New Year, New Student! 7 Ways to improve your child’s grades, learning skills and confidence

Help your child avoid the "holiday slide" with these tips on how to keep your family mentally active and sharp.

        While you might be more than ready for your child to head back to school in January, it’s not always easy for them to make the adjustment after a long holiday break. In addition to being off their usual sleep schedule and out of their homework routine, some children also experience an “academic slide” during the long vacation. And while it may not be as big a drop as the “summer slide” (in which kids lose an average of 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills and 25 percent of their reading skills), it still stings. Here are some ideas to fight the holiday slide and make next year the best one yet!


1. Keep your child reading over the break. Whether you read to them or they do it on their own, set aside some time just for books. Make sure your child is reading age-appropriate material; if they’re too old (or advanced) for a book they may get bored. If they’re too young for a book they may get frustrated. You can ask your librarian to help you select books for your child’s interest and reading level, and they’ll likely know which books have won awards. Reading is Fundamental also has a great brochure offering tips on what to look for (www.rif.org/documents/us/choosing_books.pdf).
2. Cut back on TV, video games and computer time. There are countless studies showing that too much use of these devices (rather than free play) can add to learning struggles, behavior issues, sleep and attention problems, weight gain and depression. Also, keep an eye on WHAT they’re watching. Many TV stations now use the TV rating (TV-Y is suitable for all children, TV-Y7 is for kids 7 and older, etc.) Here is a link to TV parental guidelines: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html#
3. Get them playing music. Encourage your child to learn an instrument. This could be through lessons, video instruction or even a self-taught booklet. There is a strong correlation between music and grades; not surprising since music enhances language learning and spatial reasoning, among other things. You can read more about the correlation between “arts and smarts” here: http://media.learningrx.com/arts-the-correlation-between-the-arts-and-grades/
4. Try teaching them another language. If you don’t know one, find a class on the computer or get a book or video from the library and learn together! Learning another language strengthens major brain skills like executive control, increases multi-tasking skills and can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s later in life. Read more about the advantages of a bilingual brain: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216955.php
5. Have you child’s brain skills tested. Cognitive skills are the underlying brain tools that enable people to successfully focus, think, prioritize, plan, understand, visualize, remember, create useful associations, and solve problems.  Once found, weak cognitive skills can be strengthened with one-on-one brain training.  Unlike tutoring, which focuses on academics, brain training addresses the root cause of any learning struggles. If you improve learning skills, you improve grades and confidence.  Testing for cognitive weaknesses can be administered at a psychologist's office or a cognitive skills training center.  Learn more about cognitive training in its various forms here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/a-new-kind-of-tutoring-aims-to-make-students-smarter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
6. Set up a learning station. How many times has your child procrastinated on homework by searching for sharpened pencils? Or struggled finding a space on a cluttered dining room table to do their take-home quiz? Find a quiet space away from the distractions of a father’s TV or a sibling’s video games and set up a fully stocked desk: pencils, dictionary, calculator, etc. Here’s an article about creating an inspiring space to study: http://www.wikihow.com/Organize-Your-Desk-at-Home---Kids-Version
7. Increase their brain food. You know that soda and candy are bad for your kid’s brain (sugar, caffeine and food dye, oh my!), but did you know there are foods that can actually strengthen their brain? Among the best: wild salmon (for its omega-3 fatty acid DHA), walnuts (good for your gray matter!), and blueberries (they boost cognition and memory). Here’s a link to get you more information on brain foods: http://www.learningrxblog.com/brain-food/


The “holiday slide” doesn’t have to affect your child.  You can keep your kids sharp by helping them to stay mentally active.  To learn more about the brain and how you can help your child be successful in school and in life, log onto Facebook and “like” LearningRx Alpharetta-Johns Creek*.


* LearningRx brain training centers provide cognitive skills training that empowers anyone of any age to learn faster and easier.  Tutoring and other programs reinforce WHAT students must learn (information).  LearningRx brain training centers identify and strengthen the skills behind HOW students learn.  We provide testing and life-changing training for students of all ages who desire to learn and read better for life.  LearningRx Atlanta-Buckhead opened in March 2008 and expanded to the Alpharetta-Johns Creek area in October 2012.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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