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How to Help Kids with Their School Work?

If you are able to motivate your child to study, then you are already half-way there!  Nothing can help an unmotivated child succeed in school.  For those who are motivated, there may be some things that parents can do to help them do even better:

1.  Stay engaged – Let them know you are with them.  Go to those school functions.  Get to know the teachers and other parents.  When they see that you care about their school stuff, they’ll care more also.

When you see valuable resources that can benefit your child’s education, tell the teacher about it.  For instance, there are now efforts to develop complete online curricula for students of all ages, such as the K16 Bridge program by the Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley, California.  Talk to your district board to see if they want to be part of that program.

Another valuable resource is Khan Academy.  There are thousands of videos and hundreds of exercises for students to watch and practice on.  Many kids today would rather sit in front of their own computers and learn on their own pace.  This may be a way to reach the digital generation.

2.  Influence their choice of friends – If your kids associate with kids who want to study and go to college, their chances of going to college greatly increases.  At this stage of their lives, peer influence can often be greater than parental influence.  Therefore, making sure that they associate with the right people is crucial.

Teenagers may sound like that they care more about their friends than their parents, but in reality most of them still value their parents’ opinions a lot.  It’s just not “cool” to be seen as listening to your parents.  And so parents need to be subtle in expressing their opinions about their kids’ friends.  The key is to influence, not dictate.  Forceful intervention may work initially, but sometimes you end up winning the battle but losing the war.

3.  Equip them properly – Some basics are absolutely necessary, such as a computer, printer, and Internet access at home.  For school, they do not need expensive, top-of-the-line equipment.  Any basic computer out in the market today are sufficient for their needs (unless they are photographers for school newspapers...).  In fact, great computers may actually do more harm than good because they run games more smoothly and thus encourage your kids to play games instead of doing work.  For more tips, please see the page for new college students.

4.  Find them the resources they need and utilize the tools around you– Sometimes they just need some help.  You can help them find the right tutors.  In many schools, there are student tutors who are willing to help others for free.  If you feel that your child needs long-term tutoring, then please read my thoughts about the use of tutors from another page of this website.  That page also mentions a set of materials that can help your child to study.

I have not tried those after-school programs such as Sylvan, and therefore I don’t feel qualified to comment on them.  But the general rules about tutoring apply to all of them.  Don’t let your child develop a dependence on tutors, or else they may do more harm than good.

Don’t forget those video lessons and online exercises from the Khan Academy.

5.  Don’t rely on schools to do all the teaching – Nowadays we are all too busy and we tend to delegate all teaching-related responsibilities to the teachers and schools.  That must not be the case.  Some of the most important things one needs to learn are really taught outside of classrooms, such as problem-solving skills, interpretation of information, and interpersonal relationship management.  As parents, you need to seize every educational opportunity to teach your kids those things and any knowledge you can pass onto them.