Education Today: A Parent's Guide To Improving Your Child's Education

Education Today
A Parent's Guide To Improving Your Child's Education

As a school counselor I am often asked by parents how to improve their child's grades in school. There is, much to many people's surprise, no quick magic formula for achieving this goal. I had a Latin teacher in ninth grade when I was in school who had a sign in bold black calligraphy above her blackboard. Hardly a day went by that she did not refer to this phrase: "O consistency! Thou art a jewel!" The key to parental success IS consistency over the long haul. Getting the job accomplished involves many steps and routines along the way. Here are some examples that should be observed consistently by parents:
Read together
Children who read at home with their parents perform better in school. The research shows clearly that there is no substitute for this simple activity. Show your kids how much you value reading by keeping good books, magazines, and newspapers in the house. Let them see you read. Take them on trips to the library and encourage them to get library cards. Let children read to you, and talk about the books. Look for other ways to teach children the magic of language, words, and stories. Tell stories to your children about their families and their culture. Point out words to children wherever you go--to the grocery, to the pharmacy, to the gas station. Encourage your children to write notes to grandparents and other relatives.
Use TV wisely
The literature shows that academic achievement drops sharply for children who watch more than 10 hours of television a week, or an average of more than two hours a day. Parents should consistently limit the amount of viewing and help children select educational programs.
Establish a daily family routine with scheduled homework time
Studies reveal that successful students have parents who create and maintain family routines. Make sure your child goes to school every day. This is absolutely essential. Nothing kills academic progress like being absent from where learning takes place. Establish a regular time for homework each afternoon or evening, set aside a quiet time, and encourage children to study.
Talk to your children and teenagers--and listen to them, too
Talk directly to your children, especially your teenagers, about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the values you want them to have. Set a good example. And listen to what your children have to say. Such personal talks, however uncomfortable they may make you feel, can avoid lots of disasters.
Express high expectations for children by enrolling them in challenging courses
I have found that students who are successful in school have parents who help them establish and achieve rigorous goals in education. You can communicate to your children the importance of setting and meeting challenges in school. Consistently working hard and stretching their minds is the only way for them to realize their full potential. Expect and encourage your children to take tough academic courses like geometry, chemistry, computer technology, a second language, art, and advanced occupational courses. Make sure they never settle for doing less than their best.
Find out whether your school has high standards
Washington County is fortunate in that schools have clear, challenging standards for what students should know. The schools are guided by a master plan for success that shows, for example, what reading, writing and math skills your child is expected to have by fourth grade, eighth, or twelfth grade. Also attention is paid to history, science, the arts, geography, and other languages. Responsibility and hard work are recognized and rewarded in the Washington County Schools. You may want to serve on a school committee to monitor and improve the school system's commitment to these high expectations. Get involved!
Keep in touch with the school
This is vital for children's success in school. Parents cannot afford to wait for schools to tell them how their children are doing. Typically families who stay informed about their children's progress at school have higher-achieving children. To keep informed, parents can visit the school, send teachers an e-mail, request periodic progress reports other than report cards, or talk with teachers on the telephone. Get to know the names of your child's teachers, principals, and school counselors. School counselors can serve as a consistent resource for parents in the pursuit of excellence in their children.
Sounds like common sense, doesn't it?
Yet parental involvement is one of the most overlooked aspects of American education today. The fact is, many parents don't realize how important it is to get involved in their children's learning. All parents and family members should try to find the time and make the effort because current research shows that when families get involved, their children:
* Get better grades and test scores.
* Graduate from high school at higher rates.
* Are more likely to go on to higher education that will improve the quality of their lives.
* Are better behaved and have more positive attitudes.
Most important of all, ALL parents and families can enjoy these benefits. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter how much formal education you've had yourself or how well you did in school. Family involvement works for children at all grade levels. When parents and families get consistently involved in education, their children do better in school and grow up to be more successful in life. My old Latin teacher, rest her soul, was correct all of those years ago. Consistency is a jewel that will help your children succeed.

Budd A. Moore, Ed.D., is a school counselor in Washington County. Email him at buddm4cnsl@comcast.net