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Little girl and her mom with pencils under nose and apple on their heads

Parents - It's Time for a School Review

Jean Boylan
Jean Boylan

February 17, 2020 5 min read

Now is a great time to have a conversation with your children about school. Every year in school has a different dynamic. New teacher, new friends and new academic challenges. The teacher may be in the lead, but always remember, you are your child’s advocate! Your child needs you to understand what's going on in their world and help them process their challenges and successes. You know your child best and you're with your child more hours than anyone else. Year after year, you're responsible for them. You're the consistent leader in their life! Their teacher is with them for one school year to guide them through the established curriculum for the year, but you are with them over time. You want to optimize the positive experiences and minimize any problems.

After a conversation with the teacher, you can appropriately praise hard work and accomplishments and make every effort to optimize everyone’s efforts and minimize distractions. You can help your child develop strategies to problem solve any difficult challenges.

Ask Them Questions

How are they feeling about school? What is their favorite subject right now? What do they like about it? What subjects are they struggling with or least interested in? Why? What is STEM? Is it fun? Who are their friends? What do they like to do with their friends? Do they have the right reading materials at home? Do you need some new educational math games?

Are there any lingering concerns or ideas that can be adjusted to assure a smoother and more productive second half of the year? How has homework been going? Do they have a place to do homework? Do they have a structured time each day to do require homework? Are they reading for fun? What ideas do they have? What does the teacher think? What do their peers think?

Touch Base with the Teacher

  1. How does the teacher think things are going?
  2. Does your child have friends at school?
  3. Is there anyone the teacher would suggest would be a good friend for your child?
  4. Is your child on track for the grade level?
  5. Is your child making progress? If they are behind, what is being done?
  6. Ask SPECIFICALLY what you can do at home to support progress at school.
  7. What are their strong subjects? Weaker?
  8. What “soft skills” should you help your child improve?

Make a Plan

With feedback from the teacher, your conversations with your child, and your own gut feelings, you can create a plan to adjust your family time to accommodate the results you want and value. It might be a few small changes or verbalizing with everyone what the plan is. You're all doing a great job, so you want to continue on. Part of your conversation as a family should include open discussion about technology. We need our children to be prepared for the future and that includes having strong technology skills. Playing on the computer helps to build these skills. Social media also has a benefit to your child’s friendships and building appropriate social skills. But it's important to set limits. Discuss this with your child and agree on how much time they will spend on the computer, phone and other devices. Experts are increasingly saying that children should be significantly reducing their screen time to a maximum of 2 hours per day. This is a serious decrease for many children, and they'll experience withdrawal. They need other things to do! Discuss all this with your child and observe your own behaviors as well. The “Do as I say, not as I do” is a tough model for them to follow!

More on screen time for children, here: How Much Screen Time Should Kids Be Allowed Each Day?

Plan Some Fun!

Remember children learn through play. It's important for them to play! Free play after school is a great time for them to relax and to play out what they experienced at school. You may notice them giving you directions like “Time to listen!” or “Go to sleep – no talking!” Expressions you don’t use, and you suspect they hear at school. This can be a fun way to get a view into their day away from you. Structured play can be great, too. This is an activity guided by you with lots of room to be themselves. Anything from kicking a ball, painting or coloring, helping to make dinner or building with blocks is great. You may want to guide your child, but free time to explore is vital to learn independence and problem solving all on their own.

Model Great Learning Behavior

Remind yourself that what you do is much more powerful than what you say. Are you a lifelong learner? Are you exploring new things and overcoming challenging situations? Does your child see and hear you talk about how you overcome difficult things in your life? It's important for you to remind them, “This is hard! This is fun!” rather than “This is hard! I want to quit." Whether you're playing games, working on puzzles, or working in the kitchen, remind your children that it can be fun to learn new solutions to problems.

Do you read in front of your children? You should! While reading a bedtime story is important, they need to see you reading material that is clearly interesting to you. It can be a sports magazine, a cookbook, a novel or a word search book. Keep something handy for yourself as well as for them. They'll mimic your behavior and learn to love the world they can explore in books. If you find yourself saying, “My child hates to read”, you need to discuss this with the teacher right away. Together you can work out a strategy. Try audiobooks, easier books, or non-fiction books about a topic they love. Find a way to help them look forward to cracking open a book.

Tip: Most Denver area libraries provide free access to audiobooks available to borrow through apps that can be downloaded right to your computer, mobile device, or eBook reader. 

Last but not least, turn off the tablets and televisions! There are so many other interesting things to do to nurture your family and support your child as their brains are growing. The key is to always have activities in mind to do INSTEAD of watching a device. It's much easier to replace that mindless yet relaxing time with something better if you plan ahead. Build a basket of interesting books, subscribe to a magazine, learn a craft, make cookies, sing songs or assemble a collection of great family games. Reward yourselves and watch a show after everyone has interacted, cleaned the kitchen, done their homework and read a good book … I know! There won’t be much time left for shows! That’s the point.

Great Games for 2

  • Rummy card game
  • Crazy 8s card game

Family Games

Find a Games, Games, Games! Night at your neighborhood Beyond the Blackboard!

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