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10 Ways to Supplement Your Child’s Education

Kids meeting giraffes and the zoo

As a parent, you’re probably used to answering questions. Lots of them. But what if your child comes home from school with queries you can’t answer? Questions about, say, why the world is round or why tigers have stripes or why the ocean is salty. Thanks to Google, you can usually get some quick answers, but what if you want to dig a little deeper?

Here are 10 ways you can supplement your curious child’s education at home – and have fun at the same time.

1. Surround your child with books.

Children who have a wide variety of reading materials at home have higher scores on reading proficiency tests than other students, according to the Educational Testing Service. Sign him or her up for a library card and make frequent visits. Whatever their interests, they’ll be able to find a book, magazine, movie or program to suit their tastes.

2. You can’t necessarily count on schools to provide field trips these days.

Zoos, art museums, historic homes, farms, nature centers and natural history museums are all rich sources of information. Have a child who’s curious about where trash goes? See if your local landfill offers tours. And make sure to look online before you go – many organizations have online study guides to enhance your visit, as well as in-house programs and children’s activities.

3. Check out online study guides and homeschooling websites.

The National Education Association has tons of lesson plans organized by subjects, and the National PTA has student guides divided by grades. Most states have at least one organization devoted to homeschooling – use Google to ferret them out.

4. Enlist your child as a helper.

When my daughter was small, I’d let her help me edit book manuscripts at home. And she’s given presentations to local schools on internet safety with her father, a cybersecurity expert. Whether it’s cooking or coding, they’ll gain self-confidence and you’ll gain some valuable bonding time.

5. Find an activity your child will love.

Not only will your kiddo learn a new skill, but he or she will build more neurons and maybe get some exercise at the same time. Whether they lean toward karate, music, cooking, language, archery, swimming or arts and crafts, the options are almost endless.

6. Go back to school.

Local colleges and universities often offer classes for children, both during the school year and in the summer. Have a budding artist at home? The Rhode Island School of Design offers classes in animation, drawing and architecture, while little chefs can take cooking and baking classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

7. Websites can be your friend.

I know, I know – kids already spend so much time on their devices. But certain well-crafted websites can both entertain and inform. Scratch teaches children how to write computer code using an easy drag-and-drop interface, while National Geographic Kids, the Library of Congress and NASA have content geared toward curious kiddos.

8. Commission an out-of-school assignment on your child’s favorite subject.

When my daughter was younger, she absolutely adored chipmunks (thanks, Alvin). After exhausting our local library’s resources, we asked her to write a one-page report on chipmunks. She loved it, and did one on wolves a few years later.

9. At-home science experiments.

If you don’t mind a little cleaning up afterward, this could be a whole lot of fun. Clear off the kitchen table and build a volcano out of clay or Play-Doh and mix together baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption. Grow and hatch butterflies – or buy an ant farm. (Kits are easy to find online.) Or just make some simple dough out of flour and water and let your child have fun making shapes – and making a mess.

10. Ask teachers for resources.

Last but certainly not least, go to the pros! If your child wants to learn more about a favorite subject or needs some extra practice, his or her teachers can recommend books, strategies and resources to help them succeed and thrive, both in and out of the classroom.

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