Saturday, November 13, 2010

Helping our children do well in school

“Helping Our Children Do Well in School”
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 13, 2010
With Dr. Queena's permission, I am sharing to you again the top ten strategies of “Helping Our Children Do Well in School” (originally published in “Mom-About-Town” last July 28, 2007 with the title “Smart Parenting”):
1.Develop good study habits
The book cites that the first 10 years of our child's life are critical not just for building relationships but for cultivating good study habits as well. Hence, investing time and effort, especially during primary school when homework becomes regular, gives a strong foundation for lifelong learning and can deter future problems.
Parents of the student achievers in the survey personally tutor their children until Graces IV or V. "Tutok sila" (They closely monitor), as Dr. Queena and Ms. Maribel aptly put it. They do not rely on professional tutors or outside-school enrichment activities.
In the upper grades, the students have already developed excellent study habits and can study independently. During this time, parents act more as guides, and are consulted mainly on complex lessons.
2. Create a conducive environment for study
Ensure that each child has his or her own desk. A desk conveys that studying is to be taken seriously. By providing a private space and personal desk, parents not only make it easier for their children to study, they also communicate that learning is highly valued.

Turn off all potential nuisances, invest in appropriate lighting and see to it that the children have a set time for daily study.
Aside from a personal space, parents are advised to provide the child with ample school supplies. Useful materials likewise include a dictionary, thesaurus and an encyclopedia set. Moreover, two-thirds of the parents in the survey indicated that the child has access to a computer at home.
3. Communicate regularly and well
Parents should make their children feel that the communication lines are open and free. The child is encouraged to share trivial everyday happenings to important concerns.

If parents practice this while the children are young, then, the latter do not have to turn to their peers for affirmation when they become teenagers. Hopefully, the negative effects of peer pressure will be avoided because of the parents' constant presence and guidance.

In the survey, the third and fourth-year parents initiated discussions on possible career choices, while most parents provided counsel on balancing academics and activities, or dealing with teachers and lessons.
4. Encourage love for reading and judicious multimedia use
Reading is the most fundamental skill of all. In pre-schools, teachers spend majority of their time letting children master reading before math, science and other subjects.

Dr. Queena tells parents to inculcate a love of reading in our children. "Start reading to (and with) them. Make reading a bedtime ritual", she says. More than 80 percent of parents in the survey disclosed that they encourage their child to read for leisure.

Equip children with educational references and resources at home. These materials may include encyclopedias, yearbooks, manuals and CD-ROMs. Check out book fairs, second-hand bookshops or wait for book sales to save on money.
The survey likewise divulged that the student achievers found TV shows (e.g., Discovery Channel and National Geographic) and the Internet as helpful tools in their learning process.
5. Ensure solid grounding in the fundamentals
By fundamentals, the book means "supportive hands-on parents, solid study habits and consultation with the students' own school teachers". It is emphasized that there are "no quick fixes in education".
Moreover, this particular section in the book shares valuable tips in helping parents teach two of the most common waterloo subjects, Math and Araling Panlipunan.
Among the useful strategies in teaching math are the following: 1. Make math concrete; 2. Practice makes perfect; 3. Understand the basics before going to more advanced concepts; 4. Make math enjoyable; and 5. Consult the teacher immediately when problems arise.

In tutoring Araling Panlipunan, a few key steps include: 1. Help your child become proficient in Filipino; 2. Expose your child to a variety of stories and reference in Filipino; 3. Take your children on trips around the country to appreciate local culture; and 4. Instill love for country through role models.
6. Emphasize effort more than ability
One parent expressed, "What worked for me best in raising achievers was to raise them with a good conscience and to instill the value of hard work. Inspire them with good examples and always ask them if they did their best".
Another parent added, "We do not encourage a "pwede na" or mediocre attitude".

Inculcate in your child the belief that he makes his own success. As they say, "success is 99% perspiration". However, assure them that as parents, you are always available to guide them when necessary.
Teach them that effort is more important than whatever innate ability he or she may possess. Encourage persistence. Avoid misconceptions and stereotypes. Explain that mistakes are a natural part of learning.
Likewise, inspire your children with real-life accounts of people who have triumphed due to perseverance and hard work.
7. Promote genuine self-worth
A good self-image is a "vital tool for effectively facing problems, issues and crises that arise in everyday life". Therefore, as parents, we should focus on the assets and strengths of our children to build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Even if they get low grades, we should support our children and help them do better next time. Do not compare children with other siblings or peers. However, when they do excel, share the good news to friends and family. It can definitely aid in building the child's and family's self-worth.
8. Discipline with love
Discipline means to "teach and instruct the child or teen to behave constructively and appropriately". With proper discipline, children grow up feeling confident, conscious of their actions and accountable for them.
However, the method of discipline depends on the age, as well as the personality of the child. Time-outs may work best for young children. In contrast, withdrawal of privileges may be more effective for teenagers.
Children need discipline when they break non-negotiable rules agreed upon by the family. Ensure though that the method of discipline is done with love and care and with the child's best interest in mind.
9. Set personal, academic and life goals
The book states that goal-setting is one of the first steps we need to do to chart our children's progress. It is integral for growth and life path.
Goals need not be just academic in nature but also personal. In the survey, music, art, drama and sports are among the activities that some parents encourage their children to do. They recognize that such interests assist in developing discipline, self-worth and self-motivation. Moreover, parents always attend their children's extracurricular activities in school to show support.

When the child is old enough, discussion about personal goals should be continuously done. If possible, career choices should also be examined in order to guide children on their future plans. In addition, some families even come up with a family mission statement to give clear direction to their goals.
10. Be there for the family
Majority in the survey said they creatively arranged their schedules to make time for the family. These dedicated parents invested time and effort to raise their families in the right way.

Half of the respondents said they made themselves available to their children even if it meant forgetting their own needs. However, the book stressed that neglecting personal needs is not recommended since love and care for others starts with love and care for the self.

The authors reveal, "Little things count. In today's harried world, with varied individual schedules, it is heartening to note that more than 85 percent of families in the study still have dinner together always or most of the time".
In addition, affection is publicly demonstrated. Most parents shared that their teenagers do not feel embarrassed hugging or giving them a peck on the cheek.
Dr. Queena and Ms. Maribel conclude, "Raising children and ensuring that they love learning is difficult. It requires patience, forbearance and a whole lot of love. But the rewards are worth it—confident children, motivated students and soon, productive members our society needs so much".

As Proverbs 22:6 fittingly imparts,
"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
"Helping Our Children Do Well in School" (Php 295) and its Companion Manual with the same title (Php 240) are published and exclusively distributed by Anvil Publishing, Inc. and sold at National Bookstore.

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