As unbelievable as it may seem, in the midst of sizzling summer weather, many of us are making plans to begin a new school year soon. Teachers are dreaming of bulletin boards, parents are shopping the back-to school sales, and children are taking advantage of later bedtimes and lazy mornings before the routine kicks in again. Undoubtedly, all are hoping and praying for a successful year ahead – good grades, great friends, little conflict and loads of fun while learning. Although teachers and students are the main characters in the drama that unfolds every year, parents also play a key role in the educational outcome of their children.
There are certainly moments when moms and dads relish the blessing of their children, as so aptly described by David in Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”Then there are times, as parents, we are overwhelmed with the great responsibility we feel wading into each new phase of this job without a clear and concrete manual. When it comes to the schooling aspect, I have gleaned bits of wisdom and advice from my own experience as an educator, as well as from those with whom I work, that I hope will help you think through how you can best prepare and support your children to have an amazing school experience.
Things that directly affect ACADEMIC growth and development:
What you do with your children before they start kindergarten. School readiness has a significant impact on school achievement.
- Talk to your child – engage in discussions about anything and everything! Name things, rhyme words, point out patterns, prompt with guided questions.
- Listen to your child – allow him to explain his thinking, discover sounds, words, patterns ideas.
- Read to your child – a lot, every day. Take her to the library starting at age 2 or even before. Expose her to information on a wide variety of topics.
- Count things, sort things, group things, categorize things, label things.
- Let your child cut things, paint things, color things, write things.
The way you spend your time with your kids. No matter what your children’s ages are, provide them with as many different experiences as possible. These will serve as hooks and connectors to new information. Here are just a few ideas to ignite your imagination:
- Explore tide pools – build a sand castle and watch the tide wash it away.
- Collect rocks and leaves – notice interesting features about them.
- Visit places – museums, gardens, farms, zoos, parks, open air markets.
- Use different modes of transportation – take the train into L.A., the city bus, an airplane.
- Bake and cook – let kids participate in the planning, shopping, measuring, serving and cleaning up.
- Plant seeds and document the growth.
- Maintain a costume box and dress up often.
- Sing, dance and make instruments.
Things that directly affect PERSONAL growth and development:
The way you respond when your child makes a poor choice. Allow your child to experience character-growing opportunities and refrain from rescuing.
- Acknowledge and accept that your child will make poor choices. Help him to learn to be honest and take responsibility for his actions, find ways to fix any damage he may have caused, to ask for forgiveness and make amends.
- Assure him that making poor choices is a part of being human. God tells us that we all sin and fall short of His best. Yet, God still loves us and does not hold that sin against us when we repent.
The way you communicate your child’s importance. Refrain from the temptation of allowing your child to believe that he or she is the center of the universe.
- Your children may be the center of your world, but don’t set them up for frustration, disappointment and failure by inflating their ego. Rather, teach them to find their significance in the fact that the God of the universe loves them, created them uniquely and for a special purpose, and it is in Him that they find their worth.
Things that indirectly affect BOTH academic and personal growth and development:
Your attitude about the teacher and/or school and your reaction to things that happen at school. Your child reflects the way you speak and respond.
- Unsolicited, genuine praise, appreciation and support of school staff are not as common as you may think. They will go a long way in creating a positive working relationship with the teacher and others at school.
- Unguarded remarks, sarcasm, and unchecked frustration by mom and dad also go a long way in creating a wedge in a positive working relationship between the student and teacher, or others at the school.
Your belief about your child’s ability to succeed.
- Renounced educational researcher, John Hattie, states that one of the key influencers of student achievement from home are “parental expectations and aspirations for their child.”
- The home can be a nurturing place for the achievement of children or it can have an undermining effect on achievement through low expectations and lack of encouragement.
I pray that this school year will be one of inspired learning, positive relationships, and a deepening of character traits that serve your sweet babies well into adulthood.