Every morning we send our kids off for six or more hours at their school but do we really know what's going on? We see progress reports, grades, and an occasional email, but what are they learning and achieving? How are they socializing? How do they handle difficult situations?
8 Essential Ways to Learn What Your Child Does in School All Day
1. Visit the school. Depending on the school's policy and the grade of your child you may be able to visit the school during the day now and then. Some schools invite parents to have lunch with the kids where you can meet their friends (or lack of them), watch them at recess, and see their disposition.
2. Visit the school on nights planned for parent conferences. Don't only meet with the teacher, but wander the halls. Notice the art work, the bulletin board displays, and notice the displays in the classroom.
3. Later on, ask your child questions about what you saw and the people you met to show your interest and learn even more.
4. Come after school and have your child show you around (with the school's permission). Get their points of view on what you see and the people you meet. Have them introduce you to their teachers and even the principal.
5. Drive your child to school once in a while if they take the bus. It's a great opportunity to have conversation about the day ahead. Don't be judgmental or instructional, just have casual conversation about how the day goes. What happens when they arrive? Are their routines that they follow? Who do they sit next to? When is recess? Do they like visiting during lunch?
6. Drive your child home from school once in a while for a break from the bus. Once again, there's a chance for conversation about how the day proceeded. Don't be in a rush. Stop for a snack and spend some one on one time getting to know their likes and dislikes about their day.
7. When driving together, remove all distractions from the kids and from you. Put the back packs aside and turn off technology (especially yours) and use this time together to really listen to your child.
8. Ask questions that encourage your child to share with you - not, "How was your day?" but "Tell me three things that seemed really good that happened at school today" or "What two things are you looking forward to tomorrow?"
As you learn about your children's school environment, always focus on what's going on inside your child, not only the externals. What are their points of view? What are their opinions? What are their critiques of the school? How do they think they might learn more effectively?
Try not to judge or close the discussion by disagreeing. Instead, ask for more detail and show you appreciate all they are thinking about. Discuss their feelings about friends and teachers without false reassurance. Just listen!
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst with a recent book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.