Seven items parents should check now to improve their kid’s learning success mid-year and counter a potential dip
Mid-year is when parents alike have a good idea about how their kids are doing in school – which subjects are hard or easy and how they like their teachers.
This is also a time of year when parents often overlook a few important aspects of their children’s school experience that can greatly impact learning success. That’s why now is the ideal time to do a mid-year check up with your child’s progress, identify potential problems and resolve them so you make the remainder of your child’s school year go far smoother and not be caught off-guard. And if you suspect a problem, please don’t wait! Call a conference with the teacher ASAP.
Here are seven items to check up on and the solutions to try if you note a problem. While there may be other issues to explore, I’ve found from my experience as teacher and psychologist, these are the top reasons for a learning dip mid-year.
1. Academic Progress Dip
Classes often get harder now. Older kids may have switched classes or teachers. High stakes testing is approaching. Teachers will decide if your child will be promoted, retained or recommended for special placement. And all of those issues can greatly impact your child’s learning success.
Parent Check-In: Make sure you recheck the teacher’s website for your child’s current grades and test scores.If notice adownslide in your child’s academic progress do this:
~ Set a conference with teacher. Review test scores, grades, as well as achievement test results, which should now be available.
~ Find out what would improve school performance: a tutor, a class change, or hitting those books harder, then develop a plan together before you leave that meeting.
~ If your child needs a tutor consider hiring a retired teacher or even a high school student if cost is an issue.
~ Check upcoming class projectswith your child like the science fair, extended book report, that social studies project and mark due dates on a calendar so your child can allow time and effort to complete those tasks. .
2. Attendance and Tardies
Next to grades, the highest correlation to school success is showing up in class on time ready to learn. Many parents are shocked to discover their kids are “missing” classes and marked absent even though you thought you sent your child to school on time.
Parent Check-In: Don’t overlook reviewing your child’s attendance and tardies which are posted on the school’s website. If there is a discrepancy do this:
Solutions: Find out what’s going on why and find a simple solution.
~ If your child is chronically late waking up, get him an alarm clock.
~ Communicate with the teacher on a daily or weekly basis until the problem is resolved.
~ Don’t overlook another cause: could his tardiness have anything due to your own behavior like you can’t find those car keys for the carpool or you’re always scheduling his doctor’s appointments during his crucial AP science class? Revamp your own behavior if needed.
3. Lacks Friends or Rejected
Friends play an enormous part of not only our children’s self-esteem but also school success.
A lack of friends or rejection makes concentrating on those school assignments a lot harder. While your child doesn’t need many friends he does need one loyal buddy and hanging around the kind of friends who value education does impact his learning.
Parent Check-in: To see if your child has peer support is to ask him to draw a map of school locations where kids most likely to be excluded: school cafeteria or playground. Where are other kids in relation to your child? If no friends, bullied or rejected frequently:
~ Contact the teacher for friendship-making ideas.
~ Find group activity to support your child’s passion. School-aged children choose friends based on similar interests so identify your child’s passion or interests and then find a group activity with same-aged peers that support it. For instance, if he loves guitar, find him a group class where he’ll be more likely to make a new buddy.
~ If bullied, sit down with the school staff and design a safety plan. See also my posts on How to Bully Proof Your Child, Signs of Bullying, What to Do If Bullying Intensifies (put Bullying into the search bar and choose from dozens of blog posts.
4. Activity Overload
Many students are on activity overload taking on more activities after the holidays,which may contribute to stress and cut into energy and time needed to devote to school-work.
Parent Check-in: Assess if your child’s weekly activity schedule is balanced and allows downtime to relax or be with friends.Are you noticing that your child is having trouble this semester concentrating or focusing? If the schedule is on overload:
~ Sit down with your child and cut one thing to free up time and give him a chance to decompress. Cutting just one thing can make a difference.
5. Sleep Deprived
A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s to learn and perform at school.
Missing one hour of sleep can affect as much as one grade on the test the following morning. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep!
Parent Check: Take time to assess how your child handles the day (irritability and acting out can mean a lack of sleep). If she wakes up in the morning droggy and unrefreshed:
~ Restore a routine bedtime schedule. Often after the holiday break that routine decreases and many kids are on jet lag. Research finds sticking to a routine bed time is the best way for a good night sleep.
~ Watch that your teen doesn’t stay out too late on those weekends. Monday mornings can be deadly for those first period teachers if kids are asleep on their desks.
~ Turn computer and TV off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime –flickering lights affect sleep.
~ Remove cell phones after lights out. Sixty-two percent of kids admit they use it after the lights go out and their parents are clueless.
6. Skipped Meals
A healthy breakfast is important for concentrating and keeping up with the stamina.
Parent Check: Are mornings rushed and your kid is missing that crucial first meal? If so:
~Find healthy options to grab on the run like ready-to-go bottles of orange juice or milk, low-fat yogurt, apples and whole-grain English muffins.
~Set up a basket of multi-grain snackbars right by the door or toss in one or two bars inside your child’s backpack to make it through the day.
~Watch for coffee, caffeinated sodas or energy drinks consumption -a growing teen trend for energy and can rob sleep and cause. Restock your fridge with easy to grab bottles of water for backpacks.
7. Too Stressed
Eighty-five percent of teens say they are stressed and many say it is affecting their school performance.
Unchecked stress buildup can also affect your child’s sleep, grades, behavior, health, relationship with you, interaction with others-in fact, it can cause havoc in just about every arena of your child’s life.
Parent Check: Have you seen a marked change since the holidays began from your child’s “normal” behavior that lasts everyday for at least two weeks? Is he more irritable or withdrawn lately? Does she have trouble concentrating or have more headaches? Is he quicker to frustrate? Don’t overlook stress. If so:
Look further to assess if it is stress-related. Identify what’s triggering the stress, reduce those triggers that you can (like that difficult of a math class).
~ Consider yoga, exercise or healthy ways to help your child learn to decompress
~ Check your family home climate to make sure it allows “downtime” and a supportive environment for your child
~ Decide if the AP class really is worth it; can you cut one activity (see above) or get a tutor to help the child?
~ Teach your child ways to handle stress so he can cope. See my blog posts on STRESS and ways to help children keep a lid on stress. Or review Chapter Five: Self-Regulation, in my latest book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.
The secret is to identify simple things you may overlook that can affect your child’s learning success. Then find a solution that works for your family and commit to implementing it until you reap positive change.
Dr. Michele Borba
Parenting Expert, Educational Psychologist and TODAY Contributor.
For more tips see my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check and follow me on Twitter @MicheleBorba