Making The New School Year Successful

   With the end of summer comes the inevitable stress of getting your children ready for another school year.
Consider these tips to ease the way.

• Do not compare siblings. Children are individuals, and each one has her own strengths. People perform better in different areas and it is difficult to live up to unrealistic expectations. Encourage each child to perform to the best of his ability.

• Catch your kids doing something right! Nothing puts a child in shutdown mode more quickly than being scolded for bad grades or incomplete homework assignments. Understand that students who struggle are looking for an excuse to stop working altogether. Too often, parents provide that excuse by yelling, taking away privileges, and making the child feel worse than he already feels. You need to find out what the problem is before you can fix it. Are the assignments too difficult? Has your child gone for extra help? Have you contacted the teacher? Is a tutor necessary? Walk before you run, and investigate before you “fly off the handle.”

• Set up a plan. Don’t take privileges away; add more privileges into the mix. If your child wants 20 minutes free time of, say, “No, you can have 45 minutes but only after your work is done.” Extra privileges are simply a bonus, not bribery.

• Build in breaks. Students should take short breaks from work every 20 minutes in order to reenergize. Breaks should be taken away from the study area.

• Don’t tell, ask. Enabling is a huge mistake. Students learn by figuring things out for themselves. They do not learn by writing down regurgitated facts that they quote from their parents. If your child asks for the capital of New York say, “What do you think it is? Where can you look up the answer to that question?”

• Get them organized. Students work best in loose-leaf notebooks. Spiral notebooks make it difficult to save work when it is returned, forcing them to throw it into a folder, which can get very disorganized. The notebook should have different sections, such as class work, homework, tests and quizzes. Supply them with a hole-punch for teacher handouts that can be placed chronologically in the proper section of their notebook. Students need to learn that when studying for a unit test, they can review all relevant class work, homework, and quizzes. When your child shows you her notebook, don’t say, “This notebook is a mess.” Instead say, “This is a good start, but what can you do to make it even better?”

• Communicate. Speak via phone, email or snail mail with your child’s teacher as often as possible. Progress reports come out every five weeks and by then half the quarter is over and this is too late. Look at your child’s grades and tests every so often with her. Do not make negative comments.

• Don’t compare. The grade your child’s friend is getting has no bearing on your child’s performance. All children learn in different ways and some children react better to certain teachers and perform differently in certain subjects.

• Keep a clean learning space. A child’s desk should be neat and well lit, and have a semi-comfortable chair. No studying should take place in bed. Pens, erasers, pencils, paper, paper clips, stapler… all should be within reach.

• Minimize distractions. If you need to take your child’s cell phone away during study time, do it; you are paying the bill so you make the rules. If you think the computer should be turned off, then turn it off; otherwise instant messages will rule their universe. There are far too many distractions in our society. Try to control them within your own home.

• Make a team effort. Your child’s success involves you, the teacher, and a personal commitment to work hard. Set expectations high and accept no less than 100 percent effort. If grades start to fall or problems arise, act swiftly and be in organized mode, not panic mode.

MARC HOBERMAN, M.S. Ed., is a Rockland dad and owner of Grade Success, Inc., in Airmont. His services include instruction for students in grades K-12, college prep, speed-reading and study skills, and a full service College Advisement Center. He is a motivational speaker, author and educator with over 22 years of teaching experience. He can be contacted at (845) 369-7967;;