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Education Begins at Home

George Tucker, PhD
Child Psychologist 


The CA Teachers Association and PTA recently distributed a Public Service Announcement (PSA) titled “Your Child’s Education Begins at Home.”

Although it is to be assumed that those who are reading this article already know that education begins at home, the PSA contained some wisdom that bears repeating.

First, ask your children what they studied in class that day.  (If you are homeschooling your children, omit this step, as they may think you are developing memory problems!) When I ask my 9-year-old what he learned in school, he often says, “Nothing.”  I then have to ask more direct questions, such as, “What did you study in Math today?  Science?  English?  Give me an example of something you learned in one of your classes that you can use in life.”  This generally gets the conversation going. My son often reacts unfavorably to these discussions at first, but we generally are laughing about something by the end of the discussion.  It is always worth pursuing.

Next, pick a certain time of day that is dedicated to talking about school and doing homework.  It helps kids to have a routine.  Even though it may be difficult to follow the routine and still support athletic or other extracurricular activities, attempt to keep the school and homework time as consistent as possible.  Also, check the homework after your child finishes to ensure that your child is, indeed, finished!.  Also, it is usually better to have your child finish their work, i.e., homework, before their play, i.e., video games or watching television.  On psychology, there is a name for this tactic.  It is called the Premack Principle.  Succinctly stated, the Premack Principle says that the high probability behavior (what your child enjoys doing) should be contingent on performing the lower probability behavior (usually, homework) beforehand.  This way, homework or studying is rewarded with access to what your child likes to do.  So, whenever possible, ensure that studying or homework is completed before your child is allowed to watch television, play video games, or play with their friends.

Third, it is a good idea to learn together.  In last month’s article we talked about the value of reading to your child.  It is also a good idea to learn with them.  That is, while they are completing their homework, it would be good to engage in an academic activity yourself.  Take a few minutes to read a book or write in your journal in order for them to see that learning is a life-long activity.

Fourth, use real life examples to relate to material that your child is learning in school.  This helps your child transfer what they learn in school to the “real world” outside, and it shows them that there is a greater purpose than memorizing and forgetting new information after the test is completed.  Use examples from math when you go to the grocery store, science when completing chores around the house, and and work history into your discussions whenever possible.

Fifth, meet your child’s teachers and check in with them frequently.  Most schools now have internet webpages and other means of contacting the teacher electronically that do not imfringe upon class time.

Sixth, praise your child for reading and other learning endeavors whenever possible.  Remember that you have less influence over what your child does as they mature, and keep this praise in focus often when they are young.

It was not mentioned in the article, but it would also be a good idea to work with your child on some of the websites that were mentioned in last month’s article.  I am often told that ClicknRead and are especially good sites.

Ensuring that education begins at home increases the likelihood that it will generalize to the school setting and beyond.  Good luck in al your endeavors to make your child a life-long learner.