Chapter Onethe power of
Carrie and Jack's daughter Katie is four years old, and they want
to help her get the best foundation for learning before she begins
kindergarten. Katie is verbal, inquisitive, and high-spirited, and
her parents have great expectations for her. They wonder how
they can help her live up to her potential-without putting on
too much pressure.
Patty decided to homeschool her children, ages seven and nine.
She finds it's sometimes challenging to motivate her kids to be
eager learners every day, but she's always on the lookout for the
best ways to help her kids learn. Most of all, she wants to find ways
to integrate learning into their everyday lifestyle at home.
Heather's son Jason, now in the third grade, often forgets to
bring his books home, procrastinates on doing homework, and is
struggling in math and social studies. His mom found school frustrating
in her growing-up years, so she wants education to be more
rewarding and positive for Jason. This kid really needs a turnaround!
Heather wonders what she can do to help Jason enjoy learning.
Maybe you identify with Carrie and Jack, Patty, or Heather.
The good news is that as a parent, you can have a huge positive
impact on your children's education. What you do and how
you're involved in your kids' learning has more influence on
their attitude and achievement than anything any other person
does. Your home environment can become one that supports the
learning process in positive and long-lasting ways.
Learning starts at home, and no matter what kind of schooling
option you choose, you are your children's first and most
important educator. And even if you delegate part of your kids'
learning to a school, you are still the director of the whole long-term,
twelve-plus-years process. More than fifty research studies
show that when parents get involved in their children's learning,
their kids are more motivated, get their needs met more effectively,
and score significantly higher on achievement tests than
kids with parents who are uninvolved.
Over and over, I've seen that when parents take an active role
in their children's learning, the results are dynamic. Studies of
successful kids reveal parents who are actively engaged in helping
their children throughout their school years, even in simple
ways. When parents are good role models and enjoy learning,
showing an interest in what their children are learning by asking
questions, students get more inspired and achieve higher
grades. When parents know their kids well, they can better help
them bypass their weaknesses and amplify their strengths so
they can function at their best in the classroom.
As a former teacher who has taught students at every grade
level from kindergarten to college, I've spoken to hundreds of parents
and teachers. I've given them ideas to support their children's
learning, turn around negative attitudes, and help their kids get
the most out of the school experience, whether they are being
educated at home or at a public or private school. I've seen parents
themselves get recharged with new ideas and strategies that
make a huge difference in their children's learning.
Most parents want to be involved in their children's school-work
and to see their kids succeed, but many don't know what
to do or where to start. That's why I wrote this book. Through
those years of teaching, I began to realize that we parents are
the ones who really need the encouragement and help. The key
to our children's lifelong learning and success in school lies in
the quality of their home lives, not only during the important
first five years of their lives but throughout their entire school
In this book, I'll share with you some simple tools to help you
develop a home environment that is rich in learning resources
and foundational for an excellent education for your children.
You'll discover how to:
* Integrate fun learning activities into daily life
* Help your children become lifelong writers and readers
* Teach your kids simple study strategies and organizational
skills that will multiply their retention and raise
* Enhance your children's learning and development with
* Communicate with school personnel, solve problems
that arise, and engage in an effective conference with a
* Encourage your kids to keep learning during the summer
With the constant changes in technology and knowledge, we
can't teach kids all the facts and formulas they will need to know in
order to succeed in life. But if we can help them learn to think critically,
read and write well, and develop a lifestyle of learning, they'll
continue to learn long after their formal education has ended.
You may be asking such questions as, How long are these
activities going to take? and How do you expect me to make time for
these educational concerns in my already overcrowded schedule? In
this book, I'll give you ideas that can be incorporated into your
lifestyle, whether you are a working or a stay-at-home parent.
There are dozens of suggestions for things you can do with your
children without becoming a taskmaster or holding a two-hour
study hall every night. You'll discover ways to be a positive role
model and teach by example, how your home life can support
your children's development, and how to be an encourager and a
homework coach to your children rather than doing the assignments
As you use these ideas, I think you'll find that the time you
spend with your children in a learning activity will be multiplied
back to you as your children grow to become more independent
students during their junior high school and high school years.
Reading aloud, discussing a newspaper article around the dinner
table, and going on a family outing are all effective ways to build
a foundation for them to become lifelong learners and successful
in whatever paths they take.
One night when all three of our kids were in school, we'd just
come back from the second night in a row of Open House. I'd
spent my day volunteering at our daughter's school and helping
one of our sons study for a test, and I was exhausted. I looked at
my husband and exclaimed, "I can't believe what a huge part of
our lives the kids' schooling is!" Yes, sometimes it's draining. But
with some preparation, your kids' schooling can be a positive
part of your life together rather than a source of stress.
Recently, I heard a mother say, "I'm not a teacher. I didn't
even like school myself, so I don't have much to teach my children."
Maybe you've felt the same way, but I want to make you
realize that you have much to teach your children.
One evening, my young daughter, Alison, and I were riding
bikes together. Alison was riding ahead of me on her new bicycle.
As we went around the curves and onto a busy residential street,
I coached her a little from behind. A car zoomed up behind me.
"Stay a little closer to the right curb," I called out to her. A little
later, "Better stop at the corner and look both ways," I cautioned.
"Good job when you signaled to turn left!"
Supervising a child's education is much like that bike ride.
The educational system is like a busy city street. Most kids need
some personal coaching and a lot of encouragement if they are to
get through it with positive results instead of calamity.
That's our job as parents. We can't ride the bike for our children,
but we can coach them until they can maneuver through the busy
street on their own and arrive safely at their destination. We can
make sure they have the right equipment for the trip. We can know
where they're going. We can help them up when they fall. We can
even help them get a tire fixed when it goes flat.
This book will equip you to guide your children so that in
spite of any problems they may face in school-whether public,
home, or private-they will be prepared to learn, get the most
out of what the school offers, and develop the skills needed to
Although many of my examples relate to moms, let's not
forget the powerful impact fathers can have on forming a foundation
for children's achievement. A dad's encouragement and
support is a vital key for a child's learning, whether it's by reading
aloud to the family, sharing projects and hobbies, showing
an interest in school activities, or even being a volunteer.
As you read this book, choose the activities that fit in with
your family's lifestyle and schedule. You can't do everything, but
picking a few ideas to apply in your home will make a difference.
While millions of dollars pumped into education often fail to
raise children's achievement, I've found that a few small reforms
made at home can show terrific results.