With fall around the corner, it’s a good time to start thinking about how you and your family can prepare to make the most of the new school year.
The best strategy for school success: Attend every day, in every grade. Regular attendance is a key step in making sure a child grows both academically and socially. Missing just one or two days a month adds up—and can have a serious, long-term impact on a child’s reading and math skills.
In the majority of elementary schools in Tennessee, at least 5 percent of the students are chronically absent, or miss 10 percent or more of instructional days. Watch the video below to learn more about how you can support school attendance in your community, and read our tips for how to start the school year on the right track and be successful throughout the year.
Back to School Tips for Families
- Mark the first day of school on your calendar.
- Consider attending any back-to-school events at your child’s school, and letting them meet their teacher and classmates in advance.
- Try following a regular schedule. Sleepy kids are unproductive kids. In the weeks before school starts, one approach that can work is easing kids back into a routine of earlier wake-up times and bedtimes.
- Gather school supplies. Your child’s school likely will tell you what supplies your child will need for the year, from pencils and crayons to backpacks, books and uniforms. If you need help purchasing school supplies or uniforms, talk to your child’s school or a community resource center.
- Think about creating a calendar. Get organized for the busy year ahead by putting a wall calendar in a place where the whole family can read it. You can use it to post due dates for assignments, after-school activities, meetings with teachers, PTA events, sporting events and other programs.
- Consider setting up a study area. It’s important for kids to have a quiet, safe place at home where they can study and complete homework. Also, if you turn off the TV and remove other distractions, your child may be able to focus better on their studies.
Tips for Community Members
Use these pointers to support the children and families in your community:
- Consider getting involved. By offering your time or other resources, you can ensure that kids will have the materials and support they need to start the school year on the right foot and that the children will attend school regularly all year.
- Talk to your local school or community resource center about how you can help families in need.
- If you know a family that can use help, perhaps ask a parent or caregiver what you can do to help their child succeed in school.
Talk to your child about why it’s important to attend school every day unless they are sick. Here are steps you can try to achieve consistent attendance:
- Establishing and sticking to the routines of going to bed early and waking up on time can help your child develop the habit of on-time attendance.
- If your child must be absent, work with the teacher to make sure they have an opportunity to learn and make up for the schoolwork they missed.
- If you need help setting a routine due to housing, employment or health problems, reach out for help. Other parents, your child’s teacher or principal, and community agencies can help you solve a problem or connect you to a needed resource.
- Try to avoid scheduling vacations when school is in session.
Below are suggestions for how to handle common barriers to good attendance.
- Find Reliable Transportation
- If you have a backup plan for getting kids to school, you’ll be prepared in case of emergency—for example, if you’re too sick to take them, the car breaks down or they accidentally miss the bus. A backup plan could be a ride from a neighbor or family friend who’s available at that time.
- If you need help finding a backup plan, talk to your child’s teacher or counselor at the beginning of the year. They may be able to direct you to community groups that can help.
- Before and after school care, if they’re available for you, may be a helpful option for ensuring your child has regular transportation to and from school.
- Support Health and Wellness
- If your child has an ongoing health concern, such as asthma, diabetes or a disability, talk to your child’s teacher about it at the beginning of the school year. You’ll be able to work together to find a solution for making sure your child stays on track with attendance and schoolwork.
- Make your sure your child receives the proper vaccinations, including a flu shot, and practices proper hand washing to stay healthy and prevent missed days for illness.Try to schedule doctor and dentist appointments outside of school hours. Even excused absences can add up and affect a child’s performance in school.
- If your child shows anxiety about going to school, talk to teachers, counselors and your primary care provider for help. Keep in mind complaints of a stomachache or headache could be signs of stress.