You’ve packed the backpack, picked out first-day-of-school clothes and talked about before- and after-school routines and activities. Now, it’s all up to the teachers, right?
Sorry, it’s not that easy. The true recipe for academic success is one part educator, one part parents and one part student, with each contributor doing his or her part.
For their part, students need to be prepared, attentive and willing to ask for help. To do so, they need the help of mom and dad, sometimes even more as they grow.
From kindergarten to senior high, the best outcomes result from working as a team.
Know what is expected
Start the school year off right by getting to know your child’s teacher and his or her expectations. A good way to do this is to attend school functions, such as back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, even PTO meetings and read the information the teacher sends home.
Sitting down with young children and emptying out their backpack daily is a good way to ensure that important assignments and notes home get the attention they deserve.
With older students, keeping the lines of communication open can be harder. But even when your teen or preteen declares, “I don’t need your help,” his or her teacher may be saying, “Oh yes, you do.” That’s when it helps for parents and educators to have a good working relationship built on mutual respect. When a child won’t ask for help, sometimes the parents need to ask instead.
The benefits of reading for health and happiness are clear at any age, and students are prime candidates. Improved memory, bigger vocabulary, increased empathy, decreased stress, brain development – there’s no downside.
The 18th century essayist Joseph Addison wrote, “Reading is to the mind as exercise is to the body.” When it comes to your young scholar, the best way to encourage a sharp, healthy mind is to promote reading.
Schoolwork often involves required reading, and kids are less likely to do or enjoy it if it feels like a chore. Set a teacher up for success by instilling in your children the concept of reading as a fun activity.
Read to them, read with them, read aloud. Set up a family book club. And take time to read from your children’s textbooks, so you can talk with them about what they’re learning at school.
Share a meal
Sitting around the dinner or breakfast table provides an ideal opportunity to talk about the day’s events and plan for extracurricular events, large school projects, test preparation or family outings.
Ask specific questions about classes. How many times have you found yourself asking the question, “How was your day?” and hearing a grunt of “fine”? That exchange is devoid of information. Instead, ask your students what they are learning in each class. Ask which classes they like and which classes they don’t. Knowing what they don’t like or discovering what subjects may be presenting challenges is as important as celebrating their accomplishments. Together, come up with a plan to address areas that need improvement, and don’t forget to include your child’s teacher in your strategy.
While we’re on the topic of meals, children who are well fueled are better prepared to learn. Nutrition experts suggest eating a breakfast that is rich in whole grains, fiber and protein and low in added sugar. Fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, even a peanut butter and fruit sandwich can be wholesome choices as can smoothies that are equal parts vegetables and fruits with added protein.
Students who are not well rested have a harder time paying attention and staying on task. Experts recommend 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night for school-age children. Set curfews, limit screen time for at least 30 minutes prior to bed and remove distractions, such as phones and gaming equipment, from your child’s room or lock the devices after a certain time of night.
Focus on organization
There are so many pieces of paper in a student’s world – homework, handouts, info sheets, permission slips, progress reports. It’s all too easy for things to slip through the cracks or get lost in the shuffle when it’s one big maelstrom of print-outs.
A chaotic locker or messy backpack can be a sign that the kid is overwhelmed. That’s when assignments start to disappear, teacher notes for parents never make it home, and grades begin to wobble.
Frequently, check in with your child about their strategies for staying organized. Are they using their planner? If not, why? Is there a better way?
Give them practical methods to organize all that paperwork. Consider folders and binders with dividers or multiple pockets. Sort materials by class and/or category [notes, homework, assignments, projects, grades, etc.]. It’s easy to find something when you know where you left it.
Foster good study habits
Kids don’t know good study habits intrinsically. Parents should teach and show their children how to study, particularly for tests. Teachers can provide study guides and review material in class but studying for a test involves the student going back over old material and checking themselves to make sure they know it. Practice, as they say, can make even homework perfect.