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The most important factor in your child's education is the active, ongoing involvement of you. Parents truly can make a difference. These understandable activities were developed by Drs. Stephen & Marianne Garber and Robyn Freedman Spizman of The Behavioral Institute of Atlanta, experts in child learning and development and the authors of Good Behavior (Villard Books). We hope you find this stimulating and useful for you and your child.

Talk to Your Child

Curiosity is nature's sign of a motivation to learn. To keep interest high, answer your child's questions and encourage more.

Encourage Questions

Children learn more in the first six years than they will the rest of their lives. Talk to your infant and toddler about what you're doing, where you're going and what you see. Your baby will coo, then babble, but little ones need to hear you speak in words and sentences.

Use Big Words

Don't "talk down" to your child. Keep the fifty-cent words in your vocabulary. Define new words in context and as you go along. Then, listen to your child's vocabulary grow.

Set School Bedtime

Children need plenty of sleep to do their best in school. To determine your child's bedtime, count the number of hours a night the child needs to wake up happily and spontaneously in the morning. Count back from school wake-up time to determine lights-out time.

Read at Bedtime

Design a bedtime routine that includes a winding-down activity, some reading time and a few quiet minutes with mom or dad to talk about the day's events before turning out the light. You'll build a love of reading, open the doors to communication and you will also help your child rest easier.

Plan & Organize

Mark a calendar with the due date for a special project, report or test. Help your child break the task into manageable parts and mark a completion date on the calendar for each task. Praise progress as your child counts down to completion.

Share Plans

At regular family meetings, be a role model by talking about your plans, how you will get everything accomplished and meet your deadlines for the week. Help your child plan for extracurricular activities and family commitments that interrupt study schedules.

Keep a Reading Record

You can motivate your child by making a bar graph that has the days of the week across the horizontal axis and number of pages read on the vertical axis. Have your child set a goal for the number of pages she plans to read in a favorite book each evening and mark a horizontal line across the graph at that point. Teach your child how to mark the graph each evening after reading time. Watch the pages grow and your child's face glow when you praise her progress.

Get Help With Problems

When your child has continuing problems in school, talk to your child's teacher and make plans to remedy the situation. When problems persist, request testing to determine if your child has specific learning problems that are blocking progress.

Teach Relaxation Skills

If your child panics over taking a test, teach him or her a mini-relaxation technique. First, practice taking slow, easy belly breaths. Then, while exhaling, have the child whisper the word R-E-L-A-X. Encourage your child to use this new skill whenever anxiety or tension strikes. You can do it too!

Boost Confidence for Tests

Some children need to overstudy to feel prepared. If this is your child, help design a reasonable study schedule beginning with a review several days before test day. Assist your child in making and taking a practice test to reinforce confidence.

Use 'SQ3R' as a Study Tool

Before reading a chapter in social studies, science or any content area, have your child SURVEY the chapter to see what it's all about. Next, pose QUESTIONS based on the headings in the chapter, then READ to answer the questions, RECITE the answers after reading, and REVIEW the information learned before quitting.

Use Spelling Visualization

To improve spelling skills, teach your child to study the letters, shape and sound of the word, then "take a picture" of it with his mind. Have the child close his eyes and see the word in his mind, then write the word and check the spelling against the original. Good spellers don't just rely on phonics when spelling words; they know the word is spelled correctly because it matches the picture in their minds.

Teach Positive Self-Talk

Teach your child to counteract panicky thoughts with positive statements like "If I slow down, I'll remember the answer. I can do this. I studied this information." This can help unblock fear and give access to information studied.

Use Memory Prompters

Prompt memory for lists with a word, sentence, rhyme or even a picture that helps recall the information needed. For example, F-A-C-E spells the musical notes on the bass clef. When your child needs to remember a list, help him create a silly sentence with the first letter of each word in the list.

Prompt Checking

To decrease careless performance, teach your child how to check his own work. After completing a page of items, have him place a check mark under each problem checked. For other types of work, have the child sign his name at the bottom of the page after rereading for spelling, omitted words and punctuation.

Highlight What's Right

Help your child feel proud of his work. Have him circle or check items completed he feels best about. For those children who are never satisfied and don't feel good about their accomplishments, accepting the fact that no one is perfect is important. For example, rather than repeatedly erasing each handwriting attempt in frustration, have the child underline his best attempt.

Get the Facts

At the beginning of the year, ward off repeated statements about "no homework" by getting the facts about homework and test schedules from your child's teacher. Provide a small assignment book in which your child can record each night's assignment. To eliminate "I forget," first reward your child for simply bringing home a record of the assignment. Next, reward completion of the task with a logical consequence like television or game time.

Accentuate the Positive

When you check your child's homework, point out what's right first: "Wow, you got 10 problems correct!" Then suggest the child take another look at the problems "in the last row." By helping your child to be a better detective, he will learn to take responsibility for his own work.

Talk With the Teacher

Homework should reinforce the day's learning, not frustrate the learner. If your child is spending hours on assignments that should only take a few minutes or has great difficulty with a certain subject, talk to the child's teacher. Frustration breeds dislike and turns off a child to learning.

Limit Television Time

Decide how much time you want your child to spend in front of the set each week. Have your child pre-select shows and mark them on the television guide. Record special shows for viewing at convenient times.

Take a Holiday From TV

As a family project, turn off the television set for one week each year. It will interrupt lazy viewing habits which eat up time that might be enjoyed in other ways and lead to other learning.

Watch TV With Your Kids

Use the show's content as a stepping-off point for talking with your kids about a variety of topics. Help young children distinguish between fact and fantasy and apply values to real-life situations. Discuss commercials so your child will learn to be a critical consumer. Play the "what if's" to encourage your child to do a reality check of what they view.

Read Together

Implement a family reading time. Children need to see parents reading! Remember, "Do as I say" is not as effective as "Do as I do!" Increased reading will pay off in increased vocabulary and interesting conversation.

Play Learning Games

During waiting time, carpool and other down times, be ready with a mind game to stimulate your child's thinking. "Twenty Questions," "Categories" and "I Spy" teach categorization skills and strategy. Beginning at the earliest of ages, watch your child develop an understanding of the way things work, concepts and characteristics of the objects around him.

Set Reasonable Goals

To a child, increasing a grade from a C to an A seems like an impossibility. Help your child set a reasonable goal in each subject each quarter. Define study responsibilities. Have your child keep a record of the number of minutes to study each night and praise your student for daily effort. You'll both see improvement.

Answer Their Questions

Learning doesn't stop at 3 p.m. Make questions into a learning experience. If you don't know the answer to your child's questions, go to a source: a reference book. When you are planning a trip, do a little homework first. Together find out about the history of the area. List interesting sites to see and find out why the place is significant.

Make Mathematics Real

When your child has word problems that duplicate real-life situations, get out the real tools. Measure the square footage of your living room. Calculate how long it will take to get to Grandma's if you go at the speed limit. Grounding math in real life helps your child understand the principles and the reasons for learning.

Be a Good Listener

Let your child read to you each day. Listen for more than incorrect words. Talk about related concepts, what else the characters might have done in that situation and what your child thinks might happen next. Prompt your child to recall stories he's read with similar themes and to compare them.

Begin Reading Early

Beginning with books without words or concept books, move to picture books and chapter books as you read to your child nightly over the years. Reading to your child is one of the most important learning experiences you can provide.

Explain World Events

Include the children in adult conversation by explaining world events and listening to their opinions. Be sure to explain things at a child's level of understanding. If your children learn you are interested in their comments, they will pay more attention to the news, too.

Build a Love of Books

Include a book when you are making out holiday and birthday lists. Surprise your child with a personal copy of a best-loved book to start her collection. Don't leave out comic books, magazines and newspapers. If your child finds things she likes to read, she'll read more often.

Keep Reference Books

Every home should have a student and adult dictionary, an atlas and a thesaurus so children naturally learn to search for information they need. An encyclopedia is a real bonus. Show your child how to use each source. Prompt her to search these references for answers to questions that pop up.

Visit the Library Often

Every child can and should have a library card. Make applying for one a special accomplishment. Explain the rules for checking out books and then go to the library regularly. Also, encourage your child to keep the library books in a special place so that they are easily returned on time!

Provide the 'Write' Stuff

Long before a child has the motor skills to accurately form letters, he is able to hold a crayon and make a mark. Keep a ready supply of jumbo crayons and pencils, along with a variety of writing materials. Provide support supplies for pretend situations like restaurants, offices and school. Encourage your child to dictate thank you notes, captions for pictures and stories that you transcribe.

Know Their Schoolwork

Become involved with your child's assignments with your interest and assistance, if needed. Make it a habit to ask your child what he did at school. Entice the reluctant talker by asking what was the worst thing and the best thing about his day. When children learn you are really interested, they will share.

Build Self-Concept

Build your child's self-concept by commenting on what the child does right in school and discovering those extracurricular activities that bring out the best in the child. Expose your child to music, art, dance, sports, and a variety of hobbies until you find some area the child can excel in. Make a list of what you like about the child and have the child add to the list.

Read Aloud Together

Don't stop reading to your child when he learns to read. Include poetry and the classics in your selections and have the child read to you. Many of the books you read to your child will later become best-loved favorites that will be read and reread.

Volunteer at School

Be a parent who supports your child's school in a lot of ways. From signing up to help at special functions, making phone calls or driving on a field trip, children love to see their parents at school and the school needs your help.

Talk With Teachers

Don't wait until there is a problem to talk to your child's teacher. Establish communication early in the year and keep the lines open. It's very important to let your child's school and teacher know what a good job they are doing. A little thank you goes a long way! Teachers need positive feedback, too.

Expand Speech

When little ones are learning to speak, don't give in to pointing or one-word responses. Expand your child's language and comments with responses that take their ideas one thought further. Later, encourage your child to speak in full sentences and elaborate their thoughts with details.

Practice Speaking

Public speaking takes practice, but perfection is not the goal. From the briefest hello to conversations with adults, parts in plays and book reports, prepare your child through role-playing and practice. Your child will be more comfortable speaking in very small groups and larger ones.

Apply Mathematics Daily

From making change, counting forks, dividing cookies, and measuring ingredients, to weighing on the scale, setting the thermostat and cutting wood, teach your child the value of math naturally.

Keep Schoolwork

Save a selection of your child's work each year to show progress and serve as a record of what he is learning. If there is a problem, repeated mistakes or carelessness, it will be easier to detect with a sequence of examples that can be referenced.

Keep Up Schoolwork

Don't ignore assignments when your child cannot be at school. Making arrangements to get your child's assignments has a dual purpose. It helps your child keep up with the work and it lets him know you think what happens in the classroom every day is important.

Make Homework Plans

Designate a well-lit, quiet spot for your child to do his homework and decide on a regular time. Praise your child for keeping to the plan, doing all his assignments correctly and in a timely fashion.

Teach Listening Skills

Teach your child to always focus on the speaker's face, to listen for a purpose, to ask himself questions about what the speaker means and to review what was said when the speaker finishes.

Avoid Misplacing Things

Designate a place for book bags and library books. Teach your child to hesitate and scan himself and the room before leaving home and school, prompting himself to remember forgotten items like homework, books, glasses, lunches and coats.

Follow Directions

Learning how to follow directions is a very important skill both at home and school. To help your child develop this skill, make eye contact with your child before giving any directions, give only a few directions at a time, then have your child repeat the directions aloud before initiating them.

Model Learning

Children learn from what they see a parent do. Show your child that learning never ends by enrolling in classes, watching educational shows and reading yourself.

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