Making the Grade

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// by Christie Pettus

As students have completed the first part of the present school year, many parents are looking at their children’s achievements so far and determining where they are excelling and in what areas they might need additional help. With differing learning and teaching styles, finding ways to assist their children in achieving their fullest potential educationally can be a daunting task. What many parents may not know is that by simply taking an interest and being involved in their child’s learning, they are already on the right track to a successful academic year.

“Parents who demonstrate an interest in what their children are learning will encourage students to do their best,” says Beverly Connell Head of Greenwood School. “Ask the child what he likes best about a subject and show a willingness to help him study without doing the work for him.”

With the busy schedules many families keep, sitting down at the end of the day to focus on homework or study can become a point of frustration for both parents and children. According to Connell, there are a few habits that can be implemented at home that will help mitigate some of those frustrations when both students and parents are tired at the end of a busy day.

• Location: Identify a comfortable, distraction free work area for children to complete homework assignments, practice certain concepts they might be struggling with, and study for upcoming tests.

• Routine: Establish a consistent time for completing homework and studying each day. Knowing there are designated times for work and play can help children achieve balance between school work and enjoying being a kid.

• Nutrition: Don’t underestimate the impact of a healthy meal or snack and ensure kids are getting plenty of rest.

Of course, there will be times when parents have worked hard to establish good academic practices in their home, only to discover that a child is still struggling with grasping certain subjects. In those cases, listening can be the key to determining what to do next.

“It is important to listen to your child and know your child’s learning style to help understand why he or she may be struggling,” says Tonya Elstein, director of PreK3 through second grade at Jacksonville Country Day School.

Different learning styles might work for different children, and a simple shift in the way the materials are reinforced can make a big difference. This could include incorporating flash cards and visual aids or repeating the materials while your child listens instead of asking him to read it on his own. In addition, organization and preparation can help avoid the rush to complete last minute assignments.

“Some behaviors that help keep grades up include being prepared for the day ahead so that mornings run smoothly and children arrive at school ready to learn,” says Elstein. “It is also helpful for parents to keep a calendar of their child’s academics, so they can assist children in planning ahead for upcoming tests or assignments.”

Finally, Connell and Elstein both agree that open communication between parents and teachers is critical to success. The minute a parent notices that a child is struggling, reaching out to the teacher can lead to an action plan that will get the student back on track and set him up for future success.