It can be painful to watch a young student struggle with their letters or numbers, day after day, until eventually they give up and exclaim “I just can’t do it!” If this sounds like your child, remember that success in school is as much a matter of positive attitude and hard work as it is of innate talent. This means that your child has as great a chance to do well as the prodigy down the street. To make sure that your child gets his or her shining moment at school, commit to helping them at home with literacy, numeracy, homework and test preparation. With these four skills mastered, your child will return to school a happier, and more confident, student.
The cornerstone of any education is literacy. If your child can read and write well, they will be better able to express their own ideas and arguments, analyse those of others, and convey their thoughts and emotions throughout. To help promote literacy in your household:
- Read to your child every day.
- Ask your child to read to you often.
- Require your child to complete fun weekend reading and book reports.
- Help your child write letters to relatives and friends.
- Request that your child write a short summary of their favourite TV programme.
- Have your child make up short stories on rainy days.
- Appoint your child “reporter” during family outings and ask him/her to file “articles” when you get home.
Numeracy, or the ability to use numbers, is often considered the second half of any good education (alongside literacy). Understanding the “size” of a number and where it fits into the number system, as well as the ability to conduct mathematical processes such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, are all hallmarks of numerate students. To encourage numeracy skills at home:
- Use Smarties or M&Ms for counting and illustrating addition and subtraction.
- Make a multiplication table into an art project. Add colours and stickers as desired.
- Invite your child to help you cook, and discuss all of the measurements required in your chosen recipe.
- Invest in a calculator and ask your child to be your “accountant” the next time you go shopping.
- Let your child “shop” in your closet or pantry and ask them to add up their total.
- Institute an allowance, and discuss with your child how to save (addition) and what they can afford to spend (subtraction).
Most students, and many parents, shudder at the thought of homework. But what may seem like an encroachment into family and fun time is actually one of the best ways for your child to remember, practice and therefore retain the skills they learned at school. Help your child with homework by:
- Understanding the school’s homework policy. Know how much homework is considered appropriate, how homework is marked, and what it means to your child’s overall classroom experience.
- Investing in a student diary. Make sure your child enters all of his/her homework each day.
- Remaining available during homework time. It is easier for your child to casually ask you a question if you are in the same room.
- Setting a regular time and place for homework. Help your child get into a routine.
- Keeping all regular supplies and resources (from stationary to reference books) on hand.
- Reviewing over all completed homework.
- Complimenting your child on a job well done.
Of course, regardless of your child’s enthusiasm or effort, many overall marks will come from tests. To make sure that your child is prepared for these stressful events:
- Invest in a wall calendar on which you can write in test dates.
- After each evening of homework, ask your child to tell you in his/her own words what the assignment was about.
- Read chapters with your child to make sure they understand the content.
- Help your child become comfortable with testing formats, such as multiple choice or true and false, by inventing questions of your own.
- Ask your child to answer questions on their assignments, if this is not part of their homework.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep before a test.
- Prepare a healthy breakfast on test day.
- Remind your child that results are important, but doing their best is more so.
Just like with any activity, some children find school more of an effort than others. To help your child succeed at school, stay interested and stay involved. Practicing literacy, numeracy, completing homework and encouraging test preparation are all ways that parents can help their children succeed at school.