Like it or not, schools expect and often require a lot of parental involvement these days. Do you find yourself thinking, there’s no way my parents did this much when I was in school?
It can be overwhelming to figure out if you’re doing enough when you’re already trying to balance work and domestic duties, in addition to supporting the youngsters’ educational endeavors. To gain some clarity and narrow the focus a bit, I did a little research on various parenting websites, and culled what I think is a solid list of things parents can do to help our kids succeed.
1. Teach them that learning is their job.
I actually have a variation on this. I used to say school was a kid’s job, then I shifted to presenting it as an opportunity to figure out what you want your job to be when you grow up. What subject do you like best? You’re shopping around for a career path! This also includes getting involved in school clubs and activities — from the arts to service projects to STEM and robotics. As for the dreaded subjects that cause them to struggle the most? Well, consider that part of the process of elimination, where future career or college plans are concerned — but still not an excuse to give up and settle for rotten grades.
2. Aim high. But be reasonable.
Kids have different aptitudes and abilities. We all know what our offspring are capable of, so set and express your expectations accordingly. Telling a kid who’s not particularly academically inclined that nothing less than straight As is acceptable might backfire. But ALL kids should be expected to try their best, turn in their assignments on time, and behave in class.
3. Send your child to school ready to learn.
Eating right and getting enough sleep seem like no-brainers, but they are crucial to your child’s success. Hungry, tired kids are not going to be at their best. Aim for whole grains, protein, and as little sugary junk as you can persuade them to eat for breakfast, and be sure they’re getting 10-12 hours of sleep.
4. Provide a proper homework environment.
Off with the electronics! Be sure your child has a neat, orderly, well-lit table or desk at which to work. Quiet is a relative term, depending on the household, but the fewer the distractions, the better.
5. Make learning a year-round endeavor.
I’m not talking about summer school or daily academic assignments during school breaks — unless you and your kid are down with that! Summertime trips to historical sites, museums, the bookstore or library for enjoyable reading materials (even if they choose magazines, comic books, or graphic novels), and fun STEM facilities or camps can do wonders where brain stimulation is concerned. It’s also good to encourage games of strategy like chess, checkers, or backgammon, or have them take up a new hobby or learn a new skill, like cooking or woodworking.
6. Set a good example.
Let your child see you and join you in reading, exploring nature, watching documentaries or educational programs, Googling things you want to know more about, and wondering about the world, in general. Curiosity leads to a lifelong love of learning, and it may make those classroom lessons and lectures a little more bearable.
7. Regularly review planners and teachers’ webpages.
So much is done online these days, and most schools require kids to maintain day planners. Try to sit down with your child each week and review both, then come up with a plan of attack for homework, studying for tests, and working on projects. This is especially important if they have after school activities. And it’s an excellent way to start building organizational skills.
8. Be in touch with the teacher.
If your child is struggling, reach out to the teacher and ask for advice or feedback. They will appreciate your effort, and will be willing to set up a conference, if needed. Just remember — you have the same goal — your child’s success. So be sure to approach any email, phone call, or in-person meeting in a spirit of cooperation.
9. Consider reinforcements.
When all else fails, and your child is still struggling — or you’re sick of doing battle over homework and studying everyday — find out if your school has a tutoring program. Homework Louisiana provides free online tutoring and test prep to eligible library card holders statewide. Also, local libraries usually offer tutoring assistance, or you can look into hiring a tutor or enlisting the services of a nearby educational or technology centers.
10. Make Time to Talk About School.
I really like this one — I think it is vital, and often overlooked. On a regular basis, in a relaxed setting, have a casual, no-pressure conversation about both the academic and social situation at school. Find out if anything is causing them undue anxiety or worry. Not every kid will automatically open up about their struggles, but it’s important to remind them that you are always willing and able to help them sort out problems of any kind, and there are counselors and educators at school available, too.