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  1. 1. 40 waysCountdown toSchool to help your kids learn more!SuccessA month-by-monthguide filled with theadvice, tools, andonline resourcesyou’ll need tohelp your childrenhave a school yearpacked with funand learning.Developed in partnership with: Countdown to School Success 1
  2. 2. Join Us!What’s inside: Pledge to have your child read 20 minutes daily. with your child’s teacher / Homework helpers pledgeEasy ways to get involved at school / Fun family activities The start of school is the most exciting time of the year for students! They want to meet their U.S. Department of Educa- teachers, catch up with their tion, National PTA, and friends, and begin explor- Parenting have teamed up ing a whole new world of to bring you Countdown to knowledge. As exciting as School Success. This booklet these first weeks of school takes you step-by-step are, your children can’t do through the typical school- this on their own. They need year calendar, explaining your help to get ready—now how you can help your chil- and every day. You need to dren at home, support them read aloud to young chil- in the classroom, and assist THIS PAGE: Ariel Skelley/GETTY IMAGES dren to reinforce the impor- their teachers as they ad- COVER PHOTOGRAPH: JON WHITTLE. for additional credits, see tance of literacy. You have to dress each of your children’s be ready to help them when unique abilities. We hope they’re stuck on homework. your whole family enjoys You should make sure they following this road map to have a nutritious lunch the exciting year ahead. every day. You need to build relationships with their teachers so you’re all work- Arne Duncan ing together to provide your U.S. Secretary of Education children the best learning experience possible. Betsy Landers Helping your children National PTA President with school is one of your most important jobs as a Ana Connery parent. That’s why the Parenting Editorial Director 2 Countdown to School Success
  3. 3. september developing muscles and joints. Encourage your child to use both straps, and tighten them so the pack hangs close to the 1 Reach out to your kids’ teachers Attend meet-the- Many use e-mail as the main form of contact, but phone body, about two inches above your child’s waist. teacher night, orientation, or other welcome events, but don’t stop there. Make a point calls and conferences (make an appointment first) are usu- ally welcome, too. For more 5 Commit to volunteering With help from parents like you, your school can of introducing yourself and advice on building a parent- offer many more programs learning about class activities teacher relationship that will and services for your kids. and expectations for the year. last the entire year, as well Join your school’s PTA and Find out how each teacher as links to all the websites ask about volunteer opportu- prefers to communicate. featured in this guide, go to nities in the school community and your children’s class- 2 Get in the groove Establish healthy at-home routines for school days, such rooms. National PTA’s “Three for Me” campaign encourages parents to pledge to volunteer as consistent waking times at least three hours during the and getting-ready patterns. school year. Go to three4me​ Decide on a regular home- .com for more information. work time, and create a comfortable, quiet work space. Set bedtimes that allow elementary-age kids to get 10 to 12 hours of sleep; teens should get 8½ to 9½ hours. 3FROM LEFT: SHUTTERSTOCK, LAURA HINELY Time things right Stay on top of everyone’s school, activity, and work schedules with a free online calendar or a smartphone app. 4 Pack smart Make sure your child’s backpack never weighs more than 10 to 20 percent of his body weight; heavy packs can strain Countdown to School Success 3
  4. 4. october/november 1 Fuel up Children who eat a healthy breakfast each day have more energy available for in photos. Ask the teacher what his or her specific needs will likely be this year. learning. Try simple, protein- loaded options like homemade scrambled-egg-and-cheese 3 Connect with your kids’ teachers Many schools schedule parent-teacher confer- breakfast burritos, waffles ences in October and November. smeared with nut butter, or Attending this meeting should yogurt-and-fruit smoothies. be a priority for all parents and 2 Become a class parent You’ll develop a closer rela- tionship with the teacher and guardians. This is your chance to see how things are going with your children and to partner will get an inside look into what with their teachers on improv- goes on in the classroom, usually ing performance. Ask: “What without having to commit a ton could we be doing at home to of time. Class parents organize practice what they’re learning?” other parent volunteers for National PTA has created grade- child falls too far behind. Ask parties and events, may help the by-grade Parent Guides that can your child’s teacher how grades teacher create a newsletter, or be a resource for what to discuss are determined and for sugges- might document the school year at conferences. Find out more at tions on how your student can improve. Review grades and 4 Seek extra help Does it seem your child is going to have trouble keeping up? Ask the the teacher’s comments with your child—always starting with something she’s doing well, teacher about school-provided then pointing out areas that tutoring programs and resources need attention, and ending with to help reinforce his or her learn- something positive again. ing outside of class. Many also offer extra help during office hours before or after school. 2 Encourage creativity Urge your children to enter the National PTA Reflections arts contest. They can submit NOVEMBER works of art in six categories: visual arts (such as painting, 1 Review that report card Pay careful attention to all prog- ress reports, but particularly drawing, or collage), literature, musical composition, photogra- phy, film production, and dance SHUTTERSTOCK (2) the first one—it will be coming choreography. This year’s theme soon if your child hasn’t received is “Diversity Means...” Contact it yet. You want to get help for your local PTA for additional any problem areas before your details or go to 4 Countdown to School Success
  5. 5. 3 Make over your meals November is National PTA’s other activities. Pay attention to school websites and newsletters january Healthy Lifestyles Month, so think carefully about what your kids are eating at home for alerts about flu or other illness outbreaks. Check the Centers for Disease Control and 1 Make a winter-weather plan Have an advance plan for snow days or sick days. and in school. Ask your school Prevention website ( for Can another family member lunch director for nutritional up-to-date information and the or neighbor care for your kids information if it isn’t available. latest prevention advice. And be while you work? Make sure you Work with your PTA and school sure your family gets flu shots. have a safety kit in case of power district to improve the menu 2 Help end bullying Take the outages; have your children help december/january if necessary. For more healthy time to talk with your chil- assemble it so they get a lesson eating and lunch-packing tips, dren about any bullying behav- in emergency preparation, too. go to and ior they may have seen going Get more tips at 4 Be a good citizen Your child will be learning about on at school. Before you begin the conversation, go to bullying and 2 Be a meteorologist Winter months are a great time to introduce budding minds to the the importance of voting and to learn what you can do as a science behind weather pat- how elections work, and she’ll be parent to instill an attitude of terns and how to predict them. thrilled to go with you when you acceptance in your children and You’ll find plenty of weather cast your ballot on November 8. get help with bullying behavior resources for kids in the “Earth Go to to learn more if your family needs it. Sciences” section of about how government works. 5 Give thanks This month’s Thanksgiving holiday is the 3 Remember the teacher A simple holiday token is nice if you can swing it. Teach- 3 Dream big Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16 by encouraging your perfect time to talk with your ers particularly appreciate kids to complete the sentence “I children about all the freedoms cards from their students, and have a dream that…,” and then the United States has to offer gift cards for their favorite e-mail, tweet, or post on Facebook its citizens. Help your children book, crafts, or office-supply their own hopes for the future. explore what life was like here stores. Teachers often replen- during the first Thanksgiving ish classroom supplies out of at the Library of Congress their own pay, so gift cards website: help cut the cost. december 4 Practice cyber safety If your children will be spending more time online 1 Get ready for flu season Amp up the reminders about during the winter break, or if they get a new laptop orSHUTTERSTOCK washing hands frequently— smartphone as a gift, be sure particularly when kids get to review family rules and home from school, sports, and online behavior. Countdown to School Success 5
  6. 6. portraits with their names or sics—counts! And if you haven’t 1. doing word searches about taken the pledge to have your them. Older students will kids read at least 20 minutes a enjoy learning about the four day, go to presidents carved into Mount and make the promise now! Rushmore at 4 Schedule a midyear check- in with the teacher Discuss 3 Get art smart Exposure to art and music can help your children excel in math, your children’s progress and problem solving, and reading, how homework is going. And and help them develop team- always reach out to teachers work skills and self-esteem. when important changes are Check out the resources on free happening in your family’s life,, and then do your part at such as the death of a rela- home. Replenish your arts-and- tive, a move to a new home, or crafts supplies. Let your kids anything that might affect your experiment with inexpensive 1 Connect with other families National PTA’s Take Your Family to School children’s behavior or perfor- mance at school—so the school staff can offer support as well. music-makers like a harmonica, a recorder, or an old guitar. Check out child-friendly music Week is February 12 to 18. Help CDs and art books from yourfebruary/march out at events such as family march library. Urge older siblings to reading night, parenting work- join their school’s choir, band, or shops, or educational family activities. National PTA offers grants to help fund especially 1 Get ready for test day Many schools will begin standard- ized testing this month or next. drama program. 4 Plant a school garden Kids learn firsthand deserving school programs. Make a note of the schedule on about weather, plant life Help your school apply for next your family calendar so you cycles, and nutrition year at can be sure your children get when they help grow 2 Celebrate African American History Month a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on test days. their own garden. Get started at Your school, local museums, and libraries will have special 2 Read some more National Read Across America Day is schoolgarden FROM LEFT: CHRISTOPHER FUTCHER/ events. You and your children March 2. Take time at home to GETTY IMAGES, SHUTTERSTOCK can also go to africanamerican read aloud on this day with your for online kids, and have them take turns exhibits and activities. reading to you. Encourage older 3 Honor Presidents’ Day Search online for activi- ties you can do with your kids, children to read on their own and to their younger siblings. Anything that interests them— such as matching presidential from comic books to the clas- 6 Countdown to School Success
  7. 7. 1 april/may/june Get schooled in math April is Math Awareness Month. maY this school year was….” Work with your PTA to bring in cof- Ask your children’s teachers for suggestions on math games and online activities. Another 1 Get a move on It’s National Physical Fitness & Sports Month, and your child may fee, baked goods, or lunch items during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7 to 11. resource: Check out the website soon be taking the annual of the National Council of President’s Challenge physi- JUNE Teachers of Mathematics: nctm cal fitness test as part of gym .org/resources/families.aspx. 2 Go a little greener Commemorate Earth Day class. Prep your child for it—as well as your school’s field day, a favorite spring event with 1 Challenge your children to a readathon See who can read the most books this sum- on April 22 by planning an kids everywhere—with some mer, with each one slightly more activity for your entire family, family recreation activities. challenging than the last. Make such as joining a local park’s Take walks after dinner, go on it happen by setting a designat- litter-cleanup team or planting a weekend bike ride, or have ed family reading time, when a tree on your block. Check out chin-up contests on the monkey the whole gang curls up with a your school-district website to bars at a nearby playground. good book, parents included. see what they have on tap for students and their families. For more fitness ideas, check out,, 2 Minimize summer brain drain Look for fun ways to 3 Share your career Lots of parents and kids will par- ticipate in Take Your Child to and 2 Keep kids safe The weather has warmed up and school’s keep your children’s academic skills sharp during the warm weather ahead. Consider sign- Work Day on April 26, but why almost out for the summer, ing them up for camps, and visit not teach your child’s entire which means kids will be spend- nature centers, museums, andSHUTTERSTOCK BACK COVER: JADE ALBERT STUDIO, INC./GETTY IMAGES class about your job? Offer to ing more time outdoors on their libraries as a family. visit and talk about your career, own. Give them a refresher and encourage other parents in course in safety whether they’re the class to do the same. bike riding, swimming, or play- 4 Thank your school staff These overlooked helpers are often the ones who keep ing indoors on game systems. For more tips, go to and click on “Topics: Child Safety.” things working smoothly for your children, so take time to recognize school office staff 3 Give props to your children’s teachers As the school year winds down, en- during the week of April 22 to courage your children to write 28, which is Administrative thank-you notes to their current Professionals Week. Join with teachers. Prompt younger kids other parents to give a gift with suggestions like “Some- card or flowers, or have your thing new I learned this year kids make a card of their own. was…” or “My favorite part of Countdown to School Success 7
  8. 8. Join Mom Congress!at momcongress to stand upfor great schools.