Monday, January 11, 2016

What can parents do to help children be academically successful? The answer is really very simple.
Why family time equals school success

Do Kids Spend Too Much Time in School?

Did you know that American elementary school students spend on average 943 hours in the classroom each year? Is it too much or too little? Well, it's actually more than mamy other countries in the world, but let's do some math. This number of hours is only a measly 10% of total time available in the year. I can even be conservative and take out 10 hours of sleeping and 2 hours of eating from 24 hours available each day. That still brings time in school to 20% of total time that is theoretically available to our kids. What are they doing with all that free time? When our kids are young, it's up to us, their parents to help them decide how to spend it.

Why Does Parental Involvement Matter?

Let's look at the math above. What do your kids do with their free time? Do they have a lot of "unstructured time" that they spend playing video games and watching TV? Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is their entire free time given to "enriching activities", such as sports, music, languages, community projects? And, most importantly, can you give them the most important gift of all - gift of your time? Research consistently shows that having strong family relationships helps both with academic achievement and with anxiety levels of students of every age. I was reading the book recently, when an author described a major difference between Asian and American parents' approach to homework time. Many Asian households have a dedicated homework time for an entire family when parents are reading or working on their hobbies while their children are engaged in homework. I am thinking of implementing a similar approach when Smarty starts spending more than 15 minutes on hers.

Purposeful Time with Kids

The goal of this post is not to make my readers feel guilty. I don't think that we all need to stay at home and to give every waking minute of our own time to our kids. I think it's a lot more important to spend a few minutes of purposeful time with our children when we focus on what they want and listen to what they have to say. Both me and my husband work, but we do make a point spending time with our daughter in the activities that she enjoys. For my husband and Smarty it means daily tickling games with a lot of screaming and laughter (my husband does not do screaming). For me it's 15 minutes of special "cuddle time" before bed when Smarty is most likely to open up about her day or her thoughts - partially, because she wants to postpone bedtime as much as she possibly can.

Purposeful Family Time

Between chores, work, and social obligations, everyone is pressed for family time. I think it really does not matter for strengthening family relationships what you do as long as you do it consistently and an entire family (or most of the family) enjoys the activity. One family we know plays music together - sometimes on real instruments, sometimes in Rock Band video game. Our other friends spend a lot of time hiking, camping, or gardening. Our favorite family pastime is board games, and this year we established a goal of having a regular family game night. We are also very lucky to have schedules that allow regular family dinners. According to a number of reports issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Columbia University (CASA), children who eat at least five times a week with their family are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently eat alone or away from home. I think that one day Smarty will not be remembering all her Christmas presents, but, hopefully, she will remember our game nights, our dinner conversations, and our trips together.

More Parenting Ideas

From my blog:

Your Turn

Why family time matters for academic outcomes

What is your favorite way to spend time together as a family?


maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I think kids spend too much time in school! So much of what I learned growing up I learned at home.

Also, it looks like you have a 2013 linky up today?

Ticia said...

It probably wouldn't be too much time if after school they weren't then spending an hour or so on homework, OR if that time were more spread out. It's a lot all at once.

But, to your point, it's really amazing what having dedicated time with a child does for their attitude and their ability to learn.