Your child's education is vital to his or her success in life. Everyone agrees about its importance. Parents play a pivotal role in education, perhaps even more than the teachers. If you do the math, you will find that 6.5 hours of school per day over a 36 week school year multiplied by 13 years of school comes to just 15,210 hours. That's just under 634 days or 1.71 years spent in classrooms. It doesn't sound like much in the grand scheme, does it? And teachers are expected to impart not only basic skills such as reading, writing and math, but also to teach science, social studies, art, music, physical fitness, health and a host of other topics. No wonder parents need to enrich their children's education! So much more can be done at home to support the goal of educating the child with just a little effort and planning. You can not only provide a framework for learning, but you can also offer opportunities and incentives to practice as well as expand horizons and encourage academic growth.
Develop an educational attitude. To begin with, it's important that you develop an educational attitude. Nearly every experience that you share with your children can become educational if you put the right spin on it. Life is a classroom, and if you focus on learning, you will find that teachable moments and opportunities for practice abound.
Take every opportunity to build language skills. Most school experiences are language-based. Your child will gain more from academic activities in school if he or she has good comprehension and expressive skills. You can build language skills in many ways. Share a great variety of quality literature. Read picture books, rhymes, poetry, chapter books, magazine articles and newspaper pieces together. Converse regularly. Too many of us focus our talks with children on directions (pick up your toys, brush your teeth, eat your vegetables and so forth). Conversations, on the other hand, allow a give and take of ideas and thoughts. You and your child participate as equals. Play word games, too. You can find many common ones in the toy department of your local store. Unusual ones can be found in museum gift shops and specialty shops, and there are some classic gems that are totally free, like Higgety-Piggety, Hang Man, and Twenty Questions.
Broaden your child's experiences as much as possible. Studies have shown that children comprehend reading passages more fully when they can make connections to their lives. Take your child on errands, on trips and on visits. Go to parks, museums, and concerts. Visit businesses, farms and colleges. Take classes together. Even if you are on a tight budget, your local Chamber of Commerce can help you find free activities such as small local museums, community theater performances and so forth. You can also find these events on community bulletin boards and in local newspapers.
Respond appropriately to your child's questions. Kids are naturally curious, and their minds will take them all over the curriculum if that trait is nurtured. It's not important that you "know" all the answers, but rather that you show your child how to find out for him or herself. Look things up together. Design experiments to find out how things work. Try to build things. See what happens if you change a step in a recipe. Children learn best by doing, and if you arrange lots of opportunities to try things out, you will really further their education.
- Play games with your child. Our society sometimes denigrates play as being unimportant, but it is the single most vital experience that children have. Learning is founded on play. It’s important to play pretend games with your young child because it teaches imagination and creative skills, as well as allowing them to try out roles and directive skills. Organized games and sports are important because they teach physical fitness and life skills, as well as team work and fairness. Board games and card games support development of a host of academic skills, including computation, sequencing, reading, comprehension, and categorizing. Nearly all games help children develop the higher level thinking skills related to organizing, planning, strategizing and evaluating.
- Involve children in the affairs of daily living. From the time they are toddlers, kids can be learning about how to manage the tasks that we all need to do, and they learn from the experience. Little children will want to imitate you as you do housework or chores. Older kids will express a strong desire to help. Preteens and teens need opportunities to learn about following assembly directions, managing money, cooking and other household necessities. Many times, we parents feel too busy to include the children. It’s simply more efficient to do these things ourselves. However, when we neglect this vital aspect of parenting, we are closing the door on a fabulous educational opportunity.
You can see that nearly every interaction that parents have with children can be educational in its own way. Take the time to learn how to bring edcuational experiences into everyday life - you can learn this through online classes - and open educational doors instead of closing them, and your child will reap the benefits for a lifetime.