Here are some thoughts based on my own childhood and experience with my 3 kids.
Make the process of learning fun, that means special time spent teaching one on one during the day when kids are awake. I believe associating learning with one on one time like this builds positive associations with learning. Tell them about subjects that interest you. If they can see your enthusiasm that will help them.
Some kids use questions as a means of getting your attention. This is good, use it, encourage it, and try to encourage them to think about the answers for themselves.
Encourage them to think of themselves as bright
If you can make learning really special and fun, they'll have a good base to carry on from. If they're ahead of the game, school will be easy and they'll learn to think of themselves as bright. This will naturally affect the way they talk and act. People enjoy doing things that they think they're good at.
Look for talents
Not everyone is a future university professor, and there are plenty more ways to be intelligent. Read Ken Robinson for more on this. Look for what your child enjoys, painting, dancing, looking at flowers, and encourage that. Talk about it and see what they think.
Don't try to push through tiredness. If your child is not learning or can't concentrate, leave off for the day and do something else instead. Don't show them that learning is frustrating and difficult. Build happy associations.
My son was often resistant to going to school. I had a long quiet talk with him and it turned out he was having trouble socialising, so wasn't enjoying it. I gave him some pointers and we talked with his teacher, and now he's fine and happy. If there's something in their way, be it socialising or shortsightedness, be alert for it and lift it out of their way.
Little by little, day by day. Get them a nightlight or a torch so they can read sneakily under the covers, even if they're just looking for Wally (Waldo). Leave good books around the place. Read to them to show how fun it is.
Fit in with school
If your child is covering a topic at school, talk about it, ask about it, and even do some fun experiments. Diet Coke and Mentos teach the properties of matter. Shadows on the wall from a big torch teach about light and shadow.
Make exercise sheets, and reward with attention
Make sheets where the child has to fill in the answers, or find the missing number. Make it special, give them lots of praise when they get it right.
Ask questions and reward answers with praise
- "What's that cup made out of?"
- "Which is biggest, the sun or the moon?"
- "What is wind?"
- "What is a shadow?"
Reward with lots of praise.
Use YouTube, Google earth, etc
Show them videos of the sizes of planets and stars, the way cells work, anything sparky and fun. Show them where Australia is. Let them ask questions. Download educational iPhone apps. There are plenty of good ones.
Dream up special rewards
Currently my son gets pegs on his washing line when he does good reading. Each peg has a word attached and he gets to choose and write the word. Be creative. rewards lose their power over time.
Pay attention to what works, and do that
Not every child is the same, and children change all the time, so pay attention to what works and do that. Follow their interests, give them a good base, and share your enthusiasm.