My youngest child graduated from high school in May 2015. Now all four of my children have successfully completed their K-12 education. When I think of my approach to supporting their school experience, I came up with five strategies that were rather successful that I will pass on to you.
1. Show up in the school at least once a week.
In the earlier years, my showing up was volunteering in my child’s classroom once a week. I graded or filed papers, prepared bulletin board materials, entered test data in spreadsheets, read stories, etc. One of my greatest achievements was showing up on my daughter’s Acting Class Exam! From being in the school, I learned about my child’s classmates (and his relationships with them – or lack thereof), special event flyers that never made it home, teachers that were worthy of fighting for and clarity on who’s who in the school. I ALWAYS knew my children’s teachers’ names because that goes a long way.
2. Talk to other parents of the school.
By talking to active parents, you learn ALL the ins and outs of the school. Parents have insights and different perspectives. By talking to parents, you learn what they know and don’t know and what they care about.
3. Use homework as a teaching and a learning tool.
Try a few different things. Look at it before the child starts and make sure they understand. When my son was taking three hours to finish, we tried a great strategy. We would have him complete one item (e.g.. 1 math problem out of 10) and set the timer. If the problem took 5 minutes and he had nine more to do, we would set the timer for 5 minutes and see where he was after each 5 minute interval. Use homework as a test. If you’re too tired to look at anything in the evening, get up 15 minutes earlier and look at it together in the morning. Always ask the child some question that lets you know they understand the lesson.
4. Support your child’s teachers.
Teaching is such hard work. There is very little down time and work to take home at all times. If you can lighten the load for your children’s teachers, they will appreciate you, remember you and let you in their lives in a meaningful way.
5. Set goals & celebrate small wins.
We found that our children always needed realistic goals to improve their behavior and performance. When you have a parent-teacher conference, no need to avoid it. It’s a golden opportunity to get some help setting goals. Some we had to set over the years include:
1. Go a whole week without a red light on your report card.
2. Turn all of your homework in every day for 2 weeks.
3. Keep your notebook organized for two weeks.
When those short-term goals are met, plan a low-cost celebration your child suggests, such as a trip to the park. pizza, a sleepover, favorite movie at home with popcorn, or cooking a favorite meal.
These are five strategies we used to support our child’s experience at school. What others can you share that you’ve used and found beneficial?