(originally posted on September 19, 2010)
By Maria Chesley Fisk, Ph.D.
Help your children take healthy, productive steps toward their 21st century adult lives this school year. Here are five things you can do to help your children learn and succeed in their new classes and beyond:
1. Help your kids connect what they are learning in school to the real world.
You can modify the suggestions below to match your child’s age and skill level:
• Math. When at the checkout counter, let your child figure out how much cash to pay and how much change should be returned. Ask her to take into account the driving time needed and tell you what time you need to leave for school or an activity.
• English/Language arts. Look with your child or point it out when you see spelling and vocabulary words in magazines or on the web. Invite him to relax, snuggle, and read with you. See suggestions for studying spelling words at www.thinkparenting.com/parenting-resources.html.
• Foreign Language. Spend time eating and shopping in a community where the new language is spoken. Help your child follow blogs and websites that interest her and are written in the language. Rent movies or TV shows in the language, familiar stories may be most comfortable for new learners.
• Science and Social Studies. See if there are museum exhibits or other places nearby you can visit to make this year’s content come alive. Look on the internet together for websites that connect to the science or social studies content and interest your child. Consider printing pages that he would like to reread.
2. Have high expectations and provide needed resources, but don’t take over. If your children are intrinsically motivated to learn, they are more likely to apply themselves and take advantage of the resources around them. If they are motivated primarily to please you or to earn rewards for grades, they are less likely to really delve into the content and less likely to remember it for long.
3. Remember that much our future adults need to know and be able to do is taught at home. At home, kids learn and practice crucial, practical life skills. These skills include interpersonal, emotional, and communication skills; the inclination to think deeply and creatively; and the ability to work with a team. Abilities in these areas will surely be more valuable in the 21st century than specific knowledge learned at school.
4. Instill in your children this belief: The harder you work, the smarter you get. It’s true at school and true for all your children are learning at home, including social and emotional, practical, creative, and analytical skills. We are constantly changing our brains. We strengthen neural connections around what we learn and practice, and we lose neural connections we do not use.
5. Teach your children to lead a cognitively healthy lifestyle. People of all ages need adequate exercise and sleep, a healthy diet, stimulating social connections, and new and challenging activities that use our brains. A healthy, balanced lifestyle will help your children perform better at school, feel better, and establish habits that can last a lifetime.
Best wishes for year that stimulates, inspires, and prepares your children for their 21st century lives!
Dr. Maria Chesley Fisk is an educational consultant, speaker, and author of Teach Your Kids to Think: Simple Tools You Can Use Every Day. She has served as an elementary teacher, teacher trainer, and consultant to school leaders and is the mother of two boisterous boys. For more information on developing your child’s analytical, creative, social & emotional, and practical intelligence, visit Dr. Fisk’s website www.ThinkParenting.com.