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Going to School

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Supporting Your Learner

10 year old girl going over book report with Dad. Dad: You wrote interesting details about the plot. Girl: The suspense was killing me. The plot twisted and turned.

"The motivation for learning should be the child's intrinsic interest, not an external reward. And with school work, this can sometimes be a real challenge, because not everything a child is asked to do will be interesting to every child.

To help your child become self-motivated and self-analytic, give specific feedback instead of vague praise and rewards. Instead of saying, 'great job on the homework,' describe what you thought was great about it. Instead of saying, 'you didn't write enough of an answer,' ask your child to supply more details about the plot. In this way, children will be able to take ownership of their learning and of what they produced."

Dalton Miller-Jones, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Portland State University

Caught in a battle over homework? Or working around the clock with your child completing a school project? Wondering what to do when your child forgets to hand in an assignment — a few days in a row? Baffled by experts who tell us we should help our children enjoy school and become independent learners? "Great," you might think, "but how?"

"Our children become independent learners very gradually," advises guidance counselor Linda Lendman, M.S.W. They learn at their own pace and you can support their process at home by nurturing what they are interested in and giving gentle guidance when they need assistance."

"What happens at home has a lot to do with supporting your child's success as a learner — and this goes way beyond making sure she gets her homework done or studies for the test. You want to help kids learn how to feel competent and positive about their learning. One way to begin is to help kids organize themselves (at their developmental level); create a schedule for doing their work and discover how they can follow it, so school work becomes a rich part of their after-school lives, but not the only part," advises Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College.

While there's no magic recipe, there are ways to help kids plan their time, complete their homework, and make the most of school. These strategies can help you help your child get excited about learning (or at least get you through some tough spots along the way).

NEXT: The Parent’s Role

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