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Get in "A" in Homework Helping

Keep up with your kid's schoolwork

Keep up with your kid's schoolwork

Report card time can bring feelings of excitement and pride, but they can also bring about feelings of dread and frustration. There is nothing worse than getting blind-sided by a failing report card. With these simple but valuable tips, you can stay on top of your child's progress all year long! 

1. Daily Planners. Most schools require students to use a daily planner to keep track of their assignments and upcoming projects and tests. Whether it is a pocket-size memo pad or a dated calendar with spaces for each subject area, the important thing is that the student records information given to him each day by his teachers.

Check his daily planner each evening to ensure that all assignments are being completed and that he is prepared for any impending assessments. As a teacher, I know that homework counts for a sizable portion of a student's quarterly average on a report card. Putting forth the effort to complete homework and to be prepared for class is the key to academic success.

2. Clean and organize! That brand new backpack that was clean and neatly organized on the first day of school, often becomes a black hole by the end of October. Kelly Sheahan, Red Hook mom and local teacher, recommends setting aside five minutes each day to sit down with your child to talk about the day, and to sift through her homework folder, binders and other miscellaneous papers found in the backpack abyss. "It's amazing how many clues you will find in there that will let you know whether or not your child is doing well in school," says Sheahan.

Along with a moldy peanut butter and jelly sandwich and mismatched mittens, you may find a week-old math quiz with a grade of 50 percent or a book report assignment that wasn't completed on time. Your child might be embarrassed or nervous about approaching you with these papers, but if you open the lines of communication, you are bound to have a smoother year.

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If you are parenting a middle school or high school student, you not only have a backpack to deal with, but also a locker. Lockers may look small, but you will be surprised at how much they can store. Some schools allow parents to come into the building after school hours to organize their child's locker.

Before you arrive at your child’s school to clean his locker, call the principal to make sure you are allowed in and to see if you need any special pass to get access to the school. Bring some rubber gloves and a garbage bag, you never know what you will find.

3. Know your child's teachers. This is an easy one when you have a kindergartener or first grader. Often times, parents are involved in the classroom and their school's PTA in those early years, but involvement tends to wane as the kids enter middle school and high school. Introduce yourself to your child's teacher at the start of the year, either in person, at open house or by email. Michelle Sciullo, a sixth-grade teacher at Sleepy Hollow Middle School, suggests that if you know that your child tends to struggle, routinely e-mail or call the teachers to "check in" on your child's academic progress.

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She also recommends parents "contact the teachers once a week, or once every other week. This is a highly effective way to stay abreast of what is happening in the classroom and more specifically with your child's progress."

4. Surf the web! Visit sites like Facebook.com, Google.com and HVParent.com to stay up-to-date on  the latest schooling trends and to network with other parents in situations similar to your own. Does your child's teacher have a website? If so, add it to your “favorites” or “bookmarks” on your internet browser.

Karen May, a seventh grade ELA teacher at Van Wyck Junior High School in Hopewell Junction, maintains a homework website where she not only posts the daily assignments, but copies of worksheets and other important handouts. If a child is absent or misplaces an assignment, a parent or student can find the missing work in just a few clicks.

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Often times, class websites have a link to the teacher's email and online versions of the textbooks  used in class. If your child is coming home and claiming to have no homework or tests to study for, you can simply log on and verify this information to make sure he is staying on track.

5. Join the parent portal. In addition to keeping track of your child's assignments on the internet, many school districts are now offering an in-depth look into your child's grades through programs like the Parent Portal, Parent Vue or ESchool PLUS. Alicia Martin, founder of TheMommyDash.com, recommends  parents contact their child's teachers or administrators to find out if your school has a similar program.

Once you obtain a username and password, you will gain access to not just your child's grades, but also state assessment scores, discipline issues, attendance records and their class schedule. Some middle schools and high schools even offer real-time access to the teacher's grade book, so if you are not seeing many papers coming home, you can log into your account and check out your child's grades for yourself.

"If you see that your child's grades are not where you believe they should be, or if they are steadily declining, contact the teacher or guidance counselor so a meeting can be set up immediately to assess and solve the problem at hand," advises Martin. A tutor or an after-school homework club could be all your child needs to get back on the road to success.

Jennifer Colucci is a mom, blogger and sixth grade teacher from Hopewell Junction.