Numerous factors contribute to a child's success in school, but research groups such as the Harvard Family Research Project agree that parental involvement and influence weigh heavily among them. Knowing how to wield your influence is very important, because you don't want to put too much pressure on your child or overemphasize the importance of grades. The key is to make learning an enjoyable activity rather than a chore.
Develop educational habits outside of school
It's important to remember that learning is not something that happens exclusively within the walls of schools. Educational experiences can arise anywhere, and can be fun and informal. Remember that children learn everywhere. Heather Weiss, director of the Harvard Family Research Project, says, "Parents provide a strong influence and help children make choices on how to spend out-of-school time." Think about productive and beneficial ways your child can spend his time, and develop habits within your household that provide intellectual stimulation.
Integrate some of these healthy habits into your regular routine:
- Make reading an integral part of your home life. Read aloud to your children or set aside quiet time each day in which your family can sit together and read silently. Instead of flipping on the television, turn to books during downtime.
- Use your daily time with your children wisely. When you are in the car or walking to the school bus, talk to your kids about what they are learning in school, or prompt a conversation about a topic that they find interesting and intriguing.
- Know what interests your children, and encourage them to explore those subjects. According to Weiss, "You should know what your child likes, and orient him toward the activities he enjoys, so that as he progresses his interests will build."
- Provide a quiet and comfortable learning environment for your children. The discord of raising kids, preparing meals, tending to scrapes, and cleaning spills can make any home environment pretty chaotic. Try to find some space where your children can do homework, read, study, or think in comfort and without distraction. If this is impossible, then become a regular at your local library or community center, and teach your children to use community spaces to be productive.
- Keep a positive attitude about school. Never refer to school as a drag, or make it seem like attending class is a chore. Keep your kids excited about learning, and eager to share their daily discoveries.
- Encourage your children to register for educational extracurricular programs. "Parental encouragement makes a huge difference in whether children go to [educational] out-of-school-time programs," says Weiss. Find out if your school or community offers an after-school activity that would interest your child.