August is here and the start of a new school year is just ahead. Many families find this exciting while others dread it in anticipation of homework, early mornings, and school stress. But all parents want their children to have a successful school year. Here are seven tips to help every child reach that goal.
Make education a family value.
The goal of school is to learn to love learning. Learning is a lifetime goal, and parents can demonstrate their own appreciation of learning. "What is one thing you learned today?" is a nice question for everyone to answer at the dinner table. Ask your children daily about their school day. You don't need to know every detail, and often kids are reluctant to share anything. So simply ask them to tell you the worst moment and the best moment of their school day. This makes them feel that you care and want to participate in their school and their education.
Read to your child every day.
You can't start too early and you can't read too much. Encourage reading of magazines, newspapers, books, web sites. Read recipes, do research on the internet, point out license plates from other states. Read a book together, taking turns reading out loud, at bedtime. Even pre-teens enjoy being read to (even if they pretend they don't). Harry Potter, anybody?
Prepare your child for school's first day.
Buy your school supplies as soon as they go on sale at your local store. Check if a new backpack, lunchbox, or lock is needed, and make sure your child can use them. Order any required books or uniforms. Practice the walking or biking route with your child and review safety rules. And get your child back on their school days sleeping schedule one week before school starts. If your child is going to a new school, visit the campus in advance and learn your way around.
Make numbers fun and part of everyday life.
While grocery shopping, allow your child to weigh the produce. Collect coins and count/roll them every week. Play counting games with Legos or Cheerios. Watch a baseball game and discuss the player's batting averages. Quiz your child on their math facts while driving together. Sort buttons or poker chips into ice cube trays and then count them. Bake cookies and help your children to measure the ingredients.
Support your child's school and its rules.
Attend Back-to School nights and school plays. Allow your child to get the hot lunch once in a while, even if it is unhealthy. Wear the tee-shirt with the school logo even on a weekend. Don't send candy if the school requests "no candy" (even if that makes your child unhappy). Read the school newsletter, post the weekly calendar on your bulletin board, and hang school papers on your fridge.
Assist your child with their homework.
Remember who is responsible for the homework, but help as needed. Insist that your children be polite with you, but understand that homework can be frustrating. Provide a quiet and clean homework station and a homework kit with needed supplies. Praise your kids for their effort, not just the result. Homework is not a job (kids don't get paid for doing it) but it is a big responsibility.
Spend time in your child's classroom.
Get to know the teacher, the students, and the other parents. Volunteer to help on a regular basis or just once in a while. Offer to be the room parent or the chaperone on a field trip. Visit the classroom on a special holiday and share a new tradition. Give your (over worked and under appreciated) teacher a gift for the holidays. Show your child that "School" is appreciated by your entire family.
Susan Stone Belton, Family Coach & Motivational Speaker (http://susanstonebelton.com/) is a certified Special Education Teacher with over 40 years experience working with families. She has presented hundreds of talks to Bay Area groups and works with individual families to help solve their parenting concerns. (http://susanstonebelton.com/speaking-coaching). Susan is the author of "Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk", a book for parents with children of every age.