So you’ve chosen the best school you can find for your child, and you’ve negotiated the admissions process, so the jobs done, yes?
The hard work has just begun, and it is parents, not teachers, who have the greatest influence on how children do at school. So what can you do to make sure your child receives the best from their education?
It seems obvious, especially if you are spending thousands of Riyal’s on their education, but SEND THEM TO SCHOOL! Don’t accept “I’m not feeling well today” as an excuse. Schools such as Compass International School Doha have full-time and fully qualified nurses who will look after your child and send them home to you if they are sick. You must establish from the start that school is important and they have to go every day. Any teacher will tell you their best and most successful students have 100% attendance. If your child is not at school we can’t help them.
Nothing tells your child that school is not important more than you allowing them to be late. It also disrupts learning for themselves and their classmates. This life skill will lead to future success in continuing education and, also, the workplace.
Ask them to teach you what they’ve learned during the day and listen when they tell you. Having to recall facts and explanations is what examinations are all about, and this is a skill children have to learn and practise. It also lets your child know that what happens at school is important and that you value it. Set an “Electronics Free Zone” with your child to ensure full engagement and they feel you want to hear what they have to say.
Don’t EVER say things like “I wasn’t very good at maths either.” It gives them an excuse to fail at maths. The reason that children in many Asian nations are years ahead of their Western contemporaries is a culture that if you are no good at maths, you have to work harder and practise it. Use the advice of the psychologist Carol Dweck: tell them “You can’t do maths YET” or, as in France, tell them maths skills are appreciated and, “It is quite cool to be good at maths.”
Praise the process not the job. Instead of saying, “Good job!” to your child, try saying, “You worked so hard on that!” We need to encourage the effort more than the result. As Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” We want to encourage our children to be ambitious, to take risks and aim high.
Get your children to cook. Reading scales, measuring and following instructions are great practice for school and something they’ll need to do themselves when they get to University anyway. Plus it is time away from screen and a good time to make conversation as a family.
Go to Parent Evenings. I was once at a school where parents used to send their child’s tutor to Parent Evenings. Nothing tells a child more about your attitude to school, study and their academic success.
Be a Learner
Read with your children and read on your own at home. Turn off the television or computer for an hour a night and let your children see you reading. They will not read if you do not. As a parent you are the greatest influence on your child, much more than a school.
Get your child to learn a musical instrument. There is nothing better for teaching them discipline and the power of practice. They will also learn great social skills when playing with a band or orchestra and it will be a skill they will treasure for life - if only I had a dollar for every parent who said to me “I wish I had learnt to play an instrument”.
Make them go to bed at a decent time. Take their phones off them and turn your Wi-Fi off. It will be good for you too! Children need a good night’s sleep if they are to work well in school the next day.
So the hard work starts after you have selected a school for your children. That is the reason we all had children in the first place and why it can be such fun as well as a real worry.
Simon Porter is Compass International School Doha’s Director of Learning and is also a parent of three children who are all presently studying at University in the UK.