1. Sit down with you child and explain to them your expectation. Tell them how you expect them to act in the classroom, lunchroom, hallway, recess, etc. Tell them how you expect them to treat adults and other children. So many parents assume their child knows how they are expected to act in school and would be astonished if they were a fly on the wall in their child’s classroom. Don’t assume your child knows, make sure they know. Sitting down to have this kind of conversation tells them you value their time in school. Yes, their teachers and principals will go over this with them as well, but hearing it at home makes it a lot less negotiable and puts you and school on the same page.
2. Make sure your child has all their supplies for school. Yes, you are busy and this is easy to put off, but the longer you wait on getting your child supplies the more behind they fall. When everyone else is setting up folders and labeling notebooks and starting notes your child isn’t. That means when everyone is onto something else your child is playing catch up. Starting the school year behind is not the positive start you want for your child. Teachers are amongst the most generous people you will ever meet and often dip into their personal money to provide supplies for students. If you cannot provide supplies for your child have an honest discussion with the teacher so that the teacher, PTA or a sponsor can make sure your child has what they need to excel.
3. Contact your child’s teacher immediately. As a teacher I know how busy and hectic things get. A teacher is responsible for 30 students, has limited time away from students, and often doesn’t have private access to a phone. Open communication between a teacher and parent is best for everyone. To make sure this happens email your child’s teacher in the beginning of the school year. Email is best because little ears wont pick up on what it is you are discussing and it can be handled at any time without the whole phone tag mess. In the email let the teacher know the best email address and phone number to contact you at, any concerns you have and what your expectations are. Example below:
- Hi, My child ___________ will be in your class this fall. I wanted to let you know that if you have any problems or concerns you can email me at ________________ or call me at _____________. I want the best for my child and they know that I expect them to follow all the classroom and school rules. ______________ (child’s name) got a little chatty last school year. If this becomes an issue again please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would like a copy of your classroom policy and what to expect for homework.
This approach makes it easier to keep the lines of communication open and lets the teacher know that is a priority for you.
3. Get the 411 on Homework. Assume your child has homework of some kind. I can’t tell you how many parents are shocked when they find our their child is missing umpteen assignments at conferences. If progress reports, letters, etc. are not being shown to you, you could be in the dark. This is why you should assume your child has homework. If they keep telling you they don’t, check in with the the teacher.
4. Graded Homework and Tests. Make it clear to your child that you want to see all of their graded homework and tests (regardless of the grade). This will tell you how your child is doing, where they might need help, if more studying is needed, etc. Sit down with your child and go over their work. It is crucial they learn from their mistakes. My theory is if they already knew everything we wouldn’t need school. So messing up is okay as long as you try your best and learn from your mistakes. Stuffing a D paper in your backpack or the garbage and never looking at it again doesn’t help anyone. If your child is bringing home C work and you have seen all of it, you will not be shocked to find out they are getting a C.
5. Read, Read, Read. Absolutely nothing you can do with your child will do more to increase their intelligence and success in school. Minutes spent reading directly correlates with test scores, etc. (more minutes reading=higher test scores). Reading is the best exercise for your brain hands down. Your child should be reading at home a minimum of 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t matter what they read. It can be the sports section, a magazine, a book…just as long as they are reading. Reading to your child counts as well (especially if they are younger). The best way to make reading a habit is to make it part of your daily routine. I recommend reading for 20 minutes every night before bed.
6. Make sure your child is reading in school. This seems like common sense, but curriculum schools use often have students reading very little and have a whole lot of worksheets and drills. These things do not make your child better readers. Reading makes your child a better reader. If the majority of their day is listening to instruction and doing worksheets then you need to advocate on behalf of your child. If you can’t change the amount of reading that is happening in school then make sure you are fitting in reading at home. In my classroom we did book groups. Students were responsible for reading a novel, discussing it using their literature circle jobs and then blogging (go figure) a response. This meant my students did a lot of reading and if they weren’t reading they were writing or talking about the story in a meaningful way.
7. Develop a routine. Children respond well to routines. Expecting a child to plan ahead and budget their time is a lot to ask. If you create a routine for school work and reading your child will know what to expect. If every day they come home and go directly to the kitchen table to do their homework, this habit will ensure that they aren’t telling you the next morning they have homework. Make sure your child gets in the routine of putting their homework directly into their backpack when they are finished. I cannot tell you how many students do their work, but leave it at home. It is not much good sitting at the kitchen table. Also, make a routine of checking your child’s backpack and folders. This way you wont miss important notices, graded work, permission slips, etc. A routine takes training and might be difficult in the beginning, but it will become second nature soon and you will be glad you did it.
8. Eat dinner as a family. My two-year-old asks, “Whats your day?” (translation: How was your day?) when we sit down at the kitchen table. At two he already knows that is our time as a family to catch up and hear about each others’ day. You might be amazed at the things that come up around the dinner table. Even if you don’t cook you can still all gather around pizza, Chinese or a restaurant table and touch base. This is an easy and small way to become involved in your child’s life. Children with involved parents are a lot less likely to get in trouble or do poorly in school. This is a time to let your child know you value their companionship and that family is important.
9. Get your child involved! Be it a sport, a club, a cooking class or crafting at home . . . make sure your child is involved. As a child is developing their sense of self, they need to see that they have value. Developing new skills, talents or hobbies becomes part of a child’s identity, improves their self-worth and makes them a well-rounded person. This is especially important for children who struggle in school. If a child struggles in school, but is an awesome soccer player they can harness confidence from that skill. Success breeds success! Getting your child involved also helps them develop friendships that are based in positive experiences. You would much rather your child bond over the soccer ball then drugs or alcohol.
10. Be positive! My mother once said that finding your place in this world is a big responsibility and she couldn’t be more right. Be sure to be a positive guide in your child’s life. Make sure to tell them you love them everyday. Notice the positive things and point them out. Sometimes we talk at our child and not with our child. Yes, it is your child, but chances are s/he is a pretty cool person. Take the time to listen, goof around and talk with your child (around the dinner table, perhaps?) and get to know the person they are growing into.