Parents, here's your mid-year school report card

Jan. 20, 2012 at 7:55 AM ET

With the crucial second school semester in full bloom, this is the time most parents feel they’re in the loop on how their kids are doing in school. They know which subjects are hard or easy and what makes their child’s teacher tick.

But it’s also the time some parents overlook other aspects of the school experience that can impact learning.

So consider a mid-year check up to identify problems and figure out how to resolve them before you are caught off-guard. Here are 6 areas to explore and tips to make things go more smoothly .

 1. Academic progress

Classes often get harder now and high-stakes testing is approaching. Teachers will decide if your child will be promoted or retained so it’s best to have a handle on current grades and test scores. If things are going well:

Have a parent-teacher conference. Review test scores and grades and get suggestions on how to improve school performance.

Hire a tutor. Consider a retired teacher or even a high school student.

Schedule upcoming class projects.  Mark due dates on a calendar so your child can allow time and effort to complete the science fair project or extended book report.

 2. Attendance and tardies

Next to grades, the highest correlation to school success is showing up in class on time ready to learn. Many parents are shocked to discover their kids are “missing” classes and marked absent.

Review their record. Don’t forget to look at attendances and tardies.

Find a solution for lateness.  If your child is chronically late waking up, get him an alarm clock. Or communicate with the teacher on a daily or weekly basis until the problem is resolved.

 3. Lack of friends

Friends play an enormous part of not only our children’s self-esteem but also school success. A lack of friends or rejection makes concentrating on those school assignments more difficult. While your child doesn’t need many friends he does need one loyal buddy and the kind of friends who value education.

Draw a map. To see if your child has peer support, ask him to draw a map of school locations where kids are most likely to be excluded: school cafeteria or playground. Where are other kids in relation to your child?

Get ideas from teacher. If your child has few or no friends or is rejected, as the teacher for friendship-making suggestions. Also, find group activity to support child’s passion. School-aged children choose friends based on similar interests so identify your child’s passion or interests and then find a group activity with same-aged peers that support it.

4. Activity overload

Many students take on more activities after the holidays,which may contribute to stress and cut into energy and time needed to devote to school-work.

Cut back.  See if your child’s schedule is balanced and allows downtime to relax or be with friends. If you sense overload mode, suggest that your child cut one thing to free up time and give him a chance to decompress. Cutting just one thing can make a big difference.

5. Sleep deprivation

A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s to learn and perform at school. Missing one hour of sleep prior can affect as much as one grade on the test the following morning.

Get a bedtime schedule. Take note of whether your child wakes up groggy and unrefreshed. If so, restore a routine bedtime schedule. Often after the holiday break that routine decreases. Research finds sticking to a routine bed time is the best way for a night sleep.

Get unplugged.  Turn computer and TV off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime –flickering lights affect REM. And remove cell phones after lights out (62% of kids admit they use it after the lights go out and their parents are clueless).

6. Poor Nutrition

Are mornings rushed and your kid is missing that crucial first meal? Not good, because a healthy breakfast is important for concentrating and keeping stamina up.

Offer healthy food options.  Consider ready-to-go bottles of orange juice or milk, low-fat yogurt, apples and whole-grain English muffins.

Beware of coffee. The consumption of coffee, caffeinated sodas and energy drinks are a growing trend for teen energy and can rob sleep. Restock your fridge with easy to grab bottles of water for backpacks.

The secret is to identify simple things you may overlook that can affect your child’s learning success. Then find a solution that works for your family and commit to implementing it until you reap positive change.

Michele Borba is a psychologist and TODAY contributor. For more parenting solutions go to Dr. Borba’s website: and follow her on twitter @MicheleBorba.

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