10 Ways to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of His/Her Education
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Teachers have a tough job. Now, before you say ‘What do you mean? They just spent the summer by the pool!’ ask yourself this question: Do you really think your child’s teacher waited until the night before the first day of school to plan this year’s lessons? You might be surprised at the answer. Most teachers began their lesson plans last year and have been to the classroom several times since our kids got out. It would be more accurate to say ‘it’s us by the pool while they’re in school’.
I admire them. They don’t have a glamorous job, but it’s rewarding. I can speak from experience, because while I’m not a certified teacher, I did homeschool for eight years, worked as an assistant teacher, currently teach fifth and sixth graders at church and volunteer inside my children’s schools, so I am in the trenches as a mom as much as I’m in the building as an educator. I play a role on both sides of the tracks, and as parents, I’m convinced we can do a lot more to help our children get the best out of school.
1. Get Serious: School is supposed to be about learning- not fashion, not social gatherings and it’s not daycare. This is where their future starts. We instilled this in my children as homeschoolers. They know why they want and need an education. The bus, recess, lunch, after school, and occasionally study hall can be for socializing… not the classroom.
2. Encourage Your Child:
Acknowledge their accomplishments while addressing, and accepting, their fears.
(The single worst thing you can do is to discount your child’s apprehension: support without condemning or discounting). See #7. Be patient with them while they get used to routines, work loads and new subject matter.
3. Communicate with the Teacher: My children have unique circumstances and every child has strengths and weaknesses. Teachers don’t know if your child is from a divorced family, living with grandparents, has a form of dyslexia, has troubled siblings, or is a crab in the morning. Inform the teachers of your child’s needs. I started this when my children went from homeschool to public school so teachers could understand our custody arrangements, temperaments and anything the kids were struggling with. I’ve continued the tradition and it helps.
4. Encourage them to participate: I encourage a minimum of one extracurricular activity as early in life as possible. Whether inside or outside of school, kids need more of an identity and hobby of their own. Identify their interests and seek out somewhere for them to join others like them.
5. Don’t Over Schedule: See #4. Our rule is one extracurricular at a time.
This has less to do with Mom’s money and time than it is about pacing children and allowing them healthy downtime to relax.
6. Have Routines: Big advocate of routines. I make them, follow and break them. How does that work? I set schedules for most things, on most days, and when we need a break from it all, we deviate from the plan. Setting up and keeping routines helps kids get into good habits. Try to stay consistent with meal times, bed times, study or homework times. Before you know it, you won’t be fighting with your kids. They’ll be so used to their routine, it will be second nature to them.
7. Support the Teacher: Show up for conferences. It says you’re involved and gives you info about your child that you might never know, like Johnny’s always late with his homework. If you find out Suzie is a chatterbox, go home and have a talk with her. It helps enforce class rules, shows that you and her teacher are in contact and are a team. Plus it will cut down on the amount of time the teacher spends disciplining students giving him/her more time to focus on lessons. All teachers have something positive to say about students, so share those messages with your child. Teachers don’t always have time to do that during class.
8. Get Connected: Both online and with your child. The online Parent Portal most schools have nowadays is priceless. More than once, I’ve been able to help my child avoid failing a quarter because I checked their homework/grades online and realized they needed a little coercing or support.
9. Hold Your Kids Accountable: Don’t’ always assume your child is right and teacher is wrong. Get both sides of any story. Also, don’t take your child’s lack of effort personally; allow them to own up to their commitment level.
10. Pay Attention (Every Teacher’s Favorite): If you aren’t paying attention to your children (academics wise and at home) lots of things slip through the cracks; things like bullying, unhealthy eating, eyesight or hearing problems, teacher/child conflicts, learning hurdles, talents, skills, passions are all things which can elude us if we’re too distant or self involved.
Reality check: Does every teacher love their job? No, probably not. The truth is, there are bound to be a few who don’t put their best efforts into educating, but in all the years I’ve been meeting, working with, and helping educators, I’ve only met one like that, and I’m pretty sure she’s retired by now. Bottom line is, before you judge them, take this list to heart, walk in their shoes and give them the benefit of the doubt. The majority of teachers don’t teach because it yields millions; they do it because they care for your kids and for the rewards of watching your child succeed.