Monday, May 18, 2009

End of school year

This is the last week of school (hallelujah), and we're getting ready for the summer. A few questions:

• Do you have school-aged children? Is one of your children starting kindergarten in the fall?

• What are your summer plans, as far as daycare? Are you happy where your child is in daycare this summer?

• What are you doing to get ready for the next school year? Do you know the principal at your child's school? Are you active in the PTA or other parent groups?

I'm asking these questions to share tips I've learned, and to encourage you to get involved in your child's education. It was scary for me to see my daughter walk through those doors on the first day of kindergarten, not knowing her teacher or the other kids in that classroom. I cried at the thought of her growing up, and the uncertainty of her first year in "big school."

Tip: get to know your child's teacher, especially at the kindergarten level. This is the person who is going to spend every day with your child, and will be doing her best to teach her whole class the basics of the kindergarten curriculum. Ask her about her classroom management techniques, and what you can do to reinforce at home her discipline system. If there's something you disagree with, talk to her about it; don't try to undermine at home what she's doing at school to keep order in the class. Keep in mind that some of the kids in her class have never been in a classroom setting, and are going to have a difficult time adjusting to the structure.

And one more tip: Read to your child. Read every day, and encourage him/her to read, too.

As for summer plans, it's tempting to be lazy, sit at home and play video games all summer. But try to do what you can to keep your child mentally and physically fit in the off season. There are tons of summer camps in the arts, athletics and, yes, academic. If you have to work and can't take your child to camps, look for a summer program that offers more than just baby-sitting. Look for a program that has field trips, maybe dance class or swim lessons. Keep your child learning and active. And check at your child's school for summer reading lists.

For next year, make time to get to know the principal at your child's school. Ask questions about the curriculum your child will be learning, and things you can do at home to prepare. Find out how the school ranks on the state's accountability scale. What's going on in the gifted classrooms, and what are the facilities like? Is the building clean and organized? What resources are available in the library?

And, of course, ask about the PTA or PTO. For working moms, it's hard to be at the school every day, and to go to officer meetings that are held during work hours. But most PTA meetings are at night, and there are always volunteer opportunities. It's not easy to be a presence at your child's school, but when parents are involved, children always, always do better in the classroom.

This school year, I was not able to be part of the PTO at daughter's school. But next year, she'll be in school where I work and I will be there. It's going to be nice to have lunch with her sometimes, and to work with the principals and teachers. I've already been recruited to the PTA board, and I'm looking forward to getting to know the other parents as well. Daughter has done OK so far, and I'm expecting her to only get better as time goes on.

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