It pays to learn what your child's learning

September 08, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

How much do you know about what your child is learning in school?

To be a truly involved parent, it's not enough just to know whether or not they have homework.

For several reasons, parents should have a general idea of the topics their children are learning.

If you know what they are learning, you can provide supplementary materials at home. Perhaps there's something on your bookshelf that relates. If not, you could find a book at the library that will enrich your child's learning experience.

Maybe you can be a resource for the classroom. If you have traveled to the area the class is studying, you could send in photos that could be displayed. Or, if the topic is in your area of expertise, you could offer to speak to the class about what you know.

The most enjoyable reason to be aware of what your child is learning is that it can strengthen your relationship. You can have discussions on the topic and grow closer to your child as a result. A simple statement such as, "Oh, I remember learning that in school, and I feel for you," could open up an interesting discussion with your child.


Sometimes children hesitate to share about their day because parents don't ask follow-up questions.

Here are some suggestions that might help busy families stay connected to their children's learning:

· View mistakes as discussion opportunities. Review any problems or questions that your child marks incorrectly. Do this each night as papers come home. Take a relaxed approach. Ask your child if he can explain the problem to you. If he can't, try to help him understand the concept. If you don't understand the concept, send a note to the teacher for assistance.

· Communicate early and often with the teacher. View yourself as a member of the educational team, because you are key to your child's success. By communicating with the teacher, you can help your child understand what the expectations are. Be considerate of the teacher's time. Ask for his or her preferred method of communication - notes, e-mails, etc.

· Study for tests early and often. If you spend a few minutes each evening reviewing the material that is sent home, your child's potential for retention will be much greater than if you wait until the night before a test to study. If materials are not coming home, contact the teacher and ask for some guidance on what you should be reviewing.

· Listen to the stories your child tells and be willing to focus on details.

My 7-year-old recently was talking about a writing assignment at school. She told me what she wrote and then shared that she wasn't sure how to spell the word "picture."

"Did you use the word anyway?" I asked. She nodded. The writer in me rejoiced. So many times children only use short words when they write because they are afraid of spelling something incorrectly. This limits their writing. It's much better for them to learn to include the words they want to use and ask for help with spelling them or finding them in a dictionary.

My next question was, "So, do you know how to spell 'picture' now?"

She said she wasn't sure, so I asked her to do her best. This is what she came up with: "pichcer."

I told her she was close and that I could see how she came up with the letters she used, considering the sounds in the word. Then I wrote out the word for her correctly. She looked at it, gave me a hug and skipped out of the room.

Will she remember the correct spelling the next time she has to write the word? Maybe. Maybe not. That would be nice, but it wasn't my ultimate goal in helping her.

I wanted her to know that I care about what she's learning and that I'm here to help whenever she needs me.

As parents, that's the message we should send each time we ask about our child's day.

Perhaps you have some homework tips you'd like to share with other parents. If so, send me an e-mail and I'll share your tips in a future column.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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