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November/ December 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 8

Helping Children Succeed in School
Provided by the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Services

Children spend about 1,000 hours per year in school. So, helping children enjoy learning and being successful in school is an important goal for parents, other family members, and schools. It takes two major institutions, the home and the school, working together to successfully educate the child. Helping Children Succeed in School is a program written by University of Illinois Extension educators that gives successful strategies for parents and care givers to help their children succeed in school.

Students, family members, and teachers are all necessary links in a positive learning experience. Even the most caring and competent teacher needs support from parents and family members who will encourage children and teach them to value education. Parents and other family members are the most important teachers of their children. By nature, children are curious and want to learn. A parent's attitudes and values about education are easily transferred to children by their actions and words. To ensure success in school, children need their parent's support for school and non-school activities.

This program offers ways to learn practical steps to help children be successful in school, gain skills to communicate effectively with their child's teacher and school personnel, help children gain skills for optimum learning, and identify resources to gather more information related to school success.

Studies indicate that children whose parents and/or family members share in their formal education tend to do better in school. Their involvement may be more difficult based on challenges that they face such as lack of time, knowledge of ways to be involved, and poor communication between school and home. An activity on how to value education assists parents in experiencing the art of good communicating. This helps them understand the other person's viewpoints, values, dreams, and interests. They learn to recognize the basic learning styles of themselves and their child in order to work effectively with them. A guide to general study habits provides how to encourage and the materials necessary for successful studying. Test taking skills, incentives for learning, homework skills, school stress, parent/teacher communication are covered to contribute to the success of the child, parent, school relationship.

Children need and want their families to be involved in their lives. Looking to the future, employers will want employees who are willing to take on responsibility, learn new skills, and effectively communicate with their co-workers. Helping our children be successful in school today can improve their success in the world of work tomorrow.

Learning Styles

Learning is reflected in the way we respond to environmental, social, emotional and physical stimuli, to understand new information. Learning style is defined as the way that information is processed. It focuses on strengths, not weaknesses. There is no right or wrong learning style Most children show a preference for one of the following basic learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic/ manipulative. It is not uncommon to combine the primary and secondary learning styles.

Parents also show a preference for one of these learning styles. It is not unusual for parents to prefer a different style of learning than their child. In order to work effectively with your child it is important to understand your own learning style. (Take inventory at this point) Visual learners learn by watching. They call up images from the past when trying to remember. They picture the way things look in their heads. Forty percent of secondary students fall into this category. Auditory learners tend to spell phonetically. They can sometimes have trouble reading, because they don't visualize well. These students learn by listening and remember facts when they are presented in the form of a poem, song or melody. Kinesthetic learners learn best through movement and manipulation. They like to find out how things work and are often successful in the practical in the arts, such as carpentry or design. These students make up 50 percent of secondary students and have difficulty learning in a traditional setting.

Activity - Spell words suitable to your child's reading level. After spelling the word(s), write the answer(s) and check your dictionary for the spelling and spell the word(s) out loud.

Knowing your child's preferred learning style can help you interest a child in new material. With this information you can also learn which style your child needs to strengthen because of the way most information is presented in school. Only 10 percent of secondary students learn best auditorily, but 80 percent of instructional delivery is auditory. You may have found that you use different learning styles in different situations. Your child does the same. If your child is having difficulty in school you might want to explore the way that information is being presented in school and approach the subject with your child at home using a different learning. It may also be advisable to discuss this with his/her teacher.

Another consideration is the environment in which people learn best. While tradition tells us to have a quiet room, well lit with a straight back chair, some children learn best in a more chaotic environment. Loud music, laying on the bed, and a dimly lit environment may be the best study situation for others. Trying different methods of learning may prevent the children from feeling frustrated and inadequate when they are not able to work up to their potential. Experimenting with different learning styles and environments may improve the child's accomplishments and feelings of achievement.

Study Habits and Homework

Many of the issues concerning success in school revolve around developing good study habits and expectations regarding homework. Parents can certainly play a major role in providing the encouragement, environment, and materials necessary for successful studying to take place.

Some general things adults can do, include:

  • Establish a routine for meals, bedtime and study/homework
  • Provide books, supplies, and a special place for studying Encourage the child to "ready" himself for studying (refocus attention and relax)
  • Offer to study with the child periodically (call out spelling words or do flash cards)

An established study routine is very important, especially for younger school age children. If a child knows, for example, that he is expected to do homework immediately after supper prior to watching television, he will be better able to adjust and ready himself than if he is allowed to do homework any time he pleases. Connected to the idea of a study routine is the concept of a homework chart. This type of visual system tends to work very well, especially with children ages 9-12.

All children need their own place at home to do homework. The space does not need to be big or fancy, but it needs to be personal so that they feel it is their "study place." Remember, learning styles differ from child to child, so the study place should allow for these differences. Parents can take a walk through the house with their child to find that special corner that is just right.

Helping Children Succeed in School was developed by Darla Binkley, Extension Educator, Youth Development; Kay Mayberry, Extension Educator, Family Life; Rachel Schwarzendruber, Extension Educator, Family Life; Nancy Schreiber, Extension Educator, Prevention; and Melinda States, Extension Educator, Youth Development

~ Excerpts reprinted with permission from University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Services, 549 Bevier hall 905 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801 Phone: 217-244-2849. For the complete articles and more information visit their website: . Presidio will be sharing more from this series in future issues.

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