As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. When parents and families are involved in their children’s schools, the children do better and have better feelings about going to school. In fact, many studies show that what the family does is more important to a child’s school success than how much money the family makes or how much education the parents have. There are many ways that parents can support their children’s learning at home and throughout the school year. Here are some ideas to get you started!
Develop a partnership with your child’s teachers and school staff
1. Meet your child’s teacher. As soon as the school year starts, try to find a way to meet your child’s teacher. Let the teacher know you want to help your child learn. Make it clear that you want the teacher to contact you if any problems develop with your child. Talk with your child’s teacher offers some great tips for developing a partnership with your child’s teacher.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking English, don’t let a language barrier stop you. What you have to say is more important than the language you say it in! Ask the school to find someone who can interpret for you. There may be a teacher or parent liaison who can help. Or you can bring a bilingual friend or relative with you.
2. Get to know who’s who at your child’s school. There are many people at your child’s school who are there to help your child learn, grow socially and emotionally, and navigate the school environment. Who’s Who at Your Child’s School describes the responsibilities of teachers, administrators, and district staff. Each school is different but this article will offer a general introduction to personnel of your child’s school.
3. Attend parent-teacher conferences and keep in touch with your child’s teacher.Schools usually have one or two parent-teacher conferences each year. You can bring a friend to interpret for you or ask the school to provide an interpreter. You can also ask to meet with your child’s teacher any time during the year. If you have a concern and can’t meet face-to-face, send the teacher a short note or set up a time to talk on the phone. For more ideas about how to prepare for parent-teacher conferences, see Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences at Your Child’s School.
Support your child academically
4. Find out how your child is doing. Ask the teacher how well your child is doing in class compared to other students. If your child is not keeping up, especially when it comes to reading, ask what you or the school can do to help. It’s important to act early before your child gets too far behind. Also be sure to review your child’s report card each time it comes out. For more information, see How To Know When Your Child Needs Extra Help.
5. Apply for special services if you think your child may need it. If your child is having problems with learning, ask the school to evaluate your child in his or her strongest language. The teacher might be able to provide accommodations for your child in class. If the school finds out your child has a learning disability, he can receive extra help at no cost. For more information, see Where To Go For Help.
6. Make sure that your child gets homework done. Let your child know that you think education is important and that homework needs to be done each day. You can help your child with homework by setting aside a special place to study, establishing a regular time for homework, and removing distractions such as the television and social phone calls during homework time. Helping Your Child With Homework offers some great ideas for ensuring that your child gets homework done.
If you are reluctant to help your child with homework because you feel that you don’t know the subject well enough or because you don’t speak or read English, you can help by showing that you are interested, helping your child get organized, providing the necessary materials, asking your child about daily assignments, monitoring work to make sure that it is completed, and praising all of your child’s efforts. Remember that doing your child’s homework for him won’t help him in the long run.
7. Find homework help for your child if needed. If it is difficult for you to help your child with homework or school projects, see if you can find someone else who can help. Contact the school, tutoring groups, after school programs, churches, and libraries. Or see if an older student, neighbor, or friend can help.
8. Help your child prepare for tests. Tests play an important role in determining a students grade. Your child may also take one or more standardized tests during the school year, and your child’s teacher may spend class time on test preparation throughout the year. As a parent, there are a number of ways that you can support your child before and after taking a standardized test, as well as a number of ways you can support your child’s learning habits on a daily basis that will help her be more prepared when it’s time to be tested. Learn more standardized tests and general test-taking in How to Help Your Child Prepare for Standardized Tests.
Get involved with your child’s school
9. Learn what the school offers. Read the information the school sends home, and ask to receive information in your native language if necessary. Talk to other parents to find out what programs the school offers. Maybe there’s a music program, after-school activity, sports team, or tutoring program your child would enjoy. Remember to keep track of events throughout the school year.
10. Volunteer at your child’s school and/or join your school’s parent-teacher group. Teachers appreciate it when parents help out at the school! There are many ways you can contribute. You can volunteer in your child’s class or in the school library. You can make food for a school event. If you work during the day, you can attend “parents’ night” activities or your child’s performances. At most schools, a group of parents meets regularly to talk about the school. This group is usually called the PTA or PTO. The meetings give you a good chance to talk with other parents and to work together to improve the school. How to Get Involved in Your Child’s School Activities offers some more ideas that you can get involved, especially for busy parents.