How to help your children succeed in school?

Kids studying.

“Parents are . . . the most important educators of their own children,” maintains Doreen Grant, author of a study of the influence of school on the home environment.

But as a parent, you may find that idea hard to accept.

Where, then, do schools fit into parental arrangements for education?

And what should be the relationship between parents and school teachers for children to succeed in school?

Parents and teachers association

Perhaps you observe that the methods of teaching have changed greatly since you went to school.

Nowadays, schools feature hitherto-unknown subjects, such as media studies, health education, and microelectronics.

This has led some parents to keep their contact with school to a minimum.

Dr. David Lewis in Help Your Child Through School writes:

"Talking to their child’s teachers can make the most self-assured adult feel five years old and four feet tall,”

Indeed, only when serious problems occur do some parents contact their children’s teachers. And then, more often than not, it is to complain.

Nevertheless, parents can, and many do, make a significant contribution to their children’s education by cooperating with teachers.

Parental responsibility requires you to examine and take an interest in what your child learns at school. Why is this?

Because teachers, professionally, serve as your moral agents.

The values they maintain affect their pupils, for children look on teachers as role models.

For their part, most teachers welcome the cooperation of their pupils’ parents.

One headmaster wrote to parents:

"It has become apparent to us teachers, more than in any previous year, that a whole range of our pupils, especially those starting school, are even now largely callous and unfeeling, thoroughly ill-bred. Many are completely unrestrained, not knowing where to draw the line; have no sense of guilt; are extremely self-centered, antisocial; and become aggressive without obvious reason, strangling and kicking [others].”

This educator continued:

"Even though we teachers have far more difficulty as a result, we don’t want to complain. But we have to recognize that, despite all effort, school cannot educate and bring up children on its own. We should like to encourage you dear parents to venture to take a greater hand yourselves in the upbringing of your children and not surrender to the television or to the street what is actually your own share of [the responsibility for] their personality development, teaching them standards of behavior.”

Even when teachers make such a plea for cooperation, many parents are still reluctant to help.

“Not because they are uncaring, too busy or lack confidence,” claims David Lewis.

 “But from their firm belief that how well, or badly, a child does in class has little to do with upbringing and everything to do with their genes.”

But this concept is simply not true.

Just as problems at home often affect a child’s classwork, so a good home life can help a child get the best out of school.

“The family accounts for educational success and failure far more than the school,” concludes one educational survey.

The book How to Help Your Child Through School agrees:

"Even the busiest parent should recognize that their attitude—the interest and encouragement they show, and the support they give, even at a distance—can be crucial to children’s progress.”

How, then, can you achieve good cooperation with your child’s teachers?

(1) Take an active interest in what your child learns

The best time to start is when your child begins to attend school.

Younger children generally accept parental assistance better than adolescents do.

Read with your child. “Some 75 per cent of formal learning,” according to David Lewis, “takes place via reading.” You can thus play a leading role in developing your child’s fluency in reading.

Research suggests that the progress of children who are helped to read at home often exceeds that of youngsters who receive assistance from specialist teachers at school.

Similarly, you can help your child with writing and, yes, arithmetic.

“You do not need to be a mathematical genius to help with primary mathematics,” comments educator Ted Wragg.

 Of course, if you need help yourself in these areas, do not let any lack of skill prevent you from taking a genuine interest in what your child is learning.

(2) Consult your child’s teacher about the curriculum

By reading the school’s prospectus, find out what your child will be taught.

Doing so before the school term begins will alert you to problem areas.

Then, a visit to the teacher to discuss how your parental wishes can be respected will pave the way for good cooperation.

Take advantage of meetings the school organizes for teachers to get acquainted with parents.

On open days, visit the school, and talk with your child’s teachers.

Such contacts prove invaluable, especially when problems arise.

(3) Help your child choose his options

Know your child’s likes and dislikes.

Talk about worthwhile goals.

Consult the teachers to find out all possible options.

They will know about any scheduling problems that restrict the choice of subjects.

The Proper Approach

Instead of complaining and criticizing, be your child’s advocate through consultation and cooperation with the teachers.

Doing so, you will help your child get the very best out of school.

You can avoid much worry and heartache over your child’s education by remembering that successful partnerships are built on good communication.

Here are some tips that can foster better parent and teacher communication:

1. Get to know your child’s teachers.

2. Double-check your facts before making any complaints.

3. If upset or angry, always cool down before speaking to the teacher.

4. Before meeting the teacher, write down the questions you want to ask, and list the goals you hope to achieve.

5. State your position firmly and clearly, and then work with the teacher to see what practical steps can be taken to overcome any problems.

6. Put yourself in the teacher’s position. Ask what you would do in his place. This will help you negotiate a satisfying outcome.

7. Listen as well as speak. If you disagree with what’s being said, then say so, and courteously explain why.

—Based on Help Your Child Through School, by Dr. David Lewis.