- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

Two Northern Virginia families, the Hoggs of Reston and the Malloys of Arlington, have raised eight academically successful students between them. Both sets of parents say they have motivated their children by modeling respect for education.

They also report that they insisted, at an early age, on the application of a good dose of old-fashioned elbow grease.

Here are some secrets of their success, as related by the mothers:

•Make studying a focal point of the family.

In the Malloy household, all children gather in the living room after dinner to study. Television is outlawed on school nights, and the parents read to the younger children.

The Hoggs created a study room for their children complete with a common table, beanbag chairs and reference materials. It was such a cool place, says mom Gretchen Hogg, that neighborhood children came over to study there.

•Study technique is key.

"I believe memory work is really important to teach kids to focus mentally," says Marcia Malloy, mother of five daughters. When her children were younger, she helped them choose poems or verses to memorize together. To help the girls study for tests, she quizzes them on the questions contained at the end of chapters. If the children don't know an answer, they discuss it, and she returns to that question five or 10 minutes later to reinforce the answer.

"What I am showing the kids is how to look for important facts the boldfaced words, vocabulary, dates, people," she says.

Mrs. Malloy also suggests that if a child's school does not require the student to read aloud every night, choose a book and take turns reading a chapter each evening.

•Invest in musical training and encourage participation in sports. All eight of these families' children have benefited from playing music and sports, their parents say.

"Music stimulates both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and students who study music usually wind up being much higher achieving academically," Mrs. Hogg says.

Mrs. Malloy says children need the discipline and cooperation inherent in sports.

"The goal is to show them that being physically fit is important, getting along with teammates is important, and to curb any temptations to become a couch potato," she says.

mBe part of the experience. By participating in the classroom, the parent-teacher association, curriculum groups and other volunteer opportunities at the school, parents communicate to their children the importance of school.

"The side benefit is that we get to know the administration, the teachers and other parents," Mrs. Malloy says. "The kids pick up on the fact that you are part of the 'them' at the school."

mShow school staff that you care.

Mrs. Malloy says her family celebrates all occasions teacher appreciation day, birthdays, Valentine's Day, Christmas sending cards, notes and cookies to the youngsters' teachers.

"Sometimes we would have the kids write their own notes," she explains. "The older kids have said this communicated respect for teachers and that we considered them important people."

In addition, Mrs. Malloy says, now that she and her eldest daughter, Jennifer, are teachers, they realize the true value of this acknowledgment. "If a parent is sending us encouraging notes telling us how much a student enjoys our class, we find that we are then giving that student more attention and encouragement."

•Reading is fundamental. Both sets of parents emphasize books as a source of learning and a form of pleasure and relaxation.

During the long summer months, Mrs. Malloy suggests engaging children in a summer library reading challenge and assigning them 30 minutes or so of reading per day "that must happen before TV or to earn ice cream money for the pool."

mEncourage open communication. Mrs. Hogg calls this element critical.

"We've always asked our kids at the dinner table what were they most proud of that day," she says. "Answers might be an academic achievement to something that they thought was unfair or an injustice that they saw at school that they stood up for. And I get more information from my kids at nighttime, whether reading to them or giving them a back massage or just lying down with them. They just tend to share a lot then even at their ages."

mGet organized. Many schools issue assignment lists for students, which parents can check nightly to ensure goals are being met and long-range projects are planned.

"This discouraged procrastination," Mrs. Malloy says. Her three older daughters, all college students or graduates, report that some of their university friends do not understand the concept of pacing a project, working ahead and avoiding last-minute disasters.

•Instill a sense of spirituality and stewardship.

"Teach your children right from wrong, good judgment and stewardship in terms of understanding that there's a reason why they are in this life and it's to be the best they can be and contribute back to society," Mrs. Hogg says.

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