Even though your child may complain when sent off to school, don't underestimate the importance that he or she places on his school success. Achievement in school can have an amazing impact on your child's self-esteem.
Because teachers are professionally trained to help children learn, we've polled a few educators to get their opinion on how you can best help your child's education.
Communicate. Teachers want to resolve concerns as soon as possible, and are willing to talk to parents about the specific needs of their children. Marcie Gallacher, a former second grade teacher from Wilton, California, says that it is important to "keep lines of communication open. Talk to teachers about questions first, rather than other parents."
Start your relationship with your child's teacher right away. Attend back-to-school nights and open houses so that the teacher knows you are excited about your child's education, and tell the teacher specifically that you want to work together to make this year one of your child's best. Your children will have a much better school experience if you are working with their teachers, not against them.
Read to your children. Because of the effect reading has on all subjects (yes, reading helps with math, too!), teaching your child to read and continuing to read with him or her is an influential part in preparing your child for school. Hearing books read aloud affects students' independent reading and oral reading, says Gallacher.
Mike Cline, a teacher in Murray, Utah, agrees. "The reason many children act out is because either they can't read or they are not confident at reading, so they don't want to be called on."
Aside from reading to them, encourage your children to read on their own. Encourage your children to choose reading activities (rather than resort to them) by taking a trip to the library once a week. Let them leave their books out in the family room; they might see them and choose to read instead of watch television.
Talk to your kids about school. Mike Cline's wife, Laurie, teaches junior high in Taylorsville, Utah. She says, "One of the biggest things parents can do for us as teachers is to talk to their kids about school." Asking how their classes are going, what they are learning about, and if they need help studying for tests is extremely important, Laurie says. If children sense that education is important to you, it will be important to them, too.
Make an effort to spend more time with your children and talk to them about important things in their lives. If they express a concern to you about a school assignment, do your best to help them with it. Show them where to research the topic, but do not do your child's work for them. Teachers are well aware when parents have been doing their kids' homework, and they don't like it.
Be accepting. "I wish that parents would celebrate their children for their accomplishments as well as work with them on their deficiencies," says Annalisa Arizpe, a high school teacher from Clermont, Florida. "Be happy and show joy when your child improves. Accept their personal best.
"Accepting their personal best, however, doesn't mean that you can't help your child improve," Arizpe continues. "I wish that [parents] would look at the papers that their children bring home and really question their answers." Questions like, "Why did you believe that was the correct answer?" and "What could you have done differently?" are the types of questions that encourage, not discourage.
Get involved. "I am blessed to have several parents who volunteer on a regular basis," says Gretchen Kemp, another high school teacher in Clermont, Florida. "It just so happens that more times than not, these are the students who are straight-A students, those who put in the most effort, and go on to be great community volunteers, as well."
Being involved doesn't need to take lots of time from your already-packed schedule. It is understandable that a parent would be too busy to be the head of the PTA, but even bringing a snack in for a special day or chaperoning a short field trip is a big help to teachers.
But remember not to get too involved. Sometimes parents end up holding back their children when they are trying desperately to help. "I had one parent that every couple of weeks would pick up her eighteen-year-old daughter's missing assignments," says Arizpe. "She would return her child's work a couple of days later. This parent would also call me with questions that the girl had. It was too much, and in my opinion, this girl will never learn the importance of responsibility."
Take advantage of technology. We live in a time when almost anything can be found online, including your child's grades. "Most schools have grades available online; if that is the case, parents should check them often to see for themselves how their child is doing," says Laurie Cline. If you don't keep up with your child's schoolwork, you might be surprised and overreact when a child brings home a not-so-desirable grade. "Be aware of your child's grades. Do not wait until progress reports and report cards to show concern," says Arizpe.
With some help and prompting on your part, your child can learn to make the most of his or her education - and eventually become a steward over it. And if you remember to always support your children, take advantage of resources, and remind them to step up to responsibility, then you're sure to produce lifelong learners.