Advocate - You know your child better than anyone. If you see that your child is struggling -- or isn't challenged enough -- you can talk with teachers and counselors to get the help or additional resources they need.
Balance - Schoolwork is important, but it's equally important that students learn how to lead a well-rounded and balanced life. Encourage your child to join a club or sport, or participate in other extra-curricular activities. After-school activities can help their academic and personal development.
Be Proactive - Getting involved early in the school year can help head off some potential problems. But if problems do arise, don't wait to take action. Initiate dialogue with your child and with the teacher or counselor so that together you can find the best solution.
Build Relationships - Get to know the teachers and administrators at your child's school. Build relationships with other parents, and get involved on committees that affect the school. You can be a much stronger advocate for your child if you have relationships with the people involved in their education.
Create Space - Make sure your child has an appropriate place and environment in which to study. There needs to be room to spread out books, good lighting, and necessary tools such as dictionaries or calculators. Some students need a very quiet environment while others do better with some background noise. Suit the study space to your child.
Challenge - Don't let your child settle into "cruise control" and do just enough to get by. Find out what he or she is interested in and challenge them to stretch their minds in that subject. If your school doesn't offer a subject your child would like to study, or if the classes aren't sufficiently challenging, consider other options such as an online course for enrichment or extra credit. For example, K12 has a wide range of individual courses including foreign languages and college-level AP classes.
Communicate - Keep the lines of communication open with your student and your school. Make sure your child knows your expectations -- and when you are proud of his or her efforts and achievements. Stay on top of school communications tools such as newsletters and bulletins. Go to parent-teacher conferences, and make sure you have contact information for teachers and counselors at the school.
Other Options to Help Your Child Succeed
Traditional brick-and-mortar education isn't always the best fit for every student. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that school districts across the country had an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in online education courses for the 2009-2010 school year.
Whether it's for a single course or full-time enrollment, there are several reasons parents choose online learning for their children:
•The option to take AP and Honors courses.•Filling an academic void with art, music or other vital subjects not offered locally.•Resolving scheduling conflicts.•Retaking courses to catch up with peers, build self-esteem, and graduate on time.•Taking language classes not available at the local school.
"I enrolled my children in Wisconsin Virtual Academy, an online learning school which offered a high-quality, personalized education program," said Fernandez. "It had a rich mixture of online and offline teaching tools, integrated lesson plans, and assessments to make sure my children mastered a particular area before moving on at their own pace. It met the needs of my children, and made it easy for me to get and stay involved." You can find out more about online learning at www.K12.com.
The bottom line for parents is that you can make a difference in your child's education. From small day-to-day interactions to bigger decisions about where and how your child learns, you can be a champion for your child's education -- and they need you to take up the cause.
Ask the Right Questions
•Find out about teacher expectations of student performance. What percentage of the grade comes from tests, homework and class participation? •Find out about the school's stance on communication with parents. Are there regular check-ins with your child's teacher, either in person or via email? Is parental involvement in the education process welcomed or discouraged?•Find out how individual learning needs are met. Are there individualized education plans for students who struggle? How are the needs of gifted students met? Are there paraprofessionals available in class?
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