I’ve told y’all before that I have some serious self-consciousness issues as a young, single mother without parents. Like all self-consciousness issues, some days I feel like I’m on top of the world: hand me a trophy, build a monument in my likeness, name a library after me because I am darn good mother. Other days I feel more like poop. Don’t try to make me feel better about it, we all have our poopy parenting moments. It’s fine.
But this is about one of those times when I felt like a darn good mother. One of my proudest Mommy accomplishments is Jai’s educational success. I put in a LOT of time with his reading and writing and arithmetic-as the saying goes. For 3 reasons (1) I wanted to “stick it” to all the people who ever made me feel like I couldn’t be a good parent because I was young, black, and broke (2) my son is a black boy and black males consistently reside on the low end of educational statistics for too many reasons to name and (3) I come from a LONG line of teachers. I’m like 17th generation educator. For real. Sort of.
Anyway, my son, Jai has been recognizing words since before he could talk. We did the My Baby Can Read System, and well, my baby actually COULD read or at least recognize words. Even I was shocked and amazed. Let me be clear, I’m not recommending you got out and buy the My Baby Can Read Set. People have all kinds of different experiences with that stuff. In their defense, I DID follow ALL the My Baby Can Read Instructions word for word and I read a lot of other books to Jai as well. So, I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t work either. Buy the set…or don’t–however the Spirit moves you. I’m not advocating one way or the other.
What I can say is that there is one FULL PROOF method for improving reading, writing and math skills for pretty much all children, (lean in close this is G-14 Classified information):
T-I-M-E; putting in the time.
By time, I don’t mean “2015 Time” where we’ve got our phones out, the baby’s on the tablet, and the television is playing in the background. I mean “1912 Time” where we are learning by the light of day and sitting down at the table, looking real live people in the face, with a pencil and some good old fashioned paper. The kind of time where we are not just physically present, but we are mentally and emotionally present too. #SHOUTOUT to all my Millennials but there’s really no microwavable way to help your children with their education.
Nothing works like good old fashioned quality time. This doesn’t mean you have to spend A LOT of time ever single day. 30 QUALITY minutes a day goes a long way in building a strong educational foundation.
The other thing you’re going to need a lot of is patience.
Station Identification: I know I’m killing all kinds of vibes with these this old fashion words like “TIME” and “PATIENCE” but our children are literally drowning and we’ve got to get back to the basics.
Anyway. The amount of patience depends on how old the child is when you start being CONSISTENT (OUCH! Sorry. There it is again!) about asking them to sit down and focus on something that is not powered by electricity. Basically, if you start being consistent with a child that’s 3 months old, reading to them daily, having them look at the pages of books. Not iBooks, not reading on t.v. and/or computer screens. Real books. In this case, you won’t need as much patience along the way. To the same end, if you ask a 6 year old to sit down (for the first time in their lives) and focus on something that is not powered by some form of electricity then you’re going to need a lot more patience.
Does this mean all is lost if your child is 6 or older and you haven’t started doing this yet? Heck no! It just means you have to be prepared to be consistent, firm, and most importantly understanding, loving, and supportive. Education can be challenging and frustrating. If we are not careful we will totally destroy our children’s desire to learn and engage with their education. We have to handle this with patience…and a little bit of finesse.
My son has been reading (phonetically sounding out words) since he was 3, writing sentences since he was 4, and doing multiplication since 4. Am I bragging? Heck YES, I am! That’s praise worthy! Especially given all the negative information out there regarding black males and black parents. (And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t!) BUT it’s not to put you down and make you feel insecure as a parent if your child isn’t doing these things at those ages. I just want you to know that I’m not shooting in the dark here with this #BACK2SCHOOLWithOPW Series.
Forget the things your child can and can’t do for a moment. The way I see it, the point of education is to help a person reach their highest potential and equip them with the tools they need to have a fulfilled life. There are plenty of people (PLENTY) with degrees and academic accolades who don’t have an “education.” I made the decision that I was going to do some things ON PURPOSE to make sure my son could (1) reach his highest potential and (2) have the tools he needs to live a fulfilled life…to the best of my ability. Any parent of any child can do that.
Who’s child left behind? Not ours!
*Drops mic. Exits stage left.*
Just kidding. You see all those words down there.
Because I had Jai in college, he is a lot older than most of my friend’s kids. And now that they are calling me, asking for advice about how to help their children read, write, and do math I realized that a lot people (educated or not) simply don’t know what to do.
The thing is, though, I’m not a classroom teacher, soooo I’ve called in an expert! The following advice comes from Lisa Davis, a certified educator with over 20 years of experience working with children across a wide range of contexts, both in and out of the classroom. I’ve added my own commentary on the items on her list. **Her words are bolded, my commentary is not**
- Consistency. Children argue less and operate better when they can anticipate what is going to happen. Having a consistent time and place for your child’s homework will help your child develop a healthy educational routine and be more emotionally prepared for working on his or her homework.
- Pencil Box (preferably in or near their designated “homework” place)
Pencils (of course)
- Start by having a conversation with your child about their homework. What do they have to do? Talk them through each task.
- Allow them to do their own homework, even if they are struggling with it. Gently push them to think through things on their own first.
- Ask them questions instead of giving them answers.
- Once they have gone through all of their homework on their own. Help them go back through their work and fix mistakes.
- There is never such a thing as “no homework.” There is never such a thing as “no homework.” That’s not a typo. I said it twice on purpose. If the teacher REALLY didn’t send any homework home, you can give them some homework. *Keep a look out for a post on “How to make up homework for your kids?”
- Get extra books from the library. Reading really is fundamental. For real. That’s not just a promotional line for libraries. I WOULD run down the research on it but I don’t have the time or the space. Identify one of child’s interests and check out books about it. Read them and TAKE THE BOOKS BACK…and then go get some more books. The emphasis I put on that last part was for me. God as my witness, I’m a thiever of library books. I’m working on it.
- In addition to their homework, read AT LEAST 30 minutes per day. If your child can’t read, read to them. Use their finger and yours to follow along with the words. Jai doesn’t like to do ANYTHING by himself. You wouldn’t even know that he is an only child. That being said, sometimes I have him read out loud to me while I clean up or cook dinner. But I also have him read to himself and then tell me what he read. In this case I let him sit next to me.
- Think of School as “We”. My philosophy on Jai’s education is this: I don’t supplement what they do at school. The school supplements what I’m doing at home. It’s a team effort and I’m the team captain. As the captain, I make myself available to my teammates a.k.a Jai’s classroom teachers, principal, vice principal, after-school teacher, etc. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to be physically at the school, get creative in finding other ways to build positive relationships with the people on #Team[Insert Your Child’s Name Here].
- Communicate with the teacher about family circumstances. If you’re like me, you don’t like people all up in your business. However, it helps the teacher help your child if she or he knows what’s going on at home. In my case, Jai’s teacher always know that Jai lives with his mom at one address and lives with his dad at another address. They know to put both of our names on the email list because we may not communicate directly about school updates.
- Quality Time and Exposure. Take your children to museums, exhibits, festivals, and other fun and engaging places. If money is an issue for you, like it is for me, keep a close eye on Groupon and websites that highlight free and cheap family outings in your city.
- Healthy Habits. Things like getting 8 hours of sleep, eating breakfast, eating vegetables, and limiting the amount of television your child watches really do matter. I have to admit I don’t do so well with all of these things. Sometimes, the way my life is set up, I have some poopy parenting moments. I AM working on doing these things though! Right after I return these library books!
Lisa Davis also has information for parents of children with special needs and parents of gifted and talented learners. You can find out more in her ebook, School Success for Your Elementary Child.
Stay Wonderful! 🙂