It is often said that to meet our child’s best teacher we must simply look into a mirror. Our children will become the kind of learners that we encourage them to be.
Former educational reformer, John Holt, said, “We can help children learn best by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering questions – if they have any - and helping them explore what they are most interested in.”
In public schools across the state teachers work tirelessly to develop relevant lessons based on the Common Core and Essential Standards that each student should know. They work to differentiate among the various levels of abilities that are in their classrooms, so that each student gets the instruction that he/she needs to thrive. But without a nurturing environment at home, students often struggle to achieve their highest potential, and students who are truly gifted may not have the opportunity to blossom.
Finding ways to nurture your child is not complicated. Lindsey Townsend of the Arizona Department of Education, suggests everyday ways to help your child learn and succeed in life. The most obvious, but perhaps most important, way is to provide a loving environment where your child feels secure, protected, and sheltered from stress, anxiety, and adult problems. Another way to nurture is to “talk it up” with your child.
Talk to them about his/her day; talk about different tasks you may be doing when you’re together; talk about current events; keep the communication flowing. If your child is younger, it’s the best thing you can do to promote language development. Then later on your child will be accustomed to talking with you about any situation.
Of course, the importance of reading together as a component of nurturing cannot be stressed enough. Children who are read to on a regular basis become better readers and gain literacy skills more rapidly, and are more successful in school. Children should have access to books, and should see their parents reading for pleasure and for education.
Other everyday ways to nurture your child include making time to play, whether it be outdoor or indoor games. This is another way to give him/her the individual attention on which he/she thrives. Making connections between book learning and the real world, such as scheduling visits to the seashore, farmers’ markets, concerts, plays, etc. is another important means of nurturing, as is helping your child to develop organization abilities and time awareness.
These components are critical for success in school and throughout adulthood. Encouraging his/her interests and passions by providing a variety of hands-on experiences such as music, sports, dance, even bug collecting allows a child to find out what he/she is good at.
Although it is hard for parents to do, teach your children how to deal with negative situations by allowing them to fail, then encouraging them to find the solution to the problem.
The last item that Townsend suggests is to think “emotional IQ”, not just academic IQ. In other words, if you don’t focus on the basic elements of good behavior such as following directions, taking turns, sharing, and getting along with others, being a mathematical genius will do him/her no good.
Our children are our future. As parents, we are responsible for bringing up our children in a nurturing environment where education is a priority and not an afterthought, where classroom teachers are not the sole persons responsible for educating, and where our children feel that they are our most valued asset.
Tom Caton is the principal at Elkin Elementary School.