As September unfolds and your child settles into a new school year, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed by new schedules, forms to fill out, supplies to buy, and information you find in your child's backpack.

As September unfolds and your child settles into a new school year, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed by new schedules, forms to fill out, supplies to buy, and information you find in your child's backpack.

As these first few weeks pass, here are some proven practices that may help you this school year. Depending on your child's age, your daily preparation may vary, but even middle-schoolers and teenagers can benefit from organized routines they establish with you. Of course at any age, students do better in school when their parents are involved in what they're learning.


Keep a calendar visible:
Whether you put a calendar on the kitchen wall, the refrigerator door, or next to the telephone, be sure there's a place where you and your child can keep track of events and activities. Talk about your child's schedule. Mark down school activities you need to attend and reminders about calls you should make, or paperwork that's due. Include your child's sports, music or other extracurricular activities held on a day-to-day basis. Older children can add their own activities.

Check the backpack:
Don't miss crucial information from school because the notice is stuffed in the bottom of a backpack. When your child is young, go through the backpack with him or her each evening. This helps you determine homework assignments for that day and trains the child to be better organized.

Review daily planners:
Many middle school students have a daily planner provided by the school district that parents can check each day. Some teachers communicate with parents by having them sign the planner each evening. If your child doesn't have a planner, it's worth the investment because he or she can write down assignments and check them off when they're done. High school students can use weekly or monthly planners to map out their assignments and activities in advance.

Some schools offer online daily planners and progress tools for parents to monitor their children's homework assignments and to check out their grades on a daily or weekly basis. If your school offers this option, enroll now and help your child stay on top of his or her assignments.

Set up a daily routine:
Start your morning at night - that's advice from the Ohio Parent Infor-mation and Resource Center. Set aside time to work on homework in a special place. Include some play time in the child's home activities. Sometime during the evening, be sure to lay out clothes, pack a lunch, sign papers and line up the morning's breakfast.

Nutrition affects achievement:
Healthy foods influence how well your child learns. So it's important that you anticipate what your child will eat for breakfast so he or she can start the day off right. If you send a packed lunch, make sure it's healthy. The better prepared you are in the evening, the smoother the next morning will be. Finally, establish a bedtime, and stick to it!

Go over safety rules:
Whether your child is 6 or 16, be sure he or she knows who to call if something goes wrong at school, at home, or in between. Include your contact information and emergency numbers on a postcard in your child's backpack.
Set up what to do in an emergency, if school closes early, or if you're going to be late picking up your child after an activity. If possible, included neighbors and other children's parents on your emergency contact list.


Communicate with teachers:
Getting involved in your child's learning involves one-to-one contact with teachers. Find out the teachers' preferred way to be contacted - whether by telephone, handwritten note or e-mail. From something as simple as a missed homework assignment to more complex problems such as when your child isn't doing well in class, the easiest way to get involved is to reach out to the teacher immediately. Some teachers create web pages that list assignments and projects on an ongoing basis. Find out if your school provides these online resources.

Go to parent-teacher conferences:
Most often, the school year starts with grade-level curriculum nights, open houses, or meet-and-greet opportunities during which the teacher explains what students will learn that year and fundamental classroom and school rules. Be sure to schedule an actual conference when you can sit down individually with each teacher in the early fall to discuss your child, and then follow-up with these kinds of visits throughout the year.

Ask for reports and test results:
When you do make contact with the teacher individually, ask to review your child's Family Score Report. This is the report issued by the state that tells how your child is achieving on state tests. Also discuss the tests the teacher gives, along with other district-level tests and screenings.

Get extra help:
If you can see from homework assignments and test scores that your child isn't doing well, immediately contact the teacher to find out what's happening. Sometimes your child actually may need special education services for a learning disability. Or perhaps he or she needs some after-school tutoring or extra help at home for a certain subject. Find out from your child's teachers what extra help your child needs.

Network with other parents:
Sign up to be a member of parent organizations in your school or district. Make friends with other parents whose children are in your child's class. Some-times just talking with another parent can help you understand more about your child's learning. If you work full time, remember you don't have to be in the classroom to be involved in education.
Most of all, relax and enjoy a new year of school with your child!

Dorothea Howe is a senior writer and Jennifer Vargo is the family and community engagement coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education.