It’s back-to school time! Each month, there are some things that parents can do to help themselves stay on top of and ensure that they are a part of the learning process, both at school and at home. Plan to fully connect with educators and begin the partnering process with schools as the valuable resource that each parent is to support their children’s learning achievement.
From September to December, here are some mindful activities for parents to place on their to-do list for the new school year:
- Reach out to your kids’teachers Attend meet-the teacher night, orientation, or other welcome events, but don’t stop there. Make a point of introducing yourself and learning about class activities and expectations for the year. Find out how each teacher prefers to communicate.
Many use e-mail as the main form of contact, but phone calls and conferences (make an appointment first) are usually welcome, too. For more advice on building a parent-teacher relationship that will last the entire year, as well as links to all the websites featured in this guide, go to parenting.com/success.
- Get in the groove Establish healthy at-home routines for school days, such as consistent waking times and getting-ready patterns. Decide on a regular homework time, and create a comfortable, quiet work space. Set bedtimes that allow elementary-age kids to get 10 to 12 hours of sleep; teens should get 8½ to 9½ hours.
- Time things right Stay on top of everyone’s school, activity, and work schedules with a free online calendar or a smartphone app.
- Pack smart Make sure your child’s backpack never weighs more than 10 to 20 percent of his body weight; heavy packs can strain developing muscles and joints. Encourage your child to use both straps, and tighten them so the pack hangs close to the body, about two inches above your child’s waist.
- Commit to volunteering With help from parents like you, your school can offer many more programs and services for your kids. Join your school’s PTA and ask about volunteer opportunities in the school community and your children’s classrooms. National PTA’s “Three for Me” campaign encourages parents to pledge to volunteer at least three hours during the school year. Go to three4me.com for more information.
- Fuel up Children who eat a healthy breakfast each day have more energy available for learning. Try simple, protein-loaded options like homemade scrambled-egg-and-cheese breakfast burritos, waffles smeared with nut butter, or yogurt-and-fruit smoothies.
- Become a class parent You’ll develop a closer relationship with the teacher and will get an inside look into what goes on in the classroom, usually without having to commit a ton of time. Class parents organize other parent volunteers for parties and events, may help the teacher create a newsletter, or might document the school year in photos. Ask the teacher what his or her specific needs will likely be this year.
- Connect with your kids’ teachers Many schools schedule parent-teacher conferences in October and November. Attending this meeting should be a priority for all parents and guardians. This is your chance to see how things are going with your children and to partner with their teachers on improving performance. Ask: “What could we be doing at home to practice what they’re learning?” National PTA has created gradeby-grade Parent Guides that can be a resource for what to discuss at conferences. Find out more at pta.org/parentsguide.
- Seek extra help Does it seem your child is going to have trouble keeping up? Ask the teacher about school-provided tutoring programs and resources to help reinforce his or her learning outside of class. Many also offer extra help during office hours before or after school.
- Review that report card Pay careful attention to all progress reports, but particularly the first one—it will be coming soon if your child hasn’t received it yet. You want to get help for any problem areas before your child falls too far behind. Ask your child’s teacher how grades are determined and for suggestions on how your student can improve. Review grades and the teacher’s comments with your child—always starting with something she’s doing well, then pointing out areas that need attention, and ending with something positive again.
- Encourage creativity Urge your children to enter the National PTA Reflections arts contest. They can submit works of art in six categories: visual arts (such as painting, drawing, or collage), literature, musical composition, photography, film production, and dance choreography. This year’s theme is “Diversity Means…” Contact your local PTA for additional details or go to pta.org.
- Make over your meals November is National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Month, so think carefully about what your kids are eating at home and in school. Ask your school lunch director for nutritional information if it isn’t available. Work with your PTA and school district to improve the menu if necessary. For more healthy eating and lunch-packing tips, go to pta.org/goodchoices and choosemyplate.gov/kids.
- Be a good citizen Your child will be learning about the importance of voting and how elections work, and she’ll be thrilled to go with you when you cast your ballot on November 8. Go to free.ed.gov to learn more about how government works.
- Give thanks This month’s Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to talk with your children about all the freedoms the United States has to offer its citizens. Help your children explore what life was like here during the first Thanksgiving at the Library of Congress website: loc.gov/families.
- Get ready for flu season Amp up the reminders about washing hands frequently—particularly when kids get home from school, sports, and other activities. Pay attention to school websites and newsletters for alerts about flu or other illness outbreaks. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov) for up-to-date information and the latest prevention advice. And be sure your family gets flu shots.
- Help end bullying Take the time to talk with your children about any bullying behavior they may have seen going on at school. Before you begin the conversation, go to pta.org/bullying and stopbullying.govto learn what you can do as a parent to instill an attitude of acceptance in your children and get help with bullying behavior if your family needs it.
- Remember the teacher A simple holiday token is nice if you can swing it. Teachers particularly appreciate cards from their students, and gift cards for their favorite book, crafts, or office-supply stores. Teachers often replenish classroom supplies out of their own pay, so gift cards help cut the cost.
- Practice cyber safety If your children will be spending more time online during the winter break, or if they get a new laptop or smartphone as a gift, be sure to review family rules and online behavior.
Don’t stop at December. The school year is still in swing. Look for January through June next!
Have a great school year!