Back to School Confidence Builders
Sponsors: Eye Level Learning Center | SEASPAR
Raising children in an education-friendly home can help create lifelong problem solvers. When children are encouraged to ask questions, experiment with their ideas, and explain their thought process, they develop skills that will help them excel in life in general, but especially in subjects such as science and math – ones that rely heavily on strong problem-solving skills.
The good news is that even if you’re not a whiz at math or science (yet!) you can still help boost your child’s confidence and empower them to return to school with new knowledge and excitement about exploring the world around them.
1.) Expose them to role models
Exposing your child to the powerful role models of the world through books, movies, television shows, etc. can help them gain confidence and inspire their own journey. By being able to picture themself accomplishing the same amazing things, they’ll feel powerful and inspired to put themselves out there and try new things. These are a few amazing role models in books or movies:
- Marie Curie by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara
- The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Helligman
- The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca
- The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
- Hidden Figures (PG)
- Black Panther (PG-13)
- Code Girl (documentary)
- The Imitation Game (PG-13)
- Contact (PG)
- Gravity (PG-13)
2.) Wonder and solve problems together
Be curious together. It doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t know about science or math –learn together. If there’s a question or problem they’re stuck on, look it up together; or encourage them to research a topic they’re wondering about then have them come tell you about it. They’ll absorb your sense of wonder and desire to learn and likely come to internalize it as their own. They’ll also be empowered to search for answers to their questions instead of having them spoon-fed to them. This will help them not only at home but also in the classroom. With the confidence to ask questions and let their teacher know when they need help, they’ll be able to better understand subjects that they didn’t feel too confident about before.
3.) Do educational activities together
The best way for children to learn is by doing hands-on activities. Intentional adult-children interactions can help extend this learning, so finding way to enjoy education can make a huge difference in their confidence levels. For science especially, there are amazing resources to help facilitate these interactions and make learning a positive experience.
- Visit your local science museum! You can use this directory to search for science museums in your area.
- There are so many free online resources such as Yellow Scope’s blog page, which describe experiments you can do at home with supplies you probably have in your cupboard. This is a great family activity for a rainy day or during summer when kids are looking for something fun to do with friends. Set them up in the backyard and let them experiment!
- Purchase science, math, engineering kits then set aside family time to work on them together! Award-winning Yellow Scope science kits are perfect for that 8–12-year-old in your life; check out A Mighty Girl’s website to search for age-specific math activities; or delve into circuitry and electronics with Little Bits’ electronic building blocks.
4.) Embody a growth mindset
According to Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, how students perceive their abilities has a big impact on their motivation and achievement. Students with a “fixed” mindset believe intelligence and abilities are “fixed” or unchangeable, whereas those with a “growth” mindset believe these traits can be developed. Students with a fixed mindset are more likely to shy away from challenges and asking questions for fear of not looking smart. By contrast, those with a growth mindset tend to ask more questions and seek out challenges – seeing them as opportunities for growth and development. In fact, in study after study, students who learned to embody a growth mindset performed better when challenging material was presented; they also earned higher grades and took more challenging classes!
Here are some phrases that adults can use to can help encourage a growth mindset:
- “When you learn how to do a new kind of math problem, it grows your math brain.”
- “That feeling of science being hard is your science brain growing.”
If possible, try to avoid suggestions that students (or you!) aren’t good at specific subjects like: “I can’t do math.”
- “That’s okay, maybe science isn’t one of your strengths.”
Note: If you slip (as we all sometimes do!) and accidentally find yourself using one of these phrases, simply add “yet” to the end.)
When they make a mistake, help them think of it as a great learning opportunity.
5.) Give them time to explore and think on their own.
Children learn science best when they experiment, make mistakes, make observations, re-try the experiments, and then think about what’s happening. This process can take time. Give them the time and space to explore and discover on their own before jumping in with the “correct” answers. Providing support while they’re struggling with a question, problem, or idea can let them know you’re there for encouragement, but still allows them to problem-solve and get the answer themselves.
By Marcie Colledge, PhD and Kelly McCollum, MPH
Eye Level Learning Center
Eye Level is based on an educational philosophy in which students learn at their own pace. Each student receives an individualized program based on their ability, independent of age and grade. Eye Level English develops students’ essential writing and literacy skills through a comprehensive English Language Arts program. Eye Level Math develops students’ critical and analytical thinking skills through a comprehensive program and small-step approach. We offer virtual and in-center classes. Contact your local Eye Level Learning Center to find out about our back-to-school promotions! To learn more, visit www.myeyelevel.com.
SEASPAR is a special recreation association offering therapeutic recreation programs and services – including 2 multi-sensory room – for people with disabilities served by the park districts of Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lemont, Lisle, Westmont, and Woodridge, and the villages of Brookfield, Indian Head Park, and Western Springs. Visit SEASPAR.org or call 630.960.7600 for more information about our year-round programming for all ages and all abilities!