to help you help your children
the best students they can be
The students quietly read under
the light of their desk lamps and sipped steaming cups of herbal tea. Classical
music played lightly in the background, the overhead lights were off and every
student was on task. Only minutes before, most of the students had been swarming
around my desk eager for me to see their completed in-depth reports on the
nation’s states that they had worked on diligently for the prior three
As the students read, I browsed
the state reports. Suddenly the classroom’s door swung open to a weary-eyed
parent who stomped her way toward my desk. When she reached the edge of my
desk she slammed down her daughter’s late state report. “I worked
on this until 5 a.m.,” she said. “This was a ridiculous amount
of work for fifth graders.”
Later that week as I read the reports
it became evident that all the work the woman’s daughter had done had
been reworked or replaced by her well-meaning mother. Instead of a grade-school
project the report read and looked like a finely massaged travel brochure.
When confronted, the student’s mother hesitantly admitted she had done
more than her fair share of the report. “But,” she protested,
“I only wanted to help my daughter do her best.”
Most parents do.
But knowing when to roll up one’s
sleeves to help a child get the job done and when to step back and let the
child work through a challenge can be tricky. To find out how parents can
help their children be the best students they can be without cheating, Today’s
Pentecostal Evangel spoke with several
Christian educators and church leaders.
Tip #1: Share
been said that education is a journey, not a destination. As children
make the journey, educators say, parents should accompany them
by serving as guides who encourage, provide, foster and love learning.
The key to doing that well is cogent communication.
As a mother of two children, Pam
Anderson has found that talking about the school day with them each night
“I ask them to tell me about
at least one positive thing they learned or experienced at school,”
says Anderson. Doing so, she says, keeps the educational journey in a positive
light, initiates conversation and helps her husband and her gauge how their
children are doing on many fronts.
“Parents need to listen to
what their children tell them about school,” says Marilyn Vaughn, professor
of education at Bethany College, an Assemblies of God school in Santa Cruz,
Calif. “Listen, probe and find out exactly what your child is conveying.
It comes down to asking good questions and being a really good listener. Parents
need to establish this type of communication with their children early on
so it will not seem intrusive when their children are older.”
Anderson and Vaughn also recommend
that parents teach their children how to respectfully communicate with their
teachers. Doing so, they say, enables students to stand up for their rights,
express their concerns and take ownership of their education. This is especially
important for middle-school and high-school students.
“As parents we are our children’s
advocates,” says Anderson, “but part of the learning and maturing
process is teaching them to respectfully stick up for themselves.”
Tip #2: Get
who are organized tend to have greater academic success. Help
your youngster get organized by:
• Having separate folders
for each subject they are studying.
• Having a clean, uncluttered
and comfortable spot for your child to do homework.
• Helping your child set
short- and long-range goals.
• Knowing class and school
routines and reviewing them with your child.
Tip #3: Homework
and Julie Titus of Aptos, Calif., homeschool their four children.
The Titus home is small and they do not have a designated homeschool
room where the children study. Instead, the children gather around
the family’s kitchen table. Though it may not seem an ideal
place to learn, the Tituses have taken the necessary steps to
make the space conducive for learning by setting specific times
when learning and studying take place, having resources and materials
ready and nearby, eliminating distractions and by making the space
well-lit and comfortable.
“It’s not a perfect
situation, but it works for us,” says Julie. “Plus our older children
are able to help the younger children learn.”
Such elements, say educators, are
the cornerstones for studying at home whether a child is homeschooled or simply
In Blaine, Minn., students in Lori
Haldorson’s high school trigonometry class expect homework — for
most students, mastering trigonometry takes practice in class and at home.
To make the most out of their homework time Haldorson tells her students to:
• Use class time to do homework
when it is given.
• When at home take frequent
breaks as rewards.
• Find the time that they
• Come back to tough problems
so as not to become frustrated.
• Keep work neat and clean.
• Enlist homework buddies
who can be called for help with problems.
Educators also recommend
that parents show much interest in their child’s homework
and be available to assist the child in doing her homework, but
not do it for her.
hinder their children when they do the work for them,” says
Chuck Hepola, a middle-school educator for 12 years and Evangel
University graduate who lives in Tulsa, Okla. “Children
learn responsibility in school. Parents reinforce that by showing
their child how to figure something out, but not by doing the
work for them.”
Tip #4: Read
of the best ways to encourage your children to read is to read
to them. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study found that 76
percent of children who were read to at least three times a week
had already mastered the letter-sound relationship at the beginning
of words by the time they entered kindergarten. This compared
to 64 percent of children who were read to less than three times
Educators recommend parents:
• Read to their children
on a regular basis.
• Have their children read
• Keep in mind that not all
reading has to be academic — it can be for entertainment and enjoyment.
• Encourage children to read
out loud, even road signs or cereal boxes.
Tip #5: God
first, everything else second
especially teenagers, seem to be busier than ever. They divide
their time between school, part-time jobs, friends, church and
extracurricular activities such as the drama club, band and sports.
But educators warn that too much of a good thing is not always
“Students need to be realistic
about what they can and cannot do,” says Haldorson, who serves as a
youth sponsor at her church. “They need to know that they can back off
on some things and make other things a priority.”
The decision is not always easy.
“Church is priority,”
says Vaughn. “If football and basketball or anything else interferes
to the point that a student cannot participate in the aspects of church that
are foundational [such as the youth group] the student will have to make a
choice to give something up — and it shouldn’t be the church.”
Hepola, who also has coached football
and basketball for most of his teaching career, agrees.
“God is first,” he
says flatly. “I haven’t found anywhere in the Bible where it says
a person has to train to be a musician or athlete or have a college degree
to get into heaven. When a student puts Christ first, he or she will be able
to get done what he or she needs to get done.”
But what if a sport or activity
keeps a student from attending a church meeting every now and then?
“If there is
an occasional conflict families need to talk about it,”
says Vaughn. “They need to ask themselves, ‘How is
it going to impact our values and our overall pattern of putting
God first in our lives?’" David
Boyd, national Children’s Ministries Agency director for
the Assemblies of God, says church attendance and participation
are imperative. Boyd points to Transforming Your Children
Into Spiritual Champions by George Barna. In the book Barna
says a person’s moral foundation is generally in place by
the time the person reaches age 9 and his or her response to the
meaning and value of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection
is usually determined before the age of 18.
“If you don’t become
an intentional learner of biblical things as a child,” says
Boyd,“it is difficult to become one later in life.”
Tip #6: Stay
matter how much it may seem your child in middle school or high
school doesn’t want you meddling in their business at school,
educators want you involved. They recommend that parents:
• Know their
child’s courses and course expectations.
• Attend parent-teacher
• Make personal contact with
their child’s teachers.
• Volunteer at school.
• Attend school functions.
• Know college requirements
and tests that need to be taken for acceptance.
• Keep financial and academic
• Become familiar
with college grants, scholarships and loan opportunities.
Tip #7: Become
a lifelong learner
Franklin said, “Genius without education is like silver
in the mine.” Formal education is extremely important, but
many of life’s greatest lessons will take place outside
the classroom. Many homeschool students learn much of their curricular
program in the field at places such as museums, libraries and
zoos. Even if field trips to such places are not possible, experts
say don’t worry because learning can take place anywhere
— even in a family’s backyard. The key, according
to educators, is that parents model what it means to be a lifelong
“Have your child plant flowers
with you or go on a nature walk; that’s science,” says Anderson.
“Have them use a map to figure out where their friends live; that’s
math and geography.”
Anderson and others say in order
to teach someone to be a lifelong learner one must be a lifelong
learner. “My most successful students are the ones who come
from homes that are pro-learning,” says Anderson. “No
matter how many degrees you obtain you always need to be learning.”
Tip #8: Pray
children need your prayers every day whether they are homeschooled
or attend a public or private school. Pray for their spiritual,
physical and emotional well-being. Pray that God will develop
their gifts. Pray that He will help them focus on the task at
hand. Pray, pray, pray.
fall millions of students will take another step in the sometimes
arduous, yet life-transforming journey of being educated. Along
the way students will be tested intellectually, emotionally, physically,
spiritually and psychologically. It is a journey fraught with
challenges, obstacles and even failure.
But it is also a journey full of
rewards, satisfaction, and personal growth and development. Though
the journey is the child’s, it is imperative that parents
get and stay involved. Parents, educators say, are the key players
in children becoming the best students they can be.
Noonan is associate editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
He taught fifth grade in California.
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