“What did you learn in school today?”
When the conversation between parent and child ends there, everyone loses.
Children generally don’t know how to answer such a broad question and many parents don’t know what else to ask. The good news is there are plenty of things parents can do to help their children love to learn.
Children are born with a powerful desire to learn. By surrounding them with developmentally appropriate books, routines, and activities, and by showing a strong interest in a child’s school work, they are more likely to be motivated to succeed in school. These simple steps can help parents promote good study habits in children.
Parents should make a habit of sitting down with their child each day to discuss school. The standard question of, “What did you learn in school today?” is simply too broad for most younger children to answer. Start the conversation by asking questions that allow your child to elaborate on something they enjoyed doing while at school that day. This will remind them that school is something they enjoy. By viewing school in a positive light, children become more interested in their studies and become better students. Start with the “fun stuff” like art, recess, field trips, or their friends. Be sure to keep it conversational and avoid making it an interrogation. Keep the dialog going by sharing stories from your day, as well.
Once your child begins recalling events from their day, they will find it easier to remember the academic skills covered in the classroom. You can then ask them to “show off” their new skills to you, the interested parent. “So how do you add two numbers?” “Can you draw me a picture of a hippo?” “You know about Spain?!? I’ve always wanted to go there! What did you find out?” These conversations help your child recall what they’ve learned, place value on the information, and often encourages them to learn more.
Many parents make the mistake of turning homework into a chore, a dreaded daily event to be avoided at all costs. No child wants to be condemned to the dinner table where their backpack is dumped out and they get scolded for not fulfilling their potential. They neither know nor care about their potential. At the same time, creating a routine adds the force of habit to the decision to study. Creating a routine also helps to reduce the many distractions faced by children today.
Set aside an appropriate place for studying, remembering that each child is different. There are many different learning styles. Where one person needs silence to study effectively, another may do better in a more chaotic environment. By creating a space that meets your child’s study needs, they are more likely to apply themselves and get the desired results. If your child isn’t sure what type of environment helps them to study more effectively, take an online quiz or conduct an experiment! Do they study better in silence, listening to the radio, or with the television running in the background? Do they retain information better studying outside or inside? Maybe they retain information better when they draw a picture about it, or write a song. There is no “right answer” but acknowledging that your child has unique preferences, and respecting what works for them, your child will see that you value them and their studies.
When your child comes across a piece of homework that baffles them, use it as an opportunity to help them learn how to find answers. Look the subject up on the Internet with your child, help them see other ways of attacking the problem, or go to the library on a learning safari. By making the search for information fun, and investing your time and effort, you will demonstrate to your child that enthusiasm and determination can go a long way toward getting past tough problems. Problem solving is an important skill that few are born with. By setting the example of how to approach difficult subjects, you will help your child understand that just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it should be avoided.
For dead-end situations in which your child simply can’t explain what they’re learning, contact their teacher and ask for a copy of their lesson plan and any suggestions on other ways to practice at home. Teachers generally know your children better than you think. In addition, they are trained in a variety of teaching methods and have access to a wealth of resources. All you have to do is ask.
Children are not born knowing how to study. Lack of skills and support can feel overwhelming. Your encouragement, participation, and positive example helps them to invest the practice and motivation needed to succeed. Children want to have fun and to be admired and loved by their parents. By helping your child view their academic achievements as something to be proud of, something to be shared with the family, you will instill a lifelong love of learning which will make studying new subjects an exciting challenge to be met with enthusiasm.