We all need to go "back to school"

Thursday, August 31, 2006

School supplies have been purchased, students are getting adjusted to early morning wake-up calls and now it's time for parents to consider what they can do to make the 2006-07 school year a success.

Study after study reveals that family involvement in school is crucial. Researchers report that a major factor in a child's achievement at school is the level of his or her parents' involvement, regardless of a parent's educational level or socioeconomic status. Students whose parents get involved in the educational process are shown to have a more positive attitude toward school and self, better school attendance and behavior, good homework habits and higher educational goals.

In searching for parental involvement ideas to offer our readers, we found the web site for the U.S. Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov). This web site offers tips and articles for students, parents, teachers and administrators. It also offers information on the No Child Left Behind act.

To help get you back to school, we are listing several ways you can get involved in your child's education. These include:

• Read together. Children who read at home perform better in school. Let your kids see you read and make sure your house is stocked with good books, magazines and newspapers. The Cassville Democrat is proud to offer Newspapers in Education (NIE) at Cassville Schools. This program, with the help of area sponsors, puts newspapers in the classroom each and every week throughout the school year so the teachers can use them as teaching tools, and NIE also promotes an effort to get area students to begin reading a newspaper, which keeps them involved in the community as well. Reading is fundamental to the educational process.

• Monitor TV viewing. Studies have proven that academic achievement drops sharply for children who watch more that 10 hours of television a week or who average more that two hours a day. Parents are urged to limit the amount of TV watching and direct attention to educational programming. This includes the playing of video games.

• Establish a daily routine with scheduled homework time. Encourage your child to do their homework by setting up a regular time for studying in a quiet, well lit area of the home.

• Talk to your children and teenagers and then don't forget to listen.

• Keep in touch with the school. Families who stay informed about their children's progress at school have higher-achieving students. To keep informed, parents can visit the school, talk with teachers on the telephone or communicate through e-mail and notes sent back and forth.

• Volunteer time to assist teachers. Offer to read a story to the class, help create a bulletin board or organize a school party. Teachers appreciate the support and your child will think it's special to see you helping in the classroom.

We end with the words of former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley: "The American family is the rock on which a solid education can be built. I have seen examples all over this nation where two-parent families, single parents, stepparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are providing strong family support for their children to learn. If families teach the love of learning, it can make all the difference in the world to their children."

Support of local schools goes beyond individual families. Communities need to realize that a strengthened educational system is the key to a strong local economy, a good quality of life and a bright future for the next generation. Here are some ways our communities can support schools and family involvement in education.

• Combat alcohol, drugs and violence. Prevention programs such as D.A.R.E. work best when parents, students, schools, law enforcement officials and community leaders join together in spreading the anti-drug message. Communities and schools also need to make sure students have enough activities to keep idle hands busy.

• Teach parenting skills. Programs like Parents As Teachers help improve parent-child relationships.

• Provide mentor programs. Young people need positive role models. Citizens can volunteer to participate in mentor programs at school or through their business that help students with school work, job development and career planning.

• Support your local school district. Teachers and administrators have an important job to do that is made easier if they receive the support of the community. Keep informed about changes at your local district and be ready to step in and help if asked.

Remember, children may only compose 20 percent of our population, but they represent 100 percent of our future.