It’s time to put down the boogie boards and pick up the books, because school is back in session. To help prepare you for the opportunities-and challenges- of the new school year, spoke to Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, Child Development Research Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Check out the Top 5 ways to maximize your child’s education.

Think Big
Research proves that having high expectations for your child is a predictor of their academic success, above other forms of parental involvement. Great expectations motivate children by sending the signal that they’re expected to –and capable of- performing at a high level. Verbal reinforcement allows children, even in the face of failure and obstacles, to continue to persist.

Field Trip (for you)
Trying to balancing a demanding career, housework and a relationship doesn’t leave you with a lot of extra time but squeezing in a regular (monthly or weekly) visit to your child’s school or classroom can make a huge difference in their academic achievements. By visiting your kid’s  school (especially at the beginning of the year), you develop a stronger relationship with the teacher and other school personnel, a deeper knowledge of your child’s learning style (i.e. group, individual) and of course, you learn about the curriculum, which allows you to reinforce learning at home. Visiting the school sends a clear message to your child that education is important. And remember, your child should see you at school when they’re not in trouble.

Talk About it
Daily conversations between you and your child are important in academic success. A quick talk at the end of the day allows you to get a better understanding of your child’s needs, struggles and accomplishments. These heart to hearts also foster vocabulary and communication skills and a stronger bond between the two of you. Above all, it proves to your child that you are concerned about them and their learning, which will increase the likelihood of them remaining engaged and attentive during the school day.

Takes a Village
No one can do it alone. As a parent, try to connect with other parents in the community or school. These networks can provide support and help when dealing with challenging teachers and school staff, after-school ideas and transportation. Parent support groups can also offer leverage for families who are in need of services and resources like counselors and better facilities.

Do Your Research
Every child deserves a good education regardless of their zip code. While many families cannot afford private schools, there are ways to ensure that your child receive the same type of education. Visit the best schools in your community, ask questions about the curriculum and instructional approaches and use that information to supplement your child’s education. Compare the curriculum to your current school and rely on supplemental resources from the library, book stores, teachers and the Internet to help you close the gap.