10 Tips for the Best School Year Yet

In Kiddos, Michelle Yetman, PHD., Rebecca Durr by Lola Magazine

With the rocky pandemic school year behind us, including virtual learning and hybrid learning, many parents are looking forward to returning to a “traditional” school year. Some parents (and kids) are feeling anxious about returning to this format, as their child may have lost some academic ground and developed less than ideal study habits during the pandemic.

How do parents help ensure a successful school year for their child? The following suggestions may help set your child up for success this year.

Attend Back-To-School Night & Parent/Teacher Conferences

Research indicates that kids do better academically when their parents take an active role in their school lives. It is important to be familiar with your child’s school policies and their teacher’s expectations. Conferences are a chance to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s learning and discuss strategies to help your child do their best in class. Meeting with the teacher also lets your child know that what goes on in school will be shared at home. It is important to work together as a “team” to support your child.

Visit the School and Its Website

Knowing the physical layout of the school and playground can help you connect with your child when they talk about their school day. On the school website, you can find information about:

  • the school calendar
  • staff contact information
  • upcoming events like class trips
  • testing dates

It is a good idea to post such dates on the family home calendar and help your child keep these dates in mind.

Support Homework Expectations

Homework is designed to help reinforce what students have been learning during the school day. It can also help children develop time management skills and important study skills techniques. It promotes a sense of responsibility and work ethic that will benefit them in the future.

As parents, you can support this process by letting them know that homework is a priority. One way to do this is to create an effective study environment. It should be well lit, free of distractions (like a television in the background) and should have the necessary supplies, e.g., pens, papers, etc.

A good rule of thumb for an effective homework and/or study period is roughly 10 minutes per elementary grade level. Fourth graders, for example, should expect to have about 40 minutes of homework or studying each school night. If you find that it is often taking significantly longer than this guideline, you may want to discuss the issue with your child’s teacher.

Send Your Child to School Ready to Learn

Being ready to learn includes have a nutritious breakfast. Children who eat breakfast have more energy, can focus better, and tend to do better in school. You can boost your child’s attention span, concentration, and memory by providing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein as well as being low in sugar.

Kids also need the right amount of sleep to be alert and ready to learn all day. Most school-age children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Bedtime difficulties can arise at this age for a variety of reasons. Homework, sports, after-school activities, TVs, computers and video games as well as hectic family schedules can contribute to kids not getting enough sleep.

Teach Organization Skills

When kids are organized, they can stay focused instead of spending time hunting things down and getting sidetracked. Check your child’s backpack every night. Look in the assignment

book and homework every night so you are familiar with assignments, and so you can help ensure your child doesn’t fall behind. Re-pack the backpack nightly before going to bed and leave it by the same spot so it will be easy to find in the morning. No last minute racing around looking for things in the morning – this can be a stressful start to the day. Remember, no one is born with great organizational skills; they need to be learned and practiced.

Teach Study Skills

Be sure to know when your child is going to have a test so you can help them study in advance rather than the night before when anxiety is highest. Teach your child how to break down the overall tasks into smaller, manageable chunks so preparing for a test isn’t overwhelming. Also the more memory tracks you can lay down in the brain, the easier it will be to recall the information. For example, having your child practice their spelling words in the bathtub while writing the words in colored, scented markers on the wall will help them recall the words easier than just looking at the words on the page and trying to memorize them.

Know the Disciplinary Policies

Schools usually cite their disciplinary policies (sometimes called the student code of conduct) in student handbooks. The rules cover expectations and consequences for not meeting the expectations, for things like student behavior, dress codes, use of electronic devices, and acceptable language.

 Get Involved

Children tend to better when their parents take an active role in their school life and getting involved at your child’s school is one way to do that. While many grade-schoolers like to see their parents at school events, you should follow your child’s cues to find out how much interaction works for both of you. If your child seem uncomfortable with your presence at the school, consider taking a more behind-the-scenes approach. Parents can get involved by:

  • Being a classroom helper or homeroom parent
  • Organizing and/or working at fundraising activities & other special events, e.g., bake sales, book fairs
  • Chaperoning field trips
  • Planning class parties
  • Attending School Board Meetings
  • Joining school PTA
  • Working as a library assistant
  • Reading a story to the class or listening to new readers
  • Giving a talk for career day
  • Attending school concerts or plays

Take Attendance Seriously

Sick children should stay home from school. Otherwise, it is important to go to school. If your child misses school, make plans with your child’s teacher about how your child can catch up on missed work. If your child is missing school due to anxiety, you may want to talk to someone like a psychologist.

Make Time To Talk About School

Parents get busy and it is easy to forget to ask your child what is going on at school. Dinnertime is a great time to “check in” with your child and find out what was the best part of the day and what they wish they could change. Establishing good lines of communication in the elementary school years are critical because you want to maintain that open communication during the adolescent years. Try to make time every day to talk about school.

If you have concerns about your child’s development or learning, you can seek out evaluation services at LSU Health Shreveport Children’s Center.