Today guest blogger, George Campbell shares ideas for helping your child get and stay ahead in school. George is a freelance writer from Birmingham, England. He loves writing and writes across a variety of topics including education, travel and business. You can follow him on Twitter at @george1campbell.
A study undertaken by the National Center for Education Statistics stated that approximately "75 percent of 12- to- 17-year-old children who participated in an extracurricular activity are on track academically (that is, in the grade at school expected for their age), compared with 60 percent of children in this age group who did not participate in such activities" and concluded that "Extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education". Subsequently, listed below are several activities in which you can take part with your child in order to encourage their interest in education, improve their confidence in their academic abilities and ultimately help them get ahead at school.
Encourage their curiosity
From a very young age, children have an avid curiosity for all walks of life. Encourage and stimulate this curiosity by taking your child to educational hotspots and introducing them a variety of different activities. From museums and zoos to art galleries and cultural festivals, there are a wealth of free attractions which you can explore with your children to inspire them and spark their interest in a diverse range of educational topics. For instance, if they are studying a particular historical era at school, take them to a museum or gallery which has an exhibit specific to their current studies. Alternatively, you could encourage them to try out different craft activities. There are a myriad of online craft websites where you can access and print off free tutorials or worksheets for various craft skills. From sewing to card making, you can introduce your child to new hobbies and activities which encourage them to express their creativity and develop a positive emotional response to learning. Furthermore, by demonstrating to your child that there are multiple interactive and entertaining ways of expanding their knowledge, you enable them to immerse themselves in their studies and cultivate an ardent curiosity for education.
Introduce them to another language
James Flynn, a renowned scientist, was recently quoted in The New Yorker stating that; "The mind is much more like a muscle than we’ve ever realised… It needs to get cognitive exercise. It’s not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark." An excellent form of this cognitive exercise is learning another language. Dr Ellen Bialystok, a researcher for the National Network for Early Language Learning has discovered that "the cognitive skill that seems to be the most enhanced by learning a second language is critical thinking, or problem-solving”. Therefore, if you introduce your child to another language from an early age, not only are you broadening their cultural horizons, but you are improving their future academic potential by expanding their cognitive capabilities. Fortunately, there are a wealth of free resources available to help children familiarise themselves with a new language; you could visit your local library, watch foreign television channels, or explore the variety of linguistic apps and online games which have been developed specifically for children.
Technological learning aids
In recent years, there have been a series of technological innovations which have significantly improved how children can engage with education. The increasing availability of educational apps and online learning tools means that parents can capitalise upon their child’s interest in technology and channel this interest into an educational capacity. According to a recent survey, 57% of the children use tablets for educational apps. Educational agency Maths Doctor have enthused about the educational possibilities of these technological aids both inside and outside of the classroom, in particular the "one-to-one learning afforded by technological supplements. Teachers are able to tackle learners’ knowledge gaps straight away, while students progress far quicker than they thought possible whilst re-establishing a passion for learning". You can use these apps alongside your child in order to monitor their progress as well as engaging in a fun activity with your child which is expanding their knowledge. Moreover, reward based apps encourage children to pay attention and improve in order to reach the next stage. By doing so, they are developing an active engagement in learning as well as improving their numeracy, literacy and problem solving skills which will undoubtedly help them as they progress through life. Fundamentally, every child is different and it may require a process of trial and error before you find an activity about which your child is passionate. However, by introducing your child to a broad spectrum of activities and interests, you grant them a greater opportunity of discovering a keen interest in education, as well as a chance to develop confidence in their own academic abilities. As a result, your child will be acquiring fundamental attributes which will place them in good stead for the rest of their academic and adult life.