ask how your child approaches mathematics. Does she enjoy it? Does she participate actively? Does she understand assignments and do them accurately? If the teacher indicates that your child has problems with math, ask for specific things that you can to help her.
Check math homework and other assignments. It's usually a good idea to check to see that your younger child has finished her math homework assignments. If your older child is having trouble finishing assignments, check her work, too. After your child's teacher returns math homework, have your child bring it home so that you can read the comments to see if she has done the assignment satisfactorily. However, do not do homework for your child! Limit your assistance to seeing that your child understands the assignments and that she has the necessary supplies to do them. Too much parent involvement in homework can make children dependent—and takes away from the value of homework as a way for children to become independent and responsible.
Find out whether your child's teacher is highly qualified and whether the school follows state standards for mathematics instruction. Ask the school principal for a school handbook or math curriculum guide. If your school doesn't have a handbook, ask the principal and teachers questions such as the following:
If you have not seen it, ask to look at the No Child Left Behind report card for your school. These report cards show how your school compares to others in the district and indicate how well it is succeeding.
Find out if the school has a Web site and, if so, get the address. School Web sites can provide you with ready access to all kinds of information, including homework assignments, class schedules, lesson plans and dates for school district and state tests.
Help your child see that the mathematics he is learning is very much a part of everyday life. From statistics in sports to the sale price of clothing to the amount of gas needed to travel from one city to another, mathematics is important to us every day. Help your child to link his "school" math to practical events.
Point out that many jobs require mathematical skills. Your child may recognize that many people must have good math skills to do their jobs—scientists, doctors, computer technicians, accountants and bankers, for example. However, she may not realize that many other jobs also require math. Point out that math also is used in jobs such as running a business; being a plumber, carpenter, electrician or mechanic; being a salesperson or clerk; and designing clothes—or buildings. Let her know that having strong math skills will open up many great career opportunities.
Stimulate your child's interest in technology. Help your child learn how to use calculators—but don't let him rely solely on them to solve math problems. Encourage him to learn to use computers to extend what he is learning and to find math games and math-related Web sites that will increase his interest in math.
Show your child that you like mathematics. Letting your child see that you use math—and that you aren't afraid of it—will go much further to building positive attitudes than just telling her that she should learn it.
Set high standards for your child in mathematics achievement. Challenge your child to succeed in math and encourage his interest by doing the kinds of activities suggested in this booklet and by trying many more activities of your own.
|BECOMING A READER||
Helping Your Child Become a Reader
Every step a child takes toward learning to read leads to another. Bit by bit, the child builds the knowledge that is necessary for being a reader. Over their first 6 years, most children
Children can take more than one of these steps at the same time. This list of steps, though, gives you a general idea of how your child will progress toward reading. (For more details, see Typical Language Accomplishments for Children, Birth to Age 6.)
Talking and Listening
Scientists who study the brain have found out a great deal about how we learn. They have discovered that babies learn much more from the sights and sounds around them than we thought previously. You can help your baby by taking advantage of her hunger to learn.
From the very beginning, babies try to imitate the sounds that they hear us make. They "read" the looks on our faces and our movements. That's why it is so important to talk, sing, smile, and gesture to your child. Hearing you talk is your baby's very first step toward becoming a reader, because it helps her to love language and to learn words.
As your child grows older, continue talking with her. Ask her about the things she does. Ask her about the events and people in the stories you read together. Let her know you are listening carefully to what she says. By engaging her in talking and listening, you are also encouraging your child to think as she speaks. In addition, you are showing that you respect her knowledge and her ability to keep learning.
Imagine sitting your baby in your lap and reading a book to him for the first time. How different from just talking! Now you're showing him pictures. You point to them. In a lively way, you explain what the pictures are. You've just helped you child take the next step beyond talking. You've shown him that words and pictures connect. And you've started him on his way to understanding and enjoying books. While your child is still a baby, reading aloud to him should become part of your daily routine. Pick a quiet time, such as just before you put him to bed. This will give him a chance to rest between play and sleep. If you can, read with him in your lap or snuggled next to you so that he feels close and safe. As he gets older, he may need to move around some as you read to him. If he gets tired or restless, stop reading. Make reading aloud a quiet and comfortable time that your child looks forward to. Chances are very good that he will like reading all the more because of it.
Try to spend at least 30 minutes each day reading to and with your child. At first, read for no more than a few minutes at a time, several times a day. As your child grows older, you should be able to tell if he wants you to read for longer periods. Don't be discouraged if you have to skip a day or don't always keep to your schedule. Just get back to your daily routine as soon as you can. Most of all, make sure that reading stays fun for both of you!
What Does It Mean?
From the earliest days, talk with your child about what you are reading. You might point to pictures and name what is in them. When he is ready, have him do the same. Ask him, for example, if he can find the little mouse in the picture, or do whatever is fun and right for the book. Later on, as you read stories, read slowly and stop now and then to think aloud about what you've read. From the time your child is able to talk, ask him such questions about the story as, "What do you think will happen next?" or "Do you know what a palace is?" Answer his questions and, if you think he doesn't understand something, stop and talk more about what he asked. Don't worry if you occasionally break the flow of a story to make clear something that is important. However, don't stop so often that the child loses track of what is happening in the story.
Look for Books!
The books that you pick to read with your child are very important. If you aren't sure of what books are right for your child, ask a librarian to help you choose titles. (For more information on what libraries have to offer, see "Visiting the Library")
Introduce your child to books when she is a baby. Let her hold and play with books made just for babies: board books with study cardboard covers and thick pages; cloth books that are soft and washable, touch-and-feel books, or lift-the-flap books that contain surprises for your baby to discover. Choose books with covers that have big, simple pictures of things that she sees every day. Don't be upset if at first your child chews or throws a book. Be patient. Cuddling with the child as you point to and talk with great excitement about the book's pictures will soon capture her interest. When your baby becomes a toddler, she will enjoy helping to choose books for you to read to her.
As your child grows into a preschooler and kindergartner, the two of you can look for books that have longer stories and more words on the pages. Also look for books that have repeating words and phrases that she can begin to read or recognize when she sees them. By early first grade, add to this mix some books designed for beginning readers, including some books that have chapters and some books that show photographs and provide true information rather than make-believe stories.
Keep in mind that young children most often enjoy books about people, places, and things that are like those they know. The books can be about where you live or about parts of your culture, such as your religion, your holidays, or the way that you dress. If your child has special interests, such as dinosaurs or ballerinas, look for books about those interests.
From your child's toddler years through early first grade, you also should look for books of poems and rhymes. Remember when your baby heard your talking sounds and tried to imitate them? Rhymes are an extension of that language skill. By hearing and saying rhymes, along with repeated words and phrases, your child learns about spoken sounds and about words. Rhymes also spark a child's excitement about what comes next, which adds fun and adventure to reading. (For rhyming activities,
Show Your Child That You Read
When you take your child to the library, check out a book for yourself. Then set a good example by letting your child see you reading for yourself. Ask your child to get one of her books and sit with you as you read your book, magazine, or newspaper. Don't worry if you feel uncomfortable with your own reading ability. It's the reading that counts. When your child sees that reading is important to you, she may decide that it is important to her, too. (For ideas on how to help your child love books,
Learning about Print and Books
Reading together is a perfect time to help a late toddler or early preschooler learn what print is. As you read aloud, stop now and then and point to letters and words; then point to the pictures they stand for. Your child will begin to understand that the letters form words and that words name pictures. He will also start to learn that each letter has its own sound—one of the most important things your child can know when learning to read.
By the time children are 4, most have begun to understand that printed words have meaning. By age 5, most will begin to know that not just the story but the printed words themselves go from left to right. Many children will even start to identify some capital and small letters and simple words. (For some ideas on learning letters, see "As Simple as ABC.")
In late kindergarten or early first grade, your child may want to read on his own. Let him! But be sure that he wants to do it. Reading should be something he is proud of and eager to do and not a lesson.
How Does a Book Work?
Children are fascinated by how books look and feel. They see how easily you handle and read books, and they want to do the same. When your toddler watches you handle books, she begins to learn that a book is for reading, not tearing or tossing around. Before she is 3, she may even pick one up and pretend to read, an important sign that she is beginning to know what a book is for. As your child becomes a preschooler, she is learning that
As you read with your 4- or 5-year-old, begin to remind her about these things. Read the title on the cover. Talk about the picture on the cover. Point to the place where the story starts and, later, where it ends. Let your child help turn the pages. When you start a new page, point to where the words of the story continue and keep following the words by moving your finger beneath them. It takes time for a child to learn these things, but when your child does learn them, she has solved some of reading's mysteries.
Early Efforts To Write
Writing and reading go hand in hand. As your child is learning one, he is learning the other. You can do certain things to make sure that he gets every opportunity to practice both. When he is about 2 years old, for example, give your child crayons and paper and encourage him to draw and scribble. He will have fun choosing which colors to use and which shapes to make. As he holds and moves the crayons, he will also develop muscle control. When he is a late toddler or early preschooler, he will become as eager to write as he is to read. (For more ideas on how to encourage your child's desire to write,
Your preschool child's scribbles or drawings are his first writing. He will soon begin to write the alphabet letters. Writing the letters helps your child learn about their different sounds. His very early learning about letters and sounds gives him ideas about how to begin spelling words. When he begins writing words, don't worry that he doesn't spell them correctly. Instead, praise him for his efforts! In fact, if you look closely, you'll see that he's made a pretty good try at spelling a word for the first time. Later on, with help from teachers (and from you), he will learn the right way to spell words. For the moment, however, he has taken a great step toward being a writer.
Reading in Another Language
If your child's first language is not English, she can still become an excellent English reader and writer. She is on her way to successful English reading if she is beginning to learn many words and is interested in learning to read in her first language. You can help by supporting her in her first language as she learns English. Talk with her, read with her, encourage her to draw and write. In other words, do the same kinds of activities just discussed, but do them in your child's first language.
When your child first enters school, talk with her teacher. Teachers welcome such talks. They even have sign-up times early in the year, though usually you may ask for a meeting at any time. If you feel that you need some support in meeting with the teacher, ask a relative, neighbor, or someone else in your community to go with you.
When you do meet, tell the teacher the things that you are doing at home to strengthen your child's speaking and reading in her own language. Let the teacher know how important you child's reading is to you and ask for support for your efforts. Children who can switch back and forth between languages have accomplished something special. They should be praised and encouraged as they work for this achievement.
Helping Your Child With Homework
Before discussing ways that you can help your child with homework, it is important to discuss why teachers assign homework and how it benefits your child.
Why Do Teachers Assign Homework?
Teachers assign homework for many reasons. Homework can help their students
Homework also can help students to develop good study habits and positive attitudes. It can
In addition, homework can help create greater understanding between families and teachers and provide opportunities for increased communication. Monitoring homework keeps families informed about what their children are learning and about the policies and programs of the teacher and the school.
Does Homework Help Children Learn?
Homework helps your child do better in school when the assignments are meaningful, are completed successfully and are returned to him/her with constructive comments from the teacher. An assignment should have a specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched to a child's abilities and help to develop a child's knowledge and skills.
In the early grades, homework can help children to develop the good study habits and positive attitudes described earlier. From primary school class three through class sixth , small amounts of homework, gradually increased each year, may support improved school achievement. In class six and beyond, students who complete more homework score better on standardized tests and earn better grades, on the average, than do students who do less homework. The difference in test scores and grades between students who do more homework and those who do less increases as students move up through the grades.
What's the Right Amount of Homework?
The right amount of homework depends on the age and skills of the child. National organizations of parents and teachers suggest that children in kindergarten through second grade can benefit from 10 to 20 minutes of homework each school day. In third through sixth grades, children can benefit from 30 to 60 minutes a school day. In seventh through ninth grades, students can benefit from spending more time on homework and the amount may vary from night to night.
Amounts that vary from these guidelines are fine for some children and in some situations. For example, because reading at home is especially important for children, reading assignments might push the time on homework a bit beyond the amounts suggested here.
If you are concerned that your child has either too much or too little homework, talk with his teacher and learn about her homework policies.
|HOW TO HELP SHOW THAT YOU THINK EDUCATION AND HOMEWORK ARE IMPORTANT||
Helping Your Child With Homework
Children need to know that their family members think homework is important. If they know their families care, children have a good reason to complete assignments and to turn them in on time. You can do many things to show that your child that you value education and homework.
Set a Regular Time for Homework
Having a regular time to do homework helps children to finish assignments. The best schedule is one that works for your child and your family. What works well in one household may not work in another. Of course, a good schedule depends in part on your child's age as well as her specific needs. For instance, one child may do homework best in the afternoon, completing homework first or after an hour of play and another may do it best after dinner. However, don't let your child leave homework to do just before bedtime.
Your child's outside activities, such as sports or music lessons, may mean that you need a flexible homework schedule. Your child may study after school on some days and after dinner on others. If there isn't enough time to finish homework, your child may need to drop some outside activity. Let her know that homework is a high priority.
You'll need to work with your elementary school child to develop a schedule. An older student can probably make up a schedule independently, although you'll want to make sure that it's a workable one. You may find it helpful to write out his schedule and put it in a place where you'll see it often, such as on the refrigerator door.
Some families have a required amount of time that their children must devote to homework or some other learning activities each school night (the length of time can vary depending upon the child's age). For instance, if your seventh grader knows she's expected to spend an hour doing homework, reading or visiting the library, she may be less likely to rush through assignments so that she can watch TV. A required amount of time may also discourage her from "forgetting" to bring home assignments and help her adjust to a routine.
Pick a Place
Your child's homework area doesn't have to be fancy. A desk in the bedroom is nice, but for many children, the kitchen table or a corner of the living room works just fine. The area should have good lighting and it should be fairly quiet.
Your child may enjoy decorating a special area for homework. A plant, a brightly colored container to hold pencils and some favorite artwork taped to the walls can make homework time more pleasant.
Turn off the TV and discourage your child from making and receiving social telephone calls during homework time. (A call to a classmate about an assignment, however, may be helpful.)
Some children work well with quiet background music, but loud noise from the CD player, radio or TV is not OK. One history teacher laments, "I've actually had a kid turn in an assignment that had written in the middle, 'And George Washington said, "Ohhhhh, I love you."' The kid was so plugged into the music that he wasn't concentrating."
If you live in a small or noisy household, try having all family members take part in a quiet activity during homework time. You may need to take a noisy toddler outside or into another room to play. If distractions can't be avoided, your child may want to complete assignments in the local library.
Provide Supplies and Identify Resources
Have available pencils, pens, erasers, writing paper and a dictionary. Other supplies that might be helpful include a stapler, paper clips, maps, a calculator, a pencil sharpener, tape, glue, paste, scissors, a ruler, a calculator, index cards, a thesaurus and an almanac. If possible, keep these items together in one place. If you can't provide your child with needed supplies, check with her teacher, school guidance counselor or principal about possible sources of assistance.
For books and other information resources, such as suitable computer Web sites, check with the school library or your local public library. Some libraries have homework centers designed especially to assist children with school assignments (they may even have tutors and other kinds of individual assistance).
You may want to ask your child's teacher to explain school policy about the use of computers for homework. Certainly, computers are great learning and homework tools. Your child can use her computer not only for writing reports and for getting information through Internet resource sites, but for "talking" with teachers and classmates about assignments. In many schools, teachers post information about homework assignments and class work on their own Web sites, which also may have an electronic bulletin board on which students can post questions for the teacher and others to answer. (For more information about using the Internet, see the U.S. Department of Education's booklet, Parents' Guide to the Internet, listed in the Resources section, page .) However, you don't have to have a computer in your home for your child to complete homework assignments successfully. Some schools may offer after-school programs that allow your child to use the school computers. And many public libraries make computers available to children.
Set a Good Example
Show your child that the skills he is learning are an important part of the things he will do as an adult. Let him see you reading books, newspapers and computer screens; writing reports, letters, e-mails and lists; using math to balance your checkbook or to measure for new carpeting; doing other things that require thought and effort. Tell your child about what you do at work.
Help your child to use everyday routines to support the skills he is learning-for example, teach him to play word and math games; help him to look up information about things in which he is interested-singers, athletes, cars, space travel and so forth; and talk with him about what he sees and hears as the two of you walk through the neighborhood, go shopping at the mall or visit a zoo or museum.
Be Interested and Interesting
Make time to take your child to the library to check out materials needed for homework (and for enjoyment) and read with your child as often as you can. Talk about school and learning activities in family conversations. Ask your child what was discussed in class that day. If she doesn't have much to say, try another approach. For example, ask her to read aloud a story she wrote or to talk about what she found out from a science experiment.
Attend school activities, such as parent-teacher conferences, plays, concerts, open houses and sports events. If you can, volunteer to help in your child's classroom or at special events. Getting to know some of your child's classmates and their parents builds a support network for you and your child. It also shows your child that his home and school are a team.
|HOW TO HELP MONITOR SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS||
Helping Your Child With Homework
Children are more likely to complete homework successfully when parents monitor their assignments. How closely you need to monitor your child depends upon her age, how independent she is and how well she does in school. Whatever the age of your child, if she is not getting assignments done satisfactorily, she requires more supervision.
Here are some ways to monitor your child's assignments.
Ask about the School's Homework Policy
At the start of the school year, ask your child's teacher about any rules or guidelines that children are expected to follow as they complete homework. Ask about the kinds of assignments that will be given and the purposes for the assignments.
Talk with the teacher about your role in helping with homework. Expectations for parent involvement vary from teacher to teacher. Some teachers want parents to monitor homework closely, whereas others want them simply to check to make sure the assignment is completed on time.
Ask the teacher to call if any problems with homework come up. Let her know that you will do the same.
Many elementary school students often like to have someone with them to answer questions as they work on assignments. If your child is cared for by someone else, talk to that caregiver about how to deal with homework. For an older child, if no one will be around, let him know when you want him to begin work and call to remind him if necessary.
However, if the teacher has made it known that students are to do homework on their own, limit your assistance to your child to assuring that assignments are clear and that necessary supplies are provided. Too much parent involvement can make children dependent-and takes away from the value of homework as a way for children to become independent and responsible.
Look over Completed Assignments
It's usually a good idea to check to see that your elementary school child has finished her assignments. If your middle-school student is having trouble finishing assignments, check his work, too. After the teacher returns completed homework, read the comments to see if your child has done the assignment satisfactorily.
Monitor Time Spent Viewing TV and Playing Video Games
American children on average spend far more time watching TV or playing video games than they do completing homework. In many homes, more homework gets done when TV viewing and "game" time is limited.
Once you and your child have worked out a homework schedule, take time to discuss how much TV and what programs she can watch. It's worth noting that television can be a learning tool. Look for programs that relate to what your child is studying in school, such as programs on history or science or dramatizations of children's literature. When you can, watch shows with your child, discuss them and encourage follow-up activities such as reading or a trip to the museum.
Likewise, limit the amount of time your child spends playing video games. As with TV programs, be aware of the games she likes to play and discuss her choices with her.
Helping Your Child With Homework
The basic rule is, "Don't do the assignments yourself." It's not your homework—it's your child's. "I've had kids hand in homework that's in their parents' handwriting," one eighth-grade teacher complains. Doing assignments for your child won't help him understand and use information. And it won't help him become confident in his own abilities.
Here are some ways that you can provide guidance without taking over your child's homework.
Help Your Child Get Organized
Help your child to make a schedule and put it in a place where you'll see it often. Writing out assignments will get him used to the idea of keeping track of what's due and when. If your child is not yet able to write, write it for him until he can do it himself.
A book bag or backpack will make it easier for your child to carry homework to and from school. Providing homework folders in which your child can tuck his assignments for safekeeping also can help him to stay organized.
Encourage Good Study Habits
Teachers generally give students tips on how to study. But it takes time and practice to develop good study habits. To reinforce good habits at home, you can:
Talk about the Assignments
Talking and asking questions can help your child to think through an assignment and break it down into small, manageable parts. Here are some questions to ask.
Watch for Frustration
If your child shows signs of frustration, let him take a break. Encourage him and let him see that you know he can do the work.
People of all ages respond to praise. And children need encouragement from the people whose opinions they value most—their families. "Good first draft of your book report!" or "You've done a great job" can go a long way toward motivating your child to complete assignments.
Children also need to know when they haven't done their best work. Make criticism constructive, however. Instead of telling a sixth grader, "You aren't going to hand in that mess, are you?" say, "The teacher will understand your ideas better if you use your best handwriting." Then give praise when the child finishes a neat version.
|TALK WITH TEACHER TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS||
Talk with Teachers to Resolve Problems
Helping Your Child With Homework
Homework problems often can be avoided when families and caregivers value, monitor and guide their children's work on assignments. Sometimes, however, helping in these ways is not enough. If you have problems, here are some suggestions for how to deal with them.
Tell the Teacher about Your Concerns
You may want to contact the teacher if
In some cases, the school guidance counselor or principal also may be helpful in resolving problems.
Work with the Teacher
Continuing communication with teachers is very important in solving homework problems. As you work with your child's teacher, here are some important things to remember:
Many teachers structure homework so that a wide range of students will find assignments interesting. For example:
—They offer students options for different approaches to the same topic or lesson;
Homework can bring together children, families and teachers in a common effort to improve children's learning.
Helping your child with homework is an opportunity to improve your child's chances of doing well in school and life. By helping your child with homework, you can help him learn important lessons about discipline and responsibility. You can open up lines of communication—between you and your child and you and the school. You are in a unique position to help your child make connections between school work and the "real world," and thereby bring meaning (and some enjoyment) to your child's homework experience.
|HELPING CHILD SUCCEED IN SCHOOL||
Helping Your Child Succeed in School
If you think about it, although school is very important, it does not really take up very much of a child's time. In the United States, the school year averages 180 days; in other nations, the school year can last up to 240 days and students are often in school more hours per day than American students. Clearly, the hours and days that a child is not in school are important for learning, too. Here are some things that you can do to help your child to make the most of that time:
Encourage Your Child to Read
Helping your child become a reader is the single most important thing that you can do to help the child to succeed in school—and in life. The importance of reading simply can't be overstated. Reading helps children in all school subjects. More important, it is the key to lifelong learning. Here are some tips on how to help your child become a reader.
Talk with Your Child
Talking and listening play major roles in children's school success. It's through hearing parents and family members talk and through responding to that talk that young children begin to pick up the language skills they will need if they are to do well. For example, children who don't hear a lot of talk and who aren't encouraged to talk themselves often have problems learning to read, which can lead to other school problems. In addition, children who haven't learned to listen carefully often have trouble following directions and paying attention in class.
Think of talking with your child as being like a tennis game with words—instead of a ball—bouncing back and forth. Find time to talk any place, for example:
It's also important for you to show your child that you're interested in what he has to say. Demonstrate for him how to be a good listener:
Let your child know that you think education is important and so homework has to be done. Here are some ways to help your child with homework:
One final note: You may be reluctant to help your child with homework because you feel that you don't know the subject well enough or because you don't speak or read English as well as your child. But helping with homework doesn't mean doing the homework. It isn't about solving the problems for your child, it's about supporting him to do his best. You may not know enough about a subject such as calculus to help your child with a specific assignment, but you can help nonetheless by showing that you are interested, helping him get organized, providing a place the materials he needs to work, monitoring his work to see that he completes it and praising his efforts.
Monitor TV Viewing and Video Game Playing
American children on average spend far more time watching TV or playing video games than they do completing homework or other school-related activities. Here are some suggestions for helping your child to use TV and video games wisely:
Encourage Your Child to Use the Library
Libraries are places of learning and discovery for everyone. Helping your child find out about libraries will set him on the road to being an independent learner. Here are some suggestions for how to help:
For more information about helping your child use the Internet, see the following publications, listed in the Resources section: The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids, American Library Association; The Parents' Guide to the Information Superhighway, Children's Partnership.
Encourage Your Child to Be Responsible and to Work Independently
Taking responsibility and working independently are important qualities for school success. Here are some suggestions for helping your child to develop these qualities:
Encourage Active Learning
Children need active learning as well as quiet learning such as reading and doing homework. Active learning involves asking and answering questions, solving problems and exploring interests. Active learning also can take place when your child plays sports, spends time with friends, acts in a school play, plays a musical instrument or visits museums and bookstores.
To promote active learning, listen to your child's ideas and respond to them. Let him jump in with questions and opinions when you read books together. When you encourage this type of give-and-take at home, your child's participation and interest in school is likely to increase.
|HELPING YOUR CHILD WITH TEST /EXAM TAKING.||
Helping Your Child with Test-Taking
Helping Your Child Succeed in School
You can be a great help to your child if you will observe these do's and don'ts about tests and testing:
After the Test
Your child can learn a great deal from reviewing a graded exam paper. Reviewing will show him where he had difficulty and, perhaps, why. This is especially important for classes in which the material builds from one section to the next, as in math. Students who have not mastered the basics of math are not likely to be able to work with fractions, square roots, beginning algebra and so on.
Discuss the wrong answers with your child and find out why he chose the answers. Sometimes a child didn't understand or misread a question. Or, he may have known the correct answer but failed to make his answer clear.
You and your child should read and discuss all comments that the teacher writes on a returned test. If any comments aren't clear, tell your child to ask the teacher to explain them.
|WHAT DOES STRONG CHARACTER MEAN||
What Does 'Strong Character' Mean?
Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen
Character is a set of qualities, or values, that shape our thoughts, actions, reactions and feelings. People with strong character
Compassion, or empathy, means identifying with and being concerned about other people's feelings and needs. It provides the emotional root for caring about other people. It allows us to be understanding and tolerant of different points of views and beliefs, it makes us aware of the suffering of others, and it allows us to empathize with them or to feel their suffering as our own. Compassion also allows us to feel joy and excitement—rather than anger and despair—at other people's successes and achievements.
Babies may begin to cry when they hear other sounds of crying, and coo and laugh when they hear others making happy sounds. By the age of three, many children will make an effort to hug or comfort another child or a parent who seems upset. As children grow, compassion can guide their actions and behaviors in positive ways. They understand that by doing something wrong, they cause others pain or unhappiness.
We can promote compassion by helping our children to think about how others feel. For example, if your child says or does something hurtful to another child, help him* to focus his attention on the feelings of his victim by saying, for example, "How do you think Zack feels? Would you like to feel like that?" Children develop compassion by practicing acts of caring and kindness towards others. As adults, we need to emphasize the importance of helping others, giving others the benefit of the doubt and being open to differences.
What You Can Do
Honesty and Fairness
Simply put, honesty means being truthful with ourselves and with others. It means caring enough about others not to mislead them for personal benefit. It means facing up to our mistakes, even when we have to admit them to others or when they may get us into trouble.
Fairness means acting in a just way and making decisions, especially important ones, on the basis of evidence rather than prejudice. It means "playing by the rules" and standing up for the right of everyone to be treated equally and honestly.
To understand the importance of being honest and fair, children need to learn that living together in a family, community or even a nation depends on mutual trust. Without honesty and fairness, trusting each other becomes very difficult, and families—and societies—fall apart.
Words of caution: There is a big difference between being dishonest—lying or cheating—and "making things up," as children often do in fantasy play. If children are taught that not telling the truth is "a bad thing," some young children might assume that it is also a bad thing to pretend to be a princess or an astronaut. Although you should discourage your child from deliberately lying and cheating, you should also let him know that it is fine to role play and pretend.
What You Can Do
Self-discipline is the ability to set a realistic goal or make a plan—then stick with it. It is the ability to resist doing things that can hurt others or ourselves. It involves keeping promises and following through on commitments. It is the foundation of many other qualities of character.
Often self-discipline requires persistence and sticking to long-term commitments—putting off immediate pleasure for later fulfillment. It also includes dealing effectively with emotions, such as anger and envy, and developing patience.
Learning self-discipline helps children regulate their behavior and gives them the willpower to make good decisions and choices. On the other hand, the failure to develop self-discipline leaves children wide open to destructive behavior. Without the ability to control or evaluate their impulses, they often dive headlong into harmful situations.
What You Can Do
Children develop strong character by learning to think about and make sound judgments about what is right or wrong, good or bad. These are not always easy distinctions for adults to make, much less children.
For example, it can be difficult for a child to recognize the difference between acting bravely and acting recklessly. As parents, we can help by showing, through what we do as well as what we say, that it is important in such situations to think carefully and honestly about what should be done, carefully weighing how others will be affected by what we do.
Sometimes we get into trouble because we "just didn't think." We let our emotions lead us to actions that we regret later. Making good judgments requires skills in monitoring impulses, using reasoning to sort through feelings and facts, and thinking about the consequences of our actions.
Your child's ability to think and make sound judgments will improve as she matures. With age, however, it also may become easier for her to try to justify and make excuses for selfish or reckless behavior. However, if you have helped her develop strong habits of honesty, courage, responsibility and self-respect, your child will have the ability to see the flaws in her reasoning and be able to come to the right conclusion about what to do.
What You Can Do
|HELPING CHILD BECOME A RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN||
How Can We Help Children Learn about Character?-
Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen
Children learn about strong character when parents and other adults in their daily lives
Set a Good Example
We are always teaching our children something by our words and our actions. They learn from seeing. They learn from hearing and from overhearing. They learn from us, from each other, from other adults in the community and by themselves.
Children share the values of their parents about the most important things in life. Our priorities and principles and our examples of good behavior can teach our children to take the high road when other roads look tempting.
Remember that children do not learn the values that make up strong character simply by being told about them. They learn by seeing the people around them act on and uphold those values in their daily lives. In our daily lives, we can show our children that we respect others. We can show them our compassion and concern when others are suffering, and our own self-discipline, courage and honesty as we make difficult decisions. How we conduct our everyday activities can show our children that we always try to do our best to serve our families, communities and country.
The way that we view money and material goods also can mold our children's character. If we see our self-worth and the worth of others in terms of cars, homes, furniture, nice clothes and other possessions, our children are likely to develop these attitudes as well. Of course, it is important to meet our children's needs, but it is also important to help them understand the difference between their needs and their wants. The expensive jacket that your child has to have may be OK—if you can afford it.
Finally, we need to be consistent in upholding the values we want our children to respect and not present them with conflicting values. We may tell our children that cheating is wrong, for example, yet brag to a neighbor about avoiding paying taxes. We may say that rudeness to others is unacceptable, yet laugh when we see that behavior on a favorite TV show.
Set High Standards and Clear Expectations
Some parents set low standards for their children, or do not hold their children to the standards they set. Parents may do this because they think that expecting too much of a child will harm his self-confidence. However, research shows that the opposite is true. A child builds self-confidence by trying (with guidance) to meet high standards, even when he has to struggle to do so.
Parents do not always make their standards for behavior clear to their children. It is not enough to mention your expectations once or twice. Remember that children grow and change so fast that they can easily misunderstand or forget what you have told them. Their understanding of the world is developing almost constantly and their "new" minds need to be reminded of your expectations. Because of this, you need to repeat your guidelines often and to do so in a way that makes sense as your child changes and develops.
Words of caution: Your expectations must be appropriate for your child's age and stages of mental, emotional, social and physical development. For example, it's not appropriate to tell an infant not to cry and expect him to obey. Likewise, it's not appropriate to expect a 3-year-old to sit still for hours or for a 13-year-old not to worry about how she looks. Pay attention to what your child can do, start there and help her learn skills to move forward. Be gentle but firm in your expectations.
Remember how you learned to drive or cook? You practiced while someone coached you, reminding you what to do until you were able to coach yourself and then, eventually, do it automatically. Children learn values much the same way. They practice different kinds of behavior, while, you, as coach, help focus their attention on what is important and on fine-tuning important skills. You support them with your praise, encouragement and gentle reminders.
If you don't coach your child, she will find her coaches elsewhere and be guided by the values of the media, her peers and anyone else who captures her interest. So, step up to the plate, don't be afraid and help your child learn how to be a good person, step by step.
Literature can be a very powerful teaching tool. In fact, people in stories, poems and plays can influence children almost as much as the real people who read with them. Therefore, reading to and with children, encouraging older children to read on their own and talking with children about the books they read are important ways to help children learn about and develop the values of strong character and good citizenship.
Asking Questions to Guide Discussions
Use questions such as the following to help your child think about the values of stories:
Choosing which books to use for character development can take some time and effort. Many good selections are available, including fiction and nonfiction books and books of poems, folk tales, fables and plays. There are excellent modern stories, as well as timeless classics. There is also a growing number of books that allow children to explore values across various cultures and countries. For lists of books to read to and with your child, see Books That Can Support Character Development on pages of this booklet. For more titles or additional help in choosing books, talk with your local or school librarian.
Words of caution: Although the moral theme of a story, nonfiction book, play or poem may be very clear to us, it is not always so to children. Always talk with your child about what she is reading to see how well she understands its theme or message. Be patient and listen carefully to your child's ideas. If her ideas are too far off the mark, talk with her about how she arrived at them—perhaps she misunderstood a word or is missing some important piece of information. Reread parts of the story with her and talk about the message.