EdNews Parent expert R. Kim Herrell responds:

Q. How can I best support my student’s learning at home?

A. “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” – Dr. Leo Buscaglia

Dr. Buscaglia related many stories about his childhood and learning.  The evening meal at his home is where everyone was expected to bring some new fact/learning that had happened that day.  They would go around the table and share, making comments and fielding questions.  Sometimes, that meant a last minute look through the encyclopedia to find something to share.  The expectation was to learn, to share, and it was important work.

The theme here is a family learning together.  I think that is the key to making a home that is supportive of learning. Learn with play/fun. Study around the dinner table. When your children study, you study, too. Keep a good dictionary nearby (I like American Heritage and Oxford). While your children do their math, balance the checkbook. Read the newspaper while they read a story for language arts. Build the family budget while your children study social studies.  Model the behavior you want from them.

There are formulas for time on the task.  One I have heard a lot is 10 minutes times (X) the grade the student is in (1st Grade = 10 minutes, 6th Grade = 1 hour, 9th Grade = one and a half hours, and so on).  That will fluctuate some, but go beyond this and you’ll experience more frustration than time spent on the task.

Help your child learn how to advocate for themselves if they need more help or more time.  Be their biggest fan and kindest critic.

Learn together, like the Buscaglias.  Make learning a respected and joyful activity that all members of the home engage in.  Learning is not a punishment done in the isolation of a bedroom. Turn off the TV and the social networks. Model, respect, and learn together.