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By Melissa Taylor

Does the start of your kid’s school year give you a case of the jitters? Between PTA politics and in-class conflicts, it’s no wonder many of us moms are less than enthusiastic this time of year. And I should know — I was one of them. For a while there, I fell into the age-old trap of focusing more on pleasing the teachers, the school and other parents instead of making sure my daughters’ educational needs were being met. Sound familiar? Here, three common school mistakes I made and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Going with the flow

As a former teacher, I cringed at the thought of ever being “that parent” — you know, the one who complains about even the tiniest things. So I let my first-grader endure a noisy, chaotic classroom and a distracted teacher — and watched helplessly as she fell behind in every subject. I had hoped that being a so-called nice parent would change the situation. It didn’t, and as a result, my daughter spent the next three years catching up with her studies.

Lesson: Advocating for your child is your job. So if you sense there are issues keeping her from getting the best education possible, say something to her teachers. And don’t be shy about bubbling it up to the principal, if necessary.

Mistake #2: Volunteering out of guilt

I work. I’m kind of disorganized. And I don’t like meetings. But despite all that, I once signed up to be class party mom, a job that meant lots of morning meetings talking about crafts and organizing the calendar full of class parties. Yeah, it was a tough year.

Lesson: Your time is precious. Instead of wasting it doing something you don’t enjoy, volunteer for jobs that appeal to you and fit your personality, talents and schedule.

Mistake #3: Allowing homework misery

My first grader had to write one journal entry every night. It took a hour of tears and several fits and starts to even get a half page. We both suffered every night for nine straight months. She developed an aversion to writing, and I worry now that she may never enjoy it because of the experience she had that year. While homework is no one’s idea of a good time, it shouldn’t be a year-long struggle.

Lesson: Use your best judgment with homework assignments. If they seem unreasonable, and your child is on or above grade level, talk to the teacher and try to work out an alternative. (What are they doing to do — kick you out of school?)