I have three children, one who is now in Junior High. He has been struggling with school this year. At one point, he was in tears begging to be home-schooled. I just couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience, let alone the time to do that. Plus, who understands Junior High math?! Besides, how nice is it to be able to get all your cleaning and errands done during the day without your kids asking endless questions, making messes, or just needing things in general? My tax dollars pay for public education, so I am going to take full advantage of it! It’s not always easy to send your kids off to school all day, and not know what is happening in their lives. It is entirely up to the teacher and school staff to deal with your child on a day to day basis, and make sure that they get a good education. Studies have shown that the more involved parents are, the more successful their children will be in school. I have learned a lot since sending my oldest off to Kindergarten all those years ago (though it seems like just yesterday). Here are some of the ways you can improve your child’s education by getting involved at the school, in the classroom and with the teacher, while helping at home at the same time.
The biggest thing I have learned since my oldest started school is that communication is key. Most schools, at least where I live, have a “Back to School” night the week before school starts, where you can go to the school and meet with your child’s teacher(s), see the classroom, etc. Make sure you go, and make it a point to talk to their specific teacher(s) and ask them what the best way is to communicate with them. Today, with all our technological advances, communication is easier than ever. Most teachers prefer email, but I had one teacher give me her personal cell phone number so that I could text her anytime. If a teacher sees that you want to be involved, they will gladly make sure you have an effective means to communicate with them. Once you get that information, use it! I try to make it a habit to send an email, text, phone call, or whatever, the day after our meeting. I just tell them it was good to meet them, let them know any concerns I have about my child, and tell them to please contact me as soon as they have any concerns. This opens a line of communication, and gets them comfortable with you. I also make sure to let them know if my child is sick and missing school, or if there is anything going on at home that could interfere with classroom learning. This shows the teacher that you respect them and want them involved in your child’s life. Also, if your child knows that you communicate regularly with his teacher, he will act out less, since he knows you will find out about it.
- Suck Up
Sure, your kid might get made fun of for sucking up to the teacher, being labeled a “Brown-Noser” or “Teacher’s Pet,” but you won’t. Send a little treat and note on the first day. Send a small gift or treat on holidays, teacher appreciation day (or week), and try to find out when their Birthday is and make it special. The nicer and more supportive you are towards the teacher, the more inclined they will be to come to you with problems, questions, and concerns; instead of just reprimanding your kid. This also shows your child how to be kind and caring.
- Get Involved
There are SO MANY ways you can get involved in your child’s school and classroom. Volunteer in the classroom; find out what your teacher needs; whether it be a room mom, help with class parties, grading, or tutoring, and do as much as your schedule allows. Sign up for the PTA. PTA is an important aspect of your school; they’re in charge of many of the after-school programs as well as teacher support events like Teacher Appreciation Day, dinners for parent-teacher conferences, red ribbon week, and much more. Sign up for their email list, then help with what you can. Go to as many meetings as you can, and volunteer to help with as many things as you have time for. They will appreciate your help, and your increased presence in your kid’s school will show them that their education is important to you.
Feed the body, and you will also feed the mind. For optimal thinking, the brain needs good nutrition. Make sure your kids eat a good breakfast and a good lunch. You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but by lunch time high metabolisms have burned all that off, so a good lunch is equally important for thinking. Protein and natural (good) fats are perfect brain food. There are plenty of things you can make ahead of time. Try boiling a bunch of eggs on Sunday, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ahead of time and freezing them (ala homemade Uncrustables), and putting chips, fruit, etc. into individual baggies so in the mornings, your kids can just grab and go. If your kids aren’t big breakfast eaters, try drinkable yogurts, chocolate milk or granola bars with protein; just make sure they have something in their bellies.
Sleep! It’s a never-ending battle with kids. A well-rested child is more able to participate in class and do their best thinking; and they won’t be falling asleep during silent reading time. Talk to your pediatrician about how much sleep your kids need, then set a school week bedtime, and stick to it. To combat bedtime battles, try turning off electronics an hour or so before bedtime (TV is ok); that blue light emitted from them can stimulate the brain to stay awake. Set a predictable and consistent bedtime routine (helps even for older kids), so that your kids know what to expect, and stick to it as often as possible. Set bedtime early enough so that your kids can read for 20-30 minutes before falling asleep. Reading at bedtime helps kids fall asleep as it calms their minds.
Homework is the bane of most parents with school-aged children’s existence, but it’s important to keep your kids on track. Homework reinforces and allows them to practice what they’ve learned in class. It’s also a good way to measure your child’s understanding of important concepts, since you can’t be in class with them. Find out at the first of the year what weekly homework your child will have, and what is expected of them. Ask your kids for their homework right when they get home, and find a homework schedule that works for you. I have my kids do theirs right after school, while they are still in “school mode.” Since we have done this for years, they know what’s expected, and that they can’t do anything else until it’s done. Let them know that you are there to help them, and follow up with the teacher if you have questions.
I know that you want your kids to succeed and have fun in school, and if you follow these tips, everyone will have a more enjoyable experience. Showing your child that education is valuable at a young age will carry them throughout their life. Hello, college graduate! Most importantly, your kids will know that you are there to help and support them in any way you can, and they will be more successful because of it.
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