How To Keep Your Kid in School!

Will he be a high school drop out? No, because I will do everything I can as a parent to prevent that from happening.

 “Every nine seconds of each school day, a young person drops out of high school in the U.S.”

(Figure quoted from P&G’s Give Education page, which I encourage you to check out for the great information they have there and what you can do to help.)

Do the math, in a 6.5 hour school day that’s 2600 students dropping out of high school a day!!!

That has to STOP!

Who am I to talk? I’m a mother, a teacher, a tutor, a parent-teacher-organization volunteer, a past Girl Scout leader, an employer of teenagers, an entertainer of children, and I suppose there is more that I’m forgetting. So while I don’t hold any PhDs in research or claim to have studied what causes kids to dropout or have a cure-all cure for this epidemic, I do have some thoughts.

How To Keep Your Kid in School

SHOW UP!!!

  • To Back-to-School Night
  • To parent-teacher conferences
  • To classroom parties
  • To school shows
  • To school dances
  • To school functions
  • At pick-up time
  • To after-school activities
  • To field trips
  • To PTO/PTA meeting
  • To board of education meetings

As a teacher in a few different districts, the older the kids get the less the parents seem to be involved. In kindergarten, when our kids are adorable and cute, and they are all so excited to learn, we can’t get in the classroom enough. We have unofficial fights with the mom who gets to be the class mom. We blame it on politics and such that we didn’t get picked. Sometimes we sulk and pout.

On Back-to-School Night the classroom is packed and maybe you get upset there’s not enough room for you to sit or you had to park a half a mile away. Then, the kindergarteners are putting on a big musical production. Every parent, grandparent, friend, and family member related to your child is there. You’re there two hours early just so you can get the best seat. We share our pictures, videos, and status updates on Facebook and Twitter. “Johnny read to me today.” “Emily is learning to add.” Those huge accomplishments they have as a child, we are proud of each and every one. We share them with the world.

Then, what happens?  Somewhere between 4th grade and high school, parents stop showing up. Back to School Nights have 2-3 parents in each classroom. PTO executive committee chairs keep running into each other. The same parent volunteers are there for everything.

Why?

When do we lose our enthusiasm for their learning?

When do we stop being proud of our children’s accomplishments?

It’s not that simple you say,

Yeah it is.

But I have to work you say,

A lot of us do.

My friend, love her dearly, but she recently told me she opted out of being a field trip chaperone, her child didn’t want her there. To which I say, so what? Because the moment I stop being in that classroom, going to every possible school function I can, stop trying to find another PTO event to host is the moment I say to my child I don’t care or I’m not interested.

Whether my child likes it or not, I will be there. Do we stop our other behaviors just because our kids don’t like it? Do you stop punishing them for a broken rule because they don’t like it? Do you stop giving them hugs because they don’t like it? My schedule may get crazy, I may not always show up looking pretty. I will probably be texting or tweeting in the hallway before or after the reason I’m there. My child might not want me to hear something his teacher has to say. But I will be there. And if I can’t I will find another way to make my presence and my commitment to his education known.

How to be involved when you can’t be involved

SHOW UP!!!

  • To Back-to-School Night & parent-teacher conferences

    • Can’t make the scheduled night? Call or email the teacher. Is there another time you can meet with the teacher, before school, after school, during an evening? Can’t meet in person, talk over the phone, hey, Skype each other.  You need to know your children’s teachers from kindergarten through to Twelfth grade. A teacher needs to put a voice, a face, behind a child. Their teacher wants not just to share with you your child struggles but also their successes.
  • To school shows
  • Is your student involved with the choir, band, theatre? Have you been to their performances? Are you able to see the show?  If no, why not host a rehearsal or after-show party in your home? Meet up with them in their rehearsal spot, bring snacks. What kid doesn’t love snacks?
  • Yeah, so your kids are definitely not going to want you there for this. Which is exactly why you need to be there. Every parent needs to chaperone at least one middle school and/or high school dance. There can never be too many chaperones for a school dance. It’s a real eye-opener.  Even if your child isn’t dating or interested in the opposite sex, you need to see how many others are and the peer pressure your child maybe experiencing to grow up too soon.
  • Can’t be there to sell snacks or pass out programs. Find out what you can do from home. Can you make snacks for the school to sell? Can you fold the programs at home?  Is there prep work you can do at home, with your child, that will help the event.
  • My sisters and I can tell you that the afterschool hours are when tweens and teens have the greatest potential for trouble. What are you going to get your child involved with so he/she is not alone?  Yes, you may trust your child to be home alone. But do you trust the kids in the neighborhood? Remember, peer pressure? Can you get together with your friends and take turns hosting the kids afterschool at each other’s house? Create an activity based on their interests or keep it simple: snack, homework, games. Can you sign your child up for a structured afterschool activity? And again if you can’t be there to watch it every once in a while, can you send in snacks? Can you make phone calls for the teacher or coach? How can you help?
  • Having guilt about missing the latest school trip? Follow it up with another trip. Grab your kids and their friends and find your own adventure. Did they visit the Cape May Zoo? Then, go visit the Philadelphia, Popcorn Park or TurtleBack Zoo or all in the same weekend. How do they compare?
  • Some schools host these during the day, some in the evening. But trust me when I say that not every volunteer role is always filled. They aren’t all cliques. And yes, there is work you can do from home. All you have to do is ask. Not enough people ask (but that’s a topic for a different day.) Most PTOs will appreciate any help you can give whether it’s an hour, a 100 hours or anything in between.
  • This is where the important changes that impact your child’s education are happening. What does it mean when the budget doesn’t pass? Which teacher is going to lose their job? Will it be your son’s favorite teacher or the related arts teacher that gets your kid excited for their special? If you can’t go, talk to someone who can. Find out what’s going on.
  • To school dances
  • To school functions
  • At pick-up time & after-school activities
  • To field trips
  • To PTO/PTA meeting
  • To board of education meetings

Beyond that…

  • Are you checking their homework? Do you help them study?

    • You may not understand what they are learning but you can still tell if a worksheet has been completed. You can still ask them to explain to you in easier terms what they are learning in class. Did you know that the better they can explain it to you, the better they will understand it themselves? So it might take them 20 minutes to explain Mitosis and Meiosis, but when that conversation is over you both will understand it better.
  • When’s the last time you took them out for ice cream to celebrate a good grade on a test or hard assignment?
  • Don’t wait for the report card to show your children you're proud. Reward them now. Celebrate their successes from mastering their times table to figuring how to graph a quadratic function, from understanding that red and blue make purple to understanding how positive and negative particles work.
  • Is there something new you can show them that will make their project better? Do you have a work conference room to use or use the living room let them practice their presentation on you. Better yet, is it a group project? Invite the team and their parents over. Have some popcorn and let the parents all gather around to watch the team present. Ask them questions like their teachers will.
  • Work on that next big school project together.

I could go on and on. I am sure we’ve all had long discussions with our children about staying in school, but there comes a time when they will tune us out. A time when our actions will speak louder than our words. What if that same excitement we had for our child on the first day of school shined through to their last day of high school? Imagine the impact that would have on our child. If we have shown a committment to our kids’ school and their education, if we have gotten involved with their learning, they will truly see the value we place on education.  Copying their buddy’s homework will not be an option. Doing the minimum to get by will not be an option. Cutting class to hang out with their bff/bf/gf will not be an option.

Dropping out will not be an option.

I encourage you to spend some time at the Bloganthropy/Give Education site to learn about coupons, videos and other digital tools you can use to help fight the dropout epidemic in your community and across our country.

Jennifer Auer is a South Jersey mom. This post is adapted from her blog, Jersey Family Fun.

Categories: MomSpeak