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John Monfredo: 8 Priorities For Families in the New School Year

Saturday, September 07, 2013


Make sure your kids put their best foot forward this year with these tips.

"The evidence that parent involvement can make a significant difference in student achievement is beyond question…”

The new school year has begun and as a former principal, I’d like to share some ideas with you about the vital role that you play in the education of your child. When families are involved at home and at school children do better and schools get better.

Research in general showed that no matter what the parents income or background was students with involved parents earned higher grades and test scores, enrolled in higher level program, attended school regularly, had better social skills, showed improved behavior, adapted well to school and graduated and went on to post-secondary education.

Signs of success

Years ago when I was principal at Belmont Community School I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. John V. Gilmore, a former clinical psychologist at Boston University, and his wife Eunice. Dr. Gilmore and Eunice gave parenting training courses at the Gilmore Institute. His book Give Your Child a Future explains how parents can raise their children to be happy, self-confident, and productive and value oriented adults.

One of the trainers at the Gilmore Institute was Charles Gruska an outstanding principal in the Wachusetts school system who is now retired. Mr. Gruska gave me the book and when I was a principal I tried to share many of Dr. Gilmore’s ideas with parents.

I’d like to share a few of their findings and hopefully give parents another prospective as we start the new school year. What distinguishes the home life of a highly productive, successful child from that of an underachiever or school dropout? According to Dr. Gilmore research has identified some of the following factors typically present in highly productive families:

  • The family is closely knit; communication is warm and spontaneous.
  • Affection and encouragement are continually expressed toward all family members.
  • An interest in education and constant encouragement of all educational endeavors are evident.
  • The family, as a unit, has excellent coping skills.
  • Firm parental expectations of children’s accomplishments direct youngsters toward realistic long-range goals.


Studies indicate that all individuals of any age must have high self-esteem if they are to live a successful life. The primary source of children’s self-esteem is their parents’ love. Parents need to provide their children with affection, warmth and support and praise them as persons as well as for their accomplishments. Remember, parents are a child’s first and most important teachers and it’s essential that they develop within their child a positive self-esteem. Please keep those ideas in mind as we begin the new school year.

Other ideas to consider this new school year:

Have reading as a priority at home

Literacy is essential and as a parent have your child read at least 20 minutes a day. As the new school year began I saw a sign outside Tatnuck Elementary school that stated, “The best 20 minutes of the day is spending time reading with your child.” So true and it does make a difference in the life of your child.Children's success in school can thus be linked to reading to children and listening to them read. Indeed, the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading is reading aloud to children. In addition, set a time each week when everyone in the home reads his or her own book, newspaper or magazine. It could be for 20 minutes or longer. You’ll be amazed how much this will instill in your child a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

Get your children to bed on time.

Proper rest is essential for children need to stay healthy for a healthy child is a child who’s ready to learn. All children, especially teens, need at least nine hours of sleep.

Have a routine.

Establish a time for homework… parents do check their work, have a bedtime schedule as mentioned, be sure that all books and the necessary papers are placed in the child’s backpack before going to bed and place that backpack next to the door before your child goes to bed.

Reach out to your child’s teachers.

Attend Know your School Night, orientation, or other welcome events, but don't stop there. Make a point of introducing yourself and learning about class activities and expectations for the year. Find out how each teacher prefers to communicate. Let the teacher know that you want to be an active partner in helping your child to learn. Consider joining the PTO or volunteer at the school.

Healthy students

Healthy Students + Healthy Schools = Best Learning Opportunity. “Families should be sure that their child gets a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Schools also require up to date immunizations and you will be asked to provide the paperwork showing that your child has the necessary shots and vaccines.

Review that progress card.

Pay careful attention to all progress reports, but particularly the first one. You want to get help for any problem areas before your child falls too far behind. Ask your child's teacher how grades are determined and for suggestions on how your student can improve. Review grades and the teacher's comments with your child—always starting with something she's doing well, then pointing out areas that need attention, and ending with something positive again.

Attendance matters, as does tardiness.

Parents do all that you can to get your child to school daily and it is especially important that your child be on time. The Worcester Public Schools have joined districts across the nation this month by emphasizing the importance of coming to school. The theme is “Every School Day Counts.” Research does show that absenteeism in the early grades can lead to third graders unable to master reading, sixth graders failing courses and not being prepared for middle school and ninth graders dropping out of school.

Prepare an area for study.

Set up a special place in your home to do homework and to read. Remember to remove distractions such as having the TV on. Show your child that education is a TOP priority in your family and do all that you can to support and praise your child.

Again, research shows positive results because of parental involvement in their children's schooling… improved achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored parental confidence in their children's schooling. Moreover, the earlier this involvement begins, the more profound the results and the longer lasting the effects. When families are involved in their children's education in positive ways, children achieve higher grades and test scores, complete more homework assignments, demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior, graduate at higher rates, and have greater enrollment in higher education. Parental involvement with older children extends these benefits beyond schooling into later life and career decisions. Let’s make this school year a huge success!


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