[Grades 9-12]

Summer Home Learning Recipes

for Parents and Children
Grades 9-12

"Parents and families are the first and most important teachers. If families teach a love of learning, it can make all the difference in the world to our children."
Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education

Sometimes it's easy to forget about the important role that families play in children's education--especially as children become teenagers. Parent involvement in student schooling usually declines dramatically as children reach the teen years. Adolescents are baffling--because they are simultaneously grownup and not grownup.

What continues to be clear is that adolescents need adult guidance. Teens need to know that their parents care about them. The activities that follow help parents and teens talk together to solve problems they both care about.

The future is never a "sure thing." What is sure is that there will always be problems, and students need the ability to tackle them. Teenagers need to learn how to make adult decisions--to decide about careers, to make personal value judgments, to learn how to get along at work and to manage households.

These are problem-solving activities designed by the Home and School Institute. They are designed to help parents build their teenagers' problem-solving skills. To learn these skills, students need practice--practice they can get at home.

The Problem-Solving Habit

Teenagers can get used to sizing up a problem and coming up with common-sense ways to solve it. Here's a six-step method that works and can be done easily at home by parent and child.

STEP 1: What is the problem?

This is a first, often overlooked, step in problem solving. You have to be able to state the problem and, if there's a conflict, the opposing views. For example: For a teen, it might be whether to go to a certain party; for a parent, whether to ask for a raise.

STEP 2: What can be done about it?

This is when you come up with a variety of solutions. Brainstorm as many solutions as possible without judging which ones are better than others. Just keep the ideas coming.

STEP 3: What are the good and bad points of these solutions?

This is when you judge the different solutions. What are the pros and cons of each one? You're making judgements, assessing the possible solutions in light of your experience and the way the world works. And in this process you may well come up with a new and better solution than any you originally thought of.

STEP 4: Making the decision

This is the moment you choose a solution to try. Pick one or perhaps two based on the decisions made in Step 3. Talk about why you selected these solutions.

STEP 5: Putting the decision into action

Now you put your decision to the test. In advance, talk about what will happen and what might be expected. What obstacles can you anticipate? What helps can you expect? How can traps be avoided by building on the helps?

STEP 6: How did it go?

This is the follow up, the evaluation of your solution. How did it work? What changes must be made in it so that it will work better? What would you try next time? It's possible that a decision that sounded good will not work as well in real life. Overall, there is a greater chance for success when decisions and solutions are selected in this way.

After going through the process with one problem, ask your teenager to try another. Review the six steps so that everyone will be able to keep on using them afterward. The goal is to help teens get into the habit of this kind of problems solving.

The Problem "Bank"

Just in case you don't have enough problems of your own to solve, here are a few you can use to practice the problem-solving method:
  • Who gets to use the car?
  • Why is it bad to smoke?
  • When does the garbage get taken out?
  • What happens when I go for a few days with little sleep?
  • How much TV are we going to watch?
  • How much money do I need this week?
  • Can I buy that new pair of jeans?
  • Whose turn is it to go grocery shopping?
  • Who has to baby sit the younger kids?
  • When is a good time to visit grandma?
  • What happens when I take a test without studying for it?
  • Why can't I go to that after-school party?

Feelings Are Important: Getting Control of Our Emotions

Here's a KNOW YOURSELF activity: Think together, for example, about what makes people angry. Everyone gets angry for different reasons. Some people get angry when others take something from them; others get angry when people don't listen.

Ask yourselves: What do we do when we get angry? Some people try to cool off before they speak. Others start fights. Some people scream. Some people don't say anything. What do you do?

Caring about others is another area teens can often use help with. Talk together about the problems of being a parent, the problems of being a student. Think about a time when you disagreed with each other. Exchange places; the parent is the youngster, the youngster the parent. Afterward, talk about it. Do you understand each other better now?

Common Sense: Not So Common

The basic ingredient in common sense is experience--good and bad. This gets put into the storehouse of our minds, to be used when the time is right. Common sense is not a sense we are born with. These activities help give teenagers practice in problem-solving experiences that are the basis of common sense.

Think of these as starter activities to get your ideas going. There are opportunities everywhere for teaching and learning.

Take a little time to do a lot of good!

For more information on other publications to help your children learn call:

U.S. Department of Education

These home learning "recipes" have been tested and developed by Dr. Dorothy Rich, author of MEGASKILLS ®, for the National Education Association. Reprinted with permission of the National Education Association and The Home and School Institute, 1994.

Reproduction of this brochure is permitted.