For the past twenty years, I have been homeschooling my four children. They are all grown now, and, except for my youngest, finished with college and out “doing their thing.” I loved teaching my children at home and I am a strong believer in home education, but one thing I have realized is that whether kids attend school at home or they attend in a more traditional setting, parents are key to children having a successful educational experience. Parental involvement usually makes the difference between a successful student and a struggling one. So, how can a parent make this school year one full of learning and success?
First, parents need to be make sure that their children’s basic needs are attended to. Hungry, tired, or overstimulated kids are not ready to learn. Make sure that children have healthy meals and snacks, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and don’t spend hours every afternoon watching television or playing video games. Besides interfering with homework, too much “screen time” (as we used to call it) can make it hard for your child to sleep at night as well as increase the possibility of attention problems, anxiety, and depression (Kaneshiro 2013). Current brain research suggests that too much time in front of a screen actually makes changes in a person’s brain! (Victoria L. Dunckley 2014).
One of the things I really enjoyed as a homeschooler was learning along with my children. Parents can help their kids develop a love for learning by finding ways to enrich their curriculum at home and through family field trips. If your child is learning American History this year, take the time to visit local historical sites, or you could use one of your longer breaks to visit a more distant attraction, perhaps even Washington, D.C.! There are tons of board games that families can enjoy together which promote learning (one of our favorites is Settlers of Cataan) and build family relationships. If you have cable, science and history channels offer a variety of programs that you can watch together to supplement what your child is studying in school.
Even going to the grocery store together can be a learning experience, where kids can practice figuring out what is needed for a recipe, how much a particular meal will cost, or how much change you should get back at the end of your purchase. My oldest child learned how to make change – and how to bargain – by going with me to garage sales! Take your kids with you to lots of places and provide them with lots of experiences! One of the ways we learn is to relate new things to things we already know about. Children with many varied experiences who have seen a variety of places come to school with more “hooks” to hang their learning on than kids who are lacking those experiences.
Two final ideas – show an interest in what your child is learning in school and let your children see you enjoying learning new things. They will realize that what they are doing in school is important, not just for a grade, but because learning is important for life – and it can be fun! It’s not just something kids do until they are old enough not to do it anymore!
Parents, you–and your parenting skills–are the key! Your child will thank you for your support, encouragement, and involvement, no matter what educational setting you choose. I promise, they really do grow up and thank you. That’s good to know, isn’t it?