Off to school! Guest post by Dr. Joanne Foster

978-1-77089-477-8_lSeptember heralds the beginning of autumn, and the start of a new school year. Parents, teachers and children wonder what that year is going to be like. Exciting? Daunting? Fun-filled? Work-laden? Many kids navigate the change from summertime leisure to academic learning without any difficulty, whereas others find it hard to settle into “back-to-school” mode. Even very capable learners can experience challenges. Parents often ask, “How can we help our children through that transitional period when school begins, and then onward, through the months ahead?”

Here are four tips for success:

1 — Be attuned to what’s happening in your children’s lives. Parents who stay on top of things over the course of the year are better positioned to guide, advise and troubleshoot more effectively. Listen. Observe. Don’t be pushy or annoying. Do make an effort to be “in-the-know” about the highs, lows and rollercoaster moments.

2 — Respect children’s views. Children learn in different ways. Honour their interests, and try to accommodate their learning preferences. Kids learn best when they’re happy, motivated and appropriately challenged.

3 – Give children access to relevant, stimulating learning opportunities. Help them acquire what they need to enable learning to happen as seamlessly as possible. This includes materials, work space, ample sleep and nutritional food.

4 – Be available to offer reinforcement and encouragement. Acknowledge children’s efforts, and help them see the value of a strong work ethic. Remember that unstructured playtime is important, too.

The world is bursting with opportunities for children to acquire knowledge. There’s no end to experiences and venues that can provide starting points for meaningful learning —sparking children’s creativity and triggering inquiry. Encourage kids to ask questions about what they see and do, and to explore possible answers by investigating a range of options (including people, websites and books). Help them try new things (sports activities, arts, foods, etc.), and visit new places (campgrounds, parks, fairs, museums, etc.). The more experiences they have, the more they’ll learn. What occurs in children’s lives beyond their classrooms serves as a catalyst, linking the real world to their academic learning, and making that learning more relevant.

As the school year revs into full gear, parents should continue to be watchful, wise and responsive. There will be countless ways to transform everyday circumstances into opportunities for children to develop and activate their intelligence, and to apply their efforts successfully and productively. Parents who start off the school year by being well informed will be better equipped to help their children transition to new classrooms and friends, engage in learning opportunities, and enjoy that learning to the fullest in the weeks and months ahead.

For suggestions and strategies to help children thrive see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (House of Anansi, 2014).

Foster_Joanne_portraitJoanne Foster, EdD is co-author (with Dona Matthews) of Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (2014, House of Anansi), and the award-winning Being Smart About Gifted Education (2009, Great Potential Press). She teaches at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and she is also a parent, consultant, researcher, and education specialist with over 30 years of experience working in the field of gifted education. She writes extensively about high-level development, and presents on a wide range of topics at conferences and learning venues across North America. Her next book Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination is in press.

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