sealPurdue News

August 1999

Parents can set the tone for a successful school year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The final few weeks of summer break are the ideal time for parents to help their children prepare for the upcoming school year, according to the dean of Purdue's School of Education.

"Parents can guide activities now that will make the classroom more enjoyable and a richer learning experience this fall," says Marilyn Haring, who also is a professor of counseling and development.

"This is especially true if your child felt school was boring last year, had learning or behavior difficulties, or avoided school or homework."

Haring suggests planning one or more trips related to the coming year's school work. They can be as elaborate as a tour of a historic site or as simple as a stop at the local courthouse.

"If your child is going to be learning about the judicial system in social studies, watching a court of law in action will give new meaning to classwork," Haring says. "A historic site will provide a firsthand experience that will stimulate further thinking, reading and discussion of that event and period in history."

She adds that a child who has had an interesting informal learning experience then has an opportunity to be a resource in class by sharing maps, brochures and postcards from the trip.

Haring says a scientific activity such as growing a garden, keeping an aquarium or stargazing will build some additional expertise that can be utilized in next year's work.

"The Internet is a rich resource for gaining more information on those topics -- and for building technology skills," Haring adds. "A student who becomes skilled at using the Internet often becomes an avid learner because it's fun and fast-paced, and those skills are transferable to gathering information on many subjects."

Finally, Haring says it's a good time to discuss and set some goals for next year that emphasize learning rather than just getting good grades.

"It's important to stress goals that address mastery of content, skill building and acquiring meaning," Haring explains. "For example, if your child will be studying fractions, a good goal might be to halve or quarter a complex recipe that you and your youngster will prepare together."

Haring urges parents to set meaningful learning goals that are creatively tied to competence in the world their child knows and enjoys.

"This can make learning fun -- and more likely," she says.

CONTACT: Haring, (765) 494-5832; e-mail,

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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