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Make the Most of Education

How to Make the Most of Your Child's Education
Katie Basson, B.A., M.A.T.

Out of the many aspects of parenting, one of the most important jobs you have is to ensure that your children receive a good education. Many try to accomplish this by moving to a neighborhood with a good school, or by sending their children to private schools. Whether your children attend a top ranked school or not, you can still take steps to improve the quality of their learning and enhance their experience.

Know the teacher
Perhaps the most important step to take to ensure your children's good education, is to always make time to get to know their teachers. Teachers spend many hours with your children and will have a great influence over them. In essence, teachers are co-parenting with you. Teachers reinforce many of the values taught at home, and they can have quite an impact on a child's emerging sense of self. It is essential that you communicate openly with the teacher about your child's traits and needs, and it is also important that you discuss the educational goals you hope your child will achieve.

Preview the curriculum
Homework time can be a source of stress in families. Often, children need a lot of guidance as they work on their assignments, and it can become increasingly difficult if parents are unfamiliar with the subject. Though it isn't necessary to be an expert on each field of study, you will be better able to help your children if you at least have some basic idea of what they are learning. Ask what the focus is each semester. If you know that it is essential for your child to learn the multiplication tables in third grade, then you'll be sure to have fun math quizzes in the car, and flash cards on hand. If medieval times are the focus of your child's fourth grade curriculum, you should be prepared to talk about knights and castles.

Plan some enrichments
Once you know what curriculum your child will be studying, you can plan extra activities that enrich their learning. Plan a trip to a science museum to add value to biology class. Go to the State House if your child is learning about government. Even for young children, there is a way to add an extra dimension to what they're learning with alphabet activities, cooking, and playing games that improve math skills. You might also consider having a tutor help deepen understanding in key areas like Language Arts. There are many former teachers out there who offer their services, and so do high school students. Check the library's bulletin board for flyers.

Schedule downtime
One of the most commonly overlooked requirements for successful learning is the need for downtime. In order to process all of the important information we learn during the day, our minds need to rest. That is why experts never recommend cramming overnight for a big test. If we accumulate lots of knowledge in a hurry without any time to organize it in our minds, it is lost; or at best, confused. For young students, it is important that they have free time after school for physical activity as well as a good night's rest.

Make your plan individualized
Every child is unique and has a certain learning style. Try to accommodate your child's style by discussing strengths and weaknesses with his teacher. Perhaps a front row seat would work best, or a study carrel that would help him maintain his focus. Maybe test anxiety is a recurring issue, and you can arrange for more time on tests. If your daughter is shy, you can request that group activities include a social partner that will help ease her worries. At home, if you know that your son will have a hard time staying on task, set up a homework center in the dining room in order to avoid isolating him. Working with teachers to plan what's best for each individual child will ultimately strengthen our educational system. We'll expend less effort and see better results when we teach a child in a way that meets his or her individual needs.

A good education requires a committed triangle of parent, teacher, and student. It is vital that all participants are fully engaged in the process. Good communication is key to helping a child learn. When we know what to expect from the curriculum, plan activities to supplement it, and acknowledge the individual needs of students, we will have laid the groundwork for an excellent education.

Katie Basson is a parent, teacher, and creator of The BITs Kit Better Behavior Kit for Kids™. Katie teaches seminars on behavior modification techniques, and assists parents through challenging behavioral and educational issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of the YWCA and is an educational advisor to Zoesis, Inc., a children's software company. Katie's expert advice has been sought for articles in The Boston Globe and Parents Magazine. Sign up for her biweekly Parenting Solutions newsletter at www.bitskit.com 

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