By PATRICK MCNAMARA
We may not know exactly what format school will take this year, but we can be sure it will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. Teachers will be working outside their comfort zone, which means that parent involvement will be more critical than ever. So as we get closer to the beginning of school, parents may want to consider the following:
- Plan to develop a strong relationship with your child’s teacher. Even if you don’t see your child’s teacher in person often, staying in touch with the teacher is important for your child’s academic success. Don’t be afraid to email the teacher or set up a meeting when you have questions or concerns. Building a strong support system is key to setting your student up for success. When you reach out to a teacher, you are showing that teacher that you care.
- Have realistic expectations. As a parent, you know your child has unique strengths and weaknesses. While getting straight A’s might be a realistic goal for one child, it might not be reasonable for another. Knowing where your child is academically and helping them set attainable goals is a huge part of helping your child be the best student he or she can be. And don’t forget to regularly acknowledge your child’s efforts to achieve those goals. Acknowledgement of effort usually leads to continued effort.
- Utilize teachers and school resources. Schools often offer free help and support if your child is struggling. After-school homework help and counseling are great tools to help your child stay on track if needed. But the existence of such help doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will use it – you’ll need to confirm whether they need and are using the help, and if not, to discover why.
- Get outside help when it’s needed. Some students need more help than what teachers and schools can realistically offer, and many students resist learning from mom and dad. If the source of a student’s struggle is a failure to master foundational skills from prior grades, outside help is likely necessary. There are many tutors that can provide the personalized academic support that your child may need to succeed.
- Develop a schedule that works with your child. Kids thrive when they have a balanced schedule of enough sleep, exercise, downtime and quiet time to read and do homework. Work with your kids to come up with a schedule that works for everyone involved, then try to stick to it.
- Practice goal setting. It’s easier for children to achieve their goals when they set specific goals and know what steps they need to take to reach them. Sit down with your child before school starts and help them write out his or her education goals and each step required to achieve those goals. Then, discuss with your child a plan for how he or she can achieve them. Keep the list active, checking off achievements and updating check points.
- Inspire your child to want to learn. Learning can get a bad reputation with kids. For many children, school is difficult, homework is tedious and worksheets are painful. If that is true for your child, see if you can restore your child’s interest in learning by making it fun again. Research fun experiments to do with your kids, find books that make them laugh out loud and/or look for ways to enable them to dig deeper into whatever subject excites them.
Patrick McNamara is the Executive Director of Sylvan Learning of Albany and Clifton Park, which provides tutoring services and academic coaching (www.SylvanLearning.com).