Motivate, stimulate, and support -- that's how Dr. Dorothy Rich, a pioneer in developing home-teaching methods, sums up the proper role of the family in a child's education.
"Even the best schools can't do it alone," says Dr. Rich, director of the non-profit Home and School Institute at Trinity College.
Parents get off to a good start helping their preschoolers with catchy bedtime stories and educational toys, says Dr. Rich. They even teach a child how to talk. But home teaching often ends when first grade begins.
To help improve your child's school achievement scores, help him to organize and take on more responsibility for his school work, and to generally make education more fun, Dr. Rich offers these suggestions for learning at home:
For younger children, make a list of emergency telephone numbers, from the police and fire stations to neighbors and relatives you can count on for help. The child learns the use of numbers -- and more.
Together, tour the house listing everywhere water and electricity are used. Then, figure out how the family can save on both. Good for reading and writing skills, and saving on utility bills.
Help your youngster look over four or five bottles of those poisonous products you keep under the sink. Have him read the labels aloud, making sure to identify all major "warning" words. Good for reading -- and averting potential crises.
Help your younger child make a street map of your house in the immediate community, in relation to the library and grocery store, etc. Good for mathematical mechanics -- and fewer lost children.
Encourage your child, at any grade level, to make a personal time line. By using a piece of long shelving paper, he can list the memorable things that have happened in his life since his birth. Good for writing and math.
For older students, have your child make a list of what he thinks is spent each week on groceries, utilities, rent, etc. Then, for a week, help him keep track of all expenditures.
Also for older children, each time you pull up to a gas pump, help your child figure out your mileage -- of how much six gallons would cost at current prices.
Dr. Rich has compiled dozens of other family-learning kits, available for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Address requests to: Family Learning Kit, Home and School Institute, Trinity College, Washington, D.C. 20017.