It’s Back To School Time

by Carol Chandler-Wood

School is just beginning and it is important to make sure your children start off in the best possible way. Regardless of your children’s grade level in school, following are several suggestions which you should find helpful to enable them to work more productively and successfully, thus increasing their chance of a successful school year:

  • MAKE EDUCATION A PRIORITY IN YOUR HOME. Let your children know that in your home academics take priority over any other school related activities. Your children’s values take shape early on as to what is important. They have a keen eye for what you do and a sharp ear for what you say. With time, your children will absorb your views about school and your standards regarding education. Let them know it is a privilege earned to be allowed to participate in a club or be on an athletic team. It is important for a child’s success academically that his/her parents insist that academics come before any other extracurricular activities. It is a student’s job to be in school. I tell students often, “Your parents go to work each day. Your job each day is to be a student”.If a student has below level abilities and/or poor study attitudes and habits, those problems must be addressed in order for him/her to be a successful student. Students attending extra help sessions at school with teachers or tutorial sessions after school with a professional must place these activities before club meetings or athletic practices. If you are a parent who takes your children to ball practice even though they are making poor grades and/or demonstrating lousy study skills and attitudes, you have sent the wrong message to them; one that academics is second to other priorities. I have known several parents who have walked onto the playing field and removed their child from practice when he or she did not make school work a priority. In each case, the student received a definitive message that mom and dad meant business, and, subsequently, the student worked harder towards academics, thus grades improved.
  • BECOME PART OF THE TEAM WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHERS AND SCHOOL Studies have shown that parental involvement is the single most important factor in a child’s academic success. Children do better in school when their parents are involved in their education. Students whose parents are involved have better grades, improved test scores and increased motivation. So, if possible, both parents should attend PTSA meetings, teacher conferences, after school events, etc. and both should oversee their educational process.Let your children know that you and their teachers and school are on the same page, working towards the same goals. You must present a united front to your children with those involved in their education. If and when you disagree with a teacher, never let your children know this. Take your issue privately to the teacher and discuss your concerns candidly. You will most likely be enlightened by your meeting with the teacher and learn things about your children’s academics that you did not know. If children know their parents disagree with their teachers about a topic, they will often use that as their excuse for not being successful.
  • TEACH ACADAEMIC RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY When your children are successful in school, be sure to congratulate them and tell them how proud you are of their effort, attitude, and accomplishment. When they are not successful because they have not applied themselves and demonstrated poor study strategies and attitudes, hold them accountable by having consequences in place. You must be sure to then hold firm to the consequences you have set. Children will often argue and yell to try to get their way. You must stay calm and firm with them while reminding yourself you are in charge. It is your job as a parent to teach your children responsibility and accountability for their choices regarding their school work. Otherwise, they will not perform to their abilities and they will most likely carry irresponsibility into other areas of their lives.
  • CATCH YOUR CHILDREN DOING THINGS WELL It is so easy to correct our children and point out all the things we want them to do better. After all, isn’t that our job to correct and teach them? Maybe so, but you will find that by “catching” them doing something good or correct this will have far reaching positive effects! The first time you catch them doing something good and state, “John, I am so impressed with the way you put together your science project” or “Wow, Susan you really attacked the material for that test”, they will give you a look that says, “What is up with you?”. Don’t react, just move on to another topic. It is amazing to see the impact your positive comments will have on your children. These positive remarks will fuel more positive behaviors from your children.
  • KEEP IN CONTACT WITH TEACHERS At the beginning of school, e-mail each of your children’s teachers giving them your e-mail address and phone numbers. Ask them to contact you if any situation should arise during the year that they feel warrants your attention. Let the teachers know that they have your support. Children generally do better in school when their parents encourage respect for the teacher’s authority and competence and when children see their parents and teachers as a united team working towards the same goals. Do not drop in the school room to visit with a teacher without an appointment. This could be construed that you do not respect the teacher or his or her time. Additionally, by knowing in advance what your concerns are and by scheduling an appointment, the classroom teacher has time to research the answers to your questions and he or she will be prepared to suggest interventions strategies which can help the student.
  • ESTABLISH A STUDY AREA Establish a study area for each of your children which are considered to be their very own. At this study area, have everything the student will need for academics; i.e., stapler, tape, paper, flashcards, pencils, pens, etc. I know it is redundant, but each child in the family would benefit by having their own set of supplies. This will help maintain harmony in your home, prove to be an efficient means of home study for everyone, and give all children “ownership” of their academics. Also, establish the best study time for each child, which will most likely be different for each.
  • LIMIT TELEVISION AND RECREATIONAL COMPUTER TIME Instead of telling your children that when their homework is complete they can watch TV, use the computer, go outside to play, etc., give them a specific time limit each day in which they can do these things. Otherwise, they may rush through their homework and/or test preparation and do a poor job.
  • EMPHASIZE EFFORT RATHER THAN GRADES Remember, it is not the actual letter grade that is most important. It is the level of effort and energy the student puts forth. However, if your children have an academic foundation which is weak or not on their grade level, it is up to parents to provide them with the additional instruction needed to catch up in skills. Even the most hard working and study skill efficient students can only achieve to the level of their foundation. If your child does everything you observed possible to study and prepare for a test and the grade is a “C”, applaud their effort and remain positive. This is an opportunity for you to teach a life lesson about character which they will carry into later years.

By practicing these principles regarding your children’s’ academics and your involvement in their education, changes will begin to take place. Remember, however, like your children, you will have good and bad days yourself employing these new principles. When you falter, pick yourself up and resume your new strategy. It took time for your children to get into the academic position they are currently in and it will take some time to resolve it.

Have an enjoyable and productive school year!