Give your child a chance to make the right choice
When your child has to make a big decision, it may be tempting to take over and make it. But there are a few things you should do first: Listen as your child considers possible solutions. Restate what you hear, and ask follow-up questions to help your child think things through: "If you don't go to the game, how would your teammates feel?" Then be patient. Your child may come to the right conclusion independently, and will gain useful problem-solving skills.
Set your child up to be a responsible learner
Students who take active responsibility for their own learning get more out of it. Explain to your child that this involves being prepared to learn, as well as asking questions, participating in class, and talking about school subjects at home. It also means staying organized, and continuing to try when facing learning challenges. Say that you expect your child to be a responsible learner, and you will help.
Make the most of read-aloud time
Reading aloud with your child fosters language and reading skills, no matter how old your student is. When you read, begin by reading the book's title and the name of the author. Then, as you read the story, use plenty of expression in your voice and be sure to stop and talk with your child about the plot, the characters and the illustrations. Most importantly, read stories that you and your child enjoy.
Don't be afraid to let your child be bored
Many parents fill every minute of their child's day with activities. "At least my child is not bored," they tell themselves. But a little boredom can actually encourage kids to be creative. Your child may decide to build a fort from blankets and chairs, draw with crayons or even read a book. When children are given a little time just to sit and think, great things can happen!
A word game encourages learning on the go
Whether you and your child are going to the store or across the country, make the most of travel time by playing games that promote thinking and learning. One to try is Where Are We Going? To play, give everyone pencil and paper. Then name your destination: Maryland, library, etc. Players make as many words from the letters in that word as they can. The person with the most picks the next word.
Decoding skills are key to reading new words
Before children can learn to read, they must learn the sounds letters make. Then they can begin to decode, or figure out, written words by sounding out each of the letters. To help your child practice decoding, point to a new word. Touch each letter from left to right, saying its sound. Then blend all the sounds together to pronounce the word. Make a game of decoding words together all around the house!
Responsibility is a key part of reading
Reading is a wonderful hobby, but it involves responsibility, too. Teach your child to keep borrowed books in a special spot, like a basket or shelf, so they won't get lost or damaged. When books come home from the library, have your child write their due dates on the family calendar. To keep reading from interfering with sleeping, set an early tuck-in time so your child can read before lights-out.
Word games help your child score a strong vocabulary
Games that feature letters and words, such as Scrabble and Boggle, are great for having fun while practicing language skills. When you play with your child, don't worry too much about the rules. Using a dictionary is OK (it builds reading skills!). When you make a new word, discuss its meaning. You can also use the letter tiles from one game to play other games: How many words can you each make from the letters in your names?
Six important words are the start to better questions
Asking questions is how children learn. And the better their questions, the more they learn. To help your child ask good questions, choose any object in your home (a pair of jeans, for example). Then explore this object with your child by asking questions using these words: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. (Who invented jeans? What are they made of? Where were they first made? When can you wear them? Why do you like them? How do they feel?)
Stay up to date with a family guessing game
Is getting details from your child about the school day like pulling teeth? Try this game to get your student talking. At dinner, have each person tell three things about their day: two that really happened and one that is made up. Family members get to ask questions, then decide which story is false. Or each person can tell about three true events, and everyone can guess which event was the speaker's favorite.
Reduce resistance by acknowledging feelings
Successful students take responsibility for doing what's expected of them. Along the way, however, they often argue about it. One way to stop arguments is to acknowledge your child's feelings. If your child says, "I don't want to do my reading," you might respond with "Wouldn't it be nice if we never had to do things we don't want to?" Then get back to reality. "But we do. I have to wash the dishes, and you have to finish that chapter."
Inspire your child's inner drive to strive
Does your elementary schooler practice free throws for hours, but whine after five minutes of math problems? Tap into the internal motivation that drives your child on the court to motivate efforts with schoolwork. You can do it by praising your child's effort, progress and persistence. Instead of rescuing your student when problems crop up, ask, "What ways can you think of to figure out a solution?"
Curiosity and science go hand in hand
To encourage an interest in science, make the most of your child's natural curiosity. Take a nature walk and stop to notice and ask questions about what you see. Then see if you can find the answers together. Or try simple experiments. For example, you could fill the sink with water and give your child some items from around the house. Ask which your child thinks will float and which will sink. Then test to see!
The arts add to your child's education
Research indicates that studying music, theater and other fine arts can improve children's achievement in school. There are lots of ways to add the arts to your child's life: Sing in the car. Keep a box of art supplies handy. Visit local museums together. Check out books about art and artists at the library. Watch TV programs about the arts with your child. Look for listings of local arts events for kids, too.
Help your child see the meaning of the reading
Some kids work so hard to read individual words that they lose the meaning of the passage. To help your child with comprehension, pause from time to time as your child reads and ask, "Does that make sense?" Suggest that your student reread the passage. Your child's teacher may also have a list of sight words your child can study to help build reading fluency.