BY DR. RAYMOND J. HUNTINGDON
Go Above and Beyond to Get Your Child Ready for the New School Year
Every July and August, newspapers and magazines around Georgia publish articles about how to get young people prepared to go back to school. Readers are typically advised to get to know their children’s teachers, create a schedule for homework, and volunteer with the PTA. This is tried-and-true advice for the ages. But with the end of “social promotion” and an unprecedented emphasis on standards for achievement, many parents and adult family members are looking for a much deeper level of involvement to ensure their children are
prepared for the challenges ahead.
If you’re one of those who wants to go “above and beyond” to ensure your child excels, the following activities will be helpful:
Look out for key benchmarks
on their academic calendar
Many parents and students focus a lot of attention on the tests that all public schools are required to give in the spring, particularly when the results are used for such high stakes decisions as grade advancement and graduation. But most schools also give important tests in the fall so they can chart student progress during the year. By going to the Department of Education Web site for Georgia, www.doe.k12.ga.us before the school year kicks in, you can learn which tests will be given to students by grade level, and when. You can find out the key subject matter that will be tested, and when you should expect to see your child’s results. Keep in mind that these tests are not given simply to see how your child “measures up.” They’re offered as a diagnostic tool for revealing academic strengths and weaknesses. Understanding these strengths and weaknesses will enable you to determine what kind of tutoring and other support your child might need to ensure that the fall, winter, and spring are all winning seasons for high test scores and overall achievement.
schedule “extra help”
for your high achievers
Most people tend to think of mentoring and tutoring as services for students who need extra help to catch up. But extra attention can also be a boom for students who want to nurture special aptitudes—and summertime is an excellent time to do this. In addition to Advanced Placement and merit courses, parents and students should become aware of opportunities to strengthen skills in subjects that will enhance students’ preparation for higher education and careers. Private tutors and learning centers such as Kumon, Huntington, SmartStart Tutoring, and Sylvan can offer personalized instruction. There are also numerous online tutoring programs that can challenge your high-achieving child.
Maximize the value of
Once school is in session, it’s important to discover how much homework teachers plan to assign, and the approximate amount of time teachers believe it should take to complete the work satisfactorily. This information helps parents develop a homework schedule, and feel confident that when they hear. “It’s all done,” students really have spent enough time on the work. Parents should also mark their calendars for times when the stakes for homework may be highest. Are there some weeks (e.g., prior to exams or near the end of grading periods) when the assignments are especially important for determining grades or other measures of achievement? And are there specific times when the teacher expects the homework load to increase?
Most teachers will also appreciate a brief recap of your child’s educational experiences to date, such as any major successes or stumbling blocks along the way. Did your child score off the charts in mathematics? Did he or she require extra tutoring to improve reading comprehension? Providing a snapshot of your child’s educational “resume” will help the teacher personalize instruction to suit your child’s special needs. Now is the time to ready those notes.
Create the right
home learning space
Studying is hard work, even more so amid the numerous distractions of television, technology and other factors that may get your child off-track. Establish now a quiet, neat, well-lit space for studying. It will help your child focus on homework, and significantly enhance his or her ability to retain material. Be sure to have materials such as paper, pencils and pens, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a calculator readily at hand. The seating area should be moderately comfortable—with a straight-backed chair that will keep your child relaxed but alert as opposed to soft upholstery, which can encourage drowsiness. It’s also a good idea to have enough space to read and write in the same area.
Strike the right balance
between learning and leisure
Keeping in mind the significant amount of study time most children need to make good grades, take a look at all of the other activities that your child wants to fit into his or her day. Have a discussion to determine which activities are most important to your child, and see if you can arrive collaboratively at a decision about which should be pursued.
Finally, make sure you spend time talking with your children about the year ahead. Remind them that while they can expect some difficult challenges, you’ll be there with plenty of support for overcoming whatever obstacles they may encounter.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center. For more information about Huntington, call 1/800/226-5327.