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Archive for the ‘Home-School Connection’ Category

Science Says *This* Surprising Trait Will Help Your Kid Succeed in School

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We all know kids who started reading (as in full books) at 18 months. Others had the gross motor skills to ditch their training wheels at four. One friend’s son plays Mozart on the piano and devours Harry Potter books. (He’s six.) And while all of these achievements are amazing—and debatably innate as opposed to parent-directed—they’re not necessarily concrete predictors of academic success. Want to know what is? Curiosity.

For a new study conducted at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, pediatricians with expertise in developmental behavior analyzed data collected from 6,200 children over the course of their lives, from nine months old through kindergarten. They conclusively found that “greater curiosity was associated with greater kindergarten reading and math academic achievement.” Regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, added the researchers, “Curiosity may be an important, yet under-recognized contributor to academic achievement. Fostering curiosity may optimize academic achievement at kindergarten.”

Interestingly, the kids’ efforts and their ability to sit still and listen in class had less to do with academic success than you might guess. (PSA to the parents of kids who run around like crazy during circle time: Now is your cue to rejoice.) Explains Science Daily: “U-M researchers factored in another important known contributor to academic achievement known as ‘effortful control,’ or the ability to stay focused in class. They found that even independent of those skills, children who were identified as curious fared well in math and reading.” Clarifies lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah: “These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control [or in-classroom focus], they can still have more optimal academic achievement, if they have high curiosity.”

So the next time your kid fires off “why?” faster than you could possibly formulate answers (Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs sweat from their tongues? Why do I have two eyes instead of one? What are s’mores? Can I have one? Can I have 10? Why?), celebrate it like the sign of genius it surely is. Then take them to a museum or library to investigate, stat. Curiosity! It won’t kill cats. And it just may land your kid on the honor roll.

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Five Ways to Encourage STEAM Learning

STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) has become a vital part of early childhood education. Team WorkSTEAM concepts help prepare children for life in the 21st century. After all, STEAM-related jobs make up one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy (Baird-Remba, Guey, & Lubin, 2013). This is expected to increase over time as children eventually join the workforce. Here are five ways you can encourage STEAM learning at home.

  1. Take a field trip. Museums, zoos, aquariums, libraries and even public parks provide many opportunities to introduce STEAM subjects. Be sure to engage your child, ask her what she would like to see and ask whether she would like to learn more about what she has seen.
  2. Watch STEAM-related TV shows and movies. While screen time should not be solely relied upon for education, there are many ways it can help enhance your child’s learning experience. Things like documentaries and educational programming may strengthen your child’s understanding of STEAM subjects.
  3. Conduct experiments. Many fun and easy science experiments can be done at home with simple household items. You can find some ideas here. You can also help your child keep a journal of the experiments she completes and record what she learns from each one.
  4. Encourage questions. Children are naturally inquisitive, often asking “why?” or “how?” Following this thread of curiosity may lead to a STEAM subject which interests your child. If you don’t know the answer to your child’s question, research the topic with him.
  5. Ask your child what she would like to be when she grows up. Many careers are tied to STEAM learning. Help your child find out more about the field she wants to pursue and what she needs to learn to get there.

References

Baird-Remba, R., Guey, L., & Lubin, G. (5 June 2013). 14 US Industries That Will Boom In The Next Decade. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/americas-fastest-growing-industries-2013-6

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

  • Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.
  • Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.
  • Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.
  • Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year.  Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.
  • Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.

Five Ways to Prevent “Summer Slide”

Summer is an awesome time of year. It’s full of family get-togethers, trips to the pool and vacations. With all that awesomeness, though, sometimes learning falls by the wayside. Research has shown that some children experience summer learning loss, also known as “summer slide” because their minds aren’t as engaged as they are during the school year. You can help to keep your child’s brain active and prevent summer slide with these five fun learning activities:

  1. Read, read, read. Read to your child or encourage him to read for twenty minutes every day. Taking a trip to the library on hot, humid or rainy days can be fun, too. Also, listening to audio books is great during car trips.
  2. Learn a new word every week. Make this a game by seeing who can use the new word the most times throughout the week. You can even make a scoreboard and stick it on the fridge. Encourage your child to look through a picture dictionary to pick out new words.
  3. Get cooking. Cooking with your child is a fun way to teach your child math and reading skills as well as how to follow instructions. Look through a cookbook with your little one, and ask him what he would like to make.
  4. Hit the road. Take a field trip to a museum, a zoo or an aquarium. Before you go, read a book with your child about the sights at your destination. When you return, you and your child can write a journal entry about your adventures.
  5. Go outside. Embrace the nice weather and go on a hike, nature walk or bike ride. Pack a magnifying glass and/or binoculars, and take breaks along the way to take a closer look at things. You and your little one can even take notes on interesting objects or animals and look up more information about them online or in an encyclopedia when you get home.

Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Work

The home-to-school connection is crucial for a successful educational and developmental experience. “When parents and schools trust and collaborate with each other, children do better academically, behaviorally and socially,” says Kyle Pruett, M.D., child psychiatrist and advisor to The Goddard School. That connection includes ongoing communication with your child’s teachers and regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences.  Use the following guidelines to get the most from the conferences and build a connection with the teachers.

Prepare for the meeting.
Write down your questions before the meeting to ensure you cover the most important information.

Share information with the teacher.
You know your child and family better than anyone else. Be willing to share what is happening at home, what your child’s interests are and what observations you have made.

Focus on your child.
Stay focused on what your child is learning and on developmental growth.  Don’t discuss other children, unless you want to mention that your child plays with another child outside of school.  Keep an open mind about any behavioral issues.  Work out solutions together, so your child has a consistent set of expectations at home and at school.

Ask about the program and what to expect.
Learn about the curriculum and what is coming up in the next few months. Find out how you can participate.  Ask the teacher about activities you can do at home to nurture and encourage learning. Share information about activities you do with your child at home.

Seek out opportunities to stay involved.
Before you leave the conference, ask the teacher how you can work together and what kind of opportunities the school has for parent involvement. Thank the teacher for her time.