Column: It's not too early to talk about the new school year

Very shortly a new school year will begin. Many parents will send their kids out the door without discussing the importance of a good education.

I know what you are thinking - it's July, school doesn't start for another month. What's the big rush?

Simply put, the discussion you have with your children should not be an off-the-cuff three minute monologue of behave, pay attention and stay out of trouble as they walk out the door on the first day of school. As parents, you have to talk to one another first. Set your agreed goals and expectations. Determine how those are best reached, then discuss the rules that should be in effect at your home that will enable your kids to meet your educational expectations and work toward their goals.

While many parents have simple plans for their kids, they forget to include themselves in that plan. Parental involvement is more than just visiting a school, it involves working with your kids and encouraging them, as well as setting a good example.

It's not only important that parents tell their kids they are interested in their schooling, that interest must be reflected in their actions. And that discussion should come up more often than report distribution day.

Parents should take the time to learn in what subjects their kids are enrolled, their teachers' names, how much daily homework is expected, and they should inquire regularly on the progress of their child and how grades are earned.

Mom and Dad should not accept an answer such as "no problem" when they ask their sons or daughters how they are doing in a particular class.

Parents need to be much more informed and involved. They should not only inquire about student performance from their kids, but from the teacher as well. They should be able to discuss school at the dinner table with more than one-word responses. Parents should check homework papers for completeness and neatness. They should look at their kids' notebooks to ensure notes are being taken. Parents should see every paper that a teacher grades and returns.

Based upon the amount of homework being assigned by teachers, parents must set aside quiet, uninterrupted study time at home. It would also be nice if parents would quiz their kids on their homework to ensure they can do it, very much like most parents did on spelling and arithmetic when their kids were in the first three grades.

Parents should also be aware when a major test is scheduled so they can be sure their son or daughter is prepared. This might mean extra studying and extra quizzing at home to help your child succeed.

Parents should also be aware of all the programs offered at the school to help their children succeed. Whether these be clubs, activities, sports or extra help and tutoring sessions, there's a lot going on at the schools.

Parents will have to establish rules for outside activities during the school year. Going out on school nights should be discouraged. Working more than 20 hours per week has been shown to diminish school performance and working past 10 p.m. on a school nights should be out of the question.

The point I want to make is success is derived from not only hard work, but planning. If the only thoughts that parents put into and verbalize about education are on the day that school starts or the night before, then maybe there isn't much of a plan for success.

Yes, the beginning of the school year is about a month away, but planning for it should be ongoing or should be beginning now. After you developed this year's plan, it has to be communicated to your sons and daughters. As I recall, that communication brought on a lot of discussion, especially about not going out on school nights or when quiet time was interpreted as no TV.

Now, who's going to find out what classes the kids are taking next year?

Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a former member of the Nevada Board of Education. His e-mail address is


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