Parents have a responsibility to know how their children are doing in school, and that entails more than signing off on a few report cards each year. Busy parents shuffle work, activities and a host of other obligations, and monitoring your child’s education should be at the top of that to-do list. Use these tips to make your child’s education a top priority.
Be present at school
“Be involved,” encourages Stacey Kannenberg, author of Let’s Get Ready For Kindergarten! ”Volunteer, attend events, chaperone field trips.”
Many schools welcome parent volunteers. “Sign up to help in the classroom,” suggests Esther Andrews, author of How to Develop Your Child’s Genius. “You can observe lessons, how your child compares to other children, how your child behaves and socializes, and the teacher’s performance.”
Not every parent can commit a full day to volunteering at school, but Andrews believes small time commitments are just as effective. “Visit the classroom once a month or whenever you drop off or pick up your child at school,” says Andrews. “Stick around for a few minutes and observe.” What you see may be very different from what your child describes to you at home.
Get to know your child’s teacher
“A lack of communication with the teacher is one of the biggest problems parents face in terms of monitoring their child’s educational progress,” reports Angela Norton Tyler, an educational consultant with Family Homework Answers.
The teacher is your partner in educating your child. Communicate with the teacher through face-to-face meetings, phone conferences or email exchanges. Chat informally when visiting the classroom. “Ask if there is anything you need to know, how your child is doing, and what you should work on at home,” advises Andrews.
Express your interest at home
When your child arrives home from school, stop what you’re doing and ask about the school day. Begin this routine in kindergarten and it soon becomes a habit. “They can’t wait to share their day with you,” advises Kannenberg. “You are now involved in the school conversation!”
As your child matures, add a regular time each week to discuss accomplishments and set goals for the next week. Make these discussions a positive experience. “Begin and end with your child’s achievements,” suggests Candace Lindemann, an Educational Consultant and former teacher. “Praise any effort in the right direction.”
Inspect the backpack
Empty your child’s backpack every day. Look at everything — notes from the teacher, completed work, homework. If your child receives a weekly calendar or syllabus, post it prominently, suggests middle school teacher Hilary Morris. “Help your child map out the week, especially if there are other activities going on.”
The backpack makes it easy for the teacher to communicate with you, and easy for you to see what your child is working on at school.
Establish a homework routine
Children become involved in activities at young ages. Since they have specific start and finish times, extracurricular activities are easy to manage. Unfortunately, many families try to fit in homework around them.
Emphasize the importance of school work. Establish daily homework or reading time. “Regularly scheduled, consistent study time helps train your child’s brain to learn at that time,” advises Cari Diaz of Club Z Tutoring.
“Establish routines and enforce them,” recommends Dr. Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice president for Education Outreach for Sylvan Learning. “Kids need routines to make them feel safe, secure, and structured.”
“Organization is fundamental to creating good study behaviors,” advises Cari Diaz, and it begins with having everything — pencils, paper, supplies — in place before study time.
Create a regular study area for your child where all the essentials are readily available and easily accessible. Not only should the study area be well-stocked, it should be conducive to concentration. Choose a quiet location, free from distractions.
Know the grades
You established open communication with the teacher and taught your child good study habits. Ultimately, however, your child’s success is measured by grades and test scores.
When you’re closely monitoring your child’s education, formal grades should come with no surprises. If the grades don’t meet your expectations, address your concerns with the teacher.
Leigh Leverrier, a Family Life Coach with Allways Learning, encourages parents to understand standardized testing scores as well. Knowing how your child ranks among peers will enable you to make adjustments where necessary.
Network with other parents
“Networking can give you insight to other issues that might be going on in the school community,” suggests Kannenberg.
Get to know the parents of your child’s friends. Maintain contact with substitute teachers, PTA members, and regular classroom volunteers.
Knowing that academic success leads to greater opportunities in life, parents should do everything they can to help their children be excellent students.