Tutors can cost $20 or more per hour, but often with younger students it's the mindset of learning that can add to their educational success. At home, try to piggy-back on what information is delivered in school. It's important to create the idea that learning is continuous, and a little more practice at home can make a world of difference in understanding.
Try some at home tutor-free activities.
Schools are strapped when it comes to budgets, and some great local places would make great field trips. Create your own field trip by trying to connect weekend activities to those subjects studied at school. If your child is studying space, visit the local planetarium. If the subject is economics, discuss that during a weekly grocery trip: budgets, suppliers, inventories, supply and demand, or wholesale versus retail. Schools teach topics that children encounter in life; help them make these encounters on a regular basis and the lessons will become a bit more meaningful.
No one said the directions on a board game are the law. Alter the rules to reinforce concepts taught in school. I remember having to add the two dice rather than count out my spaces on Monopoly. Create rules that make the players spell the words on the cards or try to incorporate math facts into the game.
Even the most traditional games can be altered to include learning. When my son and I play catch in the backyard we have a game that each person must answer a question before the ball is thrown. We keep the questions simple, a reinforcement of what we did that week. If we went for a trip to the zoo, we'll test our knowledge of "zoo facts." Sometimes we review the plot and characters of the book we've read. It would work be a great study tool for upcoming tests, especially because the child also gets to ask the parent a question with each turn.
Don't prolong the negative stigma of educational TV. The Discovery Channel has found a way to make learning cool, and kids see that. Watch shows such as Mythbusters and use it to reinforce school work. As the show progresses through experiments, ask your child to write down the hypothesis for each experiment as well as the steps taken to complete the experiment. Your child's science teacher will appreciate it!
Even some regular programming can be educational. After watching Michael Phelps win his slew of gold medals, my future swim-teamer and I had a nice conversation about character. Michael thanked his teammates and showed great sportsmanship throughout the Olympics, and we used that as a teaching tool at our house.
Be creative with teaching TV and be limiting as well. Some shows are just time fillers, and others teach poor character qualities and behaviors. Be sure to tell your child why you've made the decision to ban certain shows and discuss this with him/her to alleviate tensions.
Every event in a child's life is a learning experience. Talk to your child to reinforce the learning. If you see a movie together, talk afterwards about his/her favorite part. What did he like the least? What would she have changed? Did that remind her of anything she read or of another movie she's seen?
Teach a child to think about his/her world, and he/she will bring that to the classroom.
All wonderful points! May I add that everyday activities are wonderful opportunities to teach/learn, as well?
Cooking together reinforces reading, following directions, math, chemistry, science, language. Sorting clothing for the laundry teaches colors and matching, chemistry, science and textile science, and so on. Even the smallest children can learn sequencing and counting by helping set the table. (A "schematic" drawing by you or an older child can help the little ones learn proper placement of plates, utensils, etc. Tape it up inside an easily accessible cupboard door for ready reference.) Putting groceries away, cleaning, etc., etc. Learning can happen throughout daily routines.
But I believe the most important thing in learning is that the parents/caregivers set the right example! Let your children see you seeking knowlege, and explain why. Look up words you're not familiar with, use good language and grammar, say "yes" instead of "yeah" or "uh-huh", READ, use the library, watch intelligent programming when they're around, be courteous to others, watch your language in traffic, and call other drivers "rude" or "inconsiderate" instead of "stupid", "idiots", or worse. Do a little research when you're interested in something. If your child asks you something you're not sure of, don't bluff, say "you know, I don't have that answer, but let's find out!" and look it up together if possible.
When you say "no", it is OK to explain why you've said it. It helps children understand that we have reasons behind what we say and do. There are plenty of times when it is simply "no", with no explaination--and that's OK, too.
Never call a child stupid or bad. You may label a particular behavior, but make sure the child understands that you think what they did was not very smart, but that they are. Likewise, don't call yourself or other people dumb.
Keep in mind that your baby is born with all the potential "IQ" points. Just because a baby lacks experience, don't assume they're not bright. Learning begins early--well before school age. It is important to take advantage of every opportunity you have with your baby or small child to enrich their life. TV is not the answer. It is OK to use as a "babysitter" while you get something done, but not for hours each day. Just because it is children's programming doesn't mean it is quality. Watch it and see. And repitition of their favorite video is fine, too.
Lastly, one of the most valuable things we can give our children (even from an early age) is free time. They need to learn to entertain themselves and generate thought and imagination. Children who are constantly "programmed" and "plugged in" are missing out on something that tends to be seen as a negative, but is vitally important: boredom. Boredom gives rise to imaginative play, creative thought, and the ability to be an individual not dependent on others for satisfaction, decision-making, and entertainment. I really worry about children/teens who cannot be a moment without their ipod, cell phone, videogames, etc. I see teens who cannot decide what to eat/wear/buy/who to talk to/what to think without consulting friends. It is a "new world", and we can't go back to raising totally unplugged children, but there is a time and a place!
Lastly, when you converse with your children, really listen. You might be amazed what you learn; and you will be teaching them that you value their intelligence and opinions.
Look for old girl/boy scout manuals at library or yard sales. They have great ideas on a wide variety of topics. Even if your child is not a scout they can use the book to suggest subjects they might like to learn more about. One of my favorite memories as a child was getting an old girls scout book in a box of second hand book and then challenging myself to see how many "badges" I could earn.
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