Once the school supplies has been purchased and pictures of the first day of school have been taken, it’s time for parents to begin their own homework. According to Texas state law, the school year is 75,600 minutes long, and there are pitfalls before reaching those summer days. Whether you have an enthusiastic elementary student, awkward middle-schooler, or a sulky high-schooler, every student needs an advocate and a guide. No, you probably will not get a thank you from your future high school graduate for this. Parent homework may not be all fun, but just like your student’s homework, it is necessary for a smoother school year. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your child’s school year:
1. Make teachers aware of any special circumstances that will affect your son/daughter in their classroom. Teachers want to help and be informed. If you let them know ahead of time, it may minimize problems later on. My son has always had terrible handwriting, so I discuss this with his teacher so I can have them understand why it is better for everyone if he uses special pens/pencils and always, always lined paper. E-mailing teachers is great; sometimes a parent conference is a must. There may be times when a counselor is the way to go. The school nurse is another resource who may need to be consulted even if there is not a serious medical condition.
2. Make sure that you are aware of school policies and procedures. Yes, there are hundred of sheets of paper at the beginning of year that are passed out. OK, maybe not hundreds, but enough to destroy a small forest. Don’t just toss those! Read them. At the middle school/high school level this might translate to school or teacher websites. What are the expectations for this school year? What is the grading policy? Will there be different kinds of assessments? If your child misses school, what is the policy for late or make-up work?
3. Stay informed. Sign up for teacher e-mails or whatever communication system they might have. Some of this information might have been in those hundred of papers from the first days of school. You did check them, right? Often schools have weekly announcements sent out via email or text. These are full of information that you might not get clearly from your Kinder darling and definitely not from that closed-mouthed high-schooler. Make it a point to go to the school’s website periodically. Try to make it to a Parent Night or volunteer at the school, even if it is only for one event. You will get a wealth of information and see a little of how the school functions.
4. Stay organized. Put those important dates on your calendar as soon as you get them. Share those with your significant other or support person. Open House? That’s a definite must. But don’t forget to look ahead at the school calendar and write down early release days, field trips, state assessments, and parent nights. I love my Google calendar that I share with my husband. It means that, hopefully, he will realize the reason that I laid out a pressed shirt for my son is because it’s Picture Day and he’ll stick to his guns and not let him change into yet another Star Wars tee. It helps to make sure there’s not a conflict for those doctor or dentist appointments. Extra curricular activities? Family trips or events? Get them on the calendar now before you get lost in the crazy haze of the school year.
5. Monitor those grades so there are no surprises. Look at the progress reports that are given out. Again, most schools have electronic ways to keep up your with your student’s progress—or lack thereof. If there are some “weak spots,” help is needed. Your parent homework really comes into play now. Does the school provide tutoring? Can missing grades be made up? Can tests be retaken? This can be a small bump in the road or, perhaps, a much larger struggle. You need to help navigate these pitfalls, but your son/daughter has to be able to complete assignments on his/her own for true learning to take place. Don’t overcompensate by stepping in and doing those assignments! Again, there may be a need to e-mail teacher(s) or even set up a parent conference. Listen to a teacher’s comments, concerns, and, yes, complaints. I know it’s hard for our angels to be in the wrong, but, maybe, just maybe, there is another side of the story that needs to be considered.
Don’t forget that there is more to school success than books. Touch base with how school is going by asking questions of your son/daughter. He/she may not gush information, but he/she will know that you are interested and care. Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep and eating something for breakfast. Sometimes these two seem obvious, but there are so many sleep-deprived, hungry kiddos at school that it would amaze you. School friends are also a big part of the school experience. Find out who your child is friends with and, as much as he/she will let you, try to see and meet them. I’ve found Parent Nights are good for this. You might even meet your child’s friends’ parents, much to the dismay of your son or daughter. If both of you do your homework, then your school year should be successful, and there should be plenty of time to have fun along the way. Enjoy the wild and crazy ride of this school year!