Make Learning a Habit in Just 21 Days
The best way to ensure your child is learning every day is to make a habit of it. Research shows that it takes only 21 days to create a lifelong habit, so here are 21 simple activities you can do with your child at home to promote school success. Try at least one activity every day for 21 days. After 21 days, you will have created a learning habit that will last a lifetime!
- Have a family “Read-In.” Gather your family in a cozy room. Everyone brings a favorite book or magazine. After 30 minutes or so of reading, allow each family member to read aloud to the others.
- Cook dinner together. Make each family member responsible for one part of the meal. Cooking reinforces important math skills, such as fractions and measurements.
- Organize family photos. Gather some family photos and let your child organize them into albums. She’s practicing sorting and classifying as she searches for pictures with common themes.
- Write a letter to a family member. Your child can write about anything — school, sports, a book he has read. He will strengthen his writing skills and make a member of your family feel special.
- Read age-appropriate poetry together. It will improve your child’s listening, vocabulary, and sense of timing. Let your child experiment with writing her own poems.
- Discuss the five W’s and H — Who, What, Were, When, Why, and How. After watching the news together or reading a newspaper article, challenge your child to write down the five W’s and H of the story.
- Have fun with puzzles. Star with easy ones and work up to challenging ones as one your family improves. Doing puzzles teaches logic and enhances spatial skills.
- Have a geography bee. Where in the world is … Madagascar? Prague? Easter Island? Or use local geography and landmarks — is school next to a pond or the woods? Check your answers with globes and maps.
- Make lists. Tell your child what you need from the store and have her write it down. Not only will this give her practice writing, it will help her develop a sense of responsibility. Suggest she make her down “to-do” lists.
- Make a craft challenge. It will create a sense of resourcefulness in your child and build responsibility. Ask your child to reuse items around the house for a project. He can decorate grocery bags to create gift-wrap, for example, or cover a can to make a pencil holder.
- Review math facts with a deck of cards. Have your child remove all of the jokers and face cards. Now deal the cards — half to you, half to your child. Turn over two cards. Add them together (or multiply them.) The person with the highest sum takes all four cards. Go through the entire deck. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.
Reading for Success
Want to strengthen your child’s vocabulary, improve reading scores, and have fun — all in only 10 minutes a day? Then plan a regular read-aloud time. Reading aloud is a great way to introduce children to the joys of reading. It helps children “connect” to printed words and helps them become better independent readers.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
• Plan to do it every day. Reading time is much too important to miss.
• Pick a regular time — and stick to it. There is no bad time to read aloud. Some busy families even have reading time during baths or breakfast.
• Choose from a variety of materials (magazines, newspapers, books).
• Pick something that you like. If you like what you’re reading, it is going to show on your face and be heard in your voice.
• Read to yourself before you read it aloud. You’ll give a better performance if you’re familiar with the text.
WHILE YOU ARE READING
• Read with enthusiasm and playfulness. Even try using different voices.
• Use facial expressions. Widen your eyes to show surprise. Squint a bit to show you’re thinking.
• Let your child see the pages clearly and talk about the pictures that are on each page.
• Let your child see the pages clearly and talk about the pictures that are on each page.
• See the story. Try to see the story as you read it. If you’re reading “Charlotte’s Web,” imagine exactly how the words look when they’re spelled out in Charlotte’s web. Your voice can’t help but convey the magic in the spider’s web.
• Accentuate the first line. The first line of any good story will grab the reader’s attention. Your reading should make your child want to sit up and listen.
• Don’t read too fast. Stop and talk about what’s happened and guess at what might be coming.
• Ask questions, but don’t quiz your child. Give your child plenty of time to answer.
• Feel free to “edit.” Skip over any material that is boring or inappropriate for your child.
• Leave your child wanting more. Stop a day’s reading at a point when your child is eager to hear what happens next.
• End slowly. If you read the last line very slowly, you’ll give your child a great sense of satisfaction.
• Be willing to read the same books more than once. Repetition helps your child learn.
Enjoy Family Reading Time
As Mark Twain once noted, a person who does not read books has no advantage over a person who cannot read them. One of the most important things you can do at home is to ensure that reading plays a central role in your family life. So set some family reading goals. Here some ideas to get you started.
MOTIVATE YOUR CHILD TO READ
• Set bedtime a little later. All the light to stay on as long your child is reading. Odds are your child will go to sleep pretty quickly anyway.
• Make a comfortable place for your child to read. Some kids like beanbag chairs. Others like hammocks. Help create a special reading nook just for your child.
MAKE READING A FUN FAMILY AFFAIR
• Plan regular reading times. Turn off the TV and read a book to your child. Stop at an exciting part. Your child will be excited to learn more.
• Take the whole family to a bookstore to browse on a Friday night.
• Visit the library on a Saturday just before going out for ice cream. Make sure everyone has a library card.
• Hold a monthly family reading challenge. Keep a record of the books each family member reads.
• Read a book together. Then go see the
• Schedule D-E-A-R tome on your family calendar. Have everyone “Drop Everything And Read.”
STOCK THE SHELVES
• Build a family library. Keep favorite books on hand. Read them again and again.
• Look for a used book store. Your library may also have a used book
• Replace the TV in the kitchen with a bookshelf. Make it easy to reach and keep it stocked with new books, magazines, newspapers — and with old favorites.
• Keep books and kids’ magazines in most rooms.
• Keep your car stocked, too. Take books along wherever you go. Listen to audio books as your child reads along.
KEEP IT INTERACTIVE
• Plan a special night when you all take turns reading a favorite book aloud.
• Serve a favorite snack and discuss what you’ve read. Talk about plots and characters. Get everyone’s reactions.
• Read a short skit or play. Have everyone take the part of a character and read in a different voice.
• Pretend you’re detectives. Read a mystery book. Stop before the end. Take turns trying to solve the crime.
Help Your Struggling Reader
If your child is one of millions of American youngsters with reading difficulties, don’t panic. There are many things you can do to help. Have your child assessed by a pediatrician to rule out vision and hearing problems and by the school to determine the level of difficulty. Discuss with the teacher some ways you can help your struggling reader at home. Here are some ideas:
SET THE STAGE
• Get your child a library card and lots of opportunities to use it. If your child is in charge of selecting books, that might be enough incentive for wanting to practice reading!
• Give your child access to interesting books. Look at your child’s bookshelf. If it’s been a long time since you’ve updated it, take a trip to the bookstore.
• Look for books that match your child’s interests. Try a nonfiction book. Information books answer questions. They also help improve vocabulary.
• Offer comfortable guided reading. Help your child review sight words. Build confidence by rereading familiar books together.
• Let your child imitate your reading. Choose an easier book. Read a few pages aloud to your child. Then take turns reading the same pages aloud. Finally, have you child read the pages to you. Offer help if your child gets stuck.
• Remember that practice makes perfect. Read together frequently. Make sure that what you read together isn’t too challenging. (If it’s too hard, your child may give up and stop trying.)
• Stop occasionally to discuss the story. Struggling readers often have trouble with comprehension, a very important reading skill. Talk about what the characters are doing and why. Ask “what if” questions.
• Let your child listen to recorded stories while following along in the book. Many children with reading difficulties read too slowly for stories to make sense, and so they get frustrated. Can’t find audio versions of your favorite books? Consider recording your own.
• Do what you can to make your home a reading- and writing-rich environment, but don’t hesitate to ask for help.
• Work closely with the teacher to monitor your child’s progress. Discuss changes she see’s in your child’s reading performance. Celebrate small successes.
• Give positive feedback. Don’t compare your child’s reading with that of more successful readers. Don’t discuss reading difficulties in front of family members or friends. Deal with reading difficulties in private and with your child’s teacher.
Let's Do Math
Top 10 Websites: Build Math Skills Online
When it comes to building your child’s math skills, there are plenty of free, educational websites that can help. Ask your child’s math teacher for specific suggestions. But in the meantime, have your child try these:
This teacher-created website provides fun and educational math games and apps for elementary school students. Games for younger students feature large and easy-to-use navigation buttons as well as voice instructions.
This interactive site helps students improve math skills with a variety of resources, from math worksheets and flash cards to math games and a homework helper.
Your child can play free, online educational games to learn basic math concepts on this teacher-recommended site.
Students in third grade and up can view a collection of instructional pre-algebra videos.
Students can get math problems answered online for free and even review archives of questions asked by other students.
This site offers tons of fun online games to help your child practice and learn important math concepts.
This award-winning math website features thinking games to teach students place value, addition, subtraction, and more.
Your child will find games, puzzles, and worksheets on a variety of math concepts. The site even has an online dictionary that defines math terms in easy-to-understand language.
Designed with teachers in mind, this site is perfect for parents and kids wanting to watch mini lessons on everything from addition and fractions to shapes and algebra.
This site created by teachers offers math games, logic puzzles, instructional videos, math practice, and a variety of problem solving activities.