(Luka, the only reader in his preschool class.)
Many of y'all probably heard about Old Navy sponsoring The Old Navy Attendence Pledge in 2010, and the subsequent free shopping spree provided to kids from several schools in Dallas ISD and ISDs all over the U.S. if they pledged to attend class more often.
Getting them there is indeed half the battle when it comes to success in school.
I have a certain neighborhood friend who doesn't see the problem with bringing her daughter to school (kindergarten) at 10am, well after the 8am bell has rung, hanging out in a local coffee shop with her until they "feel" like going.
Conversely, I have another certain neighborhood friend who volunteers to chaperone Latin tournaments, even when his kid, one of Quinn's friends, is not competing. I think about the messages both of these parents are sending their kids about the importance of school, just by their actions.
What do I do to help Quinn and Luka stay interested, excited, and IN school? Ok, I don't have to try *so* hard with Quinn, he is beaucoup compliant. Luka? Eh, not so much.
1. Timing: Get them on a do-able schedule in the morning that includes breakfast and time to wind-up without feeling rushed. They get protein and strawberries to boost their cognitive abilities on test days. Otherwise, I just tell them they have to eat SOMETHING. My husband drives Luka to Kindergarten in our neighborhood public school every morning on his way to work. Then I make sure Quinn gets to his local public high school an hour later. A timing routine lets the kids know that them being in school is our number one priority every single day, and everything else revolves around this.
2. Clothing: I make sure their uniforms (yes, our public schools require uniforms) are all clean and ready for the week, so there's no scrambling for what to wear. Smooth transition on Mondays are facilitated by having everything ready and laid out the night before. For Luka, shoes with velcro are essential...little fingers that have not mastered tying shoelaces don't need yet another reason to slow them down. And until that child is in about 2nd grade, he gets pants with elastic waistbands and no buttons or zippers. Why make his life harder?
3. Homework: I ask them every day when I pick them up "What did you do today at school? What did you learn? Do you have any homework?". And I never settle for the answers "Nothin'" or "Nope". If they see that I place high importance on what they do at school all day, then they place high importance on school themselves. And the first thing we tackle when we get home is the homework. Homework is all packed up back into the backpacks before playtime, so it's ready for the next day.
There are a lot of things that schools don't teach kids, that a parent needs to tackle. Like time management skills. Breaking big projects down into bite-sized pieces. Managing up when you get a bad boss (teacher). Being a leader. Setting a good example. Doing more than you're asked. Giving them these tools to succeed makes their homework easier for them, their class time more engaging, and their behavior at school improve.
4. Priorities: We make sure that all homework is completed before playing after school. We make sure that we consider sleep schedules and mealtime schedules before committing to any activity outside of the family. I always talk to them about priorities. Luka now quotes back "Work first, then play." He even makes up homework to do while Quinn does his, so as not to feel left out.
5. Involvement: I donate snacks to Luka's class for snacktime, and books to his classroom. I attend all the parent/teacher conferences. I volunteer to bring treats or supplies to teachers. Showing kids that you are involved, whether financially or with your time, at their school, shows them that being there is important to you. If there is a school event that coincides with something else fun that I might personally want to do, the school event always comes first. Again, I am showing my kids where my priority is (them being in school).
6. Rewards: We have a "good boy" sticker chart for Luka on the refrigerator. He gets a sticker if he receives a happy face at school that day. That means he followed all the directions. Whew! I daily tell the boys how proud I am of them for what they accomplished THAT DAY, and how smart they are, and what good boys they are. My friend Malena takes her boys for ice cream every Friday after school if they both get all happy faces all week. Praise and rewards go a long way toward keeping Luka excited about doing good work and making good choices.
Quinn? I got lucky with him...he's kinda self-motivated.
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