4 Ways to Support Your Child Academically (from an M.Ed.)

I hesitate to say that I'm an expert at anything. I do, however, hold an M.Ed. And so (at least according to The University of California at Santa Barbara), I have "mastered" the topic of education. Education has always been something I loved, and even though I'm not in the classroom anymore (Parker likes to say I'm "retired"), I still put my degree to use every day raising him. Here are four ways I try to support future academic success...

1. Read Aloud

Reading aloud to your children every single day is one of the best things you can do for them. It's never too early to start (see photo of newborn Parker below, and click here for my post on Reading With Your Toddler), but it's also never too late. If it's not something that's already in your daily routine, begin now! Likewise, keep it up even after your child can read on his own. When I taught fourth grade, one of the favorite parts of the day for my students was our read aloud after lunch. Older children benefit from hearing an adult model fluent reading, with expression and inflection. It's also how they will be exposed to varied vocabulary (and how to pronounce those new words!). Use the opportunity to expose your child to different genres or authors, and as a way to broach topics that need to be discussed. 

2. Praise Effort Over Outcome

Imagine your child scores 100% on a spelling test. Praising the outcome (Great job getting an A!) doesn't describe to the child what they did exactly that was praiseworthy, nor how to do it again. Now instead, imagine acknowledging the effort they put in: Wow, you really worked hard studying your spelling words this week! I like how you made flashcards of each one and practiced them every day. I'm so proud of your hard work. Boom. Your child will directly associate his hard work with something that should be celebrated and valued. This will serve him well later in his academic career when grades and scores are more directly correlated with effort. Implement this "growth mindset" (the idea that anyone can accomplish anything with enough hard work) in everyday life, and your child will internalize it as well. 

3. Limit Screens

If you're a parent today, chances are you probably grew up without tablets, smart phones, and DVD players in carseat headrests. And y'all, we turned out just fine. I'm of that micro "Oregon Trail Generation" - born in 1982 making me technically a Millennial, but really the grandparent version. I left for college without a cellphone, and when I did get one, it was a flip phone that barely texted. I'd bike to class, choose a seat, and just observe the word around me while I waited for it to start - maybe even talk to a neighbor and make a new friend. What are we missing out on today, that every down moment (standing in line, waiting at the dentist's office) necessitates a browse through our phones? I wish for my own child that simpler time before iPhone was ever a word. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time should be avoided for a child's first two years. If you're thinking it's impossible, we did it! It can be done! From ages two to five, they advise no more than an hour a day. The fact is, screen time comes at a price. The over stimulation and constant instant gratification that screens give make unplugging from reality and paying attention in settings like a classroom much more difficult. Study after study points to issues from lowered psychological ability and ability to read emotions, to childhood obesity, to changes in brain structure and function. The truth is, screens are a babysitter, and they're taking the place of human interaction. I'm not saying to go completely television-free like we did (ten years ago, I'd give that the side-eye, too). But everyone can reflect on their children's usage, and possibly cut back.

I don't like the word "bored" because it has the negative connotation that someone else is responsible for your engagement and pleasure - but I'll use it in this context: children need opportunities to be bored. To sit in a car and just observe the world around them, to order from a waiter at a restaurant and chat or color until the food arrives, the chance to make up their own games with sticks or blocks or whatever items are around that spark their imagination. These are all instances that will foster patience and creativity, none of which can be done if they have a tablet with unlimited options in their hands. 

4. Be A Model

Guys, those kiddos are watching every. little. thing. we. do. And they want to do the same. So (piggybacking on number three above), put down the phone, and crack open a real book with paper pages. Make sure your children see you reading. Take a class, learn something new, show failing gracefully (and picking back up and trying again). Talk about higher education, take your child to your alma mater (see below!), make college (or grad/law/medical school!) the norm. And just like reading aloud, it's never too early and never too late. 



  1. Love all of these tips... especially the one about praising the EFFORT and not the outcome. This is something that I've always done since I read an article years ago about that. And I was born in 1982 as well. Did you ever see that article about how we're technically part of that micro generation called Xennials? We're old enough to remember a time without social media/technology, but we're young enough that we're up to date on all of the newest technology, too. If you haven't already read about that, just google xennials. It's a really interesting read and I agree with it so much!

    1. Yay for 1982! And love that you’re already praising effort 🙌🏻


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