As a classroom teacher for over 15 years there are some really basic things that you, as a parent, can do to help your kid in school.
Feed Your Kid
Make sure that your child has something to eat before they come to school in the morning. Some kids aren’t really interested in eating a big breakfast before they come to school, but even something light will help get your child’s day off to a good start. For these students, we suggest a piece of fruit such as a banana, or a protein bar that isn’t loaded with sugar.
If you have trouble getting your child to eat anything in the morning, be sure and let the teacher know. Otherwise your child could get disciplined for being cranky when they really just need to eat. Ask the teacher to allow your child to have an early snack. (Honestly, it’s in the teacher’s best interest to have a student that is well-fed.)
Pack lots of nutritious snacks for your child to eat throughout the day. We know that kids can often be notoriously picky eaters. They love something one day and hate it the next. Packing a wide variety of snacks helps to ensure that there is always something that your child will be willing to eat.
Take your child to the grocery store and find out what they are willing to eat for snacks and lunches. Consulting your child on what to pack in their lunch box can help ensure that they are getting enough to eat throughout the day.
Realize that as kids are growing, especially during a growth spurt, they may need additional food to ensure that they aren’t hungry.
Don’t force your kid to eat or berate your child’s teacher because they didn’t eat enough. Trust me, teachers do the best they can to make sure that their students are getting enough to eat, but there is a limit to how much we can push a child to eat and often, pushing too much just makes the kid not want to eat anything because it becomes a game. (Not a very fun game, either!)
Make Sure Your Kid Gets Enough Sleep
Per Sleepfoundation.org, the amount of sleep that any given child needs varies widely. Below are some guidelines on how much sleep your child needs based on his or her age.
Age Recommended Hours of Sleep
3-5 years 10 to 13 hours
6-13 years 9 to 11 hours
Teens 8 to 10 hours
As a teacher, my guess is that 80% of students don’t get adequate sleep for their age.
Having a student in the classroom that is well rested makes huge difference in their ability to concentrate on their studies. You know how you feel at work when you haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before? Now imagine your child trying to learn new skills not having gotten enough sleep.
We recommend getting your child on a regular sleep schedule that also doesn’t drastically change over the weekend. We realize (hey, we are parents, too!) that often there are schedule changes that simply can’t be avoided, but generally having your child on some kind of schedule will make a big difference in ensuring that they get enough sleep.
Having trouble getting your child to sleep at night? Try some of these suggestions:
*Make a routine before bed that includes a wind down period. Be consistent (but don’t get anxious about it) and start early enough to ensure your child can get enough sleep.
*Lose the electronics in the bedroom. Period. If I had a dollar for every time a six year old told me that the reason he didn’t get enough sleep was because he was on a tablet or a phone…
*Avoid TV (and electronics) on school nights. Electronics stimulate the brain and can then make it hard for a kid to fall asleep.
*Create a sleep friendly environment that is cool, dark and quiet. Consider adding some ambient noise such a fan. (Nightlights are fine for kids that need them.)
*Make sure that your kid gets adequate exercise during the day. (But not right before bed.)
Read With Your Kid
Start reading to your child at an early age. I’m sure that there could be an endless debate on what is the best age to start reading to your child, but I think everyone agrees that it should be early and often. (In fact, you can make it part of the bedtime routine.) Parents that read to their kids show their kids that reading can be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Even if you don’t love to read, try and cultivate a love of reading in your own kid.
Let them see you reading. If your child sees you reading (and enjoying it!) they will want to mimic you. One of the most amazing things that ever happened to me as a parent was when my three year old crawled up on my lap and started reading words from my book that she knew. She skipped the words that she couldn’t read, but I was super impressed by what she could read!
If you want to get a head start on reading, or supplement your child’s reading at school, we recommend phonics based reading programs. Whole language, whole word, and sight words are not the most effective way to get a child reading, despite what your school tells you. Teachers today are not being taught how to teach using phonics and it has become a lost art. This is truly sad when phonics has been consistently proven to work when teaching a child to read.
Be a Team Player
Work with your child’s teacher. Being a team player is an important part of ensuring that your child does well in school. Your child’s teacher does care about your child’s education.
It may seem that the teacher is too busy and doesn’t care about your child as an individual student. Realize that teachers are overwhelmed with the high numbers of students in their classes and the amount of material that they need to get their class through in a school year. Blaming the teacher for this doesn’t help. They generally don’t have a big influence on how many students they have in their class or what is dictated to them that needs to be done in a school year.
Having a parent that is willing to work as a team to help the child is very appreciated by teachers. We want you to be involved in your child’s education and we need your backup and support to help make the most of it. Our favorite parents are the ones that are willing to work with us as team players.
Here are some things that you can do to be a team player:
*Sit with your child while they do their homework.
*Make learning new things fun and exciting by doing activities in which learning is made fun.
*Make sure your child knows that you think education is important.
*Provide educational toys and activities at home.
*Volunteer your time at the school or support your child’s class in helping provide things that the classroom needs.
*Communicate with the teacher frequently. Even if it is just to get a 30 second update on your child’s progress. It shows your child that you are interested and taking note.
*Offer positive reinforcement when your child accomplishes something in school by rewarding them.
Be Your Kid’s Best Cheerleader and Advocate – This is important
Your child isn’t stupid. Your child is bright, funny, clever and brilliant. I mean it. And you are right. (Your kid is bright, funny, clever and brilliant.) I don’t care what their teacher says. I don’t care what “label” the school puts on your kid.
In all my years of teaching, the only students that I was not able to teach were those who were already so ruined on the subject of education that they were thoroughly convinced that they were stupid, they couldn’t learn and they were bad. Sometimes it took a while to get through to them, but if you give a child enough wins and successes in educating them, they actually do find that they are smart and they can learn. Consistent success goes a long way.
The reality is that in public schools, the teacher has a set amount of material that they have to get through in a given time period. They don’t have time to go back and clear up the confusions of their students or they won’t get through the material that they have to complete in a year. (Don’t blame the teacher, blame a broken system.)
I was fortunate enough to teach in private schools that had individual programs for each student. I was able to work with each student from where they were academically (regardless of age or grade level) and bring them up to where they needed to be. It does wonders for a student when you are able to work with them on material that is at the correct and actual level of where they are academically. By doing this, you can increase their abilities instead of piling on more and more confusions.
Instead of getting upset with your child because they are getting good grades in school, help find ways that your child can learn. Make sure that your child understands the words that are being used in the text and this will go a long way to helping your child be able to do the work.
If you are not confident in working with your child on a particular subject, work with the teacher to find an after school tutoring program at school or find a tutoring center that will work with your child and help build his or her confidence in the subject.
Remember that your child is bright, funny, clever and brilliant. Really.