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How can I be a more active middle school parent?

Getting involved in your child's education is very important. Research shows that when families get involved, their children get better grades in school, graduate from high school at a higher rate, are more likely to go to college, and are better behaved and have more positive attitudes.

There are many things you can do both at home and at your child's school to get more involved in your child's education.

At Home

The most important thing you can do at home is to create an environment that encourages learning. Studies have shown that children who come from homes where learning is a part of the family's normal daily routine perform better in school. The following suggestions contribute to the development of a positive learning environment:
  • Make reading a daily routine. Have your child read to you for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Children who read at home with their parents perform better in school.

  • Keep a variety of good reading materials in your home. Make interesting reading materials easily accessible. Get your child a library card and make frequent trips to the library. Encourage your child to get books that he/she is interested in, and make sure that the books are complimentary to his/her reading level.

  • Keep an adequate supply of pens, pencils, and other writing utensils in your home. Writing takes practice, so encourage your child to express him/herself through writing. Encourage your child to write letters to family members or to write a storybook.

  • Discuss with your child what he/she is learning in school. Doing this will show your child that you are interested in his/her learning, and it will help him/her learn to express him/herself. Ask questions and listen for answers.

  • Make sure your child sees you reading. Serve as an example to your child. This encourages a positive learning environment.

  • Tell your child stories. Telling stories enhances language, communication, and creative thinking skills in children. Talk with your child about historic and cultural events and people. This will also help build his/her knowledge base as well as self-esteem.

  • Limit television viewing and monitor what your child watches. Excessive television viewing can lead to poor academic performance, creative thinking, and reasoning skills. Limit the amount and types of television shows that your child watches. Watch television with children, and talk about the programs you've seen together.

  • Provide your child with a regular, quiet place to study. Establish a regular place and time each day or evening during which your child is expected to work on homework or other school projects. Even if he/she does not have any homework, encourage your child to use this time to read or to practice writing. This will help establish a daily routine and will encourage his/her academic development.

  • Monitor out-of-school activities. Ensure that your child is involved in learning opportunities beyond the school day. Enroll him/her in after-school activities and/or supervised care.

  • Express high but realistic expectations for achievement. Set goals and standards that are appropriate for your child's age and maturity. Communicate with your child about these standards, and stress that achievement comes from working hard. Expect and encourage your child to take challenging courses and to try new things.

  • Help your child with homework. Be patient when assisting your child with his/her homework. Guide him/her; however, be careful not to give away the answers. If you are unable to assist your child with homework, make sure your child receives tutoring through school, a community center, or another friend or relative. Review your child's homework, make sure it's complete, and ask questions about it.

  • Regularly review your child's completed work. By the time you receive a report card, your child could be falling behind or failing their coursework. While report cards only come out several times a year, your child completes and receives feedback on their work every day. Review his/her completed work and pay special attention to the grades and comments by his/her teacher(s). You can also request a progress report from your child's teacher(s) at any time.

  • Praise your child. Children who have a healthy self-esteem tend to perform better in school. Praise your child when he/she has done well or when he/she has completed a difficult task or tried something new. Remind him/her of past successes. By praising your child, you are also expressing interest in him/her and in his/her work.

  • Encourage active learning. Listen to your child's ideas and make a point to respond. Allow your child to ask questions and encourage him/her to state his/her opinions. When this type of give-and-take between parent and child happens at home, a child's participation and interest in school increases.

  • Encourage your child to think about the future. Children need realistic, reasonable expectations, and they need the satisfaction of having some of these expectations met. Children need to take part in making decisions and finding out the consequences of the decisions they have made.

  • Keep a school calendar of activities and events posted at home. A posted school calendar will help your family to know what is going on at school. The calendar can serve as an aid to help families prepare for school activities and events. This calendar will also help you to identify when and where you may be able to volunteer or get involved at the school.

  • Help your child see the connection between school lessons and life lessons. Help your child to understand what he/she is learning in school by relating it to everyday life events and experiences. Show your child how to apply what he/she has learned in school. For example, help your child see how math and reading are important by going grocery shopping and asking him/her to identify certain items, the contents of the items, and the cost. Ask your child which item is the best bargain. Give a history lesson by explaining to him/her what his/her life would have been like without the civil rights movement or women's voting rights, for example.

  • Emphasize educational opportunities that exist after high school graduation. While graduating from high school is an important event, make sure that high school graduation is not perceived as your child's ultimate goal. Be sure to expose your child to academic opportunities beyond high school and inform him/her of what will be required to take advantage of these opportunities. This will help your child to seek educational goals beyond graduation.

  • Use community resources. Activities sponsored by community and religious organizations provide opportunities for children and other family members to engage in positive social and learning experiences and to be exposed to positive peers and role models. You can reinforce your child's learning by participating in and taking advantage of community resources in your area. These resources include museums, libraries, cultural fairs, community centers, places of worship, and the like.

At School

Studies have shown that when parents are involved at their child's school, their child tends to perform better and stay in school longer. Following are some suggestions on how you can get involved:
  • Meet with your child's teacher(s). Your child's teacher(s) has important information on what is going on in school and how your child is performing. In addition, the teacher can tell you what is expected of your child and provide you with tips to assist with your child's learning.

  • Ensure that your child is enrolled in challenging academic courses. Challenging courses have proven to reduce classroom boredom and behavior problems in children. In addition, challenging courses will help your child develop basic study skills and habits that will prepare him/her for high school and college.

  • Familiarize yourself with California academic standards. Learn how your child's school is performing in accordance with state standards. Learn what your child's school is doing to both meet and improve upon these standards.

  • Find out whether your school has high standards for students. Ask what is expected of your child and what he/she should be learning at each grade level. Be familiar with what your child is expected to know and how he/she is expected to perform. This will aid you in monitoring your child's academic learning and progress.

  • Ask for information about school performance and progress. Know how your child's school is performing in comparison to other schools and in comparison to state standards. Ask the personnel at your child's school about what academic opportunities and programs are available to students before, during, and after school and in the summer.

  • Volunteer at your school. Take part in school events and activities when you can. Join parent organizations or school boards. Volunteer to escort children on a field trip or to help fundraise. Being involved increases your knowledge of what is going on in school and displays your commitment to your child's education.

  • Find out about after-school and summer programs at the school and in the community at large. Involve your child in educational and social learning opportunities outside of school. Contact your school and community agencies to see what is available. This will enhance your child's academic and social development as well as expose him/her to positive role models and peers.

  • Visit your child's classroom. Visiting your child's classroom will give you an understanding of what goes on at your child's school and how he/she performs. In addition, you will also experience first-hand the overall academic environment your child is exposed to on a daily basis.

  • Know your child's school family. Many people within the school impact your child's learning and academic progress. Participate in or attend as many school functions as possible to familiarize yourself with these important people. Key players in your child's education include: teachers, counselors, school social workers, principals, teacher aides, secretaries, and other personnel.

  • Know your school's discipline code. At the beginning of each school year, you should receive a written copy of the school's rules and discipline procedures. Be sure to discuss these with your child, and help your child to understand them. If you do not receive a copy of the discipline code, be sure to call the school to request one.

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