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How to help and support your child learn

Could it be worse? Does it ever cross your mind?

Or- Did I need this? Maybe it would be better if we stayed at home and made school easier for the child? We only struggle. I can’t speak Croatian and I can’t help him.

Noooo. Because there are ways to make things better for you. Here are my tips&trcks how to help your child study.

1. At school

70 hours of Croatian in addition to regular classes are organized during the school year, to help your child effective master the Croatian language and make up for insufficient knowledge in certain subjects.

In addition to regular class attendance, children can attend supplementary classes for the subjects they have the need for.

Use this opportunity, especially from 1st to 4th grade when the teacher teaches these classes every week.

Something that I always advise and encourage parents to do is to be in constant contact with teachers especially in the begging. Ask everything. School professional services (pedagogue, psychologist, speech therapist (check in your school who is there; not all school have all of them) is also at your disposal for all your legal and educational issues.

Still, your collaboration with teachers is the most important. Primarily with child’s class teacher. What if your child has too much homework, more than he can handle and causes him frustration and stress?

Talk to the teacher. A child who doesn’t speak Croatian well shouldn’t have the same amount of assignment as other children.

2. What can parents do at home?

1st grade

Help them adjust to the new environment. Spend time with them. Talk to them but not only about school. Encourage them to socialize with other kids, to ask the teacher what they want and need to know.

While they are playing, play Croatian songs and stories in the background.

Read to them. The more, the better. Encourage them to read to you. You shouldn’t neglect the mother tongue either.

Go through together what they did at school before starting homework. Ask the child what he wants to do first.

You don’t need to insist; in the begging it’s important to create a sense of security and peace for him. If you are relaxes and you don’t see school or the language as a problem, your child will be calm and he will start to accept his obligations.

Give yourself and them time.

2nd to 4th grade

With higher grade come more obligations but also progress.

- Help them organize their learning.

You need to organize your daily and weekly schedules outside of school so that your children know how to manage their own time, learning and extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to write every assignment in his daily planner. Planners and schedules develop their independence (from the parents).

Organization and planning facilitate and simplify learning. Children will be less confused about what is expected of them and will be able to learn easier and faster.

When they finnish, they should put learning materials and equipment away, clean their workspace in order to be able to start the next task or project more easily and quickly.

- Help with Croatian

1. Building understanding. Start with words in the text, than sentences. Child can make a chart, comic book; any way that helps him understand the text better.

2. Refer to class notes. Have your child review what they learnt at school. Homework is the repetition of what they did in school. Also reviewing previous work will instill a growth mindset and teach your child self-sufficiency.

3. Graphic organizers (like Venn diagrams and flowcharts) are visual frameworks that show relationships between things. These tools are great for externalizing ideas, creating outlines, and giving working memory muscles a break.

4. Act as a scribe. Write (or type) as your child speaks. Best used from 5th to 8th grade, this technique helps students get over starting obstacles on an assignment and can be augmented by asking guiding questions to encourage thought.

5. Schedule reading time for about 15 minutes a few times a week. Make it a family activity.

6. Audiobooks. If they are an auditory type of learner, let them listen to the book.

7. Use TV captions to sneak in more reading time and to boost understanding.

8. Underlining. They can highlight the important parts of the text, what is familiar and what’s not, what they (don’t) understand,…

9. Copy the text. Gives them opportunity to develop writing skills.

10. Break tasks into smaller parts. If the assignment is bigger or it has more than one part, it’s a good idea to divide into tasks to make it easier. Bigger task can be stressful for children (not just for kids!) to learning this technique would be really valuable for them.

11. Have your child doodle and draw what she is learning. If she is learning about the water cycle in nature (4th grade- Science), she can sketch out each step of the process. The images she creates will help her remember the material later. Then she can recount it in her own words.

12. Take notes. The physical act of note-taking keeps the hands and mind involved in the learning process. It also creates mental pictures to remember.

13. Add color to enhance key points. For lessons that include new vocabulary or important themes, have your child write the words or phrases in a different color each time it appears in her notes. Using color makes homework more fun and helps her recall information.

These are suggesting for you. You don’t need to use them all. If you want to try them all, start one by one or combine two or three.

- General tips for homework:

  • Establish time for homework. Some children need a break after classes. Others work best while still in “school mode.” If after-school activities make a regular schedule impossible, post a weekly calendar that lists homework start and finish times.

  • Schedule a five-minute break for every 20 minutes of work. In order to study better, stay focused and not to exhaust themselves, short and frequent breaks are mandatory.

  • Respect your child’s “saturation point.” If he’s too tired or frustrated to finish his homework, let him stop. Write a note to the teacher explaining that he did as much as he could. If he has problems focusing, writes slowly, or needs extra time to understand concepts, assignments will consistently take longer than they should.

  • Don’t do the work for him. Have them show you how to do the work. By asking your child to work through the problem on her own — but in your presence — it gives her the independent skills to solve her own problems, without cutting her off completely.

  • Study groups: peer study group can be educational and fun too.

5th to 8th grade

- all written in 1st to 4th grade section +:

- children: apply what has been learned (homework, planning and organizing time),

- parents:

1. Be there for you child whenever they need you. Even though they are growing up and becoming more independent, they still need their mum and dad: to talk to, for comfort, encouragement, to cuddle.

2. Keep communicating and collaborating with teachers.

3. Pay special attention in the 5th grade. Children get, not just, new subjects but also a lot of new teachers. Talk to all them and them know your situation.

But, still, primary the most important role of the parents is to take care of:

- children's mental health and

- parent- child relationship.

Focus positively on your relationship with children above all else.
  • Avoid passing judgment. Overreacting about incomplete assignments or poor study habits will only cause your child to shut down. Instead, start a dialogue: “I notice you have five overdue assignments. Tell me about that (in Croatian).” (If a child is upset, let him you matter tougue.)

  • Avoid power struggles. Give your child space and options when tensions run high. Say, “I know Croatian can be frustrating. Come find me when you’re ready for help.”

  • Whenever you see your child tired, stressed, overwhelm from school: give him a day off from school. You can devote yourself to your child to help him reset. It’s good when family spend time together. Then you don't do anything related to school.

  • Seek outside help. You don’t have to be your child’s teacher especially if you don't know the language. Somebody else – an older student, a professional tutor, etc. – can take those reins. Outside help offers one-on-one attention and consistency, and it reduces family stress and conflict.

I’m here for you if you have any issues about Croatian school, learning and helping your child.

You can reach me at:

Dragana, parent support advisor

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