We often see teachers as the key to a child’s success in elementary school. Along with your child’s teacher, there’s a lot parents themselves can do to help their school-age kids succeed academically. Parents who take an active role in their child’s education — both in and outside the classroom — play an instrumental part in how well their kids do in school.
Here are some ways parents can help their kids succeed in elementary school:
- Get involved and attend parent-teacher conferences
Kids do better in school when parents are actively involved in their academic lives. Parents should attend back-to-school night at the beginning of the school year and get to know their child’s teachers. Meeting with the teacher allows parents to learn about the academic and classroom expectations for their child. Parents should also attend parent-teacher conferences regularly to check up on their kid’s progress.
Along with parent-teacher conferences, there are a lot of ways parents can get involved with their child’s school. Volunteering shows that a parent is interested in their kid’s education. However, sometimes kids might be uncomfortable with a parent’s presence at the school, as elementary school is a time for children to gain a little more independence. Balance your involvement in the school community with giving your child space to grow and learn at school on their own.
Ways parents can get involved include: being a classroom helper, participating or organizing fundraising activities, chaperoning field trips, attending school board meetings, reading a story to the class, giving a talk for career day, attending school concerts or plays, and many more.
- Stay informed and up-to-date about your child’s school
At the start of the school year, visit the school and familiarize yourself with the physical layout of the building. This can help you connect with your child when talking about their day at school. Also, visit the school’s website and look at the school’s calendar, which includes upcoming events and important testing dates.
Today, many teachers have their own websites, where they explain homework assignments and post about upcoming exams. A school’s website or a teacher’s own homepage can provide a lot of resources that are easily accessible to parents.
- Make homework a priority
In grade school, homework reinforces learning in the classroom and helps kids practice their study skills. Homework also helps school-age children develop a sense of responsibility and work ethic that will benefit them greatly in the long run.
For parents, one easy step to help kids succeed academically is to create an effective study environment. A comfortable, quiet and distraction-free workspace helps kids focus and stay on task.
For effective homework and/or study periods, a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes per elementary grade level. So, for example, fourth graders should expect to have roughly 40 minutes of homework or studying every school night. When doing homework with your school-age child, resist the temptation to finish the assignment for them. Learning from mistakes is an valuable part of the process and you want your child to succeed long-term, not just get their homework done. During homework time, a parent’s role is to offer guidance and support.
- Success in school starts well before the bell rings
Parents should send their child to school ready to learn. Kids who eat breakfast before school usually have more energy and perform better in the classroom.
To help improve your child’s attention span, concentration and memory skills, feed them breakfast foods that are low in sugar and rich in whole grains, fiber and protein. If you don’t have time for breakfast some mornings, many schools offer breakfast options for kids before school starts.
Make sure your child is well-rested in the morning before they go to school. Lack of sleep can cause irritable or hyper types of behavior in children (adults too) and makes it hard for kids to pay attention in class. On school nights, establish strict bedtimes and limit screen time (i.e. no smartphones, iPad, laptops, TV or video games) a full hour before bed. Most school-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night.
- Teach your kid organizational skills
For elementary school kids, schoolwork should be kept in a homework folder and children should have an assignment book to keep track of projects. Kids at this age should work on keeping their desk at school orderly. At home, have a designated bin for papers that parents need to check or sign.
Other organizing strategies for elementary school kids include using a daily checklist, calendar or personal planner, making a simple to-do list and talking to your child about staying organized. Families can make organizing fun and establish rewards for their kids if they complete organizing tasks. Staying organized helps kids stay focused and calm, instead of wasting time hunting down homework assignments or getting sidetracked.
- Help your child develop study skills
Most educators expect parents to help their children study during the grade-school years. In elementary school, introducing your kids to good study skills and learning habits now will pay off for many more school years to come.
In elementary school, kids usually take tests in subjects like math, spelling, science and social studies at the end of the semester/unit. Parents should be aware when a test is coming up so that they can help their child study and be prepared.
Teach your child to break down bigger studying tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Let kids take a break after every 45-minute study period as a way to recharge and process what they just learned. Elementary school is most likely when your child will be introduced to standardized testing. If studying and taking tests becomes stressful for your child, talk to their teacher or school counselor about how best to address this situation.
- Take attendance seriously and know the school’s discipline policies
It’s very important for elementary school children to attend school every day and arrive on time. Skipping a lot of school can make it difficult for kids to learn and keep up in class.
Kids should stay home from school if they have a fever, feel nauseous, are vomiting or have diarrhea. Sometimes, kids want to stay home from school because of problems with classmates, assignments, grades or even teachers. If your child is “faking” an illness to stay home from school, or you suspect there’s an issue at school they’re worried about, talk to the school counselor.
It’s also important for parents to understand the school’s discipline policy. The disciplinary policy is usually in the student handbook. Many school have specific policies about bullying, cheating, fighting, weapons, dress codes and bringing electronic devices to school. Both parents and kids should know what’s expected at school and understand the consequences if these expectations aren’t met.
- Don’t forget to talk to your child about school
In elementary school, it’s easy to talk to your kid about what’s going on in class, what they did that day and how things are going at school. However, parents can sometimes get busy and forget to ask about a child’s day at school, which can have an effect on their success in elementary school.
Make time to talk with your kid every day, as a way to reinforce the importance of their education. When talking with your kid, listen carefully, make eye contact and don’t multitask or glance at your smartphone. Ask questions that go beyond a simple “yes” or “no” answer. These early years are an instrumental part of a child’s learning and continued success in school.