The best way to help your child get the most out of her education is to become an involved parent. Here are a few ways to increase your presence in your child's academic life.
1. Volunteer at school
Karen Bantuveris, founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot, has brought together more than a quarter of a million parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders to volunteer and get involved. Bantuveris encourages parents to share time and talents at school.
If you are a single mom, try to have a positive male role model in your child's life - whether it's an uncle, grandfather or family friend. Children benefit emotionally and psychologically from having both strong male and female figures in their lives.
2. Get Dad involved, too
Armin Brott, aka Mr. Dad, is the author of Fathering Your School-Age Child and urges dads to stay involved during their children's school years.
Drive the kids around. Take them to practices and lessons. Carpool with other parents. Take them on errands with you. Being in the car presents fabulous opportunities to spend time with your kids.
Go back to school. Talk to students on career day. Help a teacher in the classroom. Attend your kids' plays, concerts, sporting events, art shows and science fairs. "In most schools, men are in short supply," says Brott. "Your being there is an inspiration to other kids as well as yours, showing them -- and the school -- that men care."
3. Get to know your kids' friends
Help your child schedule get-togethers with friends, suggests Brott. Offer to invite a friend or two along on one of your outings. Getting to know your their friends is a terrific way to learn more about your children.
4. Talk to your child every day
Bantuveris encourages parents to talk to your kids about what's happening in school, with their teachers, with classroom activities and on upcoming assignments. Let them know you care about their education and their school life.
Brott agrees and urges parents (dads included) to have serious conversations with the kids about drugs, alcohol, sex, peer pressure and "all the other things you dread talking about."
5. Listen to your child every day
As parents, we have plenty to say to our kids. Sometimes, though, we become even more involved by listening instead of talking. School age kids have a lot to say, says Brott. "Set aside some time every day to turn off the cell phone and the television and the computer and focus 100 percent on your child," advises Brott. "Resist the urge to give advice -- just listen."
Then step back...
"Your child is a separate person," says Brott, "not an extension of you." It's important to think about what your child needs and wants, as opposed to what you want. As your child grows and becomes more independent, your role shifts from involved parent to that of mentor, so cherish every opportunity you have today to be a big part of your child's life.