My mom's a teacher, so I've had plenty of time to find out that the most interesting thing in the teachers' lounge is the conversation.
Here are a few insider tips on pragmatic ways to help your kids get the most out of school:
#1- Set a bedtime and observe it: Kids who sleep or are drowsy miss out. Make sure your kid is getting plenty of rest.
#2- Go to the library often: This is where readers are inspired and independent. School is mostly about reading. Encourage reading. Buying books is good too, but it doesn't have the same effect as regular library use.
#3- Get stuff ready the night before: My memories of getting ready for school are frantic moments searching for socks, papers, books, and mittens. Apparently teachers can tell when a kid's already frazzled from trying to put together an outfit and locate essential supplies while combing hair and wolfing down breakfast. Select and set out a) clothing, shoes, and outerwear for the next day and b) school supplies (books, assignments, lunch money, permission slips, etc.). Put the items in the same place each night so there will be no confusion in locating them in the morning.
#4- Feed them breakfast every morning: Hungry kids don't focus or achieve as well as fed kids.
#5- Expect active play and limit screen time: Kids have energy to burn and schools are offering fewer and fewer minutes of recess. Activity is necessary for emotional and physical good health. Television and computers aren't the educational panacea advertisers would like you to believe in. Seriously, if you send your kid outside it's probably just less time they'll spend instant messaging... it's not like they're programming a kernel or developing a programming language.
#6- Have your child dress appropriately (clothes, shoes, and outerwear) for weather and activities: I cannot tell you how many kids are miserable because they're wearing the wrong clothes or shoes for the season or activity. Overheated and freezing kids can't really stay focused. Flip-flops sideline kids (usually girls) from anything active (or they cause injuries- sometimes serious injuries). Ditto for platform shoes and many clogs. Seriously, do you want your daughter to look extra-cute on the playground's sidelines or kick some massive dodgeball butt?
#7- Meet your child's teacher(s): early in the school year. Make sure they have all your correct contact information and that they know you're always interested in talking to them about anything relating to your child. This advice is not only for elementary school children, but becomes even more important in junior high. It is also decent advice in high school, but should be handled with utmost discretion.