As parents, we are constantly wondering about the best ways to help our kids succeed in school. The first question that may pop into our heads is about the meaning of success: is it enough for them to have a record of straight A’s or, should we concentrate on how happy the learning process is making them? Should they strive to be fairly good in all of their classes, or should they be guided to focus on some areas that they naturally excel in? How involved should we, as parents, be in the school and with teachers in order to be a positive influence in our kids’ learning process?
On September 25th at UTM, a variety of strategies and reflections related to these questions were discussed at the workshop Helping Your Child Succeed at School, facilitated by Ivonne Zirnheit from Homewood Health. I was particularly interested in two themes identified during the session.
To begin with, parents should recognize the importance of family in their kids’ education. Learning is a process that happens inside the family, and is not an external activity our kids do only when they are not at home. When parents are actively involved in this process, children are more likely to relate with what they are learning at school in more successful ways.
Moreover, the involvement of other family members—grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters—provides an environment for children to share what he or she has learned, to ask questions and test out her or his own answers to a variety of problems. Parental involvement is needed to create a balance between expectations, on the one hand, and understanding, help, and assistance on the other. We as parents play a role by fostering and encouraging curiosity, helping kids realize that learning is important (and even fun!), and more generally, engaging in a continuous conversation with our kids that fosters self-confidence, curiosity, and a love of learning.
The second idea to have in mind is the fact that, just as the qualities of each person are different, the ways that people learn are different. There are no universal formulas to get the best results for our kids. According to the Multiple Intelligences Theory, developed in 1983 by Howard Gardner, self-expression can take a multiplicity of shapes, thus affecting the way we learn. Some people are better at appreciating rhythm and recognizing tones and patters in the environment, while others are more comfortable when faced with logical and mathematical puzzles. According to theory, in summary, there are eight kinds of intelligences: visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, bodily/kinesthetic, logical/mathematical, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturistic. Being able to discover and understand how our kid thinks, that is, what kinds of intelligence he or she leans toward, is crucial to help her or him to succeed.
This of course doesn’t mean that we should encourage our kids to focus only on one kind of intelligence, but it may help us to better understand our children and their needs, as well as to identify which aspects of the learning process we can use creatively in order to make their experience at school a successful and, moreover, a happy one.
This workshop was an extraordinary opportunity to take a moment and reflect about how our kids think, what sorts of tools are helpful to encourage them, and which strategies can be used to help our children overcome school-related difficulties.
Stay up-to-date on all of our upcoming workshops by checking out our website!