3 Ways to Support Your Child Academically

VMS Community Blog

Posted December 20, 2017
by Kristen Kenly, VMS Student Support Services

"How can I support my child academically?" It’s one of the most common refrains that I hear in the hallway when speaking to parents and in my own mind thinking about my own children. I have found the answer to be surprisingly simple and incredibly powerful.


1) Read to them!

It is natural to think that kids get better at reading by reading (and this is true), but the research also shows incredible benefits to children’s long term reading skills when they are read to. It may be even more surprising that children still enjoy being read to beyond their lower school years. The survey below reports this finding up to age 17, and clearly illustrates the benefits of continuing this routine as students grow older.

Reading together shows the joy of literature, shares the family value around reading, builds children’s vocabularies, exposes kids to fluent reading (and possibly great voices), provides material for important conversations, and exposes kids to different, wonderful books. For me the benefits are beautifully captured in that moment, when we stop at a point of great suspense, only to hear, “NO! Please keep reading!! Just ONE MORE page!”

Here are two quick links to articles that discuss the benefits of reading aloud:

2) Play games with them!

I love games! I am not shy to say that I play games with students who have a variety of academic needs and interests because the benefits and the joy that comes from games are palpable. Planning, goal setting, organization, working memory, time management, memory, mental flexibility, and problem solving are all executive functioning skills that games can help to develop. The term “executive functioning skills” is in vogue, partly because they are so beneficial to academic success. Executive functioning skills can be thought of as the CEO or the air traffic controller of the brain. They can also be tricky skills to develop in a fun, consistent way. Some of my favorite games to play with children are Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Mastermind, Set, Rush Hour Jr, Swish, Gobblet, Cathedral, Uno, Quiddler, and Farkle to list just a few. This list includes games that can begin in kindergarten, while still being fun for middle and high school students. I try to “follow the child” when picking games, and will often begin with games like Mastermind, Rush Hour Jr, and Uno that are easier to understand, and build to games like Cathedral, Quiddler and Farkle.

3) Engage in conversation with them!

“How was your day?” may not always elicit an in-depth response, but engaging your child in thoughtful conversation is very beneficial. Beyond building your relationship with your child, conversations are a wonderful way to expand your child’s vocabulary, expose them to more complex language structures and ideas, practice listening, and give them the opportunity to talk. We try to take a few minutes at dinner to share the best and worst parts of our days, and something for which we are grateful. I have heard of other families writing down various challenging social situations and choosing one each night to talk through and brainstorm different responses. There are also games, card sets, and websites full of conversation starters. For me, keeping it simple means we are more likely to do it (and forgiving myself when we forget for days or weeks on end). Eleanor Duckworth wrote, “Much of the learning described here seems light hearted, playful. It is. But it is also monumentally serious.” I have found that some of the best ways that we can help our own child or children is to focus on the lighthearted and playful activities that bring us together and set them up for future success.

Kristen Kenly
Student Support Services Teacher
Vail Mountain School