The start of a new school year is upon us. Whether it’s a brick-and-mortar classroom, online education or homeschooling, most parents can agree this is a hectic time as we do our best to prepare our kids for a successful school year.

As a parent, former teacher and current school leader, I have had the opportunity to experience education through different points of view. Throughout my time in education, I’ve found that there is one key element crucial in student success: the school-parent connection.

As parents, we do our best to be a part of our kids’ education but it can be a challenge. I want to share some extra steps you can take to help get a little more involved in your child’s educational journey.

With the new school year, start with a simple conversation with your child about social and educational activities at school. A quick conversation in the morning can show your support in their daily life. What are you looking forward to today? Anything I can help you with today? These conversations increase their engagement and your understanding of their experience.

Starting conversations also can apply with teachers. Remember, your child’s education is a two way street. Teachers want students to be successful, and do their best to make that possible. Take advantage of opportunities like parent-teacher conferences to learn about your child’s daily experience in the classroom. If questions or concerns arise, don’t be afraid to reach out to teachers or staff.

Every child needs an education champion. Be a source of motivation for your child, encouraging them when they are struggling and acknowledging their accomplishments. Not every child learns at the same pace, and not all education happens in the classroom. Seek out opportunities to help your child keep learning, like visits to museums or grocery store trips.

Most importantly, build a circle of supportfor your child and yourself. Attend school events, like field trips, and build relationships with families. Not only will your child feel more confident, but you will also have the chance to connect with other parents.

The school year is full of busy days packed with activities and school work. As a parent, I understand how difficult it can be juggling everyday life and being involved with your kid’s education. I encourage you to use some of these tips, get involved, and help make this school year the best one yet.

Darla Gardner began her career in education 16 years ago as an elementary school teacher. Over the years, she has taught various grade levels. Before joining Arkansas Connections Academy she was the assistant principal at Oklahoma Connections Academy. She is now thrilled to begin her fourth year as ARCA’s school leader.