Here we are at the half way point of the school year. After a summer full of planning, worry, and maybe even a pit of panic, we have made it this far still intact. By now, we know the strengths and weaknesses of our children, their teachers, and even their schools. We know what to expect and what not to expect. Yes, we have come far since those days of summer. While it is always better to look at the glass as being “half full,” we must also stop and realize that we still have a half a school year to go. Since we know that nothing is ever perfect and that unexpected needs have certainly arisen, now is the time to start to address these and other new issues. There are a few questions that every parent should be asking around this time of year…

Is my child doing as well as he/she can?

There is a tendency among parents and even some teachers to get into a pattern of expectations. When the grade on the first few exams is at a consistent level, sometimes we just assume that this is as good as it is going to get. Patterns after all, don’t lie and at times, we can even be pleasantly surprised. One parent told me a few weeks ago that after three test grades in the 70’s, she did not think her son could actually do any better. When he came home the next week with an 88%, she knew that he was capable of more. This is the time of the year to think about ways to take your child to the next level.

How is the communication between me and my child’s teacher?

Some would think good communication between the parents and the teachers is not so important. In most schools, parents receive grade updates at least 2-3 times per year. On top of that, schools send out progress reports and other notifications if a particular child is not performing to expectations. It is amazing however what a little bit of team work can do! No, I am not suggesting that parents bug the teachers every five minutes, but it is a good idea as parents to know what is happening in class, and to be aware if important dates/milestones such as test dates, project due dates, assignments, etc. Thanks to 21st Century technology, parents no longer need to actually call the teacher and ask these questions. Most schools use LMS (learning management systems) platforms to share and publish important information. School principals have reported however, that while a high percentage of students and teachers log in to these platforms several times per week, parent usage is still low. So, if you feel that information is falling through the cracks or that you do not always know about homework or due dates, now is the time to start using the LMS. Most even have apps, so you can get the information directly on your phone.

What can my child really handle?

By this point in the year, many students have joined a long list if extra-curricular activities, which often take as much time (if not more) as the actual academic classes. Many students, with a bit of guidance are able to find a balance between academic responsibilities and extra-curricular projects. Some students however do not always know how to prioritize. It must be made clear to the students both at home and in school that classes must come first. While basketball, the school play, yearbook, and robotics, are all important, none should be prioritized higher than actual classes. This is something that parents can help students with at home.

Here in Israel, many students spent most of the month of November involved with Bnei Akiva’s Chodesh Irgun. While I was happy that my son was so involved in such an important organization, I sometimes had to be the “bad guy” when I made him sit out a few activities in order to study or to do homework. I was more than willing to be the responsible person in the relationship. After all, I am the parent. I should not however have been in the minority. More parents should have stepped forward to say that school must come first. Students do not always know how to prioritize their tasks, so we must help them. If it is clear that our kids cannot handle so many activities outside of school, then we may be doing them a favor by insisting that something be put on hold.

This is an important time of the year, for there is still a great deal to be done. Even strong students can be known to coast and put forth less effort after Winter Break. It is important that we as parents be involved in the learning process and that we are there to point our children towards academic success.