It’s a new year, full of new possibilities and new opportunities for our children. Our job as parents is to support, guide, and encourage our children as they learn and explore at school, but it can be hard to know what to do in the context of our busy lives. What are some possibilities and opportunities for parents? What can we do that improves our children’s educational experiences? Here are some ideas:
Read with your child and talk about the book. Beginning readers need lots of practice and they love to read to parents. Children of all ages enjoy being read to by a parent, and that’s valuable too. When a child is struggling with a book, take turns reading it. Reading at home should be a pleasure, not a chore!
Stop by the local library and get your child a library card. Browse! Check out the library programs available for your child’s age group. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or if you need some help selecting an appropriate book, just ask the librarian. She’ll be glad to help.
Ask about homework, and check it over when it’s done. Children need to know their parents value education and expect them to work hard in school. Most families find that a homework routine really helps with getting homework done every day without a fight.
Check your child’s backpack for forgotten notes and assignments. When children first get home, it’s wise to check their backpacks for notes, permission slips, and assignments. You’d be surprised at what can get buried in a backpack!
Ask your child if he needs any school supplies or homework supplies. Put them on the shopping list now. If there is a project coming up, make sure you have everything your child needs to complete the project. Have you ever made a 9:00 pm run to Wal-Mart for poster board and glue? That’s what I’m talking about! And a word to the wise – older kids need to take the responsibility and the consequences for this.
Check the classroom website for grades and missed assignments. Many teachers have a classroom website where they post homework assignments and class news. Some teachers also post grades and missed assignments, so parents can access this information at their convenience. If your child’s school does not do this, make the suggestion. It’s a great resource for parents who want to monitor their child’s classroom performance.
Pack a healthy snack and a healthy lunch. Strong learners need good fuel! If you have trouble getting all this together in the morning, think about establishing a morning routine for the family. And while we’re thinking about health, remember that children need a good night’s sleep to be ready for a day of school. If this isn’t happening at your house, it’s time to establish an evening routine.
Make an appointment to have your child’s eyes checked. If you have any concerns at all about your child’s vision, it’s time for an eye exam. And remember – kids don’t notice when their eyesight gets weak, so it’s wise to have vision checked every few years anyway.
Turn off the TV and have a conversation with your child about the school day. And I’m not talking about “What did you learn?” – “Nothing”. Ask specific questions about classes and teachers. Talk about the funny things that happened. What was your child’s favorite activity today? What was boring?
Write a thank you note to a teacher. Whenever someone at school does something especially good for your child, sit down and write a short note of appreciation. Setting up positive communication with teachers is one of the most powerful ways that parents can help their children at school.
Write down school events on the family calendar. You can’t participate if you don’t remember to go, and you can’t be part of the school community if you don’t participate. Your children need you to be an active participant in their school life.
Read the information your child brings home about Scouts, Honor Chorus, or any other opportunity to expand his horizons. Find out if he is interested, and then figure out a way to make it happen. It’s not necessary to involve your children in lots of different activities, but it is important to support their strong interests and give them opportunities to explore those interests.
Prepare for a parent/teacher conference by writing down your child’s strengths and challenges. What motivates her? What consequences work best? What does she love? Children perform best when parents and teachers are partners – when they are a team and share information.
Check the school website for volunteer opportunities, pick one, and make a commitment to follow through. Volunteering regularly at school is the best way to become part of the school community and forge relationships with school staff.
Check the school system website for information that affects your children – the discipline policy, homework policy, athletic eligibility, etc. Many times parents get frustrated because they don’t have the information they need to help their children. These days it’s almost always online and at your fingertips. Be in the know.
Find a day you could eat lunch with your child at school. Elementary school children love to have a parent come eat lunch, and it gives you a chance to meet some school friends. If this is possible for you, get it scheduled.
I challenge every one of you to pick one thing – just one – to get started. Your goal? To become a strong, positive member of your child’s school community and a strong partner in your child’s education. Your child is worth it. You can do it!