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Posted: December 14, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Good learning starts at home

I have four granddaughters ranging from first grade to fourth grade. Stair steps. Last weekend, the first grader, my youngest, read to me a book about Red Riding Hood. When she got to the part of the story where the wolf was in grandmother's bed, she stopped to show me the picture. I asked her if Red Riding Hood knew it was the wolf and not her grandmother.

She looked at me condescendingly, if a first grader can be condescending, and said, "That's the point of the story, grandmamma."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But I did neither and just agreed.

I wanted to laugh because a first grader was teaching me about literature. After all, I taught English, or language arts as it is now called, in high school for over 30 years. And, while most people don't consider the story of Red Riding Hood as one of the great works of literature, my granddaughter was dead serious about her analysis of the story.

I wanted to cry because both her mother and I have worked very hard with my granddaughter this year. Her mother makes sure she does her homework, reads with her every night and quizzes her on her spelling words. I have made myriads of flash cards and have taken on the responsibility of making sure she knows the sight words required of her grade level. I am proud to report that we are now on word list nine.

I also want to thank her teachers and all who have worked with her this year. They have done a wonderful job. She attends Flint Hill Elementary, and I am very happy with the progress she has made this year. She is excited about school and engaged in her learning.

But what is the point of this story you may ask? Report cards or progress reports or whatever they call them now will be distributed early in January.

If you are happy with your child's grades, tell your child how proud you are. Explain why it is important to do well in school. Thank your child's teachers for all the help they are giving your child. Everyone needs a pat on the back.

If you are not happy with your child's report card or feel he could do better, do not blame the teacher or berate the child. Neither reaction is productive. Deciding whom to blame does not solve the problem. To solve the problem, you first have to identify it. Go to your child's teacher and ask what the problem is and what you can do to help your child. Ask your child what he thinks is the problem and what he thinks he can do to improve his grades. Explain to him that you feel he can and should do better at school. Explain why it is important to succeed in school. Then come up with a plan to improve your child's chances of success. Vow to make the second half of school an opportunity for your child to improve. Then get busy.

Spend 30 minutes a day helping your child with school work. So what if the dishes don't get done on time or if you or your child miss a favorite television show. Thirty minutes a day is three and a half hours a week. If your child plays a sport, that amount of time probably equals the amount of time he practices for a sport. What's more important, sports or school?

You can make the time. My daughter is a single parent, works full time and even coached her daughter's soccer team. She found time.

Enlist help. You don't have to do it all alone. Ask grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors for help. The more people show an interest in your child's school work, the more important your child will think it is and the harder he will try. Most relatives and friends are happy to help and flattered that they were asked for help.

That is the point of this story. Don't waste time grumbling and placing blame or making excuses. Make a plan and stick to it. Our children's futures are too important. Don't give them up without a fight.


Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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