Sunday, February 15, 2015

#28 Days of Writing 15 : Parenting for school success 101.

I've had a little bit of positive feedback from a few parents who are reading my posts and finding them thought provoking, so at the risk of blowing my own trumpet and/or offending a few I'm going to forge ahead with some advice for parents on how to set your kids up to succeed at school.

Apart from my formal teacher training, I'm backing this with 35 years of classroom experience and 30 years of parenting experience; for 25 and half continuous years of which I have been a parent of school aged children. I'm sure there's an algebraic equation that will tell you that's a whole truck load of recorded, anecdotal and observed information!

YOU, the parents, are the people with the greatest influence on your child's learning. You provide all the early learning that happens before a child enters formal schooling and YOU are the most important role models for everything that your child does. Monkey see, monkey do.

WE, the teachers, are the adults next in line as far as your child's education is concerned. Once your child starts school they often spend more waking time with us than they do with you. The same rules for role modelling prevail.

Here's my 28 minute guide on the simplest ways to work together to raise a successful learner.

  • Immerse your child in a language rich home environment- read to them from birth, talk to them, sing to them, provide varied sources of literature. The difference in attainment of preps who start with a language rich base compared to those who don't is staggering and the gap they start with often continues and widens as they grow. No amount of intervention by the school will make up for missing out on language learning at home.
  • Identify learning in life and how learning at school is applicable to life outside school. Make lists, read recipes, tally kilometres in the car, add up the footy scores, make connections between real life scenarios and fictional ones. 
  • Be media literate. Your child lives in a new world of digital communication. You MUST understand and guide them with this (a post for another day).
  • Teach them good manners. Please and thank you, respect for authority, good sportspersonship - these things will open doors and invite opportunities.
  • Eat dinner at the table on as many nights as you can. There's a whole lot of research out there that shows family dinner time = increased student achievement. Use it as a chance for more talking, encouraging positivity (what went well for you today?), learning manners and electronic device free time.
  • Identify what your child does well because even if you do all of the above, and we do everything we can to differentiate, some kids won't thrive in school. Unfortunately it's hard for us to formally recognize all your child's strengths and if those strengths don't lie in the academic subjects then it can be tough. Praise effort and persistence. 

And, since I have a few minutes left, here's a handful of things that a parent should NEVER say in front of their child.

1. 'I never read books either'. You may not enjoy reading novels but I can guarantee that what ever your line of work is, you must be able to read to do it effectively. You learnt to read well from reading books. If you don't read well (because you haven't had the practice that comes from reading books!) then be honest with your child and point out some of the draw backs to being a non reader.

2. 'I was never any good at Maths either'. This is a genetic invitation for your child to give up. It's OK to say, 'I found Maths difficult' but don't dismiss your child's success in numeracy as something they can do without. Numeracy and problem solving are vital skills for 21st C graduates.

3. 'I was always in trouble at school'. See the previous genetic invitation. We all love to tell stories of how 'bad' we were at school but we don't like it when our kids are in trouble. It's OK to talk about your own mistakes and what you learnt from them but glorifying disrespect is asking for trouble.

4. 'Your teacher is an idiot'. We accept that at times we might say, do, forget something that may lead you to believe we are less than perfect. There will be times when you disagree with a decision we make. Occasionally we question your IQ too but we NEVER say that in front of your child. Children need confidence in the people who teach them. Maintain that magic triangle whenever you can.

5. 'You're not as good as your brother/sister/next door/neighbor/I was at your age'. Comparison is the root of all unhappiness. Compare your child only with your child. Look for and reward personal growth.

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