The summer is ending and reality is beginning to set in for students that they will be off to school again. The majority of the students that I have spoken to, over my ten years of teaching public school, dread this day above all other days. Only a few truly look forward to it.

Upon taking  a closer look, I realized that the students looking forward to a new school year had a strong community of supporters actively engaged in their education over an entire year (not just the school year). These were the children showing up to class, taking notes, doing homework, taking tests, earning A’s and B’s. All of these students were joining clubs, playing sports, and volunteering. They all had the same thing in common- they were never alone.  I have obtained feedback from students, And leaned on my own professional experience as a teacher, and here are five ways in which you can stay active in your child’s education.

Get a Yearly Calendar of Events from Your Child’s School

Your child’s school and school district have planned out an entire year’s worth of events. Some of these events include but are not limited to:

  1. Board Meetings
  2. Community Meetings
  3. Back to School Night
  4. Parent Teacher Conferences
  5. Coffee with the Principal
  6. Standardized Testing Schedules
  7. Student Organization Competitions (FFA, HOSA, etc.)
  8. Awards Ceremonies

Look over the calendar with your child. Decide on the most important events to attend if you are constrained by work. Once you’ve identified those events, take your calendar to work and request the time off for these events in advance. When your child brings home a colorful paper reminder of an event is just that, a reminder. These events have been planned well in advance. By the time you receive the reminder you may have missed your window of opportunity to request time off from work.

Lastly, show up! We always make time for the things that are most important to us. Your child’s education is one of the most if not the most important priorities in your life.

Meet Your Child’s Teacher on the First Day of School

This goes back to obtaining a calendar for the upcoming school year, knowing in advance when the first day of school is, and requesting the time off from work.

In some cases, school districts operate on a modified schedule that day which is to say that it’s a half/minimum day so you might only have to take a half day off of work.

Go to each class with your child (if you have multiple children at the same school, some running around might have to take place), introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, and obtain/exchange the following information:

  1. The teacher’s full name and contact information (If you’re feeling particularly friendly ask to take a picture to add to the contact information). Most teachers have smart phones, so immediately input this information into your device.
  2. Ask for a syllabus. This will let you know what your child will learn, when they’re learning it, and any other important information related to the class.
  3. Declare what your expectations are of them and your child as well as what can be expected from you. Opening the lines of communication early will make conversations go a lot smoother when it comes to your child’s education.

Make Surprise Visits

In addition to requesting time off for important events, plan to make at least two unexpected visits during each semester. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be long (an hour or two).

I’m sorry to break it to you, but children tend to act differently when they know their parents are watching. Surprise visits will give you a chance to really see what type of student you have when they’re in their natural day to day grind surrounded by other students who don’t have their parents watching them!

If you coordinate this with their teacher, they might be able to provide you an opportunity to observe without being seen before you make your grand entrance into the classroom.

Make Time in Your Schedule Each Day to Talk with Your Child

As parents we should always make time to talk with and teach our children whether we are sitting around the house, or walking through the store, and we can always do better.  I know have fallen short in this area many times over. With that said, it is important that we engage our children in conversation exposing them to as many words as possible. A Psychology Today article entitled “The Power of Talking to Kids: The Talk and the Evidence,” discusses the benefits of talking with your child:

  1. They develop richer vocabulary.
  2. Have better language development.
  3. It increases curiosity and initiative to dig deeper into concepts.
  4. It increases critical thinking skills.
  5. It increases overall intelligence.
  6. It leads to high rates of academic achievement.

Some have also determined that consistent communication with your child narrows the achievement gap between affluent versus disadvantaged households.

A great tool to spark up a dialogue is the syllabus that you should have obtained! Find out what your child will be learning next, study the topic yourself, and dazzle them with your vocabulary as you discuss how to find the slope of a line.

Start Researching and Planning for Summer Programs Now

Learning must not stop when summer break starts. It is important that your child is continuously learning even if it is not during classroom time or in this case the school year. Studies have shown that teachers have to spend the first 2-3 months reviewing last year’s concepts instead of introducing new concepts because students have fallen victim to the summer slide. If your child is not attending summer school, almost every major city provides a multitude of opportunities for your child to engage in many of them having a STEM focus. These might include:

  1. Engineering Camps
    1. Boys Only
    2. Girls Only
    3. Co-ed
  2. Health Science Camps
  3. Financial Camps (through your local credit union or bank)
  4. Tech Camps (Apple, Microsoft, etc.)

I know that I have given you a lot of information. But don’t feel overwhelmed. Start with the first section and take it one day at a time. The more you apply these concepts the better you’ll get. The goal is to help your child achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. Remember, there will be no stronger advocate for your child’s education than you, so, get to work!