Fort Worth, Texas,
09:04 AM

Everyone should home school (part 2)

Masters in parenting series from TheDocSmitty

Part 2 - Elementary and Middle School

I'd guess the titledidn't fool as many of you as it did in Part 1. I probably would've clicked angrily on the link and went to disprove the fact that homeschooling is for everyone too, but I assume that the rest of you who clicked on today are actually interested in how you can help your child learn. Remember these posts are all about the fact that despite the fact that we delegate a lot of our role of educating our children to the school we choose to send them to, the responsibility of their education still falls on us, the parents.

I thought of two different things to post about. First I considered writing about feeding your child breakfast. Several studies show that doing so will increase their grades and especially their ability to pay attention throughout the morning. So, feed your child breakfast. Moving on.

One of the major predictors of success in school and in the future for our children is our involvement in their school and their education.

The school will do what they can, but they are limited by many factors:

1)   Your child is not the only child in class. Vying for the teacher's attention can be difficult.

2)   Your child may learn faster or slower than the average person in class and adjustments are often difficult.

3)   Schools have limited financial and personnel resources that don't allow for curriculum to be differentiated for each student.

So, how do we compensate for each of the above deficiencies? We get involved. More specifically, we get involved in the right way. A study done at the University of New Hampshire showed that it would take $1,000 per student per year of extra spending for the school  to achieve the same results as parent involvement.

A comprehensive review of parent involvement was released by the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools in 2002 called "A New Wave of Evidence." I know it's 10 years old, but it's so comprehensive, I couldn't imagine using anything else.

So, how does parental involvement improve performance?

Here are just a few of the ways (New Wave of Evidence-pg 13):

  •      Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs.
  •      Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits.
  •      Attend school regularly.
  •      Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.
  •      Graduate and go on to postsecondary education.

But, how do you do it right?  As with anything, you can even mess up being involved in your child's school and education if you don't think about what you're doing.

Here's what studies say actually works (New Wave of Evidence-pg 87):

     1) Provide a stimulating literacy and material environment.

     2) High expectations and moderate levels of parent support and supervision.

     3) Monitoring of TV viewing and homework completion.

     4) Joint learning activities at home.

     5) Emphasis on effort rather than ability.

     6) Promoting of independence and self-reliance.

Let's go through each for a little discussion:

1) Provide a stimulating literacy and material environment - Have stuff around that stimulates your child to want to learn. This is simple in all stages of life but you just have to be careful to provide it. Keep books easily accessible in the current reading level and one reading level above your child so that they can explore what’s next. Read in front of them (no child is going to read in the room where you are watching TV). Keep art supplies, building toys and other items easily accessible and limit screen time so that your kids have time to play with them.

2) High expectations and moderate levels of parent support and supervision - Don't hover over their shoulder the whole time they are doing homework but check in frequently to make sure they are on task and don't have questions for you. I usually get my son started on something and then walk away and come back a few minutes later. He gets a lot more done when I'm not standing there and he doesn't rely on me to help him along the way.  My favorite thing to see him do is when I come back and he says, "I had a little trouble with this one so I moved on to the next one till you could help me." “Awesome, bud, let’s do it.”

3) Monitoring of TV viewing and homework completion - Set a rule for the TV and homework completion.  I guess it doesn't have to be, but I would think that having the same rule for all the children in the house would be helpful.  You could choose to have no TV until homework is complete or maybe one show (15-30 minutes) before you start.  Sometimes that break can be a refresher for a kid who is worn out from a long day at school but for other kids is impossible to get them back on task.  You need to decide what works best for your family and stick to the plan.

4) Joint learning activities at home - This is where you get to be creative. You can read my post called: Your Child is Gifted to get more advice on how to do this well.

5) Emphasis on effort rather than ability - You can see my entire post about this: You're So Smart.

6) Promoting of independence and self-reliance  -Remember that your goal is to get your child to be independent and ready to move off and do something else when they finish high school. It's hard to remember to think about it when they are young but giving them opportunities to be independent now when you are still close by is a great way to teach them to make better decisions later.

While we're at it, here are some things you should not do whenever it comes to being involved with your child's education:

1) Don't do their homework or projects for them. It's OK to help them if they are choosing wisely but it's also OK to let them make a bad grade if they are relying on you to do it all for them.

2) Don't ever tell you child's teacher that they are "bored" because the class is to easy. It may be completely true, but after saying it, you have eliminated almost any chance you had of working to get a solution to the problem.  Some other things you could say: How can we challenge him/her? Is there some way we could change x/y?

3) Don't go above your child's teacher to the principal unless you've tried to work with the teacher first. It actually causes a problem for everyone involved. The principal doesn't like it, the teacher doesn't like it and you're unlikely to get the results you desire.

4) Don't reward solely for grades. Everyone handles grades a little differently. Some families dole out huge money for good grades, some none and others everywhere in between. Rewarding for grades alone sets them up to choose easier classes and cut corners (cheat?) to get better grades.

Let’s be involved with our kids’ schools, but do it in the right way. The results could be amazing!


About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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