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This publication was developed with the help of education expert Barney J. Brawer, a former teacher and school principal. He is president of The National Classroom, Inc. We are also grateful to Elizabeth Dore, Ed.D., for her expert help in the development of this booklet. Dr. Dore reviews publications for the National Middle School Association, is president of the Virginia Middle School Association, and is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English. Throughout this booklet, the term middle school refers to grades 5-8.
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2 4 Introduction Four ways to help your child succeed in school 13 Communicating with parents, teachers, and administrators 18 Homework tips 25 Report cards and grades 28 Problem-solving and getting help 36 Success in middle school and high school
If you’re like most parents, you want your child to succeed in school and to enjoy learning. You want school to be the best experience it can be. You know how important a good education is. Today, more students continue their education after high school and many more jobs require education and training beyond high school. Even jobs that don’t require a college degree demand increasingly advanced skills, such as being able to work with computers and other technology.
It is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give them. a former teacher and school principal.” 3 . intelligence. “We must support our children’s academic success and help them get on a path that opens up opportunities for the rest of their lives. Helping our children do well in school is one of our most important responsibilities as parents. or high school. 2 Support your child’s curiosity. and hard work. You’ll find tips on how to encourage hard work and positive motivation. and what to do about homework struggles. These are things every parent can do. These ideas will work whether your child is in elementary school. It’s never too late to help your child succeed. 4 Be a partner with your child’s school. and administrators at your child’s school. There is advice on how to form good relationships with teachers. 3 Help your child get organized. Brawer. says school-success expert Barney J. all year long. staff. middle school. no matter what your job or educational background may be. every week.In this booklet you’ll find four key ways to help your child succeed in school: 1 Be actively involved in your child’s education. Many of the tips and suggestions in this booklet are things you may already be doing at home. You’ll read about ways to participate in your child’s education every day.
On the pages that follow you’ll read about four ways you can help your child succeed in school. and children. . It takes work on the part of parents. teachers.Four ways to help your child succeed in school School success takes work on everyone’s part.
Find out about school and become familiar with your child’s schedule. “What do you think of the new art teacher?” Ask specific questions. “What did your teacher say about the math homework?” Avoid focusing too much on grades and test scores. Know when a test is coming up or a report is due. It’s easier to have conversations about school if you know the names of all your child’s teachers and what’s going on in the classroom and at school. “What did you think of the test?” • • 5 . Try to ask open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a one-word response. which may cause your child to feel stressed and anxious. every now and then park the car and take a minute to go in if you can. Here are some other ways you can be actively involved: • Walk or drive your child to school when you can. That way you can ask specific questions. Instead of asking. especially in the elementary years. You’ll learn more about your child’s school life if you ask questions that focus on learning instead of grades. If you drive your child. Getting to know teachers and staff will help you and your child connect with school. What are you studying?” “Are you going to enter a project in the upcoming science fair?” “Is your music class working on anything to perform for the holiday concert?” Talk about school every day. Get to know your child’s teachers. Instead of asking. “What did you get on the test?” try asking.1 Be actively involved in your child’s education. Go to school meetings and special events like plays and holiday shows. “How was school?”—which is likely to produce a response like “OK”—you might ask. “I heard you’re taking a trip to the town library next week.
When your child has a school project.” —Barney Brawer. parents.• Make school a part of your family life. or all go out together for an ice cream. there are many ways to work with teachers and the school to find solutions and support. and their parents’ names. celebrate her success as a family. That’s the message we need to give our kids. and caring adults in the community. Help your child find positive friendships.’ It’s important to remember that. or performance. support. These are described later in this booklet. Encourage friendships that promote learning and a positive attitude toward school. especially when the road gets a little bumpy. When your child does well. Get to know your child’s friends. Make a special meal to celebrate. phone numbers. Remember that no one succeeds in school without the help of many other people—teachers.” not wanting to go to school. teachers. Watch for signs that your child may be having difficulty with schoolwork. Make a list of friends’ names. invite relatives and friends to share their knowledge. Your child will turn to peers for acceptance. Encourage everyone in the family to attend a child’s concert. Invite them to your home. and approval throughout all his years in school. “I don’t have any homework. Here are some things to watch for: a dramatic change in behavior (such as when a very talkative child becomes very quiet). your child saying day after day. Notice when your child needs help. a sudden drop in grades. Healthy friendships can have a positive influence on your child’s personality and schoolwork. game. Find opportunities to talk to the parents of new friends. ‘You can do it. or friends. school-success expert 6 4 5 . If your child is having a difficult time. • • “Every child can be successful in school.
Focus on how much she wanted to do a good job and how hard she worked.2 Support your child’s curiosity. • • • • 7 . Here are some ways you can encourage your child to work hard and be a curious and active learner: • Praise and celebrate your child’s efforts and accomplishments. zoos. Make friends with the librarians. A trip to an interesting place gives adults and children of different ages lots to talk about. read about. Praise and celebrate every child in your family all year long—not just when report cards come out. Your child is never too old to listen to you read aloud. intelligence. parks. Be interested in all the questions that your child asks. Whenever you can. Read often to your child and encourage your child to read. take the time to help your child find the answers to questions—by looking in books. and hard work. and tell others about. The more your child reads.” by figuring it out. Ask the librarian to help you find the best and most interesting books for your child. The effort is even more important than the final grade. the better prepared he will be to handle harder and harder schoolwork as he moves up the grades. by asking an “expert. Try to answer or talk about those questions. Take trips to the public library. Display your child’s papers and artwork on the refrigerator. Praise your child for trying hard and sticking with it. Tell your child how wonderful her work is. Your child is never too young for you to read aloud to him. Plan family outings to museums. and historical places. Going somewhere interesting doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. even if you feel busy or tired.
Carpentry. I know you can do it!” Explain that when the work is hard. Encourage your child to make handmade gifts and cards. Say. cooking.• Do projects around the home together. Children who participate in mealtime or family conversations with parents are more likely to be successful in talking with teachers and other adults. Encourage your child to voice his opinions. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit their children’s TV viewing to one to two hours of good shows a day. Drawings are good gifts. and arts and crafts all offer opportunities to learn. fixing things. start taking lessons when your child begins music lessons. Your child might write poems to thank your relatives for presents. Help your child use her ideas and math skills to help with household tasks. painting. sewing. Talk about the travel time and the cost of tickets for an upcoming visit to see relatives. Your child gets to use her own ideas and learn new skills. Be curious and show an interest in learning yourself. • • • • • • 8 . too. politics. Involve your child in family decisions. The AAP also recommends that families take advantage of interesting programs offered on video. If you don’t know how to spell a word. you have to try hard. gardening. If you have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or piano. and topics your child may be studying at school. “I made it!” and “I fixed it!” are exciting statements for a child to make. Grandma will enjoy receiving a handmade gift from her grandchild. Give that message to your child again and again. let your child see you look it up in the dictionary. Often you can borrow excellent videos from the public library for free. Let your child help plan meals for the week. She can write lists and check off jobs when they are done. Have high expectations for your child. Talk with your children about news events. Everyone can be successful in school. or to wish them a happy birthday. “I know that studying for that history test is hard work. Limit the amount of TV your child watches.
Make sure it has good lighting. As soon as you receive an announcement of a coming event. ask another family member or friend if she can be there in your place. Help your child make lists and charts that will help him remember what he has to do. Here are some ways to help your child get organized for school: • Put a family calendar in the kitchen and write down important school dates. write it down on the calendar. If you know you will not be able to attend a program at school. when report cards are coming out. papers. Make a check or star when each job is finished. • • • • • 9 . Let younger children know that they have to let their sister work on her assignments because it is important to do them carefully.3 Help your child get organized. You might organize a folder with divider sections. We all do better work when we manage our time well and organize the tasks in front of us. and when the holiday show will be. Turn off the TV. Have a specific place for your child’s books. appreciate his need for privacy and let him check his bag for you. Write down when parents’ night at school will be. As your child gets older. Talk with your spouse or partner about events on the calendar so that you both know what’s coming up. Make a folder for the papers that come home from school. when conferences take place. You could label one section “Sports” and another section “Class lists. and school assignments. If your child’s other parent doesn’t live with you. Check your child’s backpack every day for any school notices or announcements. Make sure there is a quiet space at home where your child can study without distractions.” You can buy a special folder with sections at a store that sells office supplies. Papers and books kept in a special place won’t get lost. give him or her a call so everyone can plan in advance for an important event. Keeping lists and notices about school events in one place will save you time when you are looking for them.
• • • 10 . pens and pencils. If your teenager is up late studying. See the “Homework tips” section in this booklet for suggestions. stay up too and catch up on your reading. A healthy breakfast and lunch can help your child do well in school. Your child will remember that you cared. a pencil sharpener. markers. paper. laundry. If your sixth-grader finds that her science assignment is overwhelming. These include a dictionary. and milk give your child energy for learning. not just when the new school year starts. Knowing you stayed up while your son worked. or that you brought your daughter a healthy snack while she finished her assignment.• Be sure your child has all the necessary school supplies all year long. help her think through the steps needed to tackle it. will mean a lot. paper clips. tape. Offer your help and support. or paying the bills. and a calculator. fruit. glue. scissors. Make sure that your child gets a good night’s sleep and eats well. Healthy snacks like sandwiches. a ruler. Help your child learn to organize homework and school papers. You don’t have to be in the same room.
donate supplies. or offer to drive students to volunteer in a community program. even when you’re helping out from home. It can be difficult to find the time to attend games. Write a note or stop in to say “thank you” when your child enjoys a particular study unit or the teacher has given your child extra help. Try to attend school events designed for parents. You might organize a study group for the students before a big test or final exams. Join the parent-teacher organization at your school. assistants. • • 11 . If you can’t be in school during the day. or the college or university fair. be a “class parent. Being a partner with your child’s school means working together with teachers. Volunteer to chaperone a field trip. the nurse. you can offer to type up field-trip forms or class lists. Volunteer to work at the refreshment stand at a football game. make class phone calls for the teacher. counselors. Teaching is a tough job.” Teachers will appreciate the fact that you care and that you are helping. such as back-to-school nights. an open house. Here is how to do that: • Volunteer to help. Participate in school events throughout the year. Offer to help out in the school library or classroom. If you can. concerts. Serve “brain food. You will develop a good relationship with your child’s teachers.4 Be a partner with your child’s school. and the principal to do what’s best for your child. Remember to thank your child’s teachers and to show your appreciation throughout the year. Helping at your child’s school can give you a better idea of the people and programs that are available to your child. Show your appreciation. plays. or make nutritious snacks for the class. but it’s important to do it when you can. spend some time at your child’s school. Invite other family members and good friends—people who know your child well—to join you for these events.” or share something special about your job with your child’s class. or other activities at school.
If you disagree with the teacher about something. work with the teacher to resolve the problem. or school policy in front of your child. Find a way to be a successful team helping your child. assignment. and solves problems together. 12 .• Speak positively about school and the teacher. It does not help your child to be stuck in the middle with parent and teacher criticizing each other. celebrates successes together. Try not to criticize a teacher. Adults and children need to be a team that works together.
teachers. it sends the wrong message to your child: that doing well is boring and unimportant and that you only pay attention when there’s a problem. . You can help your child do well in school by getting involved and staying involved year after year—through the good and the not-so-good times. But if you are involved in your child’s schooling only when there is a problem. and administrators Many parents wait until there’s a problem or concern to touch base with teachers or learn about their child’s school.Communicating with parents.
Always find a way to attend parent-teacher conferences. Parent-teacher conferences provide a wonderful opportunity to let teachers know that you want to work with them to help your child succeed in school. If you have a question or concern about your child. the better your child’s educational experience will be. • • • 14 . This is especially important if your child is in elementary school or middle school. Touch base with your child’s teachers at the beginning of the school year to introduce yourself. and resources are available. contact the school to schedule one. the more you get to know the teachers. parent meetings. Here are some ways to build positive connections with faculty and staff at your child’s school: • Plan a visit. Almost every school holds parent-teacher conferences. An easy time to visit is in the fall when most schools schedule a night for parents. or concern. and how grades are determined. and other school events will help you get to know how things work at your child’s school. Teachers and guidance counselors like to meet parents and want to hear from you. when exams take place.Whatever grade your child is in. what courses. Most teachers want to help. what teachers expect. and subjects your child is studying. staff. problem. The school office can give you information about conferences and when they take place. The main office at the school can give you information about events for parents. They also give you a way to find out more about how your child is doing than you can learn from a report card. If by October you have not received word from the school about upcoming parent conferences. They may involve just one teacher or several teachers if your child is older. activities. schedule a time to talk with the teacher or guidance counselor. Teachers can also be a good source of study tips. Go to the teacher when you have a question. Attending parent-teacher conferences. These aren’t really formal “conferences” so much as they are conversations that you have with a teacher about your child’s schoolwork.
that is very helpful. relative. Be sure to share something positive that the teacher said about your child. is my child at the right level? (If you feel that your child is over his head or is not challenged enough. Teachers usually have several conferences scheduled in a row and will appreciate your promptness. talk with the teacher about your concerns. or babysitter to take care of your younger children when you attend a parent-teacher conference.) Be on time. Be sure to express positive impressions of the teacher and share any nice comments your child has made about him or her. Many schools ask that you leave your children at home.About parent-teacher conferences If both parents can attend a parent-teacher conference. let your child know how the conference went. Here are some questions you might ask the teacher during the conference: • • • What are your goals and expectations for the year? How is my child doing? Does my child participate in class discussions? Is she actively involved in learning? How does my child get along with others? How are her friendships? How can I help my child improve his work? How much homework are students expected to do each night? What’s the best way to contact you if we have a question? How can students get extra help if they need it? How can we find out about extracurricular activities and sports programs? If the school “tracks” or groups students by level and ability. When you get home. (Ask an adult friend.) Can my child get help to move to a more advanced class if he or she is ready for harder work? • • • • • • • 15 . including the student you will be discussing. Everyone likes to hear good news.
Find out if your child’s teachers like to use e-mail to communicate about homework or other academic issues. complain about problems. what they measure.how to help your child apply to college or university. If you have e-mail.how to select and plan appropriate courses for your child . or for a job after high school 16 . Meet with the guidance counselor if you have questions or concerns. You can write a note to ask the teacher to call you to discuss an issue. make sure to meet with your child’s guidance counselor.• Stay in touch with the teacher by sending a note. When you have concerns about your child. and what the results mean . to a training program. or if some other change is affecting your child. if a relative is sick.what the counselor/student ratio is . (Be sure to give your phone number and a time when the teacher can reach you. that’s a good way to stay in touch. or when your child is is about to make an important transition.) Do not use notes to raise objections. Never use e-mail to address sensitive concerns or share confidential information.how often standardized tests are given. Many schools now have e-mail and you may have access to e-mail as well. like going from elementary school to middle school. You can talk with the guidance counselor about • • . You might write a note to let the teacher know if there is a new baby in the family. Instead. or to discuss confidential information.how decisions are made about placing children in class levels and matching students with particular teachers . or starting to think about college or university. use the note to request a meeting and then discuss the issue in person or on the phone. It is best to do this in person or on the phone.
what programs and assistance the school provides for children with learning difficulties . 17 .behavioral or academic concerns you may have about your child If you feel your family would benefit from seeing the guidance counselor or school psychologist. curriculum. Many schools have a school psychologist or social worker on staff or on call to meet with parents and with students. The parents of your child’s friends and other parents in the community will have valuable information about teachers. administrators.• Meet with the school psychologist or school social worker if you have questions or concerns or wish to talk about your child. You can talk with the school psychologist or social worker about . And feeling that you are part of a community can help everyone in your family feel positive about school.family concerns . the better you will understand your child’s experience. The more you share about school with other parents. contact the school and ask to schedule a meeting. • Talk with other parents about your school. and social issues. homework.
even children in kindergarten or first grade may be expected to do an hour or so of homework a night. . High school students may have three or four hours of homework a night.Homework tips Teachers at every grade level are now assigning more homework than they used to. and more work on the weekends. In some communities.
manage time. How much help you give your child with homework will depend on his or her age and the homework task. They need help learning how to organize their work. “I need to see that you are working on that science report in advance. 19 • • . “It’s your job to ask for help. for instance. You might say to your child. for example. and knowing what to do when they reach a roadblock. How much time should your child be spending on homework? Are there regularly scheduled tests? It’s helpful to know. This way you can help your child prepare. If your child is in elementary school or middle school. That’s the way we learn. All children need encouragement. a friend. usually needs help planning a school project. meet with the teacher at the beginning of the school year and ask about homework. If I can’t help you. Developing responsible homework habits comes gradually for most children. Some children work independently and need very little help from parents with homework. begin and complete a task.” Remind your child that it’s OK to make mistakes.” Say. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to help your child with homework: • Make it clear that homework is a priority and that you are serious about its importance. “Ask for help if you get stuck or don’t understand the homework. and practice what’s been learned in class. Experts agree that parental involvement is key when it comes to homework. I’ll find someone who can—whether it’s the teacher. too.” “I need to look at your work and see that it’s done carefully. You may need to walk him through each step and monitor the work. But most children need some support. not just the day before it’s due. Tell your child.Homework is an important part of every child’s education. It teaches responsibility as well as how to follow directions. It teaches children how to work independently and be resourceful. or a neighbor. that the math teacher gives a quiz every Friday. A third-grader.” Repeat these messages frequently with each child in your family. getting started or completing their work.
it’s best to ask the teacher before going out to buy one. and stationery stores. set up a homework station far enough away from your family’s television that your child will not be distracted by it. radio. pencils. with spaces for each class period to note assignments. Many teachers are willing to give extra help and support before or after class and can also recommend where to get tutoring if your child needs it. participate in extracurricular activities. Have homework supplies on hand at home.• Find out the best way to get in touch with the teacher if you have a question about homework. They need time to play with friends. Help your child develop a homework routine. If the school doesn’t supply an assignment book. Stop and think about what goes • • • • • 20 . If possible. Make every effort to have your home be a good place for learning. But children also need consistency and a routine time each day for doing homework. But in fact. office supply. You can make life easier by also having special supplies on hand. Some children say they can study effectively with the television. Ask the teacher how your child can get help with homework. Ask the teacher if this is available at your school. Be sure your child has an assignment book. Can you call? Drop by at a certain time? Many schools now have a homework hot line or Web site where homework assignments are posted or listed daily. and relax before they settle down to work and study. markers. Children need time to unwind after school. Or just make it family policy not to turn on the television until homework is completed. especially if the work is difficult or challenging. That way your child won’t get stuck the night before a big project is due. a calculator. Make sure your child has paper. and glue. stereo. or headphones on. Look for an assignment book that lists the days of the week. These are available at drug. like poster board. this can make it very hard for your child to concentrate. Many schools now require a specific type of assignment book. and good light to read by throughout the school year. a dictionary.
Help older children break a heavy homework load into manageable parts so they don’t feel overwhelmed. But you can help him get started by giving him reminders and making him aware of the time. With a younger child. before he starts his homework. The time may change from day to day. especially those under the age of 10 or 11. But remember that short breaks can help your child stay focused. They’re inexpensive and can be 21 • • . have a snack. and then go back to work.on in your household after school. you might read the assignments together to make sure he understands them. We all tend to put things off. Then set aside time to check on your child’s progress. your child might plan on having the rough draft completed in five weeks and the research in three to four weeks. • Help your child get started. You might buy a big desk calendar or planner. If your child has a number of big assignments due at the same time. Don’t expect your child to complete all the work in one sitting. Help your child plan ahead for big projects and “crunch” times. have trouble working steadily for long periods. Then ask how long he thinks each part will take. Many children.” For instance. remind her to start some of them early. What time does everyone get home? Is your child too tired to do schoolwork in the evening? Does she have more energy before dinner? Talk with your child and reach an agreement about when and where he or she will do homework. You can help with school projects by teaching your child how to break big projects into smaller pieces. Keep in mind that your right time to do homework may not be your child’s right time. get up. depending on your child’s schedule. Some children in middle school may be able to extend the time. One good way to plan for a large assignment is to “work backwards. Your child may need to take breaks. Sitting for 15 or 20 minutes is usually comfortable for younger elementary kids. to go over all of his assignments and decide which need his attention first. Encourage your child to take a few minutes every day. if a research report is due in six weeks. You may not always be able to control when your child finishes his homework.
Even in high school. School or local libraries are excellent resources for children. You might say.com for U. all the way through the school year. If your child has a computer to use. every month.” Offering to help is very different from taking over. You can ask a teacher or children’s librarian to help you find sites designed for your child’s age group. and help your child remember it. such as in the front pocket of his notebook. Your child can use the computer there and get research help from librarians as well as take advantage of a quiet place to do homework. students and www. but don’t do the work for your child. Stay on top of what’s due and what’s coming up. Your child can use it to keep track of work and projects. Ask about homework every day. Some even allow your child to e-mail a teacher or another expert for help. • Plan a time to take your child to the library. help her work through the problem but don’t solve it for her. Just keep checking to make sure that your child isn’t instant messaging with friends instead of using the computer for homework. I can test you to see if you know your multiplication tables. If your child gets stuck on a difficult assignment. free public libraries have them and the librarian can help your child get started. “When you’re done studying. every week. Being able to see the whole month at a glance is helpful.com. If you take over. Have your child make a habit of putting homework in a regular place. • • • • 22 . This way he can find it easily in class. but your child will not learn as much. You might begin by going to www. her assignment may be completed quickly.ca for Canadian students. If the homework is too hard for either of you. If you don’t have a computer at home. Offer to help.S. Children learn best by doing. experts agree that it’s a good idea to check on your child’s homework. find someone who can help.found at most office supply stores.homeworkcentral. There are good sites on the Internet that offer homework help. Two other good Web sites are http://homeworktips. he or she can get homework help on the Internet.about.schoolnet.
Although they may not show it. even high school students appreciate support and praise when they are doing schoolwork. Or remind him to leave the finished work on the table for you to review when you get home. Make sure you offer lots of encouragement and praise. Ask. Show excitement about the projects your child completes in your absence.• If homework is consistently too easy or too hard. You might leave a note on the kitchen table reminding your child to get going on his homework. • • • • • 23 . If possible. “Can I get you something to eat or drink while you’re studying?” “Do you need any supplies from the store?” • When you can’t be home to help What about those times when you can’t be home to help with homework? Here are some suggestions: • Find out if your school has a homework hot line that your child can call to confirm assignments or ask questions. “Do you have any questions about your math assignment?” “Are you making progress on the science project?” Ask a family member or friend to check in with your child. be sure to let the teacher know. Sometimes it’s enough to say. “How’s it going?” Be specific. Leave reminders. Set up a calendar or schedule so that you and your child are clear about what needs to get done when you’re not there. Remember that your child needs encouragement whether you’re home or not. call home periodically from work to find out how your child is doing with her homework. Ask.
Take a break and call a friend. Sometimes it’s better to wait a little before you check a paper or report so you can read it with a fresh eye. Call a classmate for clarification. watch a favorite show. read for fun. or listen to music.Homework checklist to share with your child • • • List your assignments in order of priority and with due dates. etc. paper. Have everything you need before you get started—books. a dictionary. Check your work when you’re done. Reward yourself when you finish an especially challenging task. Read over any written work. Think about how much time each will take. Check math problems with a calculator. Or follow up with your teacher to explain any instructions or things you don’t understand. Jot down any questions you have about the work. • • • 24 .
25 . How do you react when your child’s grades are not as good as they could be? How do you react when the grades are wonderful? Some suggestions follow.Report cards and grades Most of us are concerned about our children’s grades but we don’t always know how to react when a grade or report card is disappointing.
Try to look at poor grades not as a sign of failure but as a sign that your child may need help. On occasion. a small. Grades and reports can be confusing. Your child’s own need to succeed is the best kind of motivation there is. Your efforts really paid off. Let’s talk with the teacher and see what we can do to make it easier for you so you can improve next term. “It looks like you’re really having trouble with English. or other gifts are poor motivators over time.” Be sure to pay attention to hard work. Ask. contact the teacher with your questions. Try not to be defensive. or preparing for tests. but avoid giving rewards like money or gifts. Then problem-solve about how to get that help. If you do not understand what the report card says. If your child is old enough. Praise your child for the work behind good grades. If you feel disappointed by a low grade or a disappointing report card. Work with the teacher to do what’s best for your child. I know you can do better. involve him in finding solutions. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. You might say. not just to A’s and B’s. Poor grades are painful for children. doing homework. Instead. Your child’s teachers may have ideas about how to help. it’s important not to make comments that only make your child feel worse. Celebrate and praise good grades. unexpected reward may help to bring a child out of a slump. Research shows that giving rewards like money. Focus on effort and improvement rather than on the grade itself.• Make sure you understand what the report says. Never make negative or hurtful comments about grades to your child. “You really worked hard. try offering support. Material rewards for good grades provide a temporary incentive to achieve but are not useful in the long run. “What do you think you could do to remember what you learn in class every day?” or “How can we help you do better in social studies?” Poor grades can be a sign that your child may need help getting organized.” • • • • 26 . toys. Try saying.
he might enjoy drama or debating club. or seek help from a tutor. Talk with your child and seek solutions together. For example. talk to the teacher. Try to identify what your child does best.” —Barney Brawer. Build on your child’s strengths. You might ask. Value all of your child’s achievements. achievements. sports. focus on a homework schedule. the extra effort he or she put into an assignment. Be alert to grades that may not be accurate. you may want to set firm limits. “How can we work together to help you understand fractions better?” Think about whether you are placing undue pressure on your child to achieve. if your child is outgoing and speaks well but has trouble reading or writing down his ideas. Do you insist on all A’s and B’s? Do you insist that your child make the honor roll every term? Remember that grades are no guarantee of success or failure in life. • • • • • 27 . Be willing to help him look into the problem if necessary. If your child is not measuring up to her abilities. but try not to place too much emphasis on grades. and abilities. the paper that was completed on time. and give him opportunities to excel. Grades are only one measure of your child’s talents. music. and extracurricular activities. Don’t let these things go unnoticed. Encourage your child to do her best.“Celebrate all of your child’s successes—the good grade. school-success expert • Don’t punish your child for poor grades. Accept grades for what they are—external measures of success that reflect school performance at a particular time. Celebrate achievements in art. Encourage your child to speak to his teacher when he is puzzled by a grade. Help him rehearse what he could say to his teacher without seeming defensive.
Your family may be going through a period of change—a new marriage. There may be an issue with a teacher or class. a serious illness or even a death in the family—and this could be affecting your child’s behavior or academic performance. there are resources within the school and the community to help you handle these problems.Problem-solving and getting help All children have their ups and downs in school. Whatever the problem. a divorce. or a problem with another child at school. Your child may experience academic or behavior problems that interfere with school performance. .
• • • 29 . If your family is going through a difficult period or time of change. Could you give me some ideas about what I can do to help her understand the material better?” Reassure your child that you are going to work on the problem together. it’s helpful for the teacher to know that. If your daughter who likes science suddenly gets a poor grade in the class. Here is how to be a partner with your child’s school when there are problems: • • • • • Respond quickly to problems. You might say. “I’m concerned over Tammy’s score on the recent math test. You might say. as soon as you are aware of it.Here are signs that your child may be having a difficult time or needs extra attention: • a dramatic change in behavior (such as when an outgoing child becomes withdrawn or has a marked change in eating patterns) a sudden drop in grades increased discipline problems never seeming to have homework not wanting to go to school Remember the fourth secret to school success: Be a partner with your child’s school. “We’re going to get help. We’ll figure this out—together. Share information about what is happening at home. Then talk with the teacher. talk with her about what she thinks might be the problem.” Try to get as much information as you can about the problem. the more you can help. Send a note to the teacher. The more you understand about the problem. It’s always best to address a problem right away.
Problem-solving feels a lot better than blaming and accusing. It’s not a good idea to “go over the teacher’s head” by contacting the principal or another administrator. Always speak in a calm tone. the teacher will usually be helpful.• When there is a problem or difficulty. It does not help to raise your voice or lose your temper with your child’s teacher. Make it clear that your family wants to work cooperatively with the school to solve problems. Stay calm. you and the teacher may decide to use a daily report card. and will usually bring results. If you work during school hours and it’s hard to find a time to meet with the teacher. Instead of saying. Start with the person who knows your child best—the teacher.” If you are open and friendly. Teachers want to help children succeed and they are pleased when parents work cooperatively to help a child get past a difficulty and solve a problem at school. “You never call on my child. • • • • 30 . “I’m concerned that my child may not have enough chance to speak in class. Try not to blame or accuse. This can help you follow up at home. the first person you should talk to is the teacher. if you show that you want to work together. If your child is disruptive in class or not completing assignments. Remember that problem-solving takes time. Let the teacher know that your goal is to solve the problem together. where the teacher can check off good behavior or completed assignments on a list to keep track of your child’s behavior and reward improvement. Call him or her or write a note to request a meeting.” you might say. You may need to be in touch with the teacher several times. ask if you can talk over the phone in the evening or early morning.
and you. it’s your job to ask for help. and specific examples. It may also reassure your child that you and her teachers are working together for her benefit.” Stay involved once the problem is worked out. you may want to consider taking the following steps: • • • • Schedule a team meeting with all your child’s teachers. Most teachers are interested in communicating and working with parents. the guidance counselor. It shows the teacher that you want to do well. you can come up with a plan to solve the problem at hand. but sometimes a teacher may not be as helpful as you’d like. find out what your options are. Meet with the guidance counselor if necessary. Remember that it’s important to be involved with your child’s schooling in good times and in difficult times. other administrator. Sometimes a team meeting can help clarify the problem and identify solutions. The result of a team meeting is that everyone takes some measure of responsibility for helping your child. At a meeting with an administrator. Meet with the department head. • 31 .• You may want to take notes when you talk with the teacher or other members of the staff. like other institutions. Together. Teach your child to ask for help. A team meeting is a meeting of all of your child’s teachers. be sure to give clear reasons for your concerns. Schools. If you have talked with the teacher and are not satisfied that the problem is resolved. Taking notes will help you remember the key points. If you aren’t pleased with a particular teacher’s actions or a school policy. Your child’s teacher and others will probably have suggestions for dealing with the problem you are concerned about. Repeat this message often to your child: “If you’re stuck. Asking for help is a good thing. or the principal. sometimes make mistakes.
relatives and friends who helped when they got stuck and sat with them when they were worried. decide together with the school what steps to take next. that means he or she needs help.Getting help if your child is struggling If your child’s grades are slipping or remain unsatisfactory. or difficulties at home. poor study habits. Whatever the cause of the problem. Does your child need a better structure for doing homework? More assistance and monitoring from you and less time watching television and talking on the phone? Less time at his after-school job? Limits on school-night activities? More sleep? Tutoring or outside support services? A professional evaluation by a learning specialist? Have a plan that everyone has agreed on. If your child is older. you may want to have this meeting with your child present. trouble with peers. Once you understand why your child’s school performance has dropped or continues to be at a low level. as a family and a community. tension at school. Come away from the meeting with a plan. here are ways to get help for your child: • Talk with the teacher or your child’s guidance counselor. Poor grades can be caused by a number of things: a lack of basic skills. We’re all in this together. • “Everyone who succeeds in school does it with the help of many other people—teachers who taught them and showed them where to find things.” —Barney Brawer. school-success expert 32 . It should include specifics on when your next meeting or meetings will take place.
Getting help if your child has learning difficulties Some children have learning disabilities or difficulties with particular subjects that require specialized help. it will be easier to keep track of the process if you do. Most children with learning disabilities have a normal level of intelligence. school psychologist. They need teachers who understand their capabilities and know what teaching methods will meet their needs. over time. The school guidance counselor. Children who have difficulty learning need extra help and attention. Or they may have a short attention span and difficulty remembering things they have been told often. Parents may be worried about the possibility of their child having a learning disability. Children with learning disabilities typically show one or more of these signs: • Trouble with schoolwork. They may be concerned that their child will be labeled negatively. and many are very bright. Some children mix up words or reverse numbers or letters. • 33 . it can be extremely valuable to have a child tested in order to help develop an educational plan adapted to his or her special requirements. They may read “b” for “d” or “31” for “13. Your child is entitled to an evaluation by federal law in the U. It’s best to put your request for an evaluation in writing to the school. your child appears to be struggling with his schoolwork and you’ve met with his teachers.” Trouble understanding ideas. They may do extremely well in some areas but have trouble in others. you may want to have your child evaluated and tested. If. or your pediatrician can help you arrange an evaluation. They may have problems with math or reading. However. particularly with assignments that require them to put things in order. It is important to have an educational program that works for your child. Sometimes parents are reluctant to have their child evaluated by a specialist. Even if it’s not required. They may have trouble understanding ideas that involve time or space (such as “yesterday” and “today” or “up” and “down”). Learning disabilities may be hard to identify.S.
Frustration. They may not be able to control their emotions or impulses as well as other children in their class. The guidance counselor. or a specialist in learning disabilities can help you determine whether your child has a learning problem and. or they may have quite a few. what kind of help and support your child may need. find out what steps you need to take to have your child tested promptly. or insisting that they “can’t do” or “won’t be good at” the new task. Some children may be slow in developing the ability to speak clearly. A child may seem clumsy or awkward. If they are trying very hard but can’t do what’s expected (by others or themselves). They may pronounce words in unusual ways or it may be hard to understand them when they speak. have trouble focusing. Find out if the teacher and the other school staff believe that your child needs a formal evaluation for learning disabilities. and may continue to have problems putting their ideas into words. and may become upset more easily. Immaturity. or have problems writing letters that are clear and readable. A child may be especially accident-prone. Language problems. they may have traits that make it hard for them to make friends. 34 .• Poor coordination. principal. if so. If an evaluation may help clarify the situation. They may show their frustration by refusing to try new activities or by giving up quickly. Some children are just “young for their age”—and that may cause problems in school. Children with learning disabilities may have only one or two of these traits. Here are the steps to take if you are concerned about your child: • • • • Talk with teachers and specialists at the school. or find it hard to master physical skills that are easy for other children their age. Your child’s teacher or another staff member should be able to help you schedule an evaluation. They may have difficulty understanding what is being said to them. Although they can be charming and spontaneous. such as a tendency to insist on having things their own way or to interrupt constantly. they may become very frustrated and lose confidence. such as tying shoes.
Your child might be interested in tutoring other students. or help you find classes and supplemental programs either within the school or outside it. helping in the chemistry lab. start by asking the teacher for advice about what to do. A prompt evaluation will enable your child to get the help she needs quickly and reduce the risk that she will feel frustrated or experience failure. or designing special projects for his classmates. If your child does not feel challenged at school. Ask your child’s pediatrician to observe actions that concern you. 35 . Talk with the teacher or another staff member about what’s possible in your school and community. In many communities. You want to make sure that he continues to grow and learn to master new skills without getting bored. Talk with your child to see if he is interested in extra work—make sure he doesn’t feel like he’s being punished. Get help early on.• Talk with your child’s doctor. high school students can take classes at nearby museums or colleges. The teacher may be able to provide your child with additional work and activities. An evaluation will also give you a clearer picture of your child’s needs and how you can help your child learn successfully. doing an independent study. Some schools offer academic clubs and honors or advanced-placement classes. Encourage your child to pursue opportunities to use and build upon his special talents. • Getting help if your child is gifted Having a very bright child can also be a challenge.
Success in middle school and high school The pressure on students to succeed increases in the upper grades—in middle school and high school. peer pressure to participate in social activities also increases. Students are increasingly expected to work independently and to manage their own time. Grades become more important as they begin to “count” for future job or college and university opportunities. 36 . At the same time. Teachers assign much more homework.
standardized tests. Memorize the names of all of your child’s teachers so you can talk about school together. Most schools have a back-to-school night. the more helpful you can be. or become involved in some other way at your teenager’s school. Always attend parent-teacher conferences. concert. play. Even if your teenager says she wants you to stay out of her social life. or other activity your teenager may be involved in. According to a survey in the journal Education. Stay informed about school. It’s never too late to join the parent-teacher organization. write down the teachers’ names and a sentence or two about each of them so you’re able to remember who teaches what. Stay informed not just about extracurricular activities. she does want you there to cheer her on. be sure to ask a relative or close friend to attend. and clubs. Attend meetings of the parent-teacher organization. If you cannot be there for a sports event. Remember that it’s never too late to get involved. Most parents of high school students said they would like to be more involved in their children’s education and more than half of the students said they would welcome their parents’ involvement—including helping with homework and supporting extracurricular activities. Be present at the school. as compared to 73 percent of parents when their children are younger. or other evenings for parents when teachers explain the school’s courses. Read the school newsletter. If necessary. help out with an activity at school. and other academic issues. but also about academics.How can you help your child succeed in middle school and high school? Here are some suggestions: • Stay involved in your child’s education through middle school and high school. and announcements that come home from teachers and the principal. only 50 percent of parents are involved in their child’s schooling when children are 16 or older. • • • • 37 . Try to attend school events. groups. a curriculum night. The more you know about your child’s schooling.
With the demands of more homework. hectic schedule. Help him learn to balance work and relaxation. especially in the subjects that she finds the most difficult or challenging. Talk with your teenager when he seems to be experiencing stressful times. and school projects. Your teenager may need help with managing his time. Summer programs offering academic assistance are also available. Encourage your child to keep trying hard. your child may feel a good deal of pressure. or tackling tougher subjects. Provide support to help your child handle these requirements. or tutor. talk with the teacher. • Research shows that the more families sit down together for meals and talk with each other. especially in high school. the better children do in school and in life. The teacher may also be able to recommend a tutor. As the course work becomes more challenging in the upper grades. But try to have regular meals together. 38 . If your child is struggling. get some sleep. If you can’t provide this help on your own. foreign languages. exams. As a result. Encourage your teenager to take short breaks. Some teachers offer study groups or extra help before or after school. Your family may have a crazy.• Help your child learn to handle pressure. or hang out with friends. papers. or writing. developing effective study skills. school counselor. setting goals and priorities. Study groups and tutoring are helpful for many students. they don’t try as hard in these classes. you might consider seeking help from a teacher. science. A few times a week can make a big difference. students sometimes decide that they “aren’t good” in math. exercise. It’s important to remind your son or daughter that all subjects are important.
though different schools use different terms to describe the levels. 39 . a banana. social life. clubs. Or if the school offers breakfast. All families are busy and few have time for a sit-down breakfast together. Homework demands increase dramatically starting in middle school. setting priorities. college preparatory. Help your teenager choose courses. This is an ideal that’s often difficult to achieve. Make sure your teenager starts off the day with breakfast. basic. which may include advanced placement courses. and time spent on the Internet. students often have some choice of what courses they take. but it’s worth trying to coax your teenager to bed at a reasonable hour. See that your teenager gets enough sleep. homework. This may even include deciding to temporarily drop an activity. and a job if he is working. Studies show that teenagers who get close to this amount of sleep do better in school. or knowing when to limit activities. They may also be placed or recommended for a particular “track” or curriculum level based on their present skills and their plans after high school. Each track or program offers specific courses that can have a big impact on your child’s future college or job success. Many high schools track students into honors. free time. But at least try to send your teenager out the door with a bagel. or vocational tracks. Limit TV. is designed for top-performing students who will be seeking admission to colleges and universities. Experts recommend an average of about nine hours of sleep a night for adolescents.The honors or enriched track. Your teenager may need help learning to balance the demands of sports.• Help your teenager learn to manage his time. In high school. He may need help making choices. Here is a description of each track: • • • • . make sure she has money and will arrive at school in time to buy breakfast. electronic games. Learning to balance work and free time takes practice. and so do social activities. or a protein bar to give her the energy she needs to make it through the morning.
Parents should be alert to the possibility that their child may just be “passing time” in one or more of her classes. . friend.The general or “basic” track provides basic or remedial courses in math. This track gives students a wide range of options for the future. On the other hand. “basic” courses may be designed with fewer requirements for student learning. it’s better to be in more demanding classes. science. history. culinary arts. 40 . talk with the guidance counselor or find a family member. Make sure your child is in the right program or level to get the best possible education—that he is challenged to learn and develop and is being prepared well for life after high school. English.The college or university preparatory track gives students the background they need to enter college. a biology class. For some students. Be sure your child’s classes in high school are opening up opportunities for the future. If you don’t feel qualified to do this. or neighbor who can help. Parents should also be aware of the opportunities for children to develop new interests—in a dance class. Be involved when your teenager chooses courses and makes academic decisions. and electronics. carpentry. university. not closing them off. Be sure that the courses your child is taking provide real skills and valuable knowledge that will be helpful or meaningful later in life. In some schools. . or an auto repair class. These courses tend to focus on essential skills in math and English.The vocational track provides students with training in specific job skills in fields such as auto mechanics. or other training after high school. plumbing. Remember that one program in itself may not meet all of your child’s needs and interests. he might be more successful in a class targeted to his skills and needs. and other subjects.. if your child feels unable to keep up. with the goal of helping students complete high school successfully.
Help your child think about his options. an outdoor club. take action and be a problem-solver. such as a community-service organization. make an appointment right away to speak with a teacher or guidance counselor. family friends with a wide range of jobs and lifestyles. Talk with your teenager about the future and about life after high school. The key is for your child to be involved in activities where she gains confidence in her abilities and interests.• If you have concerns or if your teenager is having problems. Teachers and your school’s guidance counselor can help. Don’t wait for the first report card or the first parent-teacher conference to contact the school for help. It’s normal for young people to be confused about their long-term goals. and people in the community who know your child. Other people can help. Help make school a positive experience. The activity may be school-related—performing in a school play or band—or it may be a volunteer activity where your child feels she is making a difference. • • 41 . or tutoring younger students. If you sense there is a problem. Dropping grades or consistently low grades. or reluctance to go to school each day are all signs that your child may be having difficulty in school. Help your child find activities where she can feel successful and confident. too: guidance counselors. attendance or discipline problems. relatives.
Make it clear that school is your teenager’s most important job. help your child learn to manage all her responsibilities or reduce the number of hours on the job. or a store. But working more than 15 or 20 hours a week usually interferes with a child’s achievement in school. If possible. restaurant. studied high school students who worked more than 20 hours a week and found that they missed more school. Here are some other guidelines about teenagers and jobs: • Try to limit job hours to afternoons and weekends. Helping your child to be successful in school is one of the most important gifts you can give your son or daughter. Doing well in school will open up important opportunities for your child. doing yard work. rather than weekday evenings during the school year. working in a supermarket. try to limit the number of hours your teenager works to no more than 15 or 20 hours a week during the school year.Helping your teenager balance schoolwork and a part-time job Over four million teenagers in the U. If you see a decline in grades.S. a psychologist at Temple University. and cut more classes than their classmates who worked fewer hours. and Canada have part-time jobs—babysitting. received lower grades. Laurence Steinberg. More and more jobs require more and more schooling and training. How does having a job affect school performance and achievement? Research shows that having a job can be good for teenagers—within limits. • • 42 . Keep an eye on your child’s school performance.
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