Get Ready for the Second Semester

by Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Remember that “go get ‘em” attitude you and your child had at the beginning of the school year? That certainty that setting aside “homework time,” limiting TV and recreational Web surfing and staying in close contact with teachers would lead to top grades all year long? If these seem like distant memories now that the year is half over, you’re not alone. Easing up on the rules is a lot more common than you think. It’s also a bit dangerous, since the mid-point of the school year can be a “make or break” time for addressing any problems that have held your son or daughter back. Taking a close look at the following indicators will help you determine if your child’s current studying habits and overall approach to school work are making the grade:

Indicator #1: Grades and teacher conferences

Begin by taking a look at your child’s overall grades during the first half of the year. If you believe your child could have done better, talk directly with teachers to determine any issues that are impacting his or her progress. It’s also important to tell the teacher about any issues that may affect your child’s academic success. Family tension, financial concerns, health issues or marital problems directly impact a child’s ability to concentrate in school. Creating a partnership between school and home is a responsibility that both parents and teachers share.

Indicator #2: Standardized test results

In recent years, parents and students have paid the most attention to statewide tests given during the spring because many schools use results of these tests to determine which students will graduate or move on to the next grade. But most schools also give a test at the beginning of the year to determine which skills and knowledge students are lacking so that teachers can tailor their instruction to students’ needs. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming tests is to look back at the results of the test that your child took in the fall. If your child scored poorly in reading or mathematics, for example, you should pay particular attention to these areas in the semester to come.

January/A Fresh Start

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Indicator #3: Homework

While some students tend to complete homework successfully all year, many may have fallen out of the “homework habit” as the December holidays approached. After a long break, January is a good time to ramp up for the coming months by re-establishing important routines, such as setting time aside for homework each afternoon or evening and maintaining a specific area of your house or apartment specifically for homework.

Indicator #4: The Work/Life Balance

While sports, clubs and other school-related leisure activities can make the educational experience much more well-rounded and rewarding, they should never become more important than academic progress. It’s therefore important to find the right balance between leisure and learning time. Take a look at your child’s academic success during the first half of the year and weigh it against all of the extracurricular activities that filled his or her schedule. Were there enough hours in a typical day last semester to keep up with schoolwork while enjoying every activity? Working collaboratively, parents and students should prioritize activities that are most important, and create a schedule that strikes the right balance.

You should also let your child know that you’re a watchdog for both problems and progress. Which means that the mid-year check-up should also be an opportunity to acknowledge the special skills and qualities that are unique to your child. Reading, writing, reasoning and computational abilities are qualities that will speed progress in the race to achieve. Being a good listener, feeling concern for others and finding special hobbies and interests are qualities that will enhance your child’s self-esteem and happiness. Recognizing and nurturing all of these qualities will give your child solid footing for the semester to come.

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Dr. Raymond J. Huntington is co-founder of Huntington Learning Center, which has helped children achieve success in school for 26 years. For more information about how Huntington can help your child, call 1 800 CAN LEARN.

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