Do you want your child to excel academically and socially? We know you do, and so do we! According to Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, parents can spark a child’s enthusiasm and love for learning by showing support and interest in their child’s life at school. No matter how your child best receives information - whether it be through visual aids or through reading - an encouraging parent is always essential to a child’s life long love of learning. Here are five simple ways that you can support your child’s education:

Ask Questions

You may think back to your own experiences in school and recall how you retained information better when you reached a conclusion on your own. The same goes for your kids! Asking the right questions can help your children solve problems on their own and learn how to think critically. Instead of spoon-feeding your children when you give them homework help, try to ask them questions that will lead them towards the correct answer, such as, “What will happen if you do this…” or “If this didn’t work, what do you think might work better?”

Encourage Elaboration  

Don’t end the conversation with “good thinking” or “good job”. When your little genius expresses an opinion or a thought, ask “why do you think so?” Encourage your kids to dig deeper in search for why a fact might be true or why they might perceive something to be true. Margaret Spellings claims that a child who is not encouraged to talk may experience literacy difficulties in school; meanwhile, children who haven’t learned to listen may have trouble following directions or focusing in class. So, encourage your kids to share their views while being considerate to the views of those around them.

Let the Student Teach

Let your little one build the confidence to present information to an audience! If you allow your children to explain their school material to you, then they will be better able to absorb the material since they are forced to articulate why 2+2=4 or how a triangle differs from a square for instance. This tactic will also help them strengthen their public speaking skills and confidence.

Acknowledge a Job Well Done

What did you seek most from your parents when you were young? Praise, right? This is no different for your kids! Children seek to be praised by their role models, especially mom and dad, so be generous with praise and compliments, but be particular about how you offer praise. “I can tell that you’ve been studying!”, “You worked so hard on that project!”, or “Look how many different materials and colors you used!” are great compliments to give after your children’s homework hour or day at school. Praise hard work and effort rather than telling a child they are so smart or “good job.” When parents praise hard work, children continue to apply themselves in the hopes that you will compliment them on their effort again.

Make Learning Fun!

Turn learning and doing homework into an activity. You can do this by playing teacher-student, by using props, or by simply reading and thinking together when children get stuck or need some guidance. Language like, "This is tricky but I know together we can figure it out!" is very encouraging to children, especially those that get frustrated easily. These words help children work through hard problems - first on their own, and then with some guidance if they need it. Margaret Spelling encourages parents to make learning as enjoyable as possible for kids. So, take out your counting kits, storytelling skills, and magnetic tiles! And of course, make sure kids are well fueled with a heathy after school snack and some creative play time or exercise before sitting down for homework.