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Preparing for school

School Success: Preparation, Communication, and Supervision

by Leigh A. Bortins
Book Cover Image. Title: The Core:  Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, Author: by Leigh A. Bortins, Leigh A. Bortins

The Coreby Leigh A. BortinsLeigh A. Bortins

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The key to a child's success in any endeavor is parental involvement. Although we as parents sometimes delegate the care for and instruction of our children to others, we are ultimately responsible for our children's behavior and their achievements. Our involvement with teachers and administrators at school is especially important. Even before you begin communicating with teachers, you can prepare your children for school success with some simple lessons at home.

Preparing Your Child for Academic Success

In order for children to interact appropriately with other children and with the adults who are in authority over them, they must learn certain lessons at home. Obedience, respect, and good study habits will lay the foundations for school activities.

The first lesson is obedience to those in authority. You can prepare your children for a successful relationship with their teachers by teaching them to obey you. This is best practiced by having your children complete household chores such as setting the table, caring for pets, picking up toys, and folding laundry. These lessons will pay off in the classroom each time your child demonstrates respect for the teacher by listening carefully and following instructions on academic assignments.

Next, you can teach your children to respect those in positions of authority by demanding that they demonstrate respect toward you. Make sure your children understand that they are expected to respond to you positively, immediately, and with a respectful attitude and tone of voice. Stopping to patiently correct them when they make a misstep — as they inevitably will — will reinforce these expectations.

Finally, before they begin school, you can train your children in academic skills. Help your small children learn to sit still by giving them coloring, drawing, and other pre-writing activities. Teach them to trace and spell their own name, teach them the sounds of consonants and vowels, and practice counting and tracing numbers. Small children will be excited by their own workspace and supplies. "Playing school" is a valuable precursor to real school.

In addition to these lessons, read to your child every day. Small children can enjoy books far above their reading level. Reading aloud as a family is an enjoyable activity that also gradually extends a child's attention span, expands vocabulary, and accelerates independent reading. Small children can color or quietly build with blocks or LEGOs while you are reading to them. Increase your reading opportunities by using audio books in the car.

Communication with Teachers: Questions to Ask and Other Conference Tips

You've done all you can to prepare your child at home, now it's time to start school! And time for you to start communicating with your child's teachers and other authority figures in his educational life. The first step is to understand the expectations of your child's teachers, and then you can begin helping your child meet those expectations.

Make sure from the outset that the teacher knows you and your child by name. With younger children, take time in a teacher conference to understand the teacher's procedures. Some good questions to ask include:
  1. What behavior will be expected in the classroom?
  2. What are the homework requirements for this class?
  3. How will grades be assigned? Or, with younger children, how will they be evaluated?
  4. How often will the teacher communicate with parents?
  5. What is the best way to reach the teacher? Phone? E-mail?
  6. If your child needs academic help, what is the best way to proceed? (There are often services available through the school if your child needs assistance with a particular subject. In addition, most high schools keep a reference list of private tutors.)
  7. What are the opportunities for parent involvement?
Be proactive in communications with the school. If necessary, schedule a conference with the teacher before regular parent-teacher conferences come up. If you are contacted by the teacher, try to discover the teacher's concerns before you get to the conference.

Have a detailed conversation with your child so that you are fully informed at the conference. Once you are at the conference, remember to work with the teacher as an adult team attempting to help your child.
  1. Don't be defensive about your child's behavior or academic struggles.
  2. Be honest about problems.
  3. Clarify problems by asking questions until you can see that you and the teacher have the same understanding of the situation.
  4. Be part of the solution: find out what you can do at home to assist the teacher and support the classroom goals.
  5. Find out how your child can be part of the solution: help your child develop character by making them accountable for the solution.
Supervision: Proactively Contributing to Your Child's School Success

With young children, it is necessary to closely and actively monitor their assignments. Many teachers offer website access to assignments and grades so that you can track your child's progress often. At home, you can also establish daily routines for homework so that it becomes routine to complete math and language arts worksheets and practice spelling words each week.

With older children, homework routines are also important, but the time has come for the student to become responsible for his own education. Encourage your child to follow certain steps:
  1. Take notes in class.
  2. Jot down assignments in an age-appropriate planner.
  3. Bring home textbooks every day.
  4. Organize schoolwork in a notebook for each class.
It is important for middle school and high school students to develop good study habits and organizational skills. There are many electronic and paper planners that you can use to help your kids practice the skills they will need to be successful in college.

You can help ensure that your child enjoys a lifelong adventure of learning by preparing him at home before formal schooling begins. Be proactive about working with his teachers, and offer him the age-appropriate amount of supervision to complete assignments and exceed the teacher's expectations. Happy learning!  
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Meet Our Expert
Leigh A. Bortins
Leigh A. Bortins is the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc. and host of the weekly radio show, Leigh At Lunch! She is also the author of The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education. She lectures about the importance of home education nationwide. Ms. Bortins lives with her family in West End, North Carolina. Her website is http://leighbortins.com/

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Leigh A. Bortins
Book Cover Image. Title: The Core:  Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, Author: by Leigh A. Bortins, Leigh A. Bortins

The Coreby Leigh A. BortinsLeigh A. Bortins

  • $13.98 Online Price