With an almost fifty year teaching career behind me, I offer reflections about what works and what does not work when rearing and educating children. As we commence a new school year, these might be of note to parents.
- Allow children to play in the neighborhood and during recess at school without directing their every move. Young children should not have organized sports either at school or outside of school.
- Let children be children. Intervene only if there is bullying or an accident like a scraped knee.
- Don’t bother purchasing cell phones, IPads and computers for young children. They will have them soon enough.
- Restrict television time. Use family meal time to have conversations with one another. As an alternative, try board games as a family activity.
- Take your children to the library and discuss the books they read. Continue to read aloud to them daily at least through elementary school. I recall having a homework assignment given us as parents of our middle school children. We were to all take turns reading one chapter aloud of a book. We could do this during dinner or afterwards. We discussed the book and explained words our children did not know.
- Begin to learn a foreign language in elementary school even if the school does not offer one. I know several parents who spoke a foreign language at home so that children heard it. These parents were non-native speakers but placed great value on learning another language, culture and country. Pass on the basics of the foreign language you learned in school. Hang a world map on your child’s bedroom wall.
- Have your children learn a musical instrument including singing aloud if lessons or instruments are too expensive for the family budget.
- Begin to teach children cursive handwriting. There are charts and online resources to do this. Daily practice is essential as it is with musical instruments and foreign languages. Writing a daily journal helps form good habits at an early age.
- Set aside time to include religion in the lives of your children. Make this a family activity. If religion is not “your thing” then try philosophy or meditation.
- Refrain from doing your children’s work. Let them struggle with homework and other tasks. They need to learn to ask questions and solve problems on their own. I had ninth grade students who did not know how to look up words in the dictionary. It is a necessary skill and lays the foundation for doing research later in school. Parents need to teach their children to accept responsibility for their own work in school.