One of the best steps you can take for your child is to model a love of learning, says tutor Marina Koestler Ruben, author of "How to Tutor Your Own Child" (Ten Speed Press, 2011).
Don't fret about being a math or language whiz. In her book, Ruben suggests how parents can think creatively to share responsibility for their children's education. For a simple start, make the most of your home for after-school enrichment. Think like a teacher who has multiple centers in the classroom:
*On the fridge, put up what you want your child to learn about, such as a chart of the U.S. presidents.
*Use letters, numbers and sight words on refrigerator magnets.
*Grocery lists are a good way to get a beginning reader to practice. Encourage your child to add his requests.
*Buy or make your own place mats that include maps, flags, guides to writing the alphabet or themes such as dinosaurs and the solar system. Change out the themes to go along with what your child is learning in school.
*Incorporating movement and hands-on activities in schoolwork stimulates the brain, Ruben writes. Encourage your child to:
*Walk in the shape of tricky spelling words.
*Use sidewalk chalk to make graphs on the driveway.
*Set up dominoes for math equations.
*Practice the alphabet by drawing letters in sand, or use bath crayons in the tub.
*Recite multiplication tables as she takes one step up a staircase for each number in a series, such as 7, 14, 21, etc.
*Use a simple toy, such as a colorful doughnut stacker or blocks, to help learn subtraction.
*Play Scrabble to work on spelling in a fun way. Learn about grammar by playing Mad Libs, and math concepts with card games.
*Pick out a personal notebook to draw and write in.
Repeated exposure to a topic inspires your child to make comparisons and connections. For example: go see the bears at a zoo, read fiction and nonfiction books about bears, and borrow bear-related documentaries from the library. The more connections your child can make, the better his understanding of new information will be.
What about the walls in your child's room or playroom? Create an inviting space to learn by painting a wall or designated area with chalkboard paint. Or put up a corkboard for artwork and articles.
More traditional tutoring tips from "How to Tutor Your Own Child":
Adjust your instruction and expectations to meet the needs of your child.
Model ways to break down big tasks into smaller steps.
Don't assume that a child knows the basics. It's easy for teachers and parents to assume what children already know.
No matter how silly a question may sound, take any request for information seriously. Don't judge or mock your child's responses.
Have an organized homework and tutoring station with supplies, but make crayons, pencils and paper accessible in different rooms of your house, too -- not just in one rigid compartment.
Ann K. Dolin, author of "Homework Made Simple" (Advantage Books, 2010), says children have different learning styles. Some learn best by listening, some have to watch every step, while others learn best with hands-on activities. The trick is figuring out the preferred style and capitalizing on your child's strengths.
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