How Parents Can give kids an academic edge

Kids don’t need to be academically gifted to get good grades. Researchers agree academic success impacts children for the rest of their lives, which is why few things are as important to parents as education. You can make a real difference and give your child an academic edge by instilling good habits that have been correlated with academic success at an early age. According to Michele Borba Ed.D., educational psychologist and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers To Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Josey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2009), there are surprisingly simple strategies that every parent should have in their toolbox which impact academic performance and are often overlooked by parents. According to Borba, if you want to boost your child’s academic performance and see lasting results it takes consistency, dedication and patience.

The following are some of her best tips.

1 Make sure your kids are getting enough zzz’s. A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s ability to learn and perform at school.

2 Applaud efforts the right way. How we praise our children’s schoolwork can enhance or impede achievement. For example, instead of encouraging your child to bring home straight A’s, put the emphasis on putting in hard work. This encourages her to persist and sustain her motivation.

3 Pay attention to their peers. Pals play an enormous part of our child’s self esteem, and research also reveals that who our children befriend can affect their study habits and their overall academic success.

4 Make family meals a must. A recent study showed that kids whose families eat regular, relaxed meals together are not only less likely to abuse substances and develop eating disorders, but are also more likely to achieve higher grades.

5 Squelch the stress at home. Research shows that the conflicts kids face at home spill over into their school life and impedes their learning. Find ways to de-stress with your kids. Take long walks, read together, do yoga or have a family movie night.

6 Tailor expectations to your child’s abilities. Every child is different and while it’s fine to encourage her to try hard and do her best, it’s also important to remember that what is best is different for every child.

If you’re like most parents you want your kids to do well academically but still have time for fun. According to Dawn Mark, veteran educator in Warwick, N.Y., the keys to maximizing learning potential is to show interest in your child’s education and teach your kids to study smarter not harder. The research is clear, when parents are involved in school kids do better, earning higher grades and improved test scores.

Every child wants to succeed but not every child knows what they need to do to be successful. When kids know how to study they feel confident, capable and grades improve. Often, the difference between a straight A student and an average one is the use of learning strategies which work best. By helping your kids to hone their study skills and with practice, their academic performance can be enhanced. Plus they will stress less and still find time to have a social life. Here are some tips to get your child on the right track, which will give them an academic edge:

7 What’s your child’s style? Tuning in to how your child processes information can be crucial to their academic success. With your child figure out the ways she learns best. By unlocking the way your child learns they will be more motivated and do better even in subjects they have struggled with. If your child is a visual learner they will feel less frustrated when you can incorporate a visual component into her studies. Use highlighters, different color pens, flash cards. If your child is an auditory learner she will feel less frustrated

if you can incorporate listening and discussing ideas during study. Try to have your child record lessons so that they can listen later. If your child is a kinesthetic learner you’ll do best with hands-on learning where the child is totally engaged.

8 Help your child get organized. This learned skill promotes your child’s achievement while freeing up time for them to hang out with their friends. Organization can be the difference between success and mediocre results. Whether it’s keeping track of research materials for a special project or remembering to bring home their algebra textbook for the night’s homework, children need to be organized to succeed. In fact, educators know, that for many students, academic challenges are related more to a lack of organization than IQ. Help your school-age child get organized by finding out how they keep track of her homework and organize their notebooks. Work together to develop a good system that they are motivated to use. Shop with your child for the cool tools that will help them stay organized like folders, agenda, binders, assignment books, memo books and notebooks.

9 It’s about time. There’s no time like the present for children to learn how to use time wisely and strike a balance between schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a busy social life. Learning to organize time into productive blocks takes practice and experience. Help your child learn to prioritize by deciding what needs to be done when. If your child is having a social studies final in two weeks encourage him to start studying two weeks prior. Check in with your child frequently to see how his to-do list is evolving and how he is prioritizing new tasks. Help your child break down big projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. Being able to stay focused and seeing work through until completion is an important life skill. Even if they don’t have homework, designate a regular study hour where they review their notes or read the next chapter of text and expect your child to stick to his schedule. A 20-50 minute chunk of highly focused studying is more productive than two hours of ineffective work.

10  Study smarts. Help your children study actively by encouraging them to read with a purpose, ask questions as they read, take and review notes, outline and discuss key concepts so they absorb the material. Encourage them to review their notes daily while the class is still fresh. Encourage them to add missing pieces of information and compare notes with a study buddy. Help your child make what they learn relevant, it is much easier to digest and recall information in the context of a story or personal example. To increase motivation help them discover that what they are learning matters and connect what they are learning to everyday life. For example, if they are studying fractions get them to help you bake and let them use the measuring cups and spoons.

11 Go for it. Help your child set educational goals that are challenging yet realistic for their age, maturity and ability. In your home, make education a

priority, discuss the value of education often and set clear expectations about schoolwork so your child internalizes high standards for their work, striving for excellence not perfection.

12 Provide enrichment. Always have books and magazines on hand, enroll them in educational programs and take advantage of educational events in your community. Regularly go to the library, exhibits, museums, zoos, planetariums and other places of interest to boost learning, bring lessons to life and make them more meaningful. F

Dawn Marie Barhyte is a former educator who has taught at all levels. She continues to touch the lives of families through her writing. She resides in Warwick, N.Y.