Ways to Get Involved in Your Child’s Studies

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES ; Mary Laine Yarber teaches English at Santa Monica High School

Ask teachers to name the most important factor in a student’s success and they will probably tell you it is parent involvement in the child’s studies. After a few weeks of school, I can always tell which of my students has someone at home to monitor schoolwork and which ones don’t.

It is actually quite easy to help your son or daughter achieve more in school, regardless of the student’s grade level or your own educational background.

First, provide a quiet and comfortable place in the home where the student can study. You don’t have to buy a computer or encyclopedia, although these certainly help. The only real essentials are a table and some decent lighting.

There is one other resource that every study space should have: a dictionary. Good spelling and precise language are needed in all subjects and grade levels. My own preference is Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. As an English teacher, I’ve used many dictionaries, and I find Webster’s range of vocabulary to be well suited to students from elementary school through college.


Studying should become part of the routine at home, so help your child choose a specific block of time just for that. Choose a block that is fairly early; work done late at night is often rushed and of low quality.

Make sure the student is not interrupted while studying. Phone calls and unfinished chores can wait until the schoolwork is finished.

Look over the homework when it’s done, even if it’s a subject in which you don’t feel confident. Check for thoroughness and neatness, not necessarily correctness.

Television is the greatest temptation to stray from homework. But it need not be banned--just put in its place. Monitor what your child watches and for how long each day. And make sure there’s a healthy balance of programs.


For example, I admit that I enjoy Raiders games, mystery programs and even the mindless “Beavis and Butt-head"--but I also like newscasts, documentaries, and “Masterpiece Theatre.”

You can also improve your child’s reading skills and strengthen your bond through sharing of ideas.

Take turns reading an assigned story, newspaper article or book, for example, then discuss what you’ve read. Or watch the news together and then discuss it.

You’re now working to improve your child’s schoolwork, so eliminate any bad influences. Aside from home and school, where does your child spend free time? Who are his or her friends? Do they support or cancel out the goals and values you’re trying to teach?


These seem like basic questions, but many parents are dangerously unaware. Some parents don’t even know their children are in gangs until one is arrested or killed. In short, be able to account for every hour your child is not at home or school.

Above all, make a big fuss over academic achievements or improvements. Write a list, with suggestions from your son or daughter, of rewards you will give for better grades.

I suspect your child will rate cold cash as the reward of choice, but I recommend some alternatives. A trip to a museum, a lunch at the park or beach, a game of catch, freedom from a day’s chores are among the possibilities.

Of course no parent can do all of these things every day, but by choosing activities and guidelines that suit your schedule and budget, you can work as the teacher’s partner in educating and guiding your child.