Helping Your Child Succeed at School
Ron Mirr, Iowa Parent Resource Information Center, www.iowaparents.org
The Iowa PIRC staff has adapted and prioritized 12 ideas for parents to consider to help their children succeed in school. We have put them in order based on what we are finding from various research studies. Feel free to reproduce this and share with students’ parents.
You are your child’s best teacher! Research shows that children whose parents are engaged in their education are more likely to achieve academic success. Use the following checklist to plan how you can best help your child learn. As you organize your efforts, make sure to start at the top of the list and work your way down. It’s okay if you can’t do all of the things on this list! If you only have time to do one thing, work on the first item. As you have more time to work with your child, keep heading down the list in order. It is essential to be as positive as possible as you support your child. Don’t forget, these ideas are effective for children in all grades PreK‐12!
1. Have high expectations for your children. Kids rise to a challenge. Make sure your children understand the clear expectations you have for them and how well they should do in school. Talk to your children about your expectation that they will continue their education after they graduate from high school. Encourage your students to talk with their counselor and their teachers about their options after high school. While it’s OK to reward your children for successes, as your children get older it is important to help them develop an internal desire to do well in school that doesn’t require rewards.
2. Talk to your child about school. Ask specific questions to draw out your child. Instead of asking “yes” or “no” questions, ask “How do you think you did on the math test?” or “What is something funny that happened at school today?” or “What did you do during PE?” It is very important as you talk with your child about school to help him/her believe in him/herself and have the confidence to know that s/he can succeed. (See Questions to Ask Your Children Besides “How Was Your Day” at http://bit.ly/9N81ND.)
3. Get “connected” with your child’s teachers. Teachers and parents should be equal partners. This doesn’t mean you have the same role, but you are both equally important players in supporting the success of your child. Ask teachers about their expectations. What are students expected to master by the end of the year in each class? How will each teacher be gauging your child’s progress toward these goals? Ask about the best way to get in touch if you have questions. Ask what you can do at home to support what is going on in the classroom.
4. Make sure your child has a quiet place to study and to learn at home. Find an area in your home that is free of distraction where your child can concentrate on homework and other learning without being disturbed by other distractions. Listening to music while doing homework is not the best way for all students to focus on their homework. Be available to offer suggestions if your child has a question. Make sure your child spends enough time learning at home. A commonly accepted rule is 10 minutes of learning at home per
school night per grade level (e.g., 3rd grade = 30 minutes, 6th grade = 60 minutes, 9th grade = 90 minutes, 12th grade = 120 minutes). Students should spend time learning at home every night even if they don’t have specific homework.
5. Get your child “connected” to the school. Students who feel “connected” to adults and other students at school do better academically. Encourage your child to join a club, participate in intramural activities, go out for a sport, or join a music group. If what your child is interested in isn’t offered as a school club or activity, work with the school to start one.
6. Check your child’s homework, but don’t do it. Offer to check math problems, proofread written papers and look over spelling words. If you find a mistake, point it out to your child and help him/her figure out the correct answer. Remember to also point out what your child did well in his/her homework, too. If your child is having trouble encourage him/her to contact his/her peers or look for an online resource. Also encourage your child to ask for help from the teacher. Remember to help your child practice how to ask for help in a positive way. (See Homework at http://bit.ly/cdaU5p.)
7. Find out about homework assignments and school tests. Use your district’s online computer system or teacher’s webpage to monitor homework assignments and get in the habit of checking it regularly. If you can’t find the information you need about upcoming classroom assignments, contact your child’s teachers and ask them to post when there’s an important project or test coming up. If you feel like you need more information, contact your child’s teacher(s) and ask them to post more information that can help you know how your child is doing and how you can support him/her at home.
8. Talk about your own learning. Discuss with your child how you plan, solve problems and think about the future.
9. Post a family calendar in a central place. Write down important school dates, including due dates for projects and tests. Encourage your child to add to the calendar and to check it daily. Help your child learn to plan and prepare ahead. As your child gets older, help your child take the lead for regulating and organizing homework and study time with you as their coach.
10. Go to school meetings and events. Attending concerts, plays, assemblies, meetings, and other activities is a good way to become familiar with your child’s school community and develop relationships with other parents.
11. Volunteer to chaperone school dances and drive kids to school competitions. You’ll meet other parents, school staff, and your child’s classmates. In this way you can also develop a network of other parents with whom you can share information and discuss ideas.
12. Find a way to make your voice heard. If you have the time and the desire, ask to be part of school committees. Attend PTA/PTO meetings. Many schools now have parent and school teams that share ways to further build a family-school partnerships for student learning. Ask to form or join such a team.