One of my favorite things about my kids’ school is the philosophy teachers and staff are coming alongside us parents as we raise our kids. The flip side of that is true: As parents, we want to support what the teachers are doing for our kids in the classroom.
I’m not done raising kids, but I have some school experience now that I have a high school freshman, a sixth-grader, and a kindergartner.
All three of my kids attended preschool, although they were enrolled in different private preschools throughout the years. All three preschool programs were great starts to their educations, helping them ease into full-time school.
Children certainly soak in the world around them. At preschool, your child might not be sitting in a classroom listening to their teacher give a lecture, but they are learning all day. They will learn all sorts of things, including how to make friends, develop fine motor skills, and how to identify different letters.
At home, parents can support preschoolers’ education by understanding age-appropriate learning and development goals. Recognize this is only the beginning. It’s a good time to establish routines at home, talk about what your child is learning as you go about your day with them, and encourage independent play.
Starting kindergarten is a big change for a child. We’re in our fourth week of school, and Rachel is still coming home tired. She’s going every weekday for seven hours, learning new routines and expectations, taking spelling tests, practicing writing, making new friends, and learning to read. Thankfully playtime is incorporated too.
Parents may benefit from reading The Stages Of Spelling Development: A Guide For Parents to understand where a child is in terms of learning important academic skills. It can also be a smart time to understand more about your child’s learning style.
In elementary school, children’s education becomes more academically focused. While they are still developing things like social skills, they also start to explore a range of academic subjects. Thankfully, our school is good at allowing parents to connect directly with teachers. Although COVID has changed some things last year and this school year, parent-teacher conferences, holiday parties, special programs, and field trips are great ways to stay involved.
This is also when homework comes into the picture. I appreciate that our kids’ school doesn’t require tons of homework, but, as a mom, I do like to see what they’re studying.
Middle school is a transitional period in more than one way for your child. More independence comes in these years. At my kids’ school, sixth-graders move to the Upper School building, have lockers for the first time, change classes and have multiple teachers, and get more freedom for lunch. It’s a lot to navigate, especially when most of my boy’s class had to be quarantined after our first day this year.
As a middle schooler, other responsibilities Ben has now are communicating more directly with teachers through email and Google Classroom, keeping up with assignments in the different classes, and bringing the right books and supplies to the right classes. He also started wearing a watch so he knew how many minutes he had between classes.
I like chatting with my kids about school on the drive home. Some days they tell me more than others, but I want them to know they can always discuss academics, extracurriculars, friendships, and concerns. I try not to pressure them to tell me details about their days, but I do try to keep up with what’s happening.
In high school, there can be a lot of pressure for teenagers to start thinking about what happens after school. While they might have four years to think about it, it can still be tough to have to consider their adult life. But there are many ways you can support your teen while still allowing them their independence.
Here we are with our oldest, Cate. I’m thankful for my kids’ small school, where families are connected to each other and all the students preschool through high school are on the same campus. Even so, some more freedoms and responsibilities come with these years.
Cate definitely has more assignments to keep up with and manages them on her Chromebook. The teachers communicate less directly with parents, which is part of kids learning to handle their school life. Of course, I still try to help her when she needs it.
We’re barely in this season, but I do know conversations about what’s next will be happening more often. My husband and I do try to do this by sharing our experiences. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re already here!
Just before Cate’s freshman year began, she got her piece of college mail and then got a “legacy” care package from Murray State, where Greg and I met as college students and where our kids have grown up going to basketball and football games. Soon this season will become more about college preparation and exploring career options.
This season isn’t just about academics. Parents offering mental support is also essential. High school can be a challenging time socially, emotionally, and academically. Some teenagers may feel pressure to fit in and succeed academically. They may also experience new emotions and challenges while figuring out insecurities like getting their overbite fixed. Parents can help their children by listening to them, giving encouragement, and helping them set realistic expectations. I’ve found myself sharing some stories from my own childhood with my teenager to remind her she’s not alone.
Beyond High School
Once a child has graduated from high school, their education is much more their own responsibility. Parents might be involved in some ways, such as helping to choose colleges or even helping to pay for college, but it’s ultimately up to the young adults what they want to do and whether they want to continue their education. Parents can still support them by listening to them talk about their classes or attending important events, even if they’re not helping with nightly homework or speaking to their teachers.
Parenting is about supporting and loving them through all the seasons — even the ones where the children become adults. You can support your child’s education at any age, from before they start school and into adulthood.