Breathing a sigh of relief because the kids are back in school? Not so fast. Now is the time to partner with your child's teacher. "Children whose parents are involved in their education have higher self-esteem, more positive attitudes toward learning and are generally more engaged than children whose parents are not involved," says Candace Roberts, PhD, assistant professor of education at Saint Leo University. They also have better attendance, higher grades and are more likely to go to college.

Use these A-plus strategies to support your little learners this year.

  1. Share your expertise. You are an expert on your child. Fill the teacher in on your child's strengths, interests, personality and learning challenges. A little background info sets everyone up for success.

  2. Expect great things. Research shows parents' and teachers' expectations have a huge impact on kids' development. Set high but realistic expectations for your child and share them with her teacher. Teachers' expectations are likely to rise in response - and that's good for your child.

  3. Confront problems early. Donna Henderson, PhD, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University, recommends contacting your child's teacher at the first sign of falling grades, behavior changes or an increase in school-related complaints. Working together, you can address problems before they get worse.

  4. Respect teachers' limits. Your child isn't the only kid in the class. Don't ask teachers to make exceptions that interfere with other kids' learning, says Henderson. Ask the teacher to recommend additional resources so you can provide extra tutoring at home.

  5. Spend time at school. Volunteer in the classroom to show your child that education is important to you. You'll see first hand how the teacher works with your child and get an insider view of classroom social dynamics.

  6. Offer extra support. Parents don't have to be present at school to support kids' teachers, Roberts says. Offer to prepare project materials or grade papers at home. Kids get excited when they see their parents do homework, too.

  7. Establish a routine. Create a designated, distraction-free study spot at home and set aside time for schoolwork. A consistent routine and smart study habits minimize stress.

  8. Check in. Even if you stop in for only a few minutes, make the effort to say hello and check in with your child's teacher. Send a quick email if you stop by in person. Ask how you can help your student succeed and follow through.

  9. Reinforce learning in real life. Use everyday opportunities to reinforce key concepts. Test math skills at the grocery store. Point out spelling words in books you read with your child. Learning is a part of life, not just something that happens at school.

  10. Run interference. If school demands are overwhelming or family issues are disrupting your child's learning, communicate with the teacher. Advocate for your child's interest and collaboratively identify ways to maximize learning.

  11. Watch your tone. Present complaints calmly and respectfully, Henderson advises. Use specific examples and ask for the teacher's ideas about what can be done. Even if you disagree, be civil. Your child is likely to lose if you get adversarial or aggressive.

  12. Show your appreciation. Teachers' greatest reward is seeing students grow, learn and achieve. Tell your child's teacher how much he enjoyed last week's science experiment or write a note to the principal complimenting the teacher's work. Partnerships flourish when people feel appreciated.


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Heidi Smith Luedtke is a personality psychologist and mom of two. She is the author of "Detachment Parenting