Keeping up with all school matters-social, emotional and
academic-is one of the most important ways to be sure that your
child is on track and getting the most out of the academic
Here are some ideas for staying in touch with your children and
their school day.
- Share a meal together every day. It doesn't have to be
dinner-it can be a bowl of cereal at breakfast or even a before-bed
cup of cocoa. Turn off your cell phones, the computer, the
television and the to-do list that runs through your mind, set
aside the magazines and the mail. Focus on listening first: Give
your child, as well as yourself, time to digest what's been said,
then offer your own thoughts and advice if necessary. Sometimes
kids just want a parent to be a good listener.
- Be familiar with your child's teachers, classmates and school
personnel. Join the PTA. Attend open houses and introduce yourself
to other parents. Volunteer your time and talents-schools welcome
parent help and you'll have a chance to experience the environment
that your child lives in every school day.
- Check your child's assignment notebooks and read through some
of his textbooks so you can ask questions on academic subjects and
think of ideas to support learning outside of school.
- Do your kids tend to clam up with pre-teen-like angst when you
ask about their school lives? Ask their opinion on something to get
the conversation going. Kids-especially pre-teens and teens-love
sharing their opinions and having their voices heard.
- Never ask yes/no questions. Ask questions that invite thoughts,
opinions and long-winded answers.
- If your child is encountering a problem at school, ask the
simplest question of all: How can I help? Sometimes parents tend to
formulate their own solution strategies without the input of the
key player in the situation-your child.
- Acknowledge how appreciative you are that your child shared his
feelings with you, and remind him that he can always come to you
whenever he has a problem or concern. Teach your kids that bottling
up worries or feelings isn't necessary and it helps to bring things
out into the open.
Staying in touch with your child's school
- Read the student handbook and know who's who in the school
building. Make sure you're aware of homework policy and study
- Teachers are busy these days; the best way to catch them is by
e-mail. Don't wait for disaster to strike-send a simple e-mail at
some point (preferably at the beginning of the school year)
introducing yourself, your family and your child, and letting the
teacher know the best way to contact you should the need
- Familiarize yourself with the school Web site. Chicago Public
Schools has recently launched the Parent Portal, accessible via the
school Web site, where parents can securely view their child's
grades and attendance online. You can also register to receive
e-mail or text notifications when your child is absent or when his
or her grades drop below a point level identified by you.
- Ask your teacher if you can help out in any way in the
classroom. Many teachers would love for a parent to visit and
discuss a special interest. Working parents can volunteer to
collect classroom supplies, coordinate a classroom newsletter or
gather materials for a bulletin board.
- Of course, you won't want to miss parent teacher conferences,
open houses, the science fair, but also be sure to attend the other
fun events such as talent shows, fundraisers and sporting events
(even if your child isn't playing on the team). This will give you
a chance to get to know teachers, school administrators and other
parents in an informal way. Let your child see for himself that you
believe school participation is important.
Questions to ask your kids
1) If you could change three things about your school what would
2) Who is considered the friendliest kid in your class? Why?
3) What qualities do you think make a good friend?
4) What would you do if you saw or heard someone making fun of
another kid in your school?
5) Who is your favorite teacher so far? Why?
6) What qualities do you think make a good teacher?
7) What qualities make a good student?
8) What have you done in school (or school-related sport or
activity) that you're proudest of this year?
9) How much TV do you think you should be allowed to watch per
day? How much time do you think you should be allowed to play video
games? How does watching too much TV/playing too many video games
affect your schoolwork?
10) What three things could we do as a family to help you
succeed in school?
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
See more of Amy's stories here.