5 Tips for Supporting Your Child's Learning

By Laura Carlson

You have an extraordinary opportunity to empower your child's education. Whether your child goes to a conventional school or is home-schooled, you can fortify that learning experience.

Here are a handful of tips to get you started:

1. Be aware of different approaches. Among the many teaching tactics-one may be especially suited for your own child's learning style. That style may range from tactile or kinesthetic (active doing) to auditory (listening) to visual (seeing). Some kids respond best to visual cues or active practice opportunities, while others do well within traditional lecture formats. Others need a combination-but tend to be stronger in one area.

2. Listen and observe closely. The important thing is that you recognize which teaching approach works best for your own child. Pinpointing your child's learning style means paying close attention.

3. Find the right educational materials. The next step is to locate the auditory and visual CDs, games, hands-on materials, or other items that support learning. Some resources for elementary-age children through teens include Discovery Education, GoEd, and Open Educational Resources (OER).

4. Be your child's learning guide. Just as a tour guide leads a group to areas of interest, you can help show your child an enjoyable educational experience-and hope that he or she will yearn to return for more knowledge! At times, you may need to answer questions or provide detailed explanations.

5. Coordinate with teachers. Maintain an open rapport with your child's teachers. Be sure to stay on top of what interests your child. If your child is in junior high or high school, encourage him to be in touch with his teachers, who may offer extra tutoring as needed.

How to Recognize "Normal" Learning Pace

Individual children have their own pace for learning. What is normal for one child may be too fast for another. Some kids take a while to get going during preschool, but may catch up as they mature. Others continue to struggle, and some of them may even have undetected learning disabilities that will require evaluation.

It's important to find out early if your child has any learning issues. (e.g., If there is consistent lack of ability to master particular basic skills, it may be a cause for concern.) Early intervention gives him or her the best chance of reaching his or her potential later. Teaching approaches can be adjusted to accommodate your child. Ask at your local school district office about testing for learning disabilities.

Spotting Strengths and Struggles

What can parents do if their child is "gifted" or "highly intelligent," and needs constant stimulation to stay engaged in the learning process? If your child is super-smart, even if it is only in certain subjects and not others, support this intellectual gift by exposing him or her to more advanced learning opportunities that nurture his or her thirst for more. Be sure to enroll your child in the "gifted" program at school, or certain advanced placement classes, so that he or she can be assigned more challenging projects.

What if your child is just a regular kid? Even if your child appears to be average, you don't know if he or she will become the next great success story. The key is to keep that child motivated and encouraged to keep trying. Be certain to back up your child with extra support if he falters and cheer him on when he makes progress. Keep in mind that Thomas Edison had thousands of experiments that failed for every one that succeeded!

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