How to be an education parent

We want parents to support kids’ learning, but what do we want them to do specifically? asks Bill Jackson of Great Schools in an e-mail discussion. He envisions a campaign of public service announcements tied to a GreatKids mobile app:

1. Read to your child for 30 minutes a day.
2. Have conversations with your child every day. Use questions, not commands.
3. Teach your child the alphabet before kindergarten.
4. Teach your child to count to 20.
5. Limit TV time to 30 minutes a day.

An iPad app could let parents “give their kids a quick test to see how they are doing in acquiring vocabulary,” Jackson adds. “The idea here is to  . .  make it a ‘club’ of parents doing the right things and getting positive feedback.”

I think some parents need to be shown how to read a book with a child and how to have a conversation.

Guest-blogging for Rick Hess, Jackson asks parents to list their aspirations for their children at age 18. “When you launch them at age 18, what knowledge, skills, character traits, and other qualities do you want them to have?” His list for his daughters:

1. Be passionate about some activities or commitments
2. Love to read; read for pleasure
3. Know a lot about the world (for their age) and want to know more
4. Have strong analytical and mathematical skills
5. Know a lot (for their age) about at least one area of science (biology, physics, etc)
6. Write well
7. Have skills in at least one visual, fine or performing art discipline (piano, theater, etc.)
8. Have at least one manual skill (sewing, cooking, fixing car, etc.)
9. Have at least basic computer programming skills
10. Be able to draw reasonably well
11. Have friends (fewer closer or more less close both OK)
12. Be active in serving people in need and/or advocating for ideas larger than themselves
13. Be kind to everyone they interact with
14. Have demonstrated resiliency through failure
15. Be physically active
16. Be optimistic

Whether a particular school is good for a child depends on the parent’s aspirations, Jackson writes.

My expectations for my daughter’s schools were modest. I wanted school to teach her reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, history and science — especially math and science, which I wasn’t teaching at home. I didn’t expect her to be skilled in a performing art or in drawing — and I was right. (She took  a programming class in college, but I don’t think it’s a critical skill.) Kindness, friendliness, resiliency, problem solving, cooking . . . Kids learn that at home or not at all.

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