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10 Ways Parents Can Support Academic Success

So much has changed about parenting and the world our children are growing up in. While at the same time, a lot remains the same — including the impact parents have on their children’s studies and academic success. If you didn’t know already, active parents are, and will likely always be, one of your child’s most influential role models. 

You have an incredible amount of power to help your child achieve the academic success they need to find meaningful and rewarding careers. But parenting children today can also be extremely challenging. 

Should you ever doubt your power to shape your child’s life for the better, we’ve compiled a few statistics to help restore your faith, along with tips to help you set your child up for success. 

The Importance of Parental Involvement

At Saint John’s Prep, we are incredibly fortunate that our parents are invested in their children’s education. We get to see on a daily basis what a difference it makes. 

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Not all parental involvement is the same, and there’s no reason for busy parents to feel bad if they don’t attend every school function, every practice, or every game. 

Creating a nurturing home environment that supports learning is often far more important than showing up for school events. 

10 Parent Strategies for Academic Success

Every child is different, and many will have additional needs, including those who tend to outperform their peers in the classroom and on standardized tests. But our faculty and staff have compiled a helpful checklist for parents to support their children’s education.

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Parents supporting a child’s academic success

Every child is different, and many will have additional needs, including those who tend to outperform their peers in the classroom and on standardized tests. But our faculty and staff have compiled a helpful checklist for parents to support their children’s education.

1. Get To Know Your Child’s Teacher and Other School Staff

Attending parent-teacher conferences is always helpful, but your school might provide more ways that you can get to know your child’s teacher and how you can best support what they’re doing in the classroom. 

For example, at Prep, we have a portal to help facilitate ongoing conversations between parents and teachers, coaches, and advisors and help families keep track of upcoming events. We are also able to offer more counseling resources than many schools, so we can offer more specialized mentorship to help students with academics, mental health, and college planning. Our 11:1 student-faculty ratio allows all of our staff to get to know our students very well, and we’re happy to say that our Prep families often check in outside of conference times to make sure their children are engaged with their coursework. 

If your child works closely with a coach, a school counselor, or an advisor, these staff members may also have valuable insight about what motivates your child and where they may need additional support. 

2. Ask How Your Child’s Doing in School

Children sometimes behave differently with their teachers and their peers than they do at home, and we understand that the question, “What did you learn at school today?” doesn’t always produce the exciting conversations parents are hoping for! 

At Saint John’s Prep, it’s a frequent treat for us to see our students talking amongst themselves about what they just learned in class. If you’re not sure how your child is actually doing at school, you can certainly ask them, and you should always feel free to ask your child’s teachers. We encourage our Prep families to email a faculty or staff member whenever they have a question. 

When we advise parents to get curious about how their child is doing in school, we aren’t simply referring to the grades or scores they achieve. We take a holistic approach to education and believe that learning shouldn’t just be about test scores. We believe that education is a lifelong gift that should serve the entire person — cognitively, academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

We believe that it’s very important for our students to be engaged in what they’re learning, and if they’re not, we’ll typically offer them additional materials or learning opportunities that may reawaken their natural curiosity. As parents, you can do the same. Every child will have their favorite and least favorite subjects, for example, which is why we try to offer some flexibility in our curriculum in middle school and upper school, along with more exciting ways for our students to absorb subjects that have a reputation for being dry. 

3. Help Your Child Develop Time Management Skills

As children enter their high school years, many will need additional help developing time management strategies that work for them. Here are a few things we’d recommend: 

  • Encourage your child to stick to a routine, which will be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Suggest using a tool — either paper or electronic — to simplify scheduling and meeting deadlines
  • Help your child break down more complex tasks into smaller, easier portions so they can make steady progress towards their goals
  • Try to eliminate distractions (including over-booked schedules) as much as possible during times when your child may need help focusing on a task
  • Encourage your child to identify what that gets in the way of starting or completing tasks, and what helps them stay on track
  • Respect their need to take breaks
  • Refrain from nagging your child repeatedly to finish a task, but set clear, responsible expectations and enforce consequences when they’re not met

4. Be Supportive and Curious About What Your Child Is Learning

Not every parent who visits our campus has had the fondest memories of their middle and high school years, and that’s often why they are seeking something different for their child. We are pleased to be able to provide something that we feel is an exceptional learning experience, but, as stated earlier, parents are their children’s most powerful role models. 

If you demonstrate a positive attitude about education and display some curiosity and enthusiasm about what your child is learning, it will be very impactful. That also means making sure your child has the time, space, and any additional resources they may need to complete their homework. We encourage our parents to provide our students with additional guidance about their assignments but refrain from providing answers.

5. Help Your Child Prepare for Tests

Life will never be without stress, and while we certainly don’t teach just for high test scores, learning how to properly prepare for a test will help your child succeed in college and beyond. We help our students manage stress and develop resilience throughout their time with us, and we believe it’s perhaps the single biggest reason that our alumni so often tell us they felt better prepared for college than their peers. 

Good time management skills go a long way with helping students prepare for exams, but you can also ask your child what types of questions might be on the test and offer a few pointers, like answering easier questions first and returning to tougher ones later so they don’t feel stuck. Also, encourage your child not to cram too much the night before the exam. Late-night cram sessions can affect their ability to concentrate the next day and are associated with decreased academic performance. Instead, encourage your child to get a good night’s sleep the night before an exam and eat a healthy breakfast. 

6. Be Open To Trying New Things

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This one can be more challenging for adults than it can be for children! At Saint John’s Prep, we encourage our students to try new things. Sometimes, our students will discover a talent they never knew they had, and sometimes it’s just a great reminder that we all have to do things that we aren’t naturally good at. The ability to stay focused on incremental improvement instead of, say, winning, is an important life skill.

John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author, coach and speaker, put it like this: “If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.”

Trying new things doesn’t have to be expensive. In Central Minnesota, we have a huge variety of trails and lakes to explore. If you haven’t paddled a canoe, gone inner tubing, taken an art class, or tried your hand at disc golf, pick one and give it a go! 

7. Know When To Step In (and When To Step Back)

There are many things we do at Prep to help our students learn to solve problems for themselves, both inside and outside of the classroom. But if your child doesn’t feel safe at their school, that’s a good time to step in. 

If your child feels unsafe, it can have a negative impact on their academic performance. If your child is being bullied at school — or there are other factors that lead them to feel unsafe — let your school know. You might also try encouraging your child to self-advocate with a trusted adult in the building. However, if you’ve already tried these solutions, and your child still isn’t getting the nurturing, supportive, and safe environment they need, you may want to explore switching schools

On the other hand, if you find yourself being “the enforcer” when it comes to making sure your child completes their homework, you might want to step back. Researchers have found that the more parents nag their children about upcoming deadlines, the more children will struggle with self discipline and accountability. 

8. Don’t Discourage Play

We offer our students more time at lunch and recess than many schools do, and our college acceptance rates and school ratings indicate that building a little downtime is highly beneficial. We always try to make learning as fun and engaging as possible, but our human brains get tired, and sometimes we all do better after a good break! 

Video games, TV, and other activities are fine in moderation. After all, play is one of our first forms of learning, and as we go throughout our lives, play can boost creativity and leadership skills and help us get out of our comfort zone.

9. Explore School Offerings

Participating in school activities and clubs are a great way for your child to explore their interests. But researchers have found more to love: Participating in school activities has been shown to increase engagement and feelings of attachment to a school and decrease the likelihood that a child will want to drop out. 

You might be surprised at the activities your school offers! For example, at Prep, our students can start their own special interest clubs. In addition to music and theater, our visual arts program offers classes in drawing, painting, and ceramics, as well as photography and video production. Our students also have opportunities to travel abroad, participate in community service activities, and more.  

10. Foster Lifelong Learning

The world is a giant classroom, and everyone in it can be a student and a teacher. If you have access to a great library or museum, try to make time to explore it with your child! 

The great outdoors is also a wonderful place to learn, which is why many of our classes take place outside. Children who spend more time in nature show an improved ability to focus and remain engaged with what they’re learning.

What Is Academic Success?

This may seem like an odd topic to end on, but it’s one we spend a lot of time thinking deeply about at our school. 

We will always be proud of our role in helping young people get accepted into some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. On paper, that’s exactly what we’re here for! But we believe that, ultimately, true academic success is about giving our students the tools they need to lead happy, purposeful, and fulfilling lives. And at least according to our Prep families, that’s exactly what we do. 

If our school may be a good fit for your child, we’d love to meet you! We offer multiple ways to visit our campus throughout the school year, and we are also happy to create a customized experience for your child.