By Cheri Fuller
In many parts of the country, vacation is winding down and school is about to start. Before the fall frenzy of activities and busyness sets in, let me encourage you with some doable tips that will help your kids learn and achieve. You don't have to constantly drill them on math and spelling words or nag about homework every day to help them learn. But be assured that what you do to develop a home environment supportive of reading, writing, and learning will make all the difference in the quality of your kids' education, no matter where they attend school.
Build vocabulary. For early elementary kids, to build vocabulary, write a "word of the day" on colored index cards. As your child learns the word, let him illustrate and decorate the cards with stickers to put in a "Word Box." Little by little you'll be building vocabulary which will have lots of benefits.
Read aloud. Read to your children even after they have learned to read, chapter books, series and pick books that pique their top interests (see below for more on this).
Be a note-writing family. Write "Lunch Box Love Notes" in their brown bags or lunch boxes. Write sticky notes of encouragement and tack on their mirrors. Even pre-readers will try to figure out the message (make some of the words in pictures to create a "Rebus" for them).
Take advantage of the public library. Maybe your children enjoyed the summer library program. But keep them going regularly during the school year. Let them get their own library cards and encourage them to seek the librarian's help on finding books that tap into their center of learning excitement - that means what they are most fascinated and interested in. Every child or teen has something they want to know more about. Find that topic and it's a key to fueling their interest in reading and building language skills.
Build attention span. To increase your child's attention and concentration skills (which are vital in the classroom), work on a 15-20 minute project together regularly without distraction of television, IPod, or your cell phone: assemble a puzzle, color a picture, or whip up a snack or entrée from a simple recipe, but focus on the task at hand until it's finished.
Bonus time. Give your child a flashlight and allow fifteen extra minutes of "stay-up-late" time if he is reading at bedtime.
Effort praising. Praise your child's efforts and progress, not just the accomplishments, wins and A's on tests. Research shows with this kind of encouragement, kids put out more effort into their schoolwork and study.
Have an "Un-TV Week" sometime in the first month of school. Get out games you haven't played in a while, do art projects, talk, go outside together, and have fun without the tube. Limit TV, video games, and screen time during the school week.
Hands-on math. Demonstrate math concepts with hands-on, real objects. For example, show fractions by cutting a pie into pieces or peel an orange to demonstrate fourths, halves, and thirds.
(Use only with permission of author.)
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