Looking for a way to spend quality time with the family this holiday season? Want to unplug and have some fun? Books and board games are great ways to get your child to put down the cell phone or video game controller and have some family fun while developing skills that can be transferred to the classroom when back-to-school time comes around.
Books can be a great stocking stuffer and give kids the chance to read material that interests them. Even if your child isn’t an avid recreational reader, comic books or magazines can spark their interest and encourage them to spend some quiet time reading. Reading together as a family is a great way to bond and can inspire discussion on different topics that arise as you read. Take turns reading paragraphs, act out scenes, guess what will happen next, and (if the book is also a movie) watch the film version together once you have finished the book. Encouraging your child to read for pleasure will increase their focus and concentration, expand their vocabulary and literacy skills, and is a hobby the whole family can enjoy.
Board games are also a great way to have fun as a family over the holidays. Although online and video games are often preferred by for our tech-savvy kids, board games are a great way to increase learning skills while having fun. Board games enhance skills such as:
- Problem solving
- Quick thinking
- Vocabulary skills
- Identifying patterns
- Decision making
Have some holiday fun with the family this break by dusting off your favourite board game or curling up on the couch with a good book. Who knows, it may even be the start of a great family tradition for the New Year!
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“This book is so BORING”
“This book is so OLD”
“This book is TERRIBLE”
Heard one (or all) of these sentences come out of your teen’s mouth when referring to required school readings? Are they just being disrespectful and lazy, or do they (maybe) have a point?
Most students won’t reach the end of high school without reading (or being assigned to read) some ‘classic’ literature. The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Heart of Darkness, Madame Bovary, and The Catcher in the Rye are just some of the books your teen may be assigned to read. But are these classic novels doing more harm than good to your child’s motivation to read? Are the endless lessons about symbolism, metaphor, and imagery in books they can’t relate to boring students to the point of not wanting to read at all? Or are kids just lacking an appreciation for anything that doesn’t have a screen attached to it?
Unfortunately, students and parents are not going to be able to change what the teacher assigns. So how can you encourage your child to engage with ‘boring, old’ books and not develop distaste for reading completely? Here are some tips:
- Ask – If children say they don’t like a book that has been assigned, they should be able to articulate why beyond ‘because’. Ask them what they would rather be reading, and why. If they say the main character is ‘stupid’, ask them to which part of the book made them think that. You will quickly realize whether your child is forming engaged opinions or simply spouting opinions without backup.
- Read – Read the book yourself! Discuss with your child which parts you liked (and which parts bored you too!) If your child is able to tell you specifics (even if they are bashing the book while doing it), at least you know s/he is reading and remembering the story.
- Find – Often old material is recycled. The same themes can be found in modern movies, books or TV shows that appear in the classics. Your child may be too distracted by the language and archaic references to realize (for example) that the ‘love triangle’ plot in Wuthering Heights between Catherine, Linton, and Heathcliff is also found in the Hunger Games between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (and many others!).
- Pay Attention – Students sometimes disguise misunderstanding as dislike. If your child isn’t comprehending what s/he is reading, there is no way s/he is going to enjoy it. The book may not be too boring or old at all; your child may not be at the reading level required to understand and enjoy it. Get him/her the extra help s/he needs so they don’t have to hide behind excuses
What’s your opinion on/experience with students reading ‘classic’ literature in school? Comment below!
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- Active Learning
- Homework Tips
- Study Tips and How-Tos
- Getting Involved in Your Child’s Education
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Progress reports, report cards. Parent teacher interviews… it’s that time of year for the first formal report of how kids are doing do far this grade.
The first report card can be a stressful time for parents and kids alike. Maybe there might be a few unpleasant surprises, and maybe a few red flags, which can be stressful enough, but then to add to the stress, it’s also time for parent-teacher interviews.
Here’s the thing: parent–teacher interviews don’t have to be stressful!
Check out these tips for de-stressing the meeting-the-teacher process, and helping your kids get on the path to better grades.
Go to the interview. Even if your kid is pulling in straight A’s, going to the interview is a key part in parental involvement in education. Studies show that the more parents are involved in their child’s education, the better grades their child gets. So go, meet the teachers that instruct and test your children, even if it’s just to shake hands and say, “nice to meet you.”
Prepare. Read the report card over before going to the interview. Also, review any returned test or assignments that your child has be given to see if marks on the report card are aligned with marks on homework. Bring examples of your child’s work with you to the interview if you have specific concerns.
Ask Questions. It’s not enough to just show up; parents should go into the interview informed. Have specific questions in mind in order to gain better insight classroom performance. Not sure what to ask? Asking how your child is performing in relation to the other students in the class is always a good conversation starting point. Try to keep the discussion academic. It’s nice to hear that your child is the class charmer, but it doesn’t help help him reach his academic goals.
Set Goals. If your child is getting a C+ and you’d like it to be a B+, then discuss actionable steps that can be taken starting right away to make this goal happen. Take notes, and set the actions in motion immediately—the next report card will be here before you know it! (Need some help setting goals? Download our Academic Action Plan.)
Keep it Short and Friendly. Teachers and parents are on the same team when it comes to education, so being confrontational benefits no one. Also, keep in mind that the teacher has somewhere between 20 and 30 parents to meet with. Your time is short, so maximize it!
Call Oxford Learning. Confused by report card jargon? Worried about poor grades? Concerned that your child is not being challenged enough? Call Oxford Learning to schedule a free report card consultation. We can help you make sense of the report card! And, we’re a valuable part of your child’s academic support team.
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Studies show that when parents are engaged in education their children perform better in school. All parents want their kids to be successful in school and sometimes that means rolling up your sleeves and lending a helping hand.
The ultimate aim of education is to have children who are organized, independent thinkers, both responsible and capable of taking academic risks. The majority of children need a little support from Mom and Dad to get to that point. But how much help is too much?
Somewhere between seeing grades on the report card for the first time and scheduling weekly phone conversations with the teacher is the perfect amount of parental school involvement. Parents should be involved and aware of what is going on at school, but not actively completing work for their kids.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO HELP PARENTS GET INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION
Communicate. Talk to kids about school every day. Ask specific questions about classes. Rather than asking, “how was school?” ask, “how was math class? What did you learn?” Parents should know their kids schedule and teachers’ names, and stay abreast of upcoming projects and assignments.
Don’t Wait for the Report Card. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting too long to correct problems. Rather than waiting for the first report card or progress report to come home, parents should follow up with issues that come up when and if they come up. If there’s a quiz on Friday, ask how it went on Monday. If marks are not what they should be, arrange a talk with the teacher and make a plan. And don’t be afraid to simply call the teacher just to check in and make sure that everything is going smoothly.
Help with Homework. There are a lot of DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to homework help. It boils down to two basic rules: Help, but don’t do the work for them. Parents should help create a homework-friendly atmosphere where children can focus and get the work done without getting stressed out or losing motivation.
Organization. Morning, after-school, and evening routines all require organization skills to run smoothly. Whether it’s emptying book bags right after school, picking out school clothes the night before, or enforcing bedtimes, an organized routine teaches kids consistency, which pays off in school. If disorganization is a problem at home, it’s likely a problem at school. Kids who demonstrate consistent organization skills at home transfer those skills with them to the classroom. Help kids get organized at home, and you’re helping them be organized in school.
Set Goals Together. Part of the communication process involves setting academic goals for the school year. Help kids learn to think about long-term outcomes by discussing personal and academic ambitions, big or small. Be sure to keep goals realistic, achievable, and measurable. Use calendars, planners, agendas, or use our Academic Action Plan to keep goals on-track.
Do you have great tips to share on how you get involved in your child’s education? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment…and don’t forget follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
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You asked. We answered!
This question comes from our archives…
How do I help my four-year-old son to develop a love of reading? He struggles to sound words out, and doesn’t seem to be interested in reading on his own. How can I help him learn to love reading?
Books can be our best friends. But to struggling children, they can also be the enemy. Children are aware of our expectations, and they recognize our desire for them to read. To avoid disappointing us, children with reading issues may just push books aside for activities that don’t require so much effort.
Strong reading skills are the foundation for learning, so they are a critical skill to develop early on. Luckily, an aversion to reading at a young age can easily be overcome.
Sometimes different approaches are the solution to getting reluctant readers to embrace books and reading. Our Little Readers program is developed to help children as young as three learn to become strong, competent readers who love books! We help kids learn the sounds that make up the building blocks of our language. Kids become able to sound out words and develop confidence in their ability to try to read new words.
Remember that learning to read can be a struggle for many children, but if you give your son the skills that he needs to be a successful reader, a love of reading will follow eventually. Continue to make an effort to share reading time with your son, and encourage him every step of the way!
Do you have an education question that you’d like ask us? Leave your question in the comments, or visit us on Twitter to ask your question there!
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Report Cards can be very stressful for families. Kids don’t want to disappoint their parents, or be punished for bad grades, and parents don’t want to find out that their child is struggling academically. While report cards can be stressful, they don’t have to be.
Before stress levels reaches the danger zone, consider the following:
It’s Still Early—this is the first report card, which means that there is still ample opportunity to make improvements this school year.
Language—report cards often contain confusing educational jargon, which can be frustrating. Forget the gobbledygook and focus on the teacher’s comments. These comments can give you a better idea of how your child is performing overall.
Context—some school years are more challenging than others. Certain grades are transition years, such as the first year of high school, or the shift from early to middle school. These years can be challenging to all students, regardless of their academic abilities.
Now that parents have read the report card, it’s time to have a chat with the kids about their grades. Here are some tips that will help parents—and kids—banish any icky report-card feelings:
1. Be calm, cool, and collected. If you’re upset or angry about grades, hold off on the discussion until you can speak calmly and rationally.
2. Say something nice. Start with empathetic and positive comments. Highlight something positive about the report card, no matter how trivial. For instance, “You are really kicking butt in English.”
3. Listen to your child. Recognize the struggles. School can be tough. It is helpful to students to know that you are listening to their concerns and complaints.
The final report card takeaway is this:
Problems Require Action! Remember that the report card is a red flag. There may be plenty of time left in the school year, but if you don’t act now, the urgency of poor grades will be forgotten.
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The link between nutrition, thinking, and learning is not a new concept.
The idea holds that if certain foods can promote better thinking and learning—fresh fruits and veggies, fish, vitamins, etc.— then it stands to reason that other foods can detract from the ability to learn.
There are many foods on this list, but sugars are the most common substance linked to behavioural and learning challenges.
Often, it’s not food itself that causes problems, but what is ADDED to the food.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest has published an in-depth study called “A Rainbow of Risks” that links food colouring to attention deficit issues.
Food colouring is not an easy substance to avoid—it is in many everyday foods—even used (according to the report) to colour the rinds of oranges.
The danger is that food colouring appears in foods that are most popular with children: candy, soft drinks, milkshakes, etc. Even more important is that these foods make up a large portion of children’s diets, and developmentally, children are the most vulnerable to developing issues from the food that they eat.
Food colouring is not alone in its link to ADD and ADHD. www.Care2.com lists the 5 foods linked to ADD and ADHD as:
1. Fast foods
2. Processed meats
3. Red meat
4. High fat dairy products
Food colouring is not just linked to attention deficit issues. An article on Babble.com notes that Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 cause allergic reactions, and Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, the three most widely used dyes, are also known carcinogens.
This information can be very helpful for families with children on the ADD/ADHD spectrum. Label reading and eliminating foods high in food colouring may help these families see improvement in ADD and ADHD symptoms.
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Or, 13 more ways to make learning part of your summer.
N: Nature. Take a nature hike, stopping along the path to look at plants and animals. This is a great place to practice description skills. Engage children to think actively about what they encounter by asking questions, “why do you think that tree is dead?” “What kind of animal might have left that footprint?”
O: Oxford Learning. Oxford Learning Camps and programs are an easy way to maintain learning momentum over the summer. Our programs help students catch up in trouble areas, keep up with their classmates, and get a head start on next year’s subjects.
P: Puzzles. Like board games puzzles are great downtime activities that keep the brain challenged. Whether playing Sudoku, Crosswords, search-a-words, or traditional puzzles, this is a fun way to challenge your mind and learn skills such as persistence and problem solving.
Q: Quiet time. Make a time every day to have some peace and quiet. Engage in some active thinking, a little daydreaming, or just spend some down time simply being together. It’s a great way to let the brain make important connections.
R: Read. If there is one summer activity that is equal parts fun and education, it is reading. It doesn’t take science and research to know that reading keeps the mind active all summer long. It also helps develop vocabulary, and increases reading comprehension, which both pay off in the classroom.
S: Scrapbook. Turn summer memories into a hobby that encourages children to engage their brain by writing and drawing about the day’s activities. Cut pictures from magazines and newspapers and gather items such as feathers, or seashells to paste onto the pages for a colourful way to document summer fun. (This is different from “scrapbooking,” but that can be fun too!)
T: Travel. You don’t have to leave your city to experience the spirit of wanderlust. Visit your local tourist bureau and become a tourist in your own backyard. Head to the other side of town to visit a park that you’ve never been do. This is also a great opportunity for children to learn about the city they live in—major street names, directions, and local history.
U: University. For teens heading off to university in the fall, summer is the best time to prepare for what comes next. It’s also a time for summer jobs and, as the last summer of high school, it’s a major life milestone—it’s important to take advantage of this opportunity.
V: Vocabulary. Vocabulary is linked to school success—the greater a child’s vocabulary, the greater the reading comprehension skills are. The best way to develop vocabulary? Reading. Write down new words and definitions in the summer scrapbook.
W: Write. Despite the prevalence of keyboards, penmanship and handwriting are still very important! Personal handwriting style is always developing, so it’s critical to maintain skills. Journaling and writing in a scrapbook are a great ways to improve penmanship over the summer.
X: X Marks the Spot. Organize a fun scavenger hunt or a pirate-theme day and have a little bit of silly fun. Make crafts and invite neighbourhood friends. It doesn’t have to be a holiday or a birthday to celebrate the summer! It’s a great way to break up summer boredom.
Y: Yard Sale. Summer is the perfect time to hold a yard sale. It’s also a great opportunity to teach kids lessons about organization. Kids can help gather up clothing, books, and toys that they no longer use, and sort what they’ve gathered into categories. They can also help with money and counting.
Z: Go to the Zoo. Zoos are a great opportunity to learn something new about the animals we share the planet with. Spend some time before hand researching a favourite animal either online or at the library.
Read Part 1: A-M
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Or, 13 ways to make learning part of your summer…
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