By Ethan Hildreth, Superintendent at Nord Anglia American International School in Abu Dhabi
As parents, we encourage our children to reach high. As a lifelong educator, I help learners reach academic, university and career goals. Personal and professional experiences show clear advantages when school and home work closely together. In addition, research repeatedly validates the immense benefit of parent involvement, as reported by prominent institutions such as University of Leicester and Harvard.
If two students otherwise have similar abilities and school quality, the one with focused parent support will enjoy a distinct advantage. While strategies abound for encouraging learning at home, the following points provide a focused path to success:
- Read. Reading is perhaps the most important key to learning. Help your child become an avid reader by finding topics of interest. Make family reading a way of life. A former student earned a perfect score on the SAT university admissions test. He said the most important advice he could give others is to read as much as possible, starting as early as possible. Read and succeed.
- Be involved. Talk with your child daily, about school and life in general. Help your child find strengths and interests, and encourage creativity. Communicate with teachers early when you have a question or concern. Volunteer at school and be an active learner and teacher.
- Teach character. How is this accomplished? By focusing on discreet habits. Aristotle says it best: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Fundamental habits that lead to success include attention, listening, organization, good conduct, sharing, and timeliness. Perhaps most important is the habit of respect to adults, peers, and self. Search “habit training for children” to find countless resources online.
- Get outside. When our children were young, magical joys included exploring a local creek for frogs and turtles, or jumping in fresh rain puddles. Taking walks in nature is one of the best ways to build a sense of wonder, peace, and gratitude.
- Enjoy fine arts. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” How true this is for all of us! By sharing art, poetry, and music with your child, you help develop their humanity in profound ways, while giving them the gift of beauty.
- Leverage technology. Limit media that wastes time. Instead, encourage your child to use Khan Academy, Global Campus, and similar resources to accelerate learning.
- Live a balanced life. Model a lifestyle emphasizing good nutrition, fitness, and adequate rest. Help your child understand the enriching value of hobbies, sports, and other interests. When you take care of yourself, it becomes easier to take care of your child.
Infusing home life with these significant practices provides a foundation of learning that inevitably guides a child to school success and lifelong learning. As parents and teachers, we promote inquiry, wonder, and joy through practices such as these. Moreover, we help our children lead a full life.