Here are a few suggested routines. Pick and choose the ones that suit your family and living style.
- Establish a regular reading time. Whether your child is six or in sixth grade, the way that you can support her reading development by reading aloud to her. Choose books that are slightly above your child's independent reading level. You will help build her vocabulary and understanding of new concepts. You'll also model the love of books for lively stories and fascinating information. You'll have fun.
- Post a bulletin board. Divide it into three or more sections. Place a family calendar in one section. Keep a second section open for all of those notices and menus from school. In the third section, encourage your family to exchange notes, post poems, quotes or comic strips on a weekly basis. You can even place a word of the day in that section and challenge everyone to learn its meaning before dinner. (See if your kids have learned the word by having them use it in a sentence.) The family bulletin board encourages children to use reading and writing skills. Your children will make important observations about print and feel more at home using written language.
- Participate in a daily math challenge. Don't limit your problems to computation exercises or traditional word problems. Instead, have family members estimate how many times they go up and down the stairs in a day. Or how many times they open the refrigerator. Post tally sheets to record and test predictions. Or have your family come up with the best way to compare the volume of two different shaped food cartons. Thinking of the challenges are almost as fun as finding out the answers. Encourage your kids to think up challenges, too.
- Make breakfast dates. Enjoy your morning meal with one child at a time, at your own table. Educators have long known the power of talk in all learning and encourage parents to find more opportunities to converse with their children. If the family dinner is awash due to sports, clubs and evening meetings set a specific time to sit and talk with your child over cereal. Giving your child your first slot of the day will let her know that she does indeed come first.
- Begin dialogue journals. Buy a small notebook for each of your children. Encourage them to write you notes about anything and everything on their mind: what's happening in school, how they feel about subjects they're learning, questions that have gone unanswered. Make sure you write back to them on a regular basis. You can answer questions and share learning or social strategies that you know. Be open and nonjudgmental in your answers and resist talking about these subjects aloud if you can help it. If you keep the topics to the dialogue journal, your children will be apt to share more, more often.
Reading, writing, exploring and talking together can go a long way is showing your children how much you value education -- and their ideas. So as your head turns to a new school year, sharpen your pencils, tuck in that new shirt, and set out to introduce a new learning routine. Call it your new school year's resolution.