Monday, December 27, 2010

Building An Environment of Learning In Your Home

As a tutor, I find myself in the trenches of educational warfare, daily. There isn't a person I meet, who, after learning that I tutor or hearing of my work with other kids, doesn't open themselves up to me and 'let me have it' with all their concerns for their child and the multitude of reasons why their child is failing, isn't learning, or doesn't care enough to try, etc., etc., etc. Being a parent myself, it breaks my heart and also fuels the fire to develop better, quicker, more insightful and more creative means to inspire children to learn. At the end of the day, the reasons why I tutor revolve around my inner desires to serve others, in conjunction with a purpose and vision for helping parents master learning at home, to establish what I call: an environment of learning. Here are a few tips, things I do when I work with parents who are in desperate need for immediate results.

1.) If its important to you, it will be important to them!
Its easy to say or fall into the trap or misconception [that] "my child's education is important to me, that's why I make them do their homework!" You have to first consider what message is being relayed here and understand that children, in their wonderful, free-spirited youth, are natural renegades, born to rebel against any system that would make them do anything. So, to avoid falling into the trap or philosophy of "do as I say, not as I do", then you will need to show them how important education is, by participating in their learning.
Does this mean you will have to miss some of your favorite shows, skip out on happy hour or cancel a few engagements during the week? Yes! But before you get upset as a parent or become uncomfortable, ask yourself this: What's really and truly important to me? This is a question of values and even though you might say you believe in your child's education, unless you are participative, you are really sending a mixed-signal. You are basically telling your child to "do it because I said so" and really, when did we ever respond to that as children? With this type of attitude, it won't take long for your child to see that you 'proclaim' to believe in their education, just not enough to actually 'do anything' about it.

2.) No Peanut Gallery!!!
When I was in the Marine Corps, you could find any table, in any barracks of any base where Domino's or Spades are being played (among countless other games) and if you listen quietly, you can hear the words "No Peanut Gallery!" being shouted from any of these tables when someone is getting upset because their concentration is being broken or if someone is interrupting the game from the 'outside.' The Peanut Gallery is essentially the external voices that cause interruption in the play of the game. Its equivalent to the back-seat driver. Annoying huh? Well, if you want your child to learn and you want to build that environment of learning in your home, you, as the parent, are going to have to quiet the Peanut Gallery in your home and turn OFF the television, put the cell phones away--yes, even yours as well, and get to work! If you can't keep focus for longer than 5 minutes without updating Facebook, replying to a text or changing the channels, how can you expect a child to do it? Lead by example and schedule some time, 1 to 1.5 hours per night, to studies, together.

3.)Work Hard, Play Hard
Just as we look forward to and count down the days 'til its Friday', so too can--and should--your child(ren). School is school and its an important requirement as much as its a nuisance in America for each of us. It takes a very short period of time to amaze us and let us down, but that's not for  you or I to fix, as much as it is our requirement to work within the educational system and move on with life for the sake of our children. One thing you want to do is establish a routine that says, we work hard, Monday through Thursday and Fridays, we take the night off! I encourage my parents (as well as utilize) the attitude and approach to learning that says, we study every night, contrary to whether your child has homework or not--there are a ton of things that can be learned every night as follow-up), Monday through Thursday and Friday is our NIGHT OFF! No books, no studying, no homework, nothing...just relax and celebrate the end to another successful week of learning.

The list can go on and on, which it will in time, but for now, these are great starter points to begin implementing in your home. Remember, attitudes of others reflects the attitude of the leaders. If education is so important to you as the parent, then start learning with your child, together, learning from them as much as you share your experiences with them. Attitude is critical to learning. The wrong attitude and the best teacher will still produce poor results. A great attitude and poor teacher will produce poor and limited results as well. A willing child and a willing parent, can learn and master anything--together. It starts with a desire to learn, is carried over in the attitude and willingness to learn and it comes to fruition with attempt.

As I tell my students: "You are never wrong if you try, even when you answer incorrectly. You are wrong for not trying."

Bobby Ozuna
Literacy. Creativity. Learning.

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