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School Success Begins At Home
An excerpt from a USA Weekend feature by
Tom Loveless, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.,
where he serves as director of the Brown Center on Education Policy.
Learning takes time. People are
more likely to learn the things they spend time on than those they donít. This common sense
rule is known by anyone who has tried to master a difficult skill, from playing piano to
swinging a golf club. Itís true for school subjects, too, as has been confirmed by a massive
body of research. Still, children in the United States donít devote much time to learning
outside the classroom. The average American high schooler spends five hours on homework per
Families need to re-examine how
their children spend their time -- and re-evaluate their priorities. Here are five
activities parents can focus on to ensure their childrenís success at school:
The popular misconception that kids have too much.
Accept homework. It is essential.
Research shows homework boosts achievement in grades 6-12. Harris Cooper, an expert on
homework, recommends a sensible target for the average student: Ten minutes per day per
grade level (e.g., 30 minutes for third-graders, 60 for sixth-graders, 90 for
Socializing with friends.
School performance falls as time spent with friends increases.
Influence of adults must outweigh that of friends when it comes to school.
Nearly one-fifth of students say they donít try as hard as they could because they worry
about what their friends might think. Only one in three say their friends believe good
grades are important.
The answer is not to lock kids
in their bedrooms. Rather, schools and parents need to convey consistently high
expectations. Peer values are strong, but adult values are stronger. Even teens realize
that; a 1997 survey showed they feel adults donít demand enough of them. "The
students seem to be crying out for the adults in their lives to take a stand and
inspire them to do more," says Deborah Wadsworth, the president of Public Agenda,
a non-partisan polling group that focuses on educational issues.
Sports are all-important.
Cut back on sports if they interfere with schoolwork.
The average high school student spends 10 to 15 hours per week on extracurricular
Do sports affect student
learning? In moderation, participation is healthy. For academically weak students,
sports can make school more attractive and reinforce the importance of being a good
student. Achievement falls off sharply, however, for students who devote more than 20
hours weekly to extracurricular activities. Varsity squads easily can spend that much
time on practice, conditioning, travel and competition.
Kids who spend more than 20
hours per week on sports probably borrow time from other activities. Sacrificing study
time means sacrificing the future.
Television usually is not the problem; people just think it is.
Limit, don't turn off, the TV.
Television often is blamed for depressing student achievement. Some of that is a bum
rap. Students who are casual viewers -- no more than an hour a day -- tend to do better
academically than do students who watch no television at all.
Why are occasional viewers
better students? They probably are discriminating with their time, using TV to stay
informed of current events or to enjoy cultural shows. But heavy viewing definitely
takes a toll. Half of eighth-graders report watching three or more hours of TV daily.
In both reading and math, those students perform at significantly lower levels than
Students work too much.
Curtail weekday jobs during the school year.
Who is better prepared for the real world: someone skilled in math and science or in
flipping hamburgers and making change at a register?
As with sports, 20 hours of
work per week seems to be the limit; studies indicate that working more impedes
learning. Some kids work late at night, and although there are laws against it,
enforcement is spotty. High school teachers will tell you students fall asleep in
class. Unless absolutely necessary, high schoolersí jobs should be limited to weekends
14 "Rules Kids Won't Learn In School"
Written by Charles J. Sykes, a
senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, who has written a number of
books, including "Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About
Themselves, But Can't read, Write or Add."
Life is not fair -- get used to it.
The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to
accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
You will not make $50,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice
president with a car phone, until you earn both.
If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss who doesn't have
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different
word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.
If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn
Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way
from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool
you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents'
generation, try delousing the closet in your room.
Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some
schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you
want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to
anything in real life.
Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers
are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee
shop and go to jobs.
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic.
You are not immortal. (See RULE 12).
Enjoy this while you can.
Family Safety Tips, What Should We Do To Protect
Ourselves And Our Families From Crime?
The crime rate has been dropping
during the 90's, but that appears to be changing. In the first six months of 2000 there
were increases in auto-theft, rape and aggravated assault, according to the FBI.
Internet-related crimes, identity theft and credit card fraud are also on the
The situation may soon worsen. The
number of young people entering their late teens and early 20's -- the most crime-prone
years -- is the largest since the baby boomers. With that and the possible slowdown of
the economy, crime may be heading back up.
We canít expect law enforcement to
be everywhere all the time. We must assume roles in making our communities and ourselves
safe. So what should we do to protect ourselves and families from crime?
is the fastest growing crime in America. A call
from an unknown creditor may be your first clue that your identity may have been
stolen. To minimize your risk, donít divulge personal information online or over the
telephone. Shred bills and other documents before throwing them away. Review your
credit reports at least once per year. For more info about identity theft visit:
. Research has shown that some responses to
attempted rape are better than others. There is strong evidence that fighting,
screaming and trying to get away are effective, according to Sarah Ullman, Ph.D., at
the University of Illinois, at Chicago. Experts advise being aware of oneís surroundings
and staying in well-lit and public places whenever possible to avoid the situation in the
your house. Your first line of defense is to
lock your doors and windows. Almost 50% of burglaries are accomplished through unlocked
doors or windows. Studies have shown that barking dogs deter lots of burglars. For more
tips, call the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, 509-574-2600, or your own police
If you see a
trying to steal your car, get a good look at the
thief. A description of the crook is important to police. Donít run and confront the
thief. You risk injury. If you must confront such a person, do it from a distance. For
more theft prevention tips visit: www.nicb.com.
"Crime Alert: Protect Your Family,"
by Sharlene K. Johnson, June, 2001 edition, Ladiesí Home Journal.
Eight Steps To Making A Seamless
Transition From Adolescence To Adulthood
Some people believe that
adolescence is a difficult time in a child's development. But, this is not necessarily
true. Many teenagers pass through their adolescent years smoothly and victoriously,
passing into adulthood relatively unscathed. Still, there are many steps you can take to
help your teenager and yourself make a seamless transition. The eight steps that follow
are some of the most helpful:
Keep communication lines
Listen when your child talks and try to
understand his/her position. Be supportive rather than critical. When it's your turn
to talk, be assertive, but don't lecture.
Maintain a good
Chances are, your child will choose to obey
you more often than not if the two of you have a good relationship based on mutual
trust and respect.
Avoid treating your
adolescent as if he/she were a young child.
Give him/her the respect your child needs to
learn how to make their own decisions and form their own opinions. Allow them to make
mistakes. Adjust their role in the family so that it is more appropriate to their
changing needs. Making them dependent upon you will not help them.
Give them space.
Try not to smother him/her or force them to do
everything the family does. Independence is necessary to your child's development.
Honor and respect your
Encourage him/her to be themselves. Accept
their differences. Time spent trying to make your child a model child will only end
in frustration and resentment.
Be a strong leader, not
just a good parent.
Be positive. Express confidence in your child's
abilities. Teach values. Set a good example. Conduct your life the way you would like
to see your child conduct theirs. Be careful not to say, "Do as I say, not as I
do." Kids will remember what you did more than what you said. Remember that
being a parent is hard work. Effective parenting requires self control and responsible
behavior on your part, whether you are parenting an infant, child or adolescent.
No matter what happens, a
sense of humor can help!
Be willing to laugh at yourself. Laugh along
with your child. Have fun. Kids love it when adults lighten up!
Whenever you would like to
see an improvement in your child's attitude or behavior, take a look at your own
You may be the one who needs to make an
adjustment. Your child might be following in your footsteps.
The Internet, Your Child And You -- What Every Parent Should
The Internet is an extraordinary
resource that links our children to a world of information, experiences and ideas that
might otherwise be unavailable to them. However, the Internet can also expose our children
to numerous risks, and it is crucial to remember that when a child is online, his or her
safety may also be on the line. Just as you have taught your child basic safety rules for
the physical world, you should also teach your child basic safety rules for the computer
The following basic safety rules
pertain to all types of Internet applications.
Place your child's computer
in an area where you are best able to monitor his or her online activities.
Take an active interest in
your child's online activities.
Warn your child never to
reveal any identifying information such as: ethnicity, age, address, phone
number, school name, parents' names, parents' employers or work addresses. Caution
your child that predators and con-artists are experts at accumulating incremental
amounts of personal data until they eventually obtain enough information to locate a
Warn your child that identity
is easily concealed online and that people may not be who they claim to be. Explain
to your child that, for example, an online "friend" who claims to be the
same age as your child may in fact be an adult in search of a child victim.
Warn your child never to
arrange an in-person meeting with someone met online.
Warn your child never to
accept anything sent to him or her by a person met online.
Warn your child never to
post online a photo of any family member without your permission. Explain that online
images may be altered or "morphed" and used on, for example, pornographic
Consider using filtering or
blocking software. There is an extensive array of filtering or blocking software
available. Some of it is free of charge. However, you should be aware that the
software may not be completely effective, children may be able to bypass the
restrictions, or your child may use a computer that is not equipped with these
"Parental Power Is The Most Underutilized Tool In
Combating Substance Abuse", According To Joseph Califano, President Of The National
Center On Addiction And Substance Abuse
The National Center on Addiction
and Substance Abuse, (CASA), a national organization that studies substance abuse,
"Parents who are
parents rather than pals
can greatly reduce the risk of their children
smoking, drinking and using drugs."
parents who enforce curfews and monitor
their childrenís TV and music habits are less
likely to use drugs."
"Teens with parents who are
Ďhands-offí and impose no restrictions on them are at four times the risk to smoke, drink
or use drugs than teens
living in a house with rules
"The more times a week teens
eat dinner with their parents
-- without the TV on -- the less the child's risk
of becoming a substance abuser. Youths who do not eat with their parents have double the
risk of using drugs than those who eat dinner as a family every night."
"For the 6th
teens reported drugs as the greatest concern
facing people their age."
"Chances of teens
using drugs more than doubles
when they attend a school with drugs in its halls
Being the parent of a teen is
It means having clear expectations and boundaries,
so the kids know where you are coming from and why.
Washington Times, Feb. 22, 2001,
edition,"Parental control curbs teen drug use," by Regina Holtman and