Get Your Child Ready for a Successful School Year

February 12th, 2013 posted by Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington

by Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington

For many students, going back to school is an exciting occasion — a chance to make new friends, embark on new extra-curricular activities and take on new responsibilities. For all students — including those who may have struggled through the last semester — it’s also a chance for a fresh start toward academic success. As the most important “coaches” in our children’s race to achieve, there are three key steps we can take to prepare them for the journey ahead.

Step One: Create a Learning Space

Studying is hard work, even more so amid the myriad distractions of television, technology and other factors that may get your child off-track. Establishing a quiet, neat, well-lit space for studying will help your child focus on homework, and significantly enhance his or her ability to retain material. Be sure to have materials such as paper, pencils and pens, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a calculator readily at hand. The seating area should be moderately comfortable — with a straight-backed chair that will keep your child relaxed but alert as opposed to soft upholstery, which can encourage drowsiness. It’s also a good idea to have enough space to read and write in the same area.


Step Two: Establish a Learning Schedule

The beginning of the school year is also a good time to set parameters that balance study time and leisure time. Setting aside a designated period of time after school or in the early evening that is to be used only for schoolwork is a strategy that has been proven effective for countless students over the years. There are several factors that can influence the decision about which time is best. One of the most important relates to your child’s rising and falling energy levels. Some children, for example, may complete homework more successfully by beginning immediately after school, leaving the rest of the late afternoon and evening for other activities. Others may need time to “wind down” after being in school all day before they’re relaxed and focused enough to complete homework successfully.

Another factor is your child’s schedule of extracurricular and athletic activities. Keeping in mind the significant amount of study time most children need to make good grades, take a look at all of the other activities that your child wants to fit into his or her day. Have a frank discussion to determine which activities are most important to your child, and see if you can arrive collaboratively at a decision about which should be pursued. Then see if you can also determine, together, the best time to be set aside for studying in the midst of these activities.

While it’s important to set and maintain a schedule throughout the year, most high- achieving students also plan ahead to ensure they have enough flexibility to fit in extra effort that may be needed during high-pressure periods, such as the approach of mid-term and final exams.

Step Three: Set the Stage for Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

The beginning of the school year also marks a fresh opportunity for parents to establish the foundation for an ongoing, effective dialogue with teachers, guidance counselors and other school professionals. Begin by either going to the school to introduce yourself, or calling or writing a note. Speak forthrightly about your child’s particular strengths and interests, and areas in which he or she may need extra help. Ask about milestones — such as major tests — for the coming year. Find out how you will be kept informed of your child’s progress. Are there other vehicles and mechanisms aside from report cards that can help you find out if your child is struggling so that you can take positive steps for improvement?

The first parent-teacher meeting can also be a good opportunity to find out how you can best support your child’s school. Ask about meetings and activities of special parent groups such as the PTA. Find out if there are upcoming field trips or other extracurricular activities that require adult volunteers.

Finally, make sure the teacher knows to get in touch with you. Communication will be much easier if the teacher knows your name, has your phone number and email address, and is aware of the best time to reach you during the day and evening. By establishing the right environment at home and a strong, positive connection to what’s happening at school, you can give your child a head start that will drive success all year long.

Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington (12 Posts)

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