Many families love the elementary school days and all that they bring. But others dread it because of homework, early mornings, and school stress. However, ALL parents want their children to have a successful school year. So here are 7 tips to help every child reach that goal (and parent):
1. 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 some pointed questions, this makes them feel that you care and want to participate in their school and their education and aren't just asking a general question like "How was school?" Ask them specific questions, that makes it easier for them to "access the data." For example: "What was the best part of your day," "What was the worst part of your day," "Tell me one thing that made you laugh today," "Tell me something you did to make someone laugh today," "If you had your choice, who would you sit next to at school?," "Who made you laugh today?," "What did you do during recess today?" For more ideas click here.
2. 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, websites. 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? While driving play games where your child has to find certain letters in their environment. We call this the ABC game. First we have to find an A, then a B, and so on. It forces them to look around, it's fun, and they're reading while doing it.
3. 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.
4. 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. Allow your child to pay cashiers whenever paying with cash, even ask your child to figure out what change you should get. Involve your child when you write checks, show them your checkbook, how it works, what it's for. It can be fun for your child and it teaches them real life numbers that apply to their own family. When they are the right age get them their bank account and bank book, have them make deposits and do the addition and subtraction in their bank books. We got accounts for our kids when they were 7 years old.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 teacher (overworked and under appreciated) a gift for the holidays. Show your child that "school" is appreciated by your entire family.
Enjoy these times. Soon they'll be in middle school or high school and your involvement in their school days and lives will be drastically reduced.