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How to Actively Contribute to Your Child’s Success in School
The Learning Partnership

Back to school means a fresh start—not just for your child, but for you as well. Regardless of... more

How to Actively Contribute to Your Child’s Success in School
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Back to school means a fresh start—not just for your child, but for you as well. Regardless of last year’s successes (or challenges), every new school year is a chance to begin again.

Numerous studies of students—from Kindergarten through to grade 12—found that parental involvement is consistently associated with higher student achievement outcomes across grades, standardized test scores, and overall educational outcomes. Simply speaking, an engaged parent can make all the difference between a child who simply attends school because they’re required to, versus one who is motivated to be the best they can be, not just in school but in life.

Don’t know where to start? No matter their age, here are four ways parents can help their children succeed in school.

1. Help your child get organized.

  • Repetition and structure help children feel safe. It also teaches them responsibility and independence. Identify a routine that works best for your family—and stick to it.
  • Think about different sections of the day (e.g. morning, after-school, bedtime) and establish a routine within those time frames with consistent start/end times (e.g. waking up and going to bed at the same time every day).
  • Have a family calendar in the kitchen and write down important school events such as parents’ night, when report cards come out, when your child’s soccer games will occur, etc.
  • Provide a quiet space at home where your child can study without distractions.
  • Help your child make lists and charts that will help him remember what he has to do. Give them a checkmark or star when each job is finished.

2. Get in the know.

  • Stay in contact with your child’s teachers to monitor progress throughout the year.
  • Follow your child’s school timetable; know when tests are coming up or when projects are due.
  • Understand how your child’s school communicates regularly with parents. Is it a monthly newsletter? Does the school rely on hard-copy communications or email and website/social media updates? Make sure you sign up or follow accordingly.
  • Attend school meetings and special events to get to know other educators and parents.
  • Use this information to be specific when you ask about their day at school. Instead of ‘How was your day?’, ask questions like ‘How did your test go? What was the best/worst part of today?’

3. Partner with your child’s school

  • Volunteer. If you can’t be in school during the day, offer to make class phone calls for the teacher, help make costumes for the school play or make nutritious snacks for a class outing.
  • Try to attend sports games, concerts, plays, or other activities at school.
  • Get to know your child’s teachers and help them to get to know your child. Remember to thank them and to show your appreciation throughout the year.

4. Support your child.

  • Display school work on the refrigerator or family bulletin board. Let your child know you’re proud of them.
  • Read to your young children and encourage older kids to read every day.
  • Discuss current events, politics, and topics they may be studying at school.
  • Have high expectations. Tell them again and again they can do well and be successful in school.
The Learning Partnership is a national, charitable organization dedicated to advancing publicly funded education, in part, through through innovative curriculum-based student programs.
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How I Learned to Relax at the Playground and Let My Kids Fall
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Before you have a child, you think you know what kind of parent you’re going to be. I thought I’d be relaxed and go with the flow—turned out my daughter thrived on structure. I imagined we’d spend hours playing with each other’s hair. Nuh-uh. That kid even looks at a brush and she screams.

Here’s where I really went wrong though: I thought I was going to let her be a blank slate, let her fall and fail and make mistakes and learn from them. But from the moment she was born, without really realizing it, I’ve been inadvertently preventing her from hearing her own inner voice that tells her to, ‘Go for it’.

Every time she tried to take a bigger step in the playground, my frown deepened in fear. Every time she got innocently curious and ran off to see something, I’d yell, ‘Watch out,’ ‘Slow down,’ or ‘Be careful.’

Much as I hate parenting terms, I see now that I’ve been a helicopter parent. Since my hovering has been mostly around sports and physical challenges, maybe I don’t quite fit the stereotype. But in at least one area, the propeller blades on my helicopter are working overtime.

There’s a running joke among my friends that I never have to worry about the dreaded mid-day call from school. You know, that one where they’re calling to say your child fell doing something crazy in the playground? My daughter is so cautious she won’t attempt more than the first two monkey bars. And I’ve secretly been thrilled. So long as her timidity never held her back socially, I’ve been quite content not to have that extra worry on top of the usual ordinary parenting concerns.

But the more I started watching her at play, the more I started to hear my words echoing back at me: ‘Watch out, slow down, be careful.’

When my husband taught her to ride a bike, he said, ‘Stay straight, look ahead, you can do it.’ It suddenly hit me that I was always telling her what not to do. I’m not saying I didn’t offer encouragement, or appreciate her success, but I may have reduced the accomplishment’s validation because I was too busy worrying to enjoy the moment and celebrate it with her.

I really became aware of all this recently during a hike with friends and their particularly adventurous sons. The kids were practically flying down the trail and I felt myself start to warn her to slow down. They were running down hills, and my mouth opened to caution her again. It was like an out of body experience—or a really bad after-school special—and I suddenly just got it. She was listening to her voice, trusting herself to take a chance, and I was about to ruin it. I braced myself, smiled, and watched with pride as she began to really explore her surroundings, climbing and moving with ease and certainty.

Since that day, I’ve been watching my beautiful, independent child really take chances, and while I may occasionally tense up when she decides to scale the playground wall, goes a little fast on her scooter, or finally, confidently reaches for that third monkey bar, I will force myself not to stand in her way.

I may never stop being a helicopter parent, but I will do everything I can to make sure she’s in the pilot seat.

Image of monkey bars from Shutterstock.

Active for Life is a leading promoter of children’s physical literacy to help parents raise active and healthy kids. In response to increased rates of child obesity and sedentary behaviour, Active for Life was formed in 2011 to give parents the tools to help their children develop skills and habits for lifelong physical activity. At the core of the initiative is the idea that every child deserves to be physically literate. Active for Life is a social enterprise of B2ten, a Canadian organization formed to promote sport and athlete development in Canada. For more information, visit Active for Life.
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