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Homework: Prepare for academic success at home

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Homework: Prepare for academic success at home

By Laura Lyles Reagan, MS

Back to school preparations go beyond school clothes purchases and new backpacks filled with pencils and spiral notebooks. Creating and supporting the habits of life-long learning is the best investment you can make in your child’s academic success. The Parent Institute, the U.S. Department of Education and the non-profit, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) have ideas for creating a learning rich, home environment. Their ideas have been combined together for this simple, home learning list to advance your child’s literacy and mathematic acuity this school year.

1. Want your children to be good readers? Let them see you read. Share their love of books and reading. Parents may say to children, “This was my favourite book when I was your age” or “I can’t wait to start my new book.”

2. Try relaxing your family’s bedtime rules once a week on the weekends. Let your children know that they can stay up as late as they want, as long as they are reading in bed.


3. Cook with your children. Have them use measuring spoons, cups and tools for a hands on lesson in volume and science vocabulary, like liquids and solids.


4. Try holding D-E-A-R times at your house. “DEAR” stands for “Drop Everything and Read.” During DEAR time, everyone in the family sits down for some uninterrupted reading time. 

5. With young children, try reading to them during bath time. Careful with the splashing.


6. Have children make a “book” about themselves, with their own illustrations and wording. “A Book About Me” is a great way to help your child see himself as “somebody”.


7. Help your child discover her roots by talking with family members. Then ask your child to write that family member a thank you letter and share all she learned that she didn’t know in the letter.


8. Let kids overhear you praising them to others, particularly about how impressed you are with how they are learning. Always praise their reading efforts.


9. Encourage children to read biographies about successful people. As children learn about the traits that made others successful, they are often motivated to adopt those same success patterns in their own lives.


10. Motivate your children in math by challenging them to figure out how much change you should get back from a purchase. If they get the amount right, they get to keep the change.


11. Encourage kids to collect things. Whether they collect rocks, shells, leaves, or bugs is not important. By collecting, children are learning new ways to make sense of their world.


12. Estimating is an important math skill. We estimate how much our groceries will cost. We estimate how much time we’ll need to complete a project at work. You can help your child learn to estimate at home. Here’s one idea: As you’re driving, estimate the distance to your destination. Then estimate how much time it will take to get there. Use the odometer or a map to check your work.


13. Talk about geography in terms children can understand: Go through your house and talk about where things came from. A calculator may have come from Taiwan. A box of cereal may have a Battle Creek, Mich., address, or White Plains, N.Y. Talk about where the wheat for your bread came from. Where was the cotton for your blue jeans grown? Tell your children where your ancestors came from. Find the places on a map, together. 14. Show your child that writing is useful. Have him help you write a letter ordering something or asking a question, etc. Then show him the results of your letter.

15. Start a family journal with the sequence of events throughout the day. Any family member can write in it and share a special experience, gratitude or random act of kindness they want to remember.

Reading Is Fundamental


Establish a regular time and place for daily read-aloud sessions, such as before bed or during bath time.

Keep on hand a variety of reading materials: picture books, chapter books, atlases, dictionaries, magazines, and newspapers. Get library cards for everyone and use them often. Encourage your child to swap books with friends. Give books as gifts.

Have plenty of paper and writing tools.

Store books and writing materials in places children can reach.

Have frequent conversations with each child, as well as with the family as a whole. Parents should encourage everyone to express their ideas, opinions and feelings.

Reinforce language and literacy skills by doing puzzles and playing games that reinforce literacy, such as Lotto, Candy Land, Old Maid, Concentration, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit.


Laura Reagan-Porras, MS is a parenting journalist, sociologist and mother of two active, brilliant daughters.