While the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has changed a lot since 1921, one fac­tor - fam­ily engagement - re­mains crit­i­cal to stu­dent achieve­ment

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While the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem have changed a lot since 1921, one fac­tor - fam­ily engagement - re­mains crit­i­cal to stu­dent achieve­ment


as an in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tor, the most fre­quently asked ques­tion from par­ents is, “How can I sup­port my child at home?” I have spent much of my free time draft­ing let­ters with ac­tiv­i­ties and web­sites par­ents can use to en­gage their chil­dren, how­ever, most par­ents are look­ing for a fast and easy fix where the teacher waves a magic wand and… POOF! Their child is flu­ent in English, sud­denly fo­cused and or­ga­nized, or per­forms well on tests. Trust me, there is no sim­ple way to boost your child’s per­for­mance in the class­room with­out lay­ing some ground­work at home. This is where you, the par­ent, come in.

Par­ent in­volve­ment does not nec­es­sar­ily mean talk­ing to the teacher each week, send­ing chil­dren to school af­ter reg­u­lar school hours, bak­ing cook­ies for the PTA, or spend­ing hours with repet­i­tive pa­per­work, which I call ‘busy work.’ Pro­vid­ing ex­tra hand­outs on a topic your child has demon­strated good un­der­stand­ing does not im­prove achieve­ment. In fact, it’s detri­men­tal. Chil­dren re­quire time to process new in­for­ma­tion in or­der for it to be com­mit­ted to long-term mem­ory. The brain needs ad­e­quate ‘down time’ for this to hap­pen. If you are stead­fastly de­ter­mined to en­roll your child in af­ter school ac­tiv­i­ties, try a sports class.

Club sports can build team­work and a sense of com­mu­nity. Other sports such as mar­tial arts are known to im­prove fo­cus, drive and per­se­ver­ance as well as gross mo­tor skills. Ad­di­tion­ally, try com­plet­ing a puz­zle at home, or play­ing a board game. Th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties can im­prove fine mo­tor skills. Pro­vide your child their own space to draw, keep a jour­nal, or do crafts. En­roll them in mu­sic lessons; re­search shows a cor­re­la­tion be­tween aca­demic achieve­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in mu­sic, es­pe­cially in lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion. Ba­si­cally, al­low them to ex­plore their own in­ter­ests out­side of academia to pro­mote per­sonal, emo­tional and so­cial growth.

Get in­volved from the be­gin­ning of the school year—now is the per­fect time! Oc­ca­sion­ally, nearly an en­tire school year can go by with lit­tle or no par­ent in­ter­ac­tion, then sud­denly with only one month of school left to go, I have a line of par­ents queu­ing up out­side my class­room door. While teach­ers are happy when par­ents be­come in­volved, the ‘too lit­tle, too late’ syn­drome should be avoided at all costs. Putting that much pres­sure for a child to be­come suc­cess­ful in a short pe­riod of time is stress­ful, for all in­volved.

Par­ents can eas­ily be­come in­volved from home. Do­ing things like; cre­at­ing a set rou­tine and stick­ing to it, en­sur­ing your child goes to sleep at the same time ev­ery day at an age-ap­pro­pri­ate hour, turn­ing elec­tronic de­vices off a half-hour be­fore bedtime, and read­ing to them plus hav­ing them read to you are ben­e­fi­cial. If you are not avail­able, per­haps a fam­ily mem­ber can sub­sti­tute. The lan­guage of the text is not im­por­tant, it’s the time spent mak­ing those con­nec­tions be­tween con­cepts and the writ­ten word. Pause while read­ing to ask your child to make pre­dic­tions, sum­ma­rize/retell, or for you to ‘I won­der….’

Ask­ing ques­tions daily can be valu­able as well, but stay away from sim­ple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ an­swers. Look at your child’s sched­ule and ask what they did dur­ing a spe­cific sub­ject that day. Open ended ques­tions aid in re­call and help to com­mit new knowl­edge to long-term mem­ory. When you are in­ter­ested in what your child does at school it sends the mes­sage that school is im­por­tant to you. As a re­sult, it will be­come im­por­tant to them.

Let’s talk about mak­ing mis­takes. Many are un­will­ing to at­tempt some­thing un­less they can do it per­fectly the first time. This is a dis­ad­van­ta­geous, or fixed mind­set. Mak­ing mis­takes or be­ing con­fused are time-tested meth­ods of learn­ing. Par­ents, please im­press upon your child that mak­ing mis­takes is a nat­u­ral part of the learn­ing process; it does not mean they are not in­tel­li­gent or ca­pa­ble of growth. It means they are risk­tak­ers who are will­ing to learn through try­ing. He­len Hayes, an American ac­tress, once said, “The ex­pert at any­thing was once a be­gin­ner.” No one masters a topic straight away, so build into your child a growth mind­set men­tal­ity. In­stead of say­ing, “I can’t do it,” “It’s too hard,” or “I’m just not smart,” your child should be say­ing things like, “I need to try a dif­fer­ent strat­egy,” “This will be chal­leng­ing but I’ll keep try­ing,” or “I need to think about this some more.” The brain is like a mus­cle, the more you use it the stronger it grows, or, the greater the neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. Also, pro­vide them the space to make mis­takes. By as­sign­ing daily, age-ap­pro­pri­ate chores at home you not only build con­fi­dence and in­de­pen­dence, but also re­spon­si­bil­ity. Th­ese are qual­i­ties that trans­late into the class­room. Have your child make their bed, put their laun­dry away, help set the ta­ble, serve din­ner and clear the ta­ble, or put gro­ceries away. Re­mem­ber, if your child can use a smart­phone, they can push a broom!

Learn­ing does not stop once the stu­dent steps out of the class­room, and you as par­ents can be the cheer­leader from home. Through a col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ship, we can work to­gether to en­sure your child’s cur­rent and fu­ture suc­cess.en­sure your child’s cur­rent and fu­ture suc­cess.

Cather­ine Mi­howich is a Grade 3 teacher with an M.Sc Ed­u­ca­tion at the In­ter­na­tional School Saigon Pearl (ISSP).

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