Teaching students and communicating with their parents across a variety of school settings has provided me with the opportunity to closely observe the habits of successful students* and their families.
PARENTS ARE THEIR CHILD’S FIRST TEACHERS
As parents, we understand that children learn at different rates and have individual learning styles, however there are routines that can be developed at home to assist students achieve their best at school. Whilst the following routines are not the only strategies parents can use to assist their child, they can be implemented easily, quickly and without extra financial expense. Most of these routines have also been shown by research to impact positively on student learning.
1. ASSIST YOUR CHILD TO PACK THEIR SCHOOL BAG FOR THE NEXT DAY, BEFORE THEY GO TO BED
On a typical day, your child will need to take many items with them to school, for example: a home reading book, a homework folder, lunch and morning tea, fruit for fruit break, a water bottle, a school hat, a library bag and books, maybe some swimming gear and a jumper. Avoiding the last minute rush of packing their school bag each morning goes a long way towards ensuring your child arrives at their classroom feeling confident and positive, and ready to learn.
2. ENSURE YOUR CHILD HAS ENOUGH SLEEP EACH SCHOOL NIGHT
Research shows that many students are not sleeping for long enough due to being over scheduled and using devices until they go to bed, which makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep. The Australian Centre for Sleep states that Primary School aged students require between 10 – 12 hours every night to enable them to focus well at school, whilst Secondary School students require between 8 – 10 hours each night. Sleep-deprived students find it very difficult to focus on their learning, which has a detrimental effect on their attitude and academic progress
3. ALLOW ENOUGH TIME FOR YOUR CHILD TO EAT A NUTRITIONALLY BALANCED BREAKFAST BEFORE SCHOOL
Recent research has found that students who do not eat a nutritious breakfast, have difficulty recalling information taught to them in the classroom. By ensuring your child has eaten a healthy breakfast, you have given them a great start to their school day. As an experienced teacher, I have observed that not all students manage to eat the food their parents pack for them to eat at school, making eating a nutritious breakfast even more important on a school morning. At most schools, children are supervised while they eat their morning tea and lunch. However, many children are keen to play during their breaks and may forgo eating some of their food to join their friends in the playground.
4. SUPPORT YOUR CHILD TO COMPLETE ANY HOMEWORK TASKS THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN
Homework has the potential to place added stress on families. Supporting your child to complete their homework tasks to the best of their ability, is the best approach to take, and can assist your child to develop their academic abilities and help them to develop a positive attitude towards homework. Some parents fall into the trap of helping their child to complete their homework; completing your child’s homework for them is not helping, and in fact doing your child’s homework is likely to have an adverse effect on their learning moving forward. Students can also lose confidence in their ability if their parent/s help them to complete their homework. If the homework tasks your child has been given is causing them or your family undue stress, it is important for you to let their teacher know this. Besides enhancing their learning, homework can assist students to develop positive self-discipline behaviours, and a range of time and task management skills.
5. AVOID OVER SCHEDULING YOUR CHILD OUTSIDE SCHOOL HOURS
21st century students are very active! Primary School students study a range of subjects at school including English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, Health and Physical Education, The Arts, Technologies and Languages. Secondary School students study a much broader range of specialised subjects. Engaging in extra-curricular activities is important and contributes to the overall development of a child, however it is just as important for them to relax. Balance is key, and providing your child with a few afternoons each week, which are free of structured activities, will help them to relax, which can positively impact on their performance at school.
6. MODEL POSITIVE INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHERS
The attitude that you demonstrate towards your child’s teachers at school and at home, will influence how your child perceives them. Some parents may not agree with or like every teacher their child has, however interacting with teachers in a respectful manner will help children maintain a positive attitude towards their teacher. If a parent has valid concerns in regard to their child’s teacher, it would be advisable for them to make an appointment to see the Head of School to discuss these issues.
7. READ REGULARLY WITH AND TO YOUR CHILD
The importance of reading cannot be overstated. Once students have learnt how to read, they are able to read to learn. By reading with and to their child, parents can build behaviours to help a child develop a positive attitude towards reading and literature. Assisting your child to become a confident reader is one of the most important things you can do to help them succeed, both at school and in life.
8. MAKE THE TIME TO READ SCHOOL NEWSLETTERS AND OTHER NOTICES
Amidst the busyness of a typical week, it can be difficult for parents to keep up with the activities their child is involved in at school.From time to time, even the most organised parents with the best of intentions can forget about an extra-curricular event their child is involved in. By keeping up to date with the timing of these events and ensuring their child arrives at school with everything they require for the day, parents are laying the foundation for their child to enjoy a stress free day, enabling them to focus on learning.
9. MAINTAIN REGULAR CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL YEAR
Emailing your child’s teacher, organising a suitable time to phone them or asking to meet them after school for a quick chat, is an effective way to keep up-to-date and in touch with your child’s progress. Regularly checking in with your child’s teacher will provide opportunities for them to keep you informed of any incidental issues that may arise for your child, academically or socially. As a classroom teacher, I greatly appreciated the time parents took to regularly touch base with me throughout the year. This routine strengthens the relationship and communication between school and home, which as research has shown, positively influences the academic development of students.
10. DISCUSS YOUR CHILD’S DAY WITH THEM – WHEN THEY ARE FEELING RELAXED
Children arriving home after a full day of school, often followed by extra-curricular activities, can feel lethargic and not in the mood to converse. Asking your child questions about their day at school as soon as they have arrived home may not be the best approach. I have suggested to parents that designating a few minutes at bedtime to chat to their child is effective in keeping up to date with their day-to-day experiences at school. Asking questions such as “What was the best part of your day today?”,“ Did you learn something new today?” and “Can you teach what you learned to me?”, can lead to a productive discussion. Many children seem to prefer chatting to their parents about their school day at bedtime, as they have had a break since arriving home from school.