Parents applaud when a child brings home a report card with good marks and chastise when grades are low. Most parents have a hectic schedule but it’s vital that parents assist children in maximizing the school experience. Although every child may not bring home straight A’s, any child can get the most from their school day, everyday!
Begin the day right. Set a reasonable bedtime so children will be rested and ready to rise with ample time to prepare for school. Have backpacks ready to go near the door and ask the kids to select their outfits the night before. Develop a simple routine and stick to it.
Breakfast is important. Parents who lack the time to slave over the stove to prepare a hearty meal can still provide their child with a good breakfast. Cereals, instant oatmeal, frozen waffles and pancakes, ready made breakfast sandwiches, pre-cooked bacon and sausage, and frozen breakfast meals are all easy options to start the day with nutrition. Add a glass of juice and milk. Parents worried about whether or not a child is gaining all his or her necessary vitamins can add a multi-vitamin to the morning line-up.
Morning musts include teeth brushing, hair combing, and face washing. Personal hygiene helps children to be clean and to have a good self-image. Insist that your child use deodorant each morning and make sure that their chosen outfit has a parental seal of approval.
Help children make it to the bus stop in time or deliver them to school before the final bell rings. Never encourage tardiness and remember that being prompt puts students first in line for the day.
Encourage children to eat a hot school lunch. School lunch menus are carefully planned to be nutritious and to meet federal guidelines. Picky eaters who need to bring a lunch from home or on the occasional day that the entrée doesn’t suit, make sure a healthy lunch goes to school. Invest in a few artifical ice cubes to keep cold foods cool. If a child often takes a lunch, invest in a lunch box or bag; otherwise brown bags are in order.
Choose food wisely. Make sandwiches with lean cuts of meat such as turkey or ham. Substitute cheese crackers or pretzels for chips. Let pudding, applesauce, raisins, or a fruit cup be a dessert instead of fat and sugar laden cupcakes. Urge the child to purchase milk at school or include a 100% juice drink with the lunch.
Parents should keep lunch fees paid and pay all other school related expenses on time. Make certain that your child has the necessary school supplies and that replacements are sent when pencils or crayons are worn down.
Make contact with the classroom teacher. If parents have not yet met the teacher, make time to visit the school. Putting a face to the name helps parents and by the same token, teachers can work better with home if they have met the child’s parents. Make sure that the teacher understands the dynamics of the family. Divorced parents should indicate the active presence of a former spouse or a new one. If children live with grandparents or other relatives, indicate this to the teacher. If special conditions exist – an ill parent or relative, a sibling with disabilities, or other things that could affect student performance, share it with the teacher.
Meet the principal. Most principals are more than happy to work with parents. Some complain about a lack of parental involvement. Should your child ever face discipline problems, cooperation between school and home flows easier if the parent and principal are aquainted.
If possible, meet other key figures in the school. Librarians, the school nurse, counselors, and others all play an important role in the student’s day. If a child has a special talent for music, for example, get to know the music teacher.
The more a parent is involved, the better that home and school can provide a partnership to offer the best education possible to a child.
Know the rules of the school. If the school produces a student or parent handbook, read it. Learn the classroom rules as well. Encourage your child to follow the rules and explain any questions the child may have about the rules. Explain the necessity of rules.
Read all material that comes home from school. Many elementary teachers send home a classroom newsletter or report each week. Middle-school and high schools may also send home similar communications. Parents should have a copy of the current school year calendar posted at home. Make yourself familiar with what is happening at school.
Attend open house, parent night, carnivals and other school functions. If possible, join the parent-teacher association. Make attending annual parent-teacher conferences a priority and be on hand for school performances such as plays or concerts. The more involved in school that a parent can be, the better foundation a student has for education.
If the school offers a parent volunteer program, consider becoming part of it. At many schools, parent volunteers work with students, grade papers, pull lunchroom duty, copy materials for teachers, and much more.
Get to know your child’s friends and peers. At home and at school, it’s wise to know the children that your child associates with. If a situation is spotted that doesn’t seem right or is against the family’s moral code, talk about it. Encourage the child to lift their friend up and never to be dragged down.
At home, make time each evening to ask about the school day and to talk about it. Open lines of communication so that your child feels comfortable talking about events at school. Accept confidences and keep them but act when necessary. Show interest in school to maintain the child’s own interest.
Discuss completed work. Praise good grades and encourage children to improve when grades are lower. Never criticize a child but encourage. If it seems that a child may need extra help, tutor him if you can or seek outside help.
Check for homework and encourage it to be done early. Set aside a quiet place in the home for homework. If possible, invest in a small desk (discarded school desks can often be bought for very low prices) or desiginate a corner of the dining room table for homework. Keep noise to a minimum until homework is completed. Never do homework for a child but do check for obvious errors. If errors exist, point them out and ask for correction. Offer help when possible.
Make a rule that homework is finished before play time or television or phone time. Be strict and stick to it.
Encourage reading outside of school. Reading is a solid foundation for education. Studies and test results show that students who excel in reading often excel in other areas. Help find books that interest your child. Read aloud to younger children. Even older children may enjoy a family reading period. Choose a classic and read aloud a chapter each evening. The entire family will enjoy the story and an appreciation for classic literature will be born.
Turn off the television more often and spend family time. Play board games, clean house together, take a walk, visit a park, play with the dog, or cook together.
Have hot meals together each evening as a family. Sit down to supper each night together and give all family members a chance to discuss events of the day. Clean up together too!
Encourage relationships with extended family members. Strong families are multi-generational. Encourage the kids to be close with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
Be good citizens and encourage good citizenship. Set a good example. Be a good neighbor. Rake the elderly neighbor’s leaves. Vote in all elections. Contribute to local causes and participate in worthy fund raising events in the community.
Make learning a lifetime experience for the entire family. On weekends or vacations, visit historical museums. Explore woodlands or visit a nearby lake. Try fishing or hiking. Read biographies of historical figures. Choose a documentary over a sit-com for family television time. Learn to play chess or how to knit.
Discipline children when necessary but explain why an action was improper. Demonstrate love at all times and encourage affectionate acts like hugging.
Create rituals. A good-night kiss at bedtime or a hand-clasping pact before a child boards the bus will bond families together and make lasting memories.
Celebrate holidays. Make decorating for Christmas a family affair. Have children help polish the mennorah and clean the house for Hannukah. Plant a tree on Arbor Day. Decorate the lawn for Halloween.
Be active together. Ride bikes. Rake leaves. Plant a garden. Encourage physical fitness and make it part of the family identity.
By working together with your child, you can maximize their educational experience and enrich family life!