Odilia Rivera Santos
It is Hispanic Heritage Month and we will ignore its actual start date and focus on the most important issue in the life of Latinos: Education.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the high school graduation rate among Latinos has improved. However, a graduation rate of 57 percent among Hispanic students is nothing to be proud of.
Parents in the U.S. are often overwhelmed by having to deal with work, and maintaining a home and a marriage intact; for low-income families, the challenges in raising a family are exacerbated by a limited income and less leisure time.
Oftentimes, children do not associate a formal education with everyday life. Lectures about how school is important and how you wish you had gone to college or taken school seriously don't work because it is negative reinforcement. Children don't respond well to being told of the horrors that await them should they decide to drop out of high school, trade school or college.
Positive reinforcement is a much more successful tool and because kids disengage from lectures -- you remember Charlie Brown and his teacher. Wah wah wah -- your best option as a parent is to incorporate learning into everyday life.
Living life one day at a time while thinking about the future
Cooking with your children and eating meals as a family are a great way for a parent to initiate conversations with children in a nonthreatening non-confrontational way. While you cook, you can ask open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions.
What did you do in math class today?
What do you think about the new English teacher?
You can teach a kid math, measurements and nutrition while you get them to discuss how they feel about their educational experience at home in a comfortable setting, not at the parent/teacher conference.
These interactions with a child will make him or her more comfortable speaking up about problems in school before they become a major issue. It is the one-day-at-a-time approach in which you reinforce the importance of what a child is doing at his or her "job," which is school.
The small talk and activities often lead to a discussion of a kid's bigger dreams and an understanding of how their actions in the present are cumulative and will lead to the future he or she wants.
Conversations about music, television and books
Kids often arrive in school not knowing how to learn. Parents can teach their kids how to learn by speaking with them about what they have read, listened to or seen throughout the day. It is always a good idea for parents to create a balance regarding how their kids receive information without judging what they like.
Some children learn more easily through reading than watching films or television or vice versa. In the learning process, the most important thing is that a child not take in information without engaging with it in some way. A parent can help a child learn to be a critical thinker and to become a person who analyzes information.
The aforementioned process is necessary in learning any subject in school.
You can watch PBS or Discovery Channel shows online on different subjects and talk about what you've just seen, but make sure you let the child do most of the talking.
Letting your child be smarter than you
One of the best ways to assess your child's understanding of a subject is to let him or her explain something to you. Choose something about which you know little or nothing because you won't be tempted to fill in the gaps. This is an activity to teach children to be authoritative and use language.
If the parent is always the teacher and always the expert, a child will be less prone to speak or ask questions. When a child can teach an adult something, he or she gains a lot of confidence.
Doing homework is hard
On top of all the other jobs a parent has, no one expects you to relearn math! However, doing homework with a child every night allows you to see how he or she is doing in a subject. Homework help is available in many communities and you can contact your child's school to find assistance.
Find out what kind of standardized exams a child will have in each grade by visiting the school's website or conferring with your child's teacher. Schools also provide materials for children to prepare for each exam at home.
Teach your children through modeling behavior you expect from them
Devote yourself to learning something new. While you keep your mind sharp by reading or watching history programs, you are teaching your child the importance of education without boring lectures.
Why is it important to focus on education?
It is important to focus on education because while we cannot control every aspect of our lives, we can certainly control the trajectory of our work life. During this difficult economic time in which many people have been laid off, persons who know how to learn will fare better, as they will find it easier to train for a new profession. A formal education provides more opportunities and this may be vocational or scholarly. The important thing is to choose what makes you happy as far as a course of study and career is concerned.
Education is work and work is an education, because we have to remain open to new ideas, keep learning and continue to hone skills.
I am writing a collection of essays about work entitled Work Chronicles to be published as an e-book on Smashwords in November; in the meantime, you can check out my creative nonfiction essays Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I and Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part II: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69697
Writers, be careful not to die of exposure.