It's new year's time, and we're busy making resolutions for all kinds of well-intentioned improvements. We want to lose weight, stop smoking, save money, find love, and all kinds of self-improvements. What's more important, though, than our kids' learning? If you and your kids want to re-focus on school success, here are some gentle suggestions for kick-starting learning throughout 2012 and beyond.
1. Commit to learning. With your children, come up with one or two major goals that you want to accomplish for the remainder of this school year. Raising that algebra grade? Getting homework done on time and turning it in the next day? Using a planner regularly and efficiently? Studying for those weekly spelling tests? Improving time management skills? Agree on some age-appropriate rewards and consequences. Commit to a family-centered goal that education is important to all of you, and you'll all work together to support, encourage, and help each other.
2. Set up helpful routines. Give your kids the consistency of fairly regular routines. Bedtime, wake-up, study, homework, play, family time -- kids rely on these routines, and the structure helps them to feel safe, to know what's expected of them, and to be successful.
3. Help them organize. Organized kids do better in school than haphazard kids. Help them to set up their planners (written or electronic, doesn't matter), to keep their notebooks and backpacks neat and orderly, to break up large assignments into smaller ones so they don't seem overwhelming, to maintain a work space at home that's actually workable and not a disaster area, and to stick to the goals you've set together.
4. Maintain healthy habits. Healthy kids are better learners. Help your children by monitoring their screen-time (TV, video games, cell phones, etc.), making sure they're getting enough sleep, insisting on their good eating habits, making sure they're involved in regular and aerobic exercise, and sticking to those goals and routines you've established.
5. Be a good role model. Kids learn from us. If they see that you're organized, focused on what's important to you and your family, staying healthy, and being true to your values, they'll pick up some pretty important life lessons. Stay positive and diligent -- they'll test your patience often. Remember they need your guidance more than they'll ever tell you, so be strong. When you or your family slips a little, pick yourself up and start over with renewed determination. That's an important lesson in itself.
6. Don’t give up. Academic resolutions are every bit as important – maybe more so – than social or personal ones. Let your kids know that you’re serious about these goals, that their school success is as critical to you as it is to them. Show them that you’ll be there for them when times get tough, that you’ll be their cheerleader, and that you’ll also be their Nagger In Chief when necessary, too.
7. Stay positive. Who needs a negative cheerleader? Keep a sense of humor because you’ll need it. Humor, common sense, and laughter go much, much further than rigidity, cynicism, and sarcasm. Learn from mistakes, admit when something’s not working, insist on giving 100% most of the time, and find every opportunity to laugh. If you can’t find something to laugh about with kids, re-examine your life. You’re missing a lot.
8. Get help early if you need it. When your kids show that they’re having trouble despite your best efforts, get help early. Get a tutor. (www.facebook.com/geniussoutienscolaire). Just get help now, before the little problem grows into a big one.
9. Trust your instincts. You already have a good feeling for what’s helpful and what’s not. Neatness counts. Study routines are necessary. Punctuality is necessary. Creativity helps with problem solving. Hard work produces results. Haste makes waste. Alibis satisfy only the person who makes them. Your parents told you the same things. They were right. Now, you’re the parent. Insist on excellence.