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Tips for involving yourself in your child's school

Values are taught through example, and teaching your child the virtue of learning is no different. Committing yourself to involvement in the school setting show your child that school activities are important.

But staying connected can be difficult when both parents work outside the home and are unable to take positions like "room parent" in the classroom. Still, you can remain connected to your child and their school life in other ways that are effective. The following suggestions will help you focus on getting this school year off to a good start:

1. Develop a relationship with your child's teacher. Provide your child the opportunity to receive the benefits of a team approach between teacher and parent. This connection between home and school is not only important because it allows you to stay connected to your child's life, but also creates a forum for helping your young one, should learning difficulties arise in the future.

2. Attend all back-to-school nights and teacher conferences.

Do not miss these! These opportunities provide first-hand experience about your child's day. You will understand more about what your child tells you if you can picture the environment and you know the class curriculum. There is no substitute for knowledge about your child's educational program. Find out what he is learning and as much as possible about the way he is learning it.

3. Establish consistent and uninterrupted time for homework.

Be sure your child has good lighting and the needed supplies for doing homework. Get involved in checking your child's work and knowing assignment schedules. Older children who may be home on their own or with a baby-sitter should know how to reach you by phone. Call and check in from your place of work. They will appreciate your attention and feel your availability. Listening to your child spell 5 words might be a nice break for you, too!

4. Stay in contact with your child's teacher in between conferences.

Check in about learning goals (by phone if necessary), halfway through the next semester. Do not wait until the end of the school term for feedback. This gives you time to make adjustments, obtain tutoring if necessary or other special help.

5. Ask about your child's social adjustment as well as academic performance at parent-teacher meetings.

Ask your child about the school day. But do not stop there! Obtain objective observations in case your child is missing something, or not telling you about uncomfortable situations that may arise. A good way to ask your child these questions is: What do you like best about school? What do you like least or dislike, about school?

6. Pay attention to the fit between teacher and student. Be your child's advocate!

Not every teacher-student fit is the right one for your child's learning. Do not be shy to advocate for your child if you feel he or she is being misjudged in any way that would result in a negative self-image about their learning ability. Research shows that children live up (or down!) to the expectations of their teacher!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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