The following tips were designed to help parents promote their child’s school success. Remember, that being consistent with your message is key to it becoming a family value.
If you or your spouse had a negative experience in school, try not to project this through excuses and remarks that de-value education. Make your expectations about school clear from as early on as possible.
1. KNOW YOUR SCHOOL
Explore your district's web page, read the calendar and put important events on your schedule. Attend conferences and visit your child’s classroom. Know your school’s overall test scores, demographics and the name of the principal. At functions, introduce yourself. Let it be known you’d like to be called or notified of any concerns. Promote the message that school success is a family value.
2. KNOW YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER(S)
If your child is in elementary school, introduce yourself to the teacher, exchange phone numbers and email addresses and have a brief conference so you can share your child’s goals for the year. If your child is in middle or high school, read the syllabus from each class. Locate the teacher's contact information and share with them your email and phone number. Target the classes that your child may have difficulty in and let them know you’d like to hear from them regularly.
3. SET UP A REGULAR HOMEWORK TIME
Beginning around second grade, your child should have a regular agreed upon homework time ranging from a half hour to an hour and a half. It is usually best to have it start about an hour after school ends and after your child has had a snack. If your child says they are finished or claims to not have homework, the remaining time should be used to practice spelling or reading. The homework place should NOT be in front of the TV or in a loud part of your home. Homework time should not be disturbed.
4. HELP YOUR CHILD WITH ORGANIZATION
To experience school success, children need guidance when learning organization skills. They usually toss all of their papers and assignments into their backpack and do not keep track of when things are due. In middle and high school, the number one reason student’s fail a class is due to missing assignments. Help your child develop organizational skills by going through their backpack each night. Create a folder for homework assignments and a calendar to keep track of when assignments are due. Help them learn effective study skills early on will not only increase their school success now but greatly assist them not only in college, but in life.
5. DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
Does this scenario sound familiar? How was school today? “FINE” What did you learn today? “NOTHING” Do you have any homework? “NO, I DID IT AT SCHOOL.” Our children figure out pretty early on in life what we want to hear and are more than happy to tell us a few half-truths. Ask your child’s teachers about the homework load and schedule. What does each teacher view as an important component to school success? Ask if you can have a progress report each Friday or an email letting you know if your child failed to turn in any assignments for the week.
6. BE INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING
Remember when your child was young? While learning their ABC’s, colors and shapes, you probably made up games and songs about learning and had regular conversations about the world we live in. Your child was eager to learn and to show you how much they knew. Now that they are older, they still seek your interest and approval. Take the time to talk about the things they are learning, link family activities to academic subjects, have dinner conversations about current events and ask your child’s opinion. You’ll be surprised by the fact that your approval still matters.
7. KNOW YOUR CHILD’S FRIENDS
Your child’s friends may be correlated to their academic performance. If your child’s friends value school success, the more likely it will be that your child will value education. Pay attention to new friendships. Skipping classes, experimentation with drugs or alcohol or a change in your child’s appearance are all indicators of what “group” they are trying to identify with. Talk to your child about your expectations and values. Let them know early on what is acceptable and what is not.
8. UNDERSTAND PROGRESS REPORTS,GRADES and CREDITS
It’s amazing how many parents do not understand our public school’s system of assessment. You should understand what grading system your district uses and know when to expect grades and report cards. If you see a pattern of declining performance, call your child’s teacher and ask for a conference. Your child’s cumulative file contains their test scores, grades and report cards from kindergarten though graduation. It is your right to view this file at any time. Once high school begins, meet with your child’s counselor so you both understand how many credits are needed to graduate. Know the difference between required courses and electives. Understand what colleges expect from their incoming freshman. If your child gets behind in credits, find out your district’s plan for credit recovery. By 11th grade, students deficient in credits are usually sent to continuation school or a county program and do not graduate from their home school.
9. USE YOUR SCHOOL’S RESOURCES
If your child is struggling, ask what resources are available at your site. Most schools offer homework programs, tutoring, libraries and study groups. Reading and math labs are often available as electives to students struggling in these areas. There are numerous websites available on line that offer tutoring and allow you to know what the curriculum goals are for each of your child's classes. An example of a great math resource is sensible-math-education.com. There are also excellent tutoring programs available on line that can assist you with helping your child. You can also meet with a counselor or psychologist to discuss school success options. If your child is having problems with a particular teacher, ask a counselor or administrator to assist you with a teacher conference. Often, districts partnership with community resources like Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCA’s and have programs and counseling services available as well.
10. IF YOU NEED HELP, ASK
Remember, you are not alone. We all struggle with parenting issues and with trying to make the best decisions for our children. If you need help, ask. Sometimes the best resource is finding someone who has already gone through the situation. Your district's CAC Chair may have a list of parent mentors. Remember, your school's student study team is an excellent way to begin problem solving if your child is not experiencing school success.
If your child is facing expulsion, or serious discipline consequences, read my special section on school discipline to better understand your rights and options.
If your child attends a private school or is enrolled in a home school program and you think they may have a learning disability, you can read about your rights under IDEA, services that may apply to your child and how to request an evaluation in my special sections focusing on these topics.
To read words of inspiration from other parents of children with special needs, visit the Comfort Wall.