Checklist for parents of elementary students

Preparation for your children's future begins now. You contribute to their future success by affirming their strengths and supporting them in school from the earliest grades. Set clear expectations from the beginning. Your children will see them as routine and be able to follow them with less and less help as they mature.

Prepare your children for each school day. Make sure they get up each morning with time to prepare themselves for school. Provide an appropriate breakfast and lunch. Make sure they are dressed comfortably. Remind them to remember their homework and school supplies. Fill out and return any paperwork that comes home with them.

Communicate regularly with the teachers and staff at school. Read all school communications. Introduce yourself to your children's teachers at the beginning of each year. Visit your children's classroom to become familiar with where they spend their days. Volunteer as a classroom assistant if possible. Call teachers or send notes if you have questions or concerns.

Attend school events. Participate in any regular parent/teacher conferences. (Many employers will allow you to take time off for this important activity.) Come prepared with your questions and concerns. Also, make a special effort to attend school open houses and parent nights. Support student events and performances by helping with them and by attending them.

Help your children with their homework. This does not mean do it for them! Provide them a quiet, well-lit, comfortable place to study. Make sure distractions are minimized - turn off the television and loud music. Decide together on a homework schedule that your children can keep; reward them for sticking to it. Talk to your children each day after school to find out what they need to do. Go over their assignments with them when they are complete; ask questions about them. Display their school work.

Make your home a good place to learn. Encourage learning by modeling it. Read regularly yourself. Read to your children or let them read to you every day, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. MANY EDUCATORS BELIEVE THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING A PARENT CAN DO! Establish a schedule for reading together as a family. Set limits on viewing television, playing video games, conversing with friends on telephone or computer. Limit after-school activities so your children have time for their homework and family activities. Listen to their concerns each day with empathy. Praise your children regularly.

Watch your children and take note of their natural interests, curiosities, and abilities. Observe your children at play and doing their school work. Discuss with them the kinds of adult activities that are related to their interests. Look for opportunities to expand their interests or develop new ones by planning family outings, participating in community events, and volunteering as a family.

Start saving money for education or training after high school. Some parents believe that unless they have a lot of cash to set aside, there's little point in saving for college or some other postsecondary training. Not true. Saving even a little bit (for example, $25 each month) can add up over time and starting early is critical.