Many Black families want their children to go to the best colleges possible when they leave high school. But, many may not know how to get them there.
Research says the best time to start to prepare a child for success is at conception or sooner, but there are things along the way from that point that parents can do to help their kids get a leg up on life.
Children from privileged backgrounds have substantial advantages over those who attend poor performing schools with substandard resources, overextended teachers and other deficiencies. A family with less means could surmount obstacles and take certain steps to assure a path to the Ivy Leagues for their children as well.
Although the quality of a school, its program, and teachers – combined with the affluence of a family – do a lot to set up a child for success, there are very simple things that parents who do not have much means can do to overcome limitations.
For the most part, success starts and ends with the parents. It’s a mistake to think that good genes and a wealthy background are the binding factors among Ivy League students and graduates.
The moment a mother-to-be discovers she is pregnant she should make a concerted effort to read out loud to her baby beginning in the second trimester when her baby’s ear buds have formed and is able to hear sounds from the world outside. Several studies support the concept that babies learn to recognize and respond to sounds they hear repeated. Similar research supports the playing of music, particularly classical music, to babies in the womb to bolster their intelligence or development.
California obstetrician Rene Van de Carr says he has observed a 33-week-old fetus pattern his breathing to the beat of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Van de Carr, who wrote While You’re Expecting…Your Own Prenatal Classroom and teaches parents how to stimulate their unborn babies through music and other exercises at his Prenatal University in Hayward, California, says because the fetus followed the rhythm of the symphony, it’s obvious he learned something about the rhythm and enjoyed it.
Read to your child for at least 20 minutes a day, from birth to early childhood and beyond. By now this piece of advice is common wisdom, and is advanced by many research institutions and educational societies, such as the Reading Foundation. You can break it up into bite sized bits for younger children with shorter attention spans and eventually increase it to a full non-interrupted 20 minutes. If we think about the time we spend watching TV, on Facbeook, Twitter and other forms of social media, there really isn’t excuse about NOT having time to do this. If it’s the only piece of homework you do as an adult, this should be it.
Exposing children to new situations and scenarios via outings can help them appreciate a world larger than the boundaries of their neighborhood. You don’t have to take them to an exotic European vacation either. A 2009 U.S. Department of Education study found that kids who travel over vacation — no matter where they go — did better in reading, math and general knowledge than their peers who didn’t vacation.
If you can’t afford a far-away vacation, a family car trip to relatives in another state can be beneficial. Beyond vacationing, even a simple car drive through a scenic part of town, a romp through an annual outdoor festival, a trip to the local’s farmer’s market to pick out colorful fruits or to the Fisherman’s wharf to look at seafood can be good enough. Leaving a kid at home, while it may be easier on your nerves, only encourages them to sit around watching television, playing video games and partaking in other mindless activities that may not stimulate their active brains enough.
Take your child to the library
Even if you don’t have the budget to purchase books, public libraries are the best resource for getting your children exposed to many different authors and stories. Sadly, most state and local governments are too caught up in budget cuts to appreciate this. Still, you can start as early as infancy. I took my young son to my public library system’s storytelling hour. It’s great for early socialization and getting them to listen to words as told in a story versus as part of social speech. It’s also wonderful for getting your children used to the variances in words through the voice of another unfamiliar person. Also, the greatness about being in a library is your child learns to value books and appreciates being in a setting among other children and adults reading for enjoyment.
Reserve Time After Work for the Children.
Carve out the few hours after work just for the kids. Doing this may mean forgoing watching your favorite show live, and catching it later on DVR after the kids are in bed. For those who work for themselves, like me, it is tempting to allow conference calls to be scheduled in the evening times, but it is best if you set up the no-calls rule and abide by it. Use those few hours after work to help your kids with their homework; take them to an after-school activity you enroll them in to keep them away from television and video games or get them to help you with dinner or setting the table.
In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss how too much television contributes to a lazy, unmotivated mind. But, you already knew that … right?