How to Be the Parent at the Head of the Class

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Five ways to help your child get the most out of this school year.

Your child is ready for school, but what about you? Research shows that kids whose parents are involved in their children's learning are high performers.

Too busy? Even if you can't join the PTA, helping out is not as hard as you may think. Here, the top tasks teachers wish parents would complete:

State your standards.

Rather than simply respond to the grades that come home, be clear about what you expect from your youngster. Then share your expectations with the teacher and follow up by reviewing class work and home work regularly.

Do your part.

"Education is a shared responsibility," says Otha Thornton, president of the National PTA. Upholding your end is key. Foster an educational environment at home, visit museums, discuss current events and read newspapers together.

Communicate effectively.

The partnership with your child's teacher will be the most important working relationship in your kid's life. Most school districts have e-mail accounts for its instructors. Handwritten notes placed in students' backpacks also do the trick. If your little one had trouble with an assignment or your family is going through a stressful time, tell the teacher that your child's work may be affected.

Don't skimp on the basics.

A daily family routine of sit-down meals—especially a solid breakfast—and a regular sleep schedule keep youngsters ready to learn. "No teacher can teach a child who is hungry or tired," says Regina O'Connor-Horton, a reading specialist in Montclair, New Jersey. These disciplined activities also help kids understand how to order their little lives and maintain healthy habits as they get older.

Stay on top of the curriculum.

O'Connor-Horton notes that parents of the most successful students often enrich their kid's classroom learning by utilizing advanced worksheets available online and employing tutors who teach ahead of the course material.

This article was originally published in the September issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now. 

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