Many American children today are falling further and further behind in their education each year because of cuts to school funding. With fewer factory jobs remaining in the U.S., a good education has become essential to finding a well-paying job in today’s information and technology oriented economy. Tomorrow’s economy will be even more competitive, and Americans will be competing for jobs on a global level. All parents want their child to achieve the American Dream. However, the schools do not – by themselves – determine whether children have what they need to succeed. The parents are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how their children’s time is spent outside the classroom. They can make a huge difference in their child’s future by avoiding these common mistakes.
Allowing too much “screen time”
The average American child spends 28 hours each week watching television, which translates into 1,456 hours per year, and 24, 752 hours by the time they turn 18 (assuming they begin at their first birthday, which many do). 24,752 hours is approximately 2 years and 9 months out of their childhood spent staring at a T.V. Time in front of the T.V. is time NOT spent on: reading, exercising, doing puzzles, drawing, playing with other children, doing schoolwork, and other activities that help a child learn and grow as a person. In the time most kids spend in front of the T.V. they could have learned a second language or gotten a black belt in karate!
Failing to make sure their child reads on a daily basis
In New York City, roughly 75 percent of public high school students who enroll in community colleges need to take remedial math or English courses before they can begin college-level work. At the very least this means that college students, or their parents, must pay for additional courses on top of the usual costs of college tuition. According to the National Educational Association Today, the only way for kids to become good readers is to practice. Even small amounts of reading each week add up over the years.
Neglecting the Arts
Many parents believe that art and music are “frills” and don’t realize that the arts can have a major impact on other areas of learning. In a U.C.L.A. study of Chicago area schools, elementary students who attended schools where the arts were integrated into the classroom curriculum outperformed their peers in math who were not in the program. More than 60 percent of these students, involved with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, performed at or above grade level on the math section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills compared with 40 percent of their peers (who could fall further and further behind each year). Any artistic activity from painting, to visiting local art museums, to taking music lessons can have lasting benefits for developing mind.
So, how can parents provide better learning opportunities outside the classroom?
Here are a few suggestions that cost little or nothing in time or money:
Limit or eliminate T.V. Most parents will not get rid of the television entirely, but placing clear limits on viewing time – like no T.V. on school nights – will force kids to find other activities to amuse themselves with (or finish their school assignments). Some parents worry that as soon as they turn off the T.V. their children will complain of being bored, but boredom is often needed as a motivator to get the child to amuse themselves in a productive way – by finding a new hobby, playing a board game with their siblings, or participating in sports.
Go to the library at least once a month. Almost every U.S.household has access to a public library nearby, and many have an interlibrary loan system to provide access to books that their library doesn’t stock. Many have a children’s librarian who can recommend good books and help find them on the shelves. Parents pay taxes for these services, so why not use them?
Start your child off on an art project. It can be as simple as setting up crayons and paper at the kitchen table and prompting them to draw, asking them to make a homemade birthday card, or decorating cookies with colored icing and candies. There are books with kids’ projects in the local library and plenty of free online sites to give parents and kids ideas for activities. Even just looking at different types of painting exposes a child to different art and broadens their horizons.