Opinion » Editorial

Parents' Corner

by Ayele  Shakur
Thursday Sep 17, 2015

September is here, which means students are back in school. It's a time of anticipation and excitement mixed with a bit of anxiety for students and parents alike. You've purchased school supplies and back-to-school outfits, and it's now time to set your alarm clocks much earlier. Your child may be excited about meeting new friends, but worried about facing new challenges. You can help your child get ready by setting a foundation for success with the following 10 tips for the school year ahead.

Teach your child to get organized
Every student, whether they are a fourth grader or a high school freshman, needs a dedicated notebook to track homework assignments. Encourage them to write their assignments in their notebook and check them off when they are completed. This is a great tool, particularly for younger children, to learn organizational skills. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you will want to check the notebook every evening to make sure that your child is tracking her assignments and getting the work done.

Follow up on homework
As a parent, it's not your job to do your child's homework. But it is your job to make sure your child has completed his work, or has made a reasonable attempt to do so. When the school year begins, find out what the system is for tracking homework assignments. Some schools have a call-in line for students and parents where you can listen to a recorded message with the list of that day's homework. Other schools have websites that are updated daily with class assignments.

Create a home office
Successful students need a place where they can focus on their business. If they do not already have a designated spot at home to do their work, create one. Is it possible to get them a desk for their bedroom? Or set aside space in the dining room or at the kitchen table where they can easily spread out their notebooks and papers? Having a workspace that is theirs helps with establishing a weekday homework routine.

Set study hours
Before the first day of school, set expectations with your child about the after-school routine. Most parents are not at home in the afternoon; they're at work. Parents with children who will return directly home after school need to talk about what the weekday routine will be: coming directly home, getting a snack, and settling in to study. Encourage your child to set an alarm on her watch or phone reminding her to get to work. Without a routine, many children and teens will simply turn on the television when they get home, or get on the phone with their friends.

Make homework fun
Some students might enjoy turning homework into a game. Write each homework subject (math, writing, geography, science) onto a piece of paper. Put the slips of paper into a jar. When it is time to begin homework, pull a slip of paper out of the jar. Whatever is on it is the first study topic.

Set time limits
Few of us can maintain intense focus for long periods of time. Have your child set a cooking timer or watch or phone alarm for 20 minutes. Encourage your child to work steadily through that 20-minute time period and to take a break when the timer goes off. After five minutes, they can return to their homework with a clear mind.

Make homework social
Kids are really social, especially high school students. Encourage your child to get a study buddy or form a homework club that meets once a week. They can meet in the library after school. Kids who study in small groups tend to study for longer periods of time, and they can help each other out.

Stay involved
Many parents attend every event held during elementary school, but don't go to open houses held at the high school. This is a terrible mistake. Attend open houses at the beginning of the year and be sure to take advantage of scheduled parent-teacher conferences. By making school events a top priority, you are showing your child how important her education is to you.

Teach by example
Many parents are really good about reading to their children when they are toddlers and even into the early elementary school grades. But don't let it stop there. Make reading a habit in your family and encourage a love of reading by talking with your children about the books and magazine articles you are reading yourself.

Turn off the television
The average adult watches nearly three hours of television a day. If this is you, try to replace some of that time with reading, talking with your children, or even playing family board games. Set a good example for your children not just by turning off the television, but by replacing that passive activity with something more engaging for the whole family. You can make television more of a treat by having a designated family movie night, or limiting it to a weekend activity.

Ayele Shakur is Executive Director of BUILD Greater Boston and Chair of the Boston NAACP Education Committee.