According to the National Education Association (NEA), students with involved parents are more likely to get higher grades, have better attendance, graduate, and go on to post-secondary education. In short, parental involvement helps kids succeed. So what are the best ways to help your child in school? Best practices go beyond simply helping with homework or a project.
Ten Ways to Help Your Child in School
Being a parent involves taking an interest in everything that involves your child, particularly his education. The role you play can directly affect your child's success, but what exactly can you do? The following list can make a big difference in your child's education.
#1. Share a Meal
It might be challenging to find time to sit down and eat a whole meal with your family, but research from The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA) suggests that it's critical. Having a regular meal time with your kids can:
- Decrease the risk of drug use
- Encourage kids to read more for pleasure and do their homework
- Decrease the risk of depression and suicide in adolescents
- Help provide routine and structure in the child's home life
GreatSchools.org also notes that the conversations that tend to happen around the family dinner table also help improve vocabulary and even student test scores. So making time for family dinner is important.
If you cannot do family dinner due to work schedules, try having a regular time of sitting down for healthy dessert, or a before bed drink. The idea is to maintain a regular time where you and your family are sitting together enjoying each other's company.
#2. Drop Everything and Read
Reading is one of the most vital steps you can take to encourage your child's academic career. Read together, read in front of your child to set an example, and buy lots of reading material that he will want to read.
According to a report put out by the School Library Research Association, the amount of independent reading a student does outside of the classroom directly correlates to higher achievement in school. In other words, the more time your child spends reading literature that he doesn't have to read for school, the better he will do in school. In addition, you'll want to read aloud to your child - even after he learns to read. While there is no magic age at which to stop reading out loud to your child, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) encourages parents to read aloud and discuss stories with their children well after they are proficient readers. By reading books that are above your child's reading level, but matched with their interest level, you can help your child increase vocabulary.
#3. Get to Know Your Child's School
RIF also suggests visiting your child's school before there is a problem. This can help you build a positive relationship with the teacher so that if problems do arise, you can work together more easily. In addition to being proactive with your child's teacher, you may also want to introduce yourself to faculty and staff. While your child's teacher will certainly play a key role in her academic success, it is important that you get to know others in the school, such as the librarian, school nurse, secretary, and the administrators. Most schools have a back-to-school night or other opportunities to help foster relationships between faculty members and parents - take advantage of these opportunities where the faculty is readily available.
#4. Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering at your child's school as an excellent way to help your child succeed. If possible, it's important that your child see you at his school on a regular basis. Not only will volunteering give you insight into your child's day, but it will also communicate to your child that school is important. You can volunteer to help at school, even if you work a full-time job:
- Sign up to bring goodies to classroom parties.
- Volunteer to be a room mother/father.
- Agree to help chaperone a field trip or two.
- Work with other parents and faculty members on school projects, such as a book fair, Halloween carnival, etc.
- Sign up to help with classroom projects, like cutting out materials, purchasing extra supplies, etc.
- Join the school's parent/teacher organization, and attend as many meetings as possible.
#5. Support Homework Expectations
- Staying up-to-date - Check your child's backpack or homework folder to see what homework needs to be done. Ask about homework regularly.
- Encourage independence - Encourage your child to try the homework alone. Clarify directions only if needed and offer direct help only if your child asks you to.
- Communicate - Keep the lines of communication open with her teacher, particularly if you sense your child is having a problem in the classroom. Communication is just as important when it applies to your child. Talk to her about what she is learning, and encourage her to share any difficulties or concerns she might have.
- Re-teach simple lessons - Look for ways to emphasize and talk about what your child is learning in school. This may be as simple as having her read the words on a billboard or encouraging her to summarize a story you've read together.
#6. Encourage an After School Routine
Having a routine will do wonders for child achievement - especially if that routine goes well beyond simply setting up a time to do homework after school. Within the routine, it's important to:
- Have daily study time - even if there isn't homework to do.
- Include in the routine time for reading, studying, eating, and outdoor play in addition to time for doing homework.
- Build into the family routine an interest in games, projects, and other educational activities. (This wouldn't necessarily happen every day, but rather during school breaks or on weekends.) Make education a 'family value.'
#7. Discuss Current Events
Don't underestimate the value of a good family discussion on important events that are happening in the world. According to a report (page 3) by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), students whose parents regularly (daily or weekly) discuss political or social events with them score substantially higher on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Even discussion of literature and movies has a positive impact on the standardized test, although not as much as talking about politics does.
#8. Have a Great Attitude
It's no surprise that your attitude towards your child's school, teachers, and assignments have a direct impact on how your child will feel about the same things. There are several ideas that help shape a child's attitude and prime him for success. Suggestions include:
- Being a cheerleader for your child, encouraging him in his educational endeavors and igniting an enthusiasm for learning
- Not allowing excuses like, 'Some people just aren't good at math.'
- Refusing to step in an do things for your child when it's unnecessary
- Using and seeing the school as a resource for help as needed
#9. Set High Expectations
In a study published in the Educational Psychology Review, (March 2001, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 1-22), researchers learned that the correlation between a parent's expectation and student achievement is much stronger than even supervising homework time. In short, consistently tell your students to aim high, and often, they will do exactly that.
#10. Serve Breakfast
Experts believe that breakfast is so important to student achievement, that there is a national movement to have breakfast in the classrooms at the start of the day, especially in low-income areas. An analysis of current studies on the subject published by Frontiers in Neuro-Science notes that breakfast consumption is particularly associated with memory and attention. These studies also note the importance of a good breakfast with a variety of foods. In other words, if you have to grab breakfast on the go, better to grab cheese or yogurt and fruit than it is to grab a PopTart.
No matter where you are in life, whether you work full-time, or you are a stay-at-home mom, consistent involvement can make all the difference for your child's education. Seek out ways early to be involved at your child's school, and take advantage of those learning moments at home and in the car. Communicate that education is important and make learning a family value. Consistently applying these practices will not only help your child be successful in school, but it will make him a life-long learner.