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Start With the Basics
The following checklists will give you some ideas about helping your child learn as he or she gets older and considers college. Tips are also offered in specific areas in which parents often have questions.
Always be part of your child's educational experience. Here are some things you can do at home to help your child be a more successful student.
Encourage Your Child to Read
Reading will help your child succeed. Start from an early age by reading to your child and listening to him or her read to you. Continue this habit through your child's early elementary school years. Make sure your child learns letters, learns how to put them together to make sounds, and then, learns how to recognize them on the page of a book. As your child begins to develop his or her reading skills, make sure your child is reading more difficult books. Ask your child questions to see if he or she understands what is being read. Introduce your child to languages other than English. Look for words in English that have come from other languages. If English is not your native language, help your child learn both your language and English.
Encourage Math and Science
Show your child how you use math and science in your everyday life. Count with your child and measure things. Answer your child's "why" questions; if you do not know the answers, look them up with your child in a book, at the library or by using the Internet. Talk about "cause and effect"—that is, when one thing happens, it makes something else happen.
—First Lady Laura Bush
Visit science museums, watch television shows about scientific findings, play games that are based on numbers, and talk to people you know who have jobs in science and math fields. These activities will help your child see how science and math work in the world.
The World of Technology
Be aware of the possibilities of the computer and talk with the school about what resources are available for your child. Technology has created a knowledge revolution, and education is changing as a result of it. The Internet can provide research information for your child's homework and school projects at the touch of a button in a classroom, at the library or even in your own home. Using computers can help teachers provide instruction for a specific child's needs. Videos on the World Wide Web can take a class on a virtual field trip to a historic site or a scientific laboratory without ever leaving town. And lessons done by a student on a computer can be tested immediately to find out if the student has learned what was being taught.
The possibilities of technology are endless, but just like any other home activity, children should be watched to make sure their use of technology is safe and that they are wary of strangers.
If Your Child Has a Disability
By law, schools must provide special help to children with disabilities. If you notice your child has problems speaking, reading, writing or using language in general, talk with your child's teacher, principal or vice principal to get help quickly. Your child's skills will be checked, and a decision will be made whether your child needs special help and related services. If your child does need special education, an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which explains your child's educational plan and the special services your child will receive, as well as how your child will participate in state and district tests, will be developed with you as a member of the IEP Team. After the program is developed, you must be given a copy of the IEP, so you can make sure that it is being followed.
Individualized Education Program (IEP): a written document that explains the special educational and related services that a child will receive to enhance his or her learning.
One Parent's Story
Mark was becoming a behavior problem in school. Progress reports were coming home that showed Mark was failing. His mother realized there was a problem and called Mark's teacher for a conference. The teacher scheduled testing for Mark. The tests showed that he had a learning disability—slight, but enough to interfere with understanding his school work. Once the disability was discovered, the teacher and Mark's mother understood why he was so frustrated doing his classwork and homework. In addition to the special services and supports at school that were included in his IEP, the teacher agreed to give Mark's mother frequent updates about his performance. Mark's mother kept in constant communication with the teacher and continued to monitor his work at home and school, even checking his bookbag everyday for notes and work.*
*This anecdote is based on an interview with a parent conducted during the preparation of the Empowering Parents School Box. The story is for illustration only. The child's name has been changed to protect his privacy.