University of Illinois Extension

Structure and Support Are Key Elements for School Success

Ann Marie Marshall, Family Life Educator

We all know that home life affects children's success at school. So what can you do to help ensure that your grandchildren succeed?

Start by creating an environment that encourages learning. Provide a special space for homework. If a separate desk or table isn't feasible, use part of a dining room or kitchen table. A box with school supplies can be brought to the table when it's study time.

Also pay attention to how your grandchildren learn. Some need a quiet private area, but others need coaching. If the children aren't doing well in school, ask for help. Early diagnosis of learning difficulties, vision problems or hearing loss reduces their risk of failure in school.

Establish a homework routine to make it part of everyday activities. Emphasize that homework is not "optional." Study time could be when the children get home from school, before supper, or before television or playtime.

School is not only stressful for children, but it can also be stressful for you. Memories of past school experiences may cause a bias. Realize that schoolwork has changed and may cause you to feel uncomfortable. Remember that it's okay to tell the children you don't know the answer - but, then work to find the answer. What you then teach the children are valuable problem-solving skills.

And last but not least, be a role model. When children see you reading or enrolling in an adult education class, they get the message that learning is important. Visit the public library as a family and take advantage of the books, videos, audio tapes, Internet access and educational programs that are available. Just remember, reading, writing and math are important skills. But other skills like setting priorities, managing time, and solving problems also impact children's ability to succeed in school and in life.