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Life Skills for Every Age

January 3, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Life Skills for Every Age | Try teaching your child these life skills for his or her current—and future—age.

We spend at least 12 years in school expanding our academic minds and wading through social, emotional, and physical waters, but in all that time, we never take a class on life skills. Perhaps that is because those skills are better taught through experiences than in a classroom setting, and also because those skills can be learned before school begins and after it ends. Try teaching your child the life skills below for his or her current—and future—age.

Early Childhood
Infants
Babies start learning life skills from the moment they are born. Swaddling and holding your baby establishes comfort and trust between the two of you. Speaking and reading to your baby will help him or her learn to talk and read sooner than if you didn't practice these skills.

Toddlers
There are many things that toddlers can start doing to care for themselves, but you will probably need to help them start or finish these tasks. For instance, you can teach your toddler to put a shirt or pants on. He or she might need help with the armholes or taking the shirt off, but practice makes perfect.

Another big step for toddlers is learning how to hold a cup and eventually learning how to drink from a cup without a lid and without spilling. Use this learning opportunity with caution—start with a sippy cup with a lid and use clear liquids, staying away from more expensive furniture or rugs until your child has mastered this skill.

Elementary
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Once your child starts kindergarten and elementary school, social life skills will become more important. Model positive behavior by resolving disputes with your parenting partner or your child in a calm manner. If your child witnesses you arguing with someone else, talk to him or her about it afterwards, explaining in simple terms what the argument was about, how each person felt, and how you resolved it. Ask your child what he or she does at school when there is a disagreement to apply this concept to his or her life.

4th through 6th grade
At this stage in a child's life, academics become more rigorous so it's a great time to establish and/or cement strong study habits, as they will be even more important in middle and high school and on through college, especially as your child's social life expands. Boost your child's excitement about studying by creating a special study area for him or her.

Middle School
Even though you've been teaching your child about hygiene as he or she has grown up—including brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, etc.—puberty has its own hygiene rules.

Talk to your child about the importance of regular showers and where to clean (those armpits will be getting stinky now!), whether or not to start shaving, changing grooming habits, etc. Helping your child learn how to care for an adult body will save him or her from some of the embarrassment that comes with puberty.

High School
Exercise is an important part of a child's life, which is usually done through gym class, sports, and playing with friends. But as kids get older, they become less active, especially if they are not in sports. Since high school sports are more competitive, it's harder for less athletic teens to get the exercise they need.

Make an effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day into your teen's life. It can be as easy as an after-dinner walk every evening or finding an activity that he or she enjoys, like skateboarding, snowboarding, or golf. Getting in the habit of daily exercise now will help your teen stay healthy in college and beyond.

What life skills have you taught your children? Share your ideas and stories in the comments below.

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Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education

April 14, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education | Standardized tests aren't just an annoyance to parents, students, and teachers-- they're critical for state funding. Learn why these tests matter for your child's education. | A student fills in the multiple choice circles with a pencil on a test.

It’s spring and your child’s school is gearing up for standardized state assessments. Children are stressed, teachers are tense, and everyone just wants to get through testing season. Is all this anxiety necessary? Yes! Schools and teachers have a lot to lose if standardized assessments are not taken seriously.

By law, every state in the U.S. must administer state achievement tests to measure what students know and are able to do. The operating budgets in many school districts are often determined by the results of student growth on state standardized assessments. Many public schools have adopted performance pay, which gives teachers additional money if their students score well. In short, more money in schools means your children will be more likely to receive a better education.

Now that you know why these tests are so important to your child’s overall education, what can you do to help?

  • Make sure your child is in attendance all days of testing. Many schools are penalized for poor student attendance, which will affect funding.
  • Encourage your child to do his or her best and express your confidence in him or her. Anxiety and fear of failure can affect test performance.
  • With your child, explore the test questions for the standardized assessment in your state well in advance of the test. Cramming is not a good strategy, as these tests measure knowledge gained over time, not simple facts.
  • The assessment results are often available only after school is out for summer vacation. Make an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the new school year to go over the results of the standardized assessments so you know your student’s strengths and opportunities for improvement and you are in a better position to advocate for him or her.
  • Visit the US Department of Education website for additional ways to help your child succeed.

By knowing why these standardized tests matter and how they can impact your child’s education, you can hopefully use these tips to help your child study and perform to the best of his or her ability.

Want more tips on preparing your child for academic success? Our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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Find + Adapt to Your Child’s Learning Style

March 11, 2015

By Lorena Villa Parkman

Find + Adapt to Your Child’s Learning Style | No matter how bright, creative, or hard-working your child is, he or she may need a little help in school. An easy way you can help is to understand how he or she learns. | The image shows children smiling as they use magnifying glasses to look closely at small objects.

No matter how bright, creative, or hard-working your child is, sometimes he or she will still need a little help in school. One easy way that you can help is to understand how he or she learns.

Figuring out your child’s learning style can make his or her education a better experience. Each child has a different way of learning, so when parents know their child's best way to learn, they can help him or her more effectively with homework, tests, and overall academic tasks.

Test your child
Try these online resources to help determine your child’s learning style:

Study tips for each learning style
Once you figure out your child’s preferred style, you can create a study plan to help him or her understand concepts better.

  • School Family has homework and study tips for auditory learners (those who learn best from spoken words), kinesthetic learners (those who learn best while being active), and visual learners (those who learn best from seeing information written or illustrated).
  • About has learning suggestions for each style and lists the worst types of tests for each learner.
  • Indiana University’s Bepko Learning Center lists helpful tips for each of the aforementioned learning styles.

Include your child’s counselor or teacher
Share your child’s learning style with his or her teacher. While the teacher won’t always be able to accommodate each child’s learning style, it’s helpful information that may be useful when assigning homework or tests.

Remember that information and engagement is the key to successful education. Knowing your child’s learning strengths before you begin a study or educational strategy is important for his or her progress.

Learn more about how strong parent engagement can help your child succeed in school and in life in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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5 Tips to Help Your Children With Homework

February 17, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

5 Tips to Help Your Children With Homework | Help your child with their homework with these tips, even if you don't know the material yourself. Great parent engagement tips. | This image shows a young girl sitting at the table working on homework while her mother looks on.

As a parent, part of your role is to help your children learn many skills that they will use throughout their lives. Your children will gradually transition from easy homework to more complicated projects. What if you do not understand or comprehend their homework? What if the language is foreign? What if you feel like you can’t help?

Thinking about all these questions can make anyone stressed. I want to share some ideas to alleviate your concerns and empower you with answers for your children. Try the following five strategies to aid you with homework assistance.

  1. Partnership. Be your children’s partner in school. Attend all parent-teacher conferences and open houses before school begins to create a partnership with your children’s teachers. This will allow easier communication with the teachers and access to guidance with homework. Build partnerships with parents in your children’s classes to ask them questions, too.
  2. Homework Time. Sit with your children and let them know how important school is. Turn all electronics off to give your children your undivided attention. Allow them to teach you the homework lessons they know. This will strengthen children’s confidence and allow you to learn some of the information they are learning in school.
  3. Tutoring. Inquire about free tutoring services in your children’s school. Ask about homework assistance and guides. Attend tutoring sessions with your children so you can learn new approaches to teaching your kids from the tutors.
  4. Learn. Enroll in any free or low-cost classes that can help you gain knowledge about the subjects with which you are having difficulty.
  5. Support. You are not alone. Read the tips on pages six through eight in this document and review this helpful advice, too.

Be an active learner with your children. You can gain and access new information with them while doing homework together. No parent knows all the answers and they, too, seek help to bridge the gap.

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Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success

January 27, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

Throughout January, YOU Parent has featured a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. This piece on academic development concludes the series, but look back through the January articles for those addressing the three other needs.

Many strong families place value on learning and education. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is an active mind. Modeling a lifetime approach to learning is one of the best things you can do for your children. Start the New Year off fresh by making a commitment to focus on learning and academics for the whole family. Try any of these 11 tips and see the difference it makes with your child by next year.

  1. Learn a new skill, take music lessons, or enroll in a dance class at the local community center. 
  2. Sign up for college classes and work toward that degree that you have always wanted.
  3. Make a small library appropriate for the whole family by placing a basket of books from the public library next to the couch.
  4. Make a point to read in front of your children and let them know how excited you are about the news article or story.  
  5. Read whatever your teenagers are reading and carve out time to talk about it.
  6. Short on time but have a long commute? Use the time to ask about school. Get over-the-seat baskets for the car and fill them with brainteasers and books.
  7. Download a new trivia application and play it with your children. Check out this site for free games.
  8. Read a book to your child that is also a movie. When you are finished reading the book, rent the movie and watch it together. Talk about the differences between the stories, and the role of an author and a screenwriter.
  9. Choose one school event to attend each quarter that is not a parent-teacher conference.
  10. Find out about your child’s life at school. Open his or her backpack every day and talk about the fliers, completed work, and homework in the pack.
  11. Allow your child to do homework with friends at your house. Older children will enjoy having study parties before a big exam. 
Do you have tips to help your child succeed in school? Share your resolutions for modeling positive academic behavior in the comments below.
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