1. Make learning a priority at home. Children live up to the expectations of their parents. If learning seems important to mom and dad, then the children will take it seriously. Children get the message that learning is important when the family’s schedule gives learning a high priority. Don’t let soccer practice prevent studying for the science test. If you have to take the family out of town during school, help your child schedule time to make up her work. Be excited when your elementary student needs to read his homework pages to you. With proper planning, time can be made for activities, and church involvement does not have to become secondary.
2. Enforce bedtime. There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Children’s sleep levels affect them cognitively, emotionally, and physically. With enough rest, they can concentrate, they handle stress better, and they have the energy required to function during the school day.
3. Feed them breakfast. A hungry stomach becomes a big distraction when your are supposed to be concentrating in math class. Besides that, a good breakfast gives students the energy they need to meet the mental demands of school.
4. Develop a homework plan. Your schedule may not permit homework to be completed at the same time and in the same place every day, but give some thought to the most effective way to handle homework in your home. Where will your child be able to concentrate the best? For some, studying alone in their room is a recipe for daydreaming. When is the best time to complete school work? Right after school seems great for those who want to “get it over with.” But some kids need to run, play, and exercise out all their stored up energy before more work can be done. What’s vital is that you thoroughly think about these issues and develop a plan. “Rolling with the punches” could be disastrous.
5. Learn how to supervise their progress. Elementary students receive weekly test/quiz folders. Junior high and high school students receive tri-weekly reports. But in addition to that, be in the habit of asking your kids what test is next and how they did on the last one. It will make them feel accountable and motivate them to do their best.
6. Learn the best way to communicate with the teacher. Some teachers prefer email, others like a note in the child’s book bag, while others have schedules that would permit you to approach them after school. Find which way is the best way to initiate contact with the teacher with questions or minor information. From there, you or the teacher can determine if a lengthy parent/teacher conference needs to be scheduled. Remember that good communication helps both the parents and the teacher do their respective jobs.
7. Be informed about what goes on at the school. You can start by reading the handbook. It may not be the most enjoyable piece of literature you have ever read, but knowing the school’s policies may eliminate a lot of potential frustration. Be mindful of school memos and announcements sent by email or paper flyers. Also, remember that school officials post information and calendar events on the school website because they want parents to know about it. And there is no harm in asking a question if you need answers.
School personnel are not bothered by questions, but they are bothered by problems that could have been avoided with a little more information.
The keys to a smooth school year could be summarized by two words: communication and consistency. Beneficial communication will not only keep you and the teacher informed, it can prevent problems, or at the least, prevent them from getting worse. Consistency is also necessary for study habits to be effective. One week of good study habits will not bring about the results you want. After you develop a plan for homework, studying, and bedtime, stick to it with consistency.