Every day when I got home from school, before I could even put my bag on the floor, my dad would ask, "Did you get any good marks today?"
He was usually met with quite a grumpy response because I was tired after a long day at school and I just needed a bit of space and time to get over the day before the pressure of educational expectation was piled on at home.
However, this question ensured one thing. I knew, absolutely and totally, that how well I did at school really mattered to my parents. They were deeply interested in and committed to helping me to do my best.
I did very well in my education, even though I do say so myself. I earned 5 A grades at A-Level then studied geography at Cambridge University. My passion for education was such that I trained to be a teacher and worked in comprehensive schools for four years. Now I work as a coach helping students to develop their study skills so they can get the top grades in their exams. I'm also mother to two primary age children.
Today I want to share with you four things that every parent can do to ensure their children get the best education possible.
1. Be there for them
I strongly believe that behind the most successful, and happy, young people are truly supportive parents. Being there for your children physically and emotionally through all the ups and downs of life, providing a solid and stable base from which they can grow, is vital for your children's success. Telling them that you love them every day whether they've done their very best at school or been an absolute pain is vital. Being there with hugs and kisses for celebrations and comfort is just as important. Also, supporting them with regular, healthy food on the table and clean clothes to wear are truly the foundation stones of helping them to get the most out of their education.
2. Take an interest
Like my dad did, you need to take a strong interest in your child's learning. Now, I wouldn't suggest that you ask 'Did you get any good marks today?' as the first question you ask when you're reunited at the end of the day. The question I prefer to ask my own children is 'What did you learn today?'
This question opens up interesting discussions. You can ask further questions like 'How did you learn about that?' so you get a deeper insight into your child's classroom experience. You can open up a general topic of discussion about what they've learned. The important thing, however, is that you listen to what they have to say rather than just sharing everything you know on the topic that they're learning about. Of course, if they ask for your knowledge give it, but always remember that you're taking an interest in them and that means listening.
You can show more of an interest by taking an active part in their school lives. Asking to see their planner on a regular basis to check homework tasks, looking through their exercise books with them and discussing feedback as well as going to regular school events like parents' evenings are all great ways to demonstrate to your children in a very practical way that you care about their progress at school.
3. Provide the resources that they need
My dad wasn't very forthcoming with money when I was growing up. As a sheep farmer he was always 'saving for a rainy day'. However, if there was a text book that I needed for school he'd get the cheque-book out to pay for it without question. There was always money for books.
As a parent you're a provider. You can show that you value education above all else by prioritising spending on educational things like books, equipment e.g. calculators and computers, or even day-trips that are connected with what your children are studying at school. If you don't have a lot of money to spare there's always the local library and many museums are free to visit.
The finally thing you can provide is a good study environment. A desk or table in a quiet, comfortable room is the best place for your child to study. If they like having people around them while they do their homework then maybe a kitchen table or dining table is the best place for them to work. Otherwise, a desk in their bedroom or a study would be great.
4. Learn with them
Learning doesn't stop the day you leave school, college or university. Show your child that learning is both natural and aspirational by learning yourself. This can be as simple as letting them see you reading the paper or a book on a regular basis, or you might be studying for professional qualifications or just learning something for fun. The important thing here is to create a culture of learning in your home so that your child feels that their studies are part of normal life.
I hope you've found these tips helpful. If you'd like more specific advice on how to help your children achieve success in their GCSE or A-Level exams you can get my free tip sheet at www.lifemoreextraordinary.com/parents. You might also like to join the Supportive Parents, Successful Students facebook community where I share daily tips on how to help your children get the most out of their education.
Lucy Parsons is an academic coach who helps 15-18 year olds get the top grades in their exams and into the best universities. Visit her website, lifemoreextraordinary.com, to find out more.