Make Going Back To School A Positive Experience
Last week I told you I was heading to Chattanooga Tennessee for a family getaway before the craziness of going back to school set in. The trip was a big hit. If you’ve never been there I highly recommend it. All those years driving through Chattanooga on our way to Florida, and I never realized how much it had to offer. Its hospitality, restaurants, historical landmarks, outdoor activities and of course moon pies were some of the many highlights. And then we got back home, and BAM, “reality” came rushing back. We only had a few days to get our four kids ready for school. I’m telling you what: it wasn’t this complex when we were in school! It seems “Back to School” should be changed to “You’re about to go broke!” Really, people! Anyway, I will stop my rant. On a more optimistic note, I would encourage you to consider using this time of year to affirm learning as a core value in your family, faith, school and work lives. Wondering how? Well, that is the reason you should continue reading…
Skip the Rewards
Ever struggle with getting your kids to complete their schoolwork, especially without complaints? I know for me, it’s natural to want to use rewards to add some motivation. But I have learned that short term rewards can actually devalue long term learning. It makes sense if you think about it. When we offer cash or treats, we’re basically telling our kids that education or learning is a chore that doesn’t have any value of its own. You do the chore and you get a reward. So, what can you do instead? Good question…
This one is huge. Reading for just 20 minutes a day actually increases intelligence and reduces stress. Students with this habit score substantially higher on standardized tests– it’s amazing how many interesting facts you can pick up reading about pirates, or mice who ride tiny motorcycles. Reading can also be a great family bonding time. Try picking a fun chapter book you can read aloud that will allow family members of all ages to participate. On our car trips, we will typically read from a book that shares something positive so we can all learn from it and become better people. This type of book always creates an interesting discussion. You can also try a book that has been made into a movie, and then screen the movie for another fun family event. The key here is that the parent is modeling the commitment to reading. Remember kids follow more of what they see and not what they are told.
Share Podcasts and Vlogs
Most kids are fans of at least one podcast or vlog (Youtube video blogs.) Honestly, as far as podcasts are concerned, I never knew how many options are out there, on every possible topic. Downloading podcasts is a great option for long car trips and there are generally new ones released every week. iTunes is a great place to start for investigating what podcasts interest you. For a younger kid audience, look at Story Pirates, Tumble, Wow in the World, or Shabam!
Vlogs, on the other hand, can be watched on your phone anytime you’re stuck in a waiting room, or at home using your computer or smart TV. John and Hank Green, also known as the vlogbrothers, kicked off educational vlogs in a big way. If you’ve got teenagers, ask them if they’ve ever seen a Crash Course video! Crash Courses are fast-paced supplements to a variety of subjects your kids are learning in school, and when it comes to reviewing for a test, they’re a lot more fun than flash cards! ViHart’s videos combine doodling, math, and interesting questions. They’re a bit longer, but they’ll blow your mind. And Minute Physics is probably the most popular science vlog out there.
Do homework together
If you’re like me, your work has a way of not getting all wrapped up at the end of the day. Some of it comes home with you, and that can intrude on family time. So combine that with the stress of getting your kids motivated to finish their homework, and it can make it for a fun evening (not really). Why not kill two birds with one stone by working in the same room? Let them know what you are doing (make it short) and take occasional breaks to check in on your kid and see if they need help. And if your kid is working on math (not my favorite subject) and you can’t seem to help, you can always go to YouTube, or check out Khan Academy for assistance – you can find lots of short videos explaining every math topic imaginable.
If you take the time to try a few of my suggestions, you’ll be further down the road of cultivating an environment of curiosity and learning as a family. Don’t settle for just getting a few good ideas, pick a reputable and respected author and start a personal quest to read everything they’ve written about the topic. Share what you are learning with your family. If your kid’s a scout, get involved with his or her badges. There are hundreds of opportunities to learn together, whether you’re hiking, in a car, at a library or building a lego robot.
One of the greatest gifts you can pass along to your family is the passion to learn. And when learning as a family becomes a regular thing, you’ll find that school goes more smoothly and your child becomes more confident in general, both in school and in their daily lives. So instead of dwelling on the fact that you may go broke when the kids go back to school (I couldn’t resist saying it one more time), you should use this back-to-school season to show how much you value learning for its own sake. Remember, if you don’t model it, your kids probably won’t do it.