You control what learning happens in your home. Moms have the power to teach kids to be wise, not just book smart, to have experiences and talents that will help them grow and give them opportunities to put to practice what they are learning. Our ultimate goal is to help our children become life-long learners.
My kids have been very successful in their academics. There were things that we did early on to set good habits for our kids. I remember when I was young, my dad talked about my aunt who got a teaching degree and then stayed home with her kids and was able to help them with their homework. They later became doctors and lawyers and very successful in their careers. I think that was one of the reasons I became a teacher and it has definitely been a strength for me in helping my children excel academically.
Some things we have done to further educational learning in our home is…
- Have a set homework time every day. That hour right after school is very precious to us. No TV or other electronic distractions are allowed during this time. I try to be there in case they need help or encouragement. Some people like to do it this during breakfast time, but for us, we find that right after school works best when the assignment is still fresh in their minds. Try to find a time that will work for your family and stick to it. We actually started in Kindergarten and have continued this tradition all through high school. If the teacher did not give homework, I found math practice workbooks or would read a book to or with them.
- Summer homework. My kids have different chores in the summer that require them to do school work. When they were younger, I’d get workbooks to have them do 15-20′ a day in. They also have to read every day. Last Summer, my daughters had to do AP homework during the Summer. I think next Summer I will make them practice on Khan Academy. It’s amazing how 10-20 minutes a day can help them keep their skills up during Summer time.
- Get a library card for each child. We did that at about 8-10 years old or when you feel they are ready. My husband still has his card from when he was 5. With the online library system, they put their card number into the computer once, and then they can order books and movies online. We hold on to their cards so they don’t lose them. We go about once a week. My kids love the book sales-at the library or thrift stores-and we stock up! The kids have learned to love books and reading. It also helps them seeing us reading. Personally, I prefer audio books so I can do other things while I “read”. Get your kids reading, holding, and interacting with books from a very young age.
- Going to school is a priority. I feel like this is a big one because school seems to be less important than vacations. We took our kids out of school for a week once when my son was in Kindergarten. He missed the letter U sounds that week and struggled with them for years afterward. I saw directly how missing school affected his school work. We have tried ever since to plan vacations around school breaks. Sometimes it is busier but if you are creative, you can still have a lot of fun. Curriculum is cumulative and builds as they get into the higher grades. Students are more likely to succeed if they attend school consistently.
- Eat Healthy meals. Don’t skip breakfast. Hungry kids have a hard time focusing on school. Also, there are foods you can eat to help your brain perform better. Sorry, Cheetos are not on the list! We have been eating more whole foods and I have really noticed a difference in my brain. I don’t seem to have that “brain fog” anymore. Things seem “clearer” to me.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is huge for your brain and your body. I remember watching a boy in my son’s class fall asleep during class. He was staying up late every night. He fell behind the rest of the class. I heard the quote once, “A tired brain is a dumb brain.” It is so true! If I don’t get enough sleep, I am in a daze all day and don’t get anything accomplished. Start a routine where you put the kids to bed a little bit earlier. It is hard with all of the activities going on, but when we can go to bed early, we do.
- Have a good relationship with your child’s teacher. One regret I have from growing up in a big family is that my mom didn’t have time to be a room mother or to help in my classroom. I wanted to make sure that my children had that experience. I made an effort each year of elementary school to dedicate one day a week to going and helping in their classrooms. This made such a difference in helping my kids’ with struggles they were having either with their teacher or another student in their classes. I also liked to help with field trips and class parties. My kids loved having me there and I was able to create great relationships with their teachers, many of whom are still my friends! This is more of a challenge now that they are in secondary school. I’d be interested in ways to connect now that they each have 7-8 teachers. Any tricks you use?
- Make college a priority. My dad always talked about me going to college. It was important to him, so I never even considered it an option…It was just something you did after you graduated from high school. How you talk to the kids will make all the difference! Try not to say things like, “If you go to college” instead say “when you go to college”. Your kids will believe and do whatever you constantly tell them they can do! I’ve noticed a shift in educational goals in society. Now I’m seeing kids that don’t even want to graduate from High school. Encourage your kids from a very early age to continue their education. It will bless their lives in so many ways.
- Make nature a part of your family learning. We have loved living near so many mountains and beautiful places. You can gain experiences that will teach your kids things they can not learn from books. We have had so many amazing experiences being on lakes, camping, fishing, hiking in the mountains, and visiting caves. There is so much learning that can occur there. We love to find animal tracks, find animals in the wild, look for interesting plants, rock formations, visit museums, become a Junior Ranger, visit Ranger talks, etc. These activities usually prompt additional interests and questions that we can research later. And for an added bonus…spending time together in the fresh air!
- Teach your kids to exercise regularly. Taking care of your body will also help you learn better and be alert in your studies. Spring-Fall we like to take family walks, bike rides, play catch outside, basketball, Pickleball, neighborhood soccer games, or play laser tag. We love any type of hiking. In the Winter, we like to snow-shoe, sled (climbing up the hill multiple times is fantastic exercise). Football in the snow is fun. Even Tennis on the Wii or other active games-can get you moving.
- Give your kids cultural experiences. Look for local events: plays, concerts, symphonies, etc. We try to take our kids to many of these events. You can actually find many cheap or free activities. It is great for kids to get dressed up and learn what behavior is appropriate at the symphony. It is important for them to experience different music and plays.
- Focus on your child’s interests. My daughter is currently into astronomy. So we got up at 2:00 AM a few months ago to look at a meteor shower. And we certainly didn’t miss the lunar eclipse either. We had a lengthy discussion about the rotation of the earth and moon. We especially like looking at the Milky Way when we are camping and away from the city lights. Take what is exciting to your child and learn more about it. A few years back it was owls-so we drove out to a bird refuge for “Owl Day” and were actually able to see a barn owl flying around. It was great to learn more-even dissecting those owl pellets was a learning experience!
- Use online resources. My daughter makes me laugh because she will Google just about anything…who is that actor, how do you do something, or what does that mean. She has learned to go there and find instant answers. There are so many online helps for learning. Whatever your child likes or needs to practice can be accommodated online. Try Khan Academy, YouTube, Typing programs, math drills, or learn a language. There are so many options outside of school to help your children learn.
- Teach your family about God. Learning about who you are and about God’s love for you as His child will help more than anything else you can ever learn. Take time to read scriptures together. We have a family lesson once a week with a gospel topic. Pray together and for each other. Go to church together. Teach your children why God is important to you. We’ve started using the Come, Follow Me program this year to study and learn the New Testament and have loved it! I have seen strength come in all other areas of my kids’ lives through spiritual learning.
- Look for everyday “TEACHING MOMENTS”. There are times when things just come up and you have opportunities to teach about unexpected topics. Like when my kids were little and we drove by a cemetery and talked about death and life after death. It was a great discussion. Spending time together provides opportunities for random things to come up. Try working in the yard, serving together, going for a walk, sitting at the dinner table. We get the morning Newspaper and reading that at breakfast brings up many topics of discussion.
Really there is no end to the amount of wisdom you could impart on your child. The key is to teach them to like learning and how to be successful at it. Start small. Pick one thing to focus on and go from there. Each child is different. Find out what their learning styles and interests are. I want my children to know all of the life lessons that I learned so they won’t have to struggle like I did. Hopefully they can learn from me! My goal is for my kids to be successful in life. What I teach them now will impact the rest of their life!
Things that inspired me: