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How to Raise a Scholar

What Families Can Do to Make Sure Their Children Go to College

Produced by The Reading Room
Lindbergh Middle School, Long Beach Unified School District
with the generous support of The Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation


This information is designed for parents who want a better life for their children with lots of opportunities and a chance to make their dreams come true.

These suggestions come from those who know, because they are the first in their families to do well in school, to finish high school, and to go on to finish college.

We asked them: "What did your parents do that helped you make it through school?" Here's what they said.

Suggestions from The Pioneers: Teachers who were the first in their own families to graduate from college.

  1. Let your children know why you want them to go to college. To put it bluntly, poverty stinks. Education is the key to getting a decent job, starting your own business, having authorities listen to you, taking care of your loved ones, and living a good and decent life.
  2. Start with the babies. When children begin to talk, answer their questions. Telling a child to "shut up" discourages a natural curiosity to learn. Establishing the habit of an early bedtime starts at infancy.
  3. Always encourage children for any progress made. It doesn't mean they have reached their highest potential, but they need to hear your pride and approval of their efforts. Some parents express this pride verbally to the child, some boast to their friends with the child present, and some even do a little dance!
  4. Teachers want children to take academic risks even if it means they fail once in a while. Failure is part of growth, as painful as it is. It is okay to accept your children's limitations in certain areas without believing they are failures in life. Participation is more important than winning or losing.
  5. Creating a time or place to study is critical, even when it is difficult. A small table in the bedroom can be dedicated as a desk. When there is no space for additional furniture, the whole family can sit together for one quiet hour of reading and studying, including the parents.
  6. TURN OFF THE TELEVISION! Or take children to the library to study or insist they stay after school in the homework center. Homework centers and after school tutoring have the advantage of providing academic help as well as a quiet place to study.
  7. Follow through with consequences even if you cannot give your child everything. When homework is done, then your child may play with friends. There will be other times for indulgence, particularly after a success.
  8. Believe in your children! You may need to overcome the "nay-sayers" and advocate for your children. If you want your children to go to college, they can go to college!

More Tips, from Parent to Parent:

"I Want My Children to Have a Better Life."

  1. DIG. Ask specific questions. Example: "I want to stay home." Why? "The teacher doesn't like me." How do you know that? "This kid is picking on me and the teacher won't do anything about it." Instead of accepting your child's statements at face value, find out what is going on. What did you do today? "Nothing." Did you have a test today? In what? How did it go? What grade did you get?
  2. When there is a problem, follow your child to school. Watch what goes on in the bus, in the classroom, on the playground. Watch how your own child interacts with peers. If your children make unnecessary noise at home, they probably do it in school. If children play too rough at home, they probably play too rough in school.
  3. By paying attention to what your children say and what they do, you get the information you need to help your children. Be sure to get the whole picture first, by talking to teachers for their point of view.
  4. Teachers are taught to describe a child's behavior: "Your son is not doing well. He talks and is out of his seat all the time." You may interpret this to mean: "I don't like your kid." It is possible to like a person and not like his behavior. Be careful to help your child take responsibility for his behavior as part of growing up.
  5. Your child needs to be accountable to you for where she is, what she does, and who she is hanging around with, both in school and out of school. Expect your child to answer to you. Children need rules and structure. They cannot be expected to do what adults do or to have the same privileges. You are the adult and have a right and responsibility to make the rules in the home.
  6. The most difficult and exhausting thing about parenting (and teaching) is repetition. After a careful lecture from you, the child's behavior reverts back two days later! And you still need to monitor children in high school, still tell them to get their backpacks out and their clothes ready for tomorrow! You still have to insist on a bedtime and wake that sleepy teenager up when it is time to get ready for school! Sometimes you wonder, "Will my child ever get himself up for school?"
  7. When communication with your child is difficult, look for problem areas by comparing what your different children are doing or not doing. Why does the younger sibling have homework and the older sister does not? How can the son complete his work in class when he is supposed to listen to the teacher?
  8. These days your child may need help coping with friends and issues he may have with other children. We all know the playground is challenging territory and the streets can be dangerous. By helping children think out what sentences they need to say and what actions they can take, you help them develop problem-solving skills.
  9. Keep your children busy with healthy activities: drama, Girl Scouts, sports, dance lessons, etc. This helps them develop good friends and improves their self-esteem. Taking them to places to find out more about what they are interested in helps them find their way in life.

Your closest public library branch offers:

  • After-school homework help
  • Computers
  • Evening and weekend hours
  • Family programs

Apply for your library card today.


Advice from the Front Line: Kid to Kid.

  1. Be creative in solving your problems. Offer to clean the room you share with your sister in return for getting the space to yourself for homework. Stay inside when your younger brothers are playing outside. Wait until the younger ones are in bed and then do your homework.
  2. If parents cannot help you with your homework, try an older brother or sister. Ask your teacher after school. Sometimes your parents can hire a college student as a tutor.
  3. Try to develop a balance between working hard during the week and relaxing on the weekends. If you do all your homework during the week, you can relax with your friends on the weekend.
  4. Look for opportunities and take advantage of them, not by chance, but deliberately. Join after school homework clubs, seek out the tutoring offered by the local public library, and go to teachers after school to ask for help.
  5. Two things will give you a competitive edge in getting homework done and doing well in school: access to word processing (a computer) and encyclopedias. Ask your parents to help you acquire these things.

Some Conclusions.

In talking with students, parents, and teacher-pioneers, we hear consistent themes for success:

Doing well in school requires a certain amount of conformity to the school culture, even while at home. It requires courage from children to withstand the negative pressure from peers not to be a "school boy" or "school girl." It requires courage and energy from parents to find out what is going on, to approach teachers, to advocate for their children.

Ingenuity is important to success, whether it is deciding that the whole family will sit down after dinner to study and read, or adopting a kitten to help a lonely child focus on her school work.

The need for emotional support is clear. It is also very simple: children want to do well and please their parents. Sometimes children have to start at the bottom and need each little achievement to be noted with a positive word from a parent. This gives children the strength to persevere.

And persevere they will. The bottom line for students, for parents, and for teachers is determination. Some are driven because they want to please their parents by doing well in school, some are driven to prove they can get an education when everyone around them is telling them they can't, and some are driven because what they want to do in life requires a college degree. But whatever their motives, in order for children to have the strength to reach their goals, they must be convinced deep within that education is something desirable and attainable.