February 1, 2012

Category: Smart Spending

Help Your Kids Get Better Grades

Dropout statistics are soaring and the student achievement gap is real.  It’s also a grim reality that America’s children are falling behind the rest of the world’s classrooms.   There are five things parents can do to guarantee their kids get better grades in school.  Constructing habits for a successful child is easy but will take some consistency. 

Personally, I was not a good student but grew up in a time where attendance, good note taking, and class participation accounted for a large portion of the grade calculation.  Back then, just showing up and staying out of trouble was nearly enough to get by.  Today, standardized tests and stringent knowledge assessments are used to evaluate our kid’s performance against their peers, locally and globally.  Unfortunately, things aren’t going quite according to plan. 

However, there are things you can do to help your child achieve higher test scores and make better grades.  Both of my children can attest to the old additive, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  As a parent, it’s your duty to be willing… and committed.   

  Zero TV Policy 

 During the school week, my kids are not allowed to watch television at all.  No TV!  Not the news, nor a thirty minute wind down period when they get home from school.  I know it might sound barbaric or cruel and unusual but it isn’t.  My aunt and uncle raised five kids, four of which are in college and the last one is an honor student in middle school. When my aunt realized her children were often late of homework assignments and neglectful toward their chores, one week of Zero TV Policy produced very upset and whiny kiddos.  A month later, each of their grades revealed signs of vast improvement.  Their communication skills were sharpener, they were better prepared for classes, and their love for reading evolved faster than anyone could have imagined. Because I believe in duplicating things that work, my kids are now honor students and following in their cousin’s footsteps.  It’s much easier to get them college bound and career ready without having to battle with the television for their attention.   

  Limit Video Game Time

I honestly believe that kids should not be allowed to play videos games unless they have earned the privilege.  We all know that games are a big time waster and a barrier to children’s ability to keep up with their class mates.  Let me explain, there is a limited amount of time.  Subtract school, dinner, showers and sleep.  That leaves about four hours a day?  If your child is doing homework, studying or building their vocabulary through reading, there’s little if any time for games.  Conversely, every evening filled with mindless video playing puts them further behind.  Each three-hour study/homework block could earn them one corresponding hour of game time, to be enjoyed during the weekend. Trust me, it works.   Write on!    Many of our children are further behind in their writing skills than students were a generation ago.  With the invention of multi-media and the access our kids have to network and cable TV, the Internet and iPhone Game Apps, it’s no wonder their imagination lends itself to the stories told by others and disproportionally the ones from within.  To ensure your child doesn’t neglect the art of writing, I suggest they complete a weekly writing assignment on any topic you agree on.  It could be based on a current book, current event or a favorite video game character, just as long as it’s well written and interesting.  The more they practice writing, the easier it gets.   

  Reading Aloud 

 It’s no secret that children who read aloud develop better grammar and pronunciation skills.  When I was in college and reading on a sub-standard level, I was prompted to read aloud for hours a day until my rhythm and comprehension substantially developed.  Within a month, my reading level increased dramatically and so did my desire to learn even more.  When my youngest son fell behind in elementary school, we asked him to read to aloud to us as a way of sharing the books he liked.  Although he didn’t realize what was going on, he did notice how quickly his comprehension and pace improved.  Now a seventh grader, he’s working on a series of comics and his second children’s book.   

  Mapping Out Success 

Just recently my wife and I grew accustomed to seeing our children’s noses buried in library books while they spent far less time on homework assignments.  When the first progress report came home, it solidified our concerns.  Although both boys swore they were on top of it, the homework component of their grades was upsetting.  Realizing they needed our help, we pulled a white board out of the attic.  Now we map out their homework assignments and test schedules at the beginning of the week so they don’t lose track or risk forfeiting some of their valuable weekend video game time.  As the saying goes, all work and no play make for dull boy and girls… or something like that.   Keep in mind that any plan you put together to improve your child’s education requires some time and effort on your part as well.  I think it’s worth the trouble and hope you do too.   

Please take a minute to share some of your proven practices for improving your children’s grades.  Your ideas could make a world of difference for the child next door or one several states away.