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Budget cuts have become an unfortunate reality for many of us, and school budgets have not escaped slashing. If your children's school budget has undergone cuts, here are some tips to counteract the effects.
- Keep on top of what your child is learning at school. Be familiar with the textbooks, know the topics being covered, and be aware of the daily, weekly, and long-term assignments. One of the best things you can do to impact learning is to talk with your child. With this basic information, you can have wonderful conversations with your child that intensify his or her learning experience.
- Involve your child in “teaching" you new information. Explaining something to someone else is a great way to solidify your own understanding. More students in classrooms means that assignments requiring rote recall and short-answer responses often replace more time-consuming opportunities for higher-level thinking.
- One of the most important areas of learning that impact all other areas is reading. When your child is young, have conversations about books as you read aloud together. As your child begins to read independently, have him or her read to you to help develop fluency. Discuss new words and what they might mean, and have your child explain the overall meaning behind what is read. You may want to read the same passage several times to improve fluency and truly understand the meaning. Doing these things not only help your child at that time but teaches strategies to apply independently.
- Exploratory learning is powerful, but difficult to do with a large group of children. Show a sense of wonder about the things around you, and your child will catch the curiosity bug. “Look at that beautiful rainbow. We need to find out what creates that band of colors." Use some of the following conversation starters to get generate interest: “I wonder what would happen if…" “Tell me about…" “That's a great question. How might we find out the answer?" “I wonder why that didn't work. How could we do it differently?"
- Dig deep. Help your child explore topics in greater depth rather than the overview or skimming the surface that may take place in a crowded classroom with fewer resources. Use the library, the Internet, community resources, and local experts to help your child learn more.
- Provide arts, music, and physical education opportunities. When budget cuts occur, the things schools often eliminate first are the very things that enrich your child's learning experiences, such as art, music, and physical education classes. There are many things you can do at home to provide experiences for your child in these areas. Community recreational programs, summer camps, the YMCA, and private lessons can supplement fun experiences you provide at home.
- Expose your children to learning areas through at-home “laboratories." Science, technology, and math are some of the fastest growing areas for future employment, yet few students pursue these areas because they have not had adequate exposure and preparation. Your home is a great “laboratory" for providing hands-on learning about all kinds of things in a real-life context. Learning how to safely change a light bulb or repair a lamp is a great opportunity to learn about electrical wiring, using tools, and conserving energy, as well as being helpful. Get on the Internet or visit the library for how-to information.
- Provide classroom “extras" such as field trips. These are difficult to provide on a tight budget and with larger classes. You can give your child those extras by learning about things that are available in your nearby area and regularly planning excursions. Going to a local museum or a nature preserve is great, but arranging a visit to the hotel where your friend works can be a wonderful way for your child to see the inside operations of a huge business — from booking and reservations to the laundry and food services, there's a lot going on.
- Involve your child in planning and problem solving for how the family might cut back on expenses. When budgets are tight at schools, they often are at home, too. Give your child an opportunity to make decisions that directly impact him or her. If you're cutting back on extras, have your child help plan homemade lunches to pack for school that are cheaper than the fancy prepackaged kind. What would he or she prefer — a peanut butter sandwich or crackers and cheese?
- We're all busy, but enriching your child's education doesn't have to be one more task to add to a long list. Involve your child in those tasks. Have him or her help make the grocery list, checking the pantry to see if needed items are there. He or she can help cut and organize coupons, and shopping can be a scavenger hunt where your child has the task of finding specific items. He or she can use a calculator to keep a running tab of the cost and help count out the cash to pay when you check out.