As I write this, my windows are open with a cool breeze coming in. It must be May…
It is March 19, and I saw several school children wearing shorts at bus stops today. My school has not even had spring break yet! As if it not hard enough to finish the school year once May weather arrives in May, we now have May-like weather in March with at least 10 weeks of school left to go. How in the world will we ever get to the end of the school year? What normally is a topic of discussion mid-April or later is a good topic to consider today.
How can parents, friends, and family help those who are in school to finish the school year well? I thought about this on my ride home from work yesterday, and I think that there are some key factors to remember.
Devote time each day to review what needs to be done.
My daughter is a major planner. If something is due in a week, she looks at how busy the time between now and then will be and schedules work time so that it can be done on time. I did not teach her this, so I do not know where she gets it!
When the kids were little, their teachers required them to write down their assignments for every subject every day, to their planner to a parent, and then to have us to sign off on their planners meaning that we had seen what they needed to do. This created a great habit in them to be sure that they knew what was due tomorrow, the next day, and the next. It also created a great habit in us – their “responsible parents” – to ask about their homework and what was do.
This does not have to be time consuming. Having a planner helps. And this cuts down on last minute panic (even though we have had those moments…even the best plans can go hay-wire) for both the students and the parents. Many schools have online grade books; find out how to use those now so that you can keep tabs on what needs to be turned in and how your child has done in school.
Parents are the key to their own students’ successes in school.
As a parent, have high expectations.
We do not pay our children for grades. Instead, we expect them to do the best that they can. We expect them to be A students because we think they can be A students in most areas. If they cannot be A students, we want them to be able to tell us why. Being A students requires that they work hard, that they plan ahead, and that they master material. Their pay-off will come later because they will have worked hard and mastered material thus making them better citizens in the future. A little disclaimer here: our children do not struggle with school nor do they have learning disabilities, so I am not expecting anything from them that they cannot attain or articulate. For students with learning disabilities, I would suggest that parents consult with their children’s teachers in order to set expectations. That being said, I think that all students need to have expectations that ask them to stretch, learn, and grow.
These expectations should never slack off. It does not matter how nice it is outside, how busy the children are, or how many days are left to the end of the school year. We need to have high expectations that are consistent and that endure from the start of the school year until the end. Our children will take their cues from us as parents. If we give them any lee-way when it comes to their schoolwork, they will take that and run with it. Instead, we need to have high expectations from the start of the school year to the end of the school.
As parents, we need to model studious behavior and do “work” together as a family.
Whether we simply read a book while they complete their schoolwork or write a blog post (ha!), we should model studious behavior so that we can all be in it together. I think that part of the problem with children disliking homework is because sometimes their parents are doing fun things like watching television. If we normalize study as something that we do as part of our ongoing lives, kids will be more apt to see it as something we all do rather than something they do while we have fun.
Imagine this as part of your routine: have the kids help with dinner preparations and clean up, then sit down together in the family room to read books. Working together makes it seem like less of a chore for everyone. And whoever said that study should be a chore? I love to read; my kids love to read. If parents who do not like to read at least pretended that they did every now and then, their kids might love to read as well. Reading is such a fundamental skill, and the only way to get better at it is to do it. So – read (or stare at a book – you never know, maybe it will be interesting eventually) and encourage your kids to read.
Another idea is for parents to apply skills learned in school while the kids are studying. Imagine if you pay bills while their kids do their math homework. It can be interesting to be able to use the same skills they are when they are. If they ask you what you are doing, just say, “Oh, a little application of math.” GREAT idea! The other day the tech guru at my kids’ high school theater applied pre-calculus concepts to the set design; my daughter was very impressed.
Schedule play time for all.
One of the reasons that kids get burned out on school is that it can take over their lives. We all need to let off some steam. With the reduction of time spent outdoors during the school day, that time needs to be increased at home. Schedule time for work, yes, but also schedule time for play – outdoors or inside – for the entire family. I am not talking about sitting in front of the television. In fact, I am pretty much an opponent of television. What I am talking about is getting active, getting involved in each others’ lives, and playing games – bocci ball on the lawn or Ticket to Ride (Europe version is my favorite) in the house. Get a family membership to the YMCA. Take a walk together. Whatever it takes – give the brain a break so that it work well when it needs to do so.
So….to wrap it up…
It’s not easy to stick it out when there is an end in sight, but this is one of the most important aspects of any family’s life. Maybe it would be a lot easier if schools were year round, but that is most likely another blog post.
What tips do you have for finishing the school year well? How can friends and family members support kids as they finish the school year?