You may have completed your education years ago, but as long as you have children, your days in the classroom continue. As their primary teacher and caregiver, it is your responsibility to encourage and support your children’s academic efforts both at home and in school. “Parent involvement increases student achievement,” says Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Massachusetts chapter president, Carol Woodbury of Monson.
School Begins Before the First Bell
Even as you enjoy the waning days of summer, start preparing for the school year ahead. Complete any previously assigned school work such as required summer reading. Purchase needed supplies like pencils, pens, and paper. Buy a few new outfits to start the season or update uniforms.
Use the remaining weeks of summer to gradually adjust bedtime. “Children are coming to school exhausted,” says Mimi Doe, author of Busy but Balanced : Practical and Inspirational Ways to Create a Calmer, Closer Family. “Without enough sleep they are unable to focus.”
Send kids to bed just fifteen minutes earlier each night. By the time school begins they should be back on a more appropriate sleep schedule.
Doe advocates a smooth transition from a languid summer to the more frenetic fall. In her book she suggests establishing a tradition for the evening before the first day of school. “Eat at a favorite restaurant, review summer pictures, organize the new school clothes.”
From the First Day On
Just as your children will be creating routines in school, do the same at home. Doe recommends starting morning and evening rituals. “I feel strongly that as parents we should launch our children off each school day calmly. Start with loving words. Give them a healthy breakfast. Make sure they have everything they need.”
Likewise in the evening, Doe advises a ritual of reentry. “Evening is the time to downshift from school, sports, and other activities.”
It is also the time to prepare for the coming morning. To avoid a frantic search for missing papers, “set up a place for all their stuff at night and make sure everything is in the right place before they go to bed,” says Doe.
A Home for Homework
Children need a quiet place to study away from heavy household traffic. It may be a corner of the family room, the kitchen table or a desk in their bedroom. The area should be well lit and stocked with helpful supplies like a pencil sharpener, dictionary, ruler and you. Be available to assist with difficult problems or help your student to stay on task.
Doe cautions parents about their level of assistance with schoolwork. "It is your child’s homework not yours. Encourage editing and double-checking, but allow your kids to make mistakes as it’s the only way teachers can gauge if they understand the material.”
Most schools send home assignments for parents as well. Be sure to ask your child for any notices or forms and complete them quickly. Mark special events on the calendar and arrange your schedule to attend.