Schools in El Dorado County are open, buses are running, and children are carting backpacks full of books to and from school. Fall is in the air, or will be shortly. You just bought new school clothes, and the kids are already outgrowing the shoes! It’s what happens at the beginning of every school year. What also happens at the beginning of the school year are the Back to School meetings at each school. This evening event has a variety of names, but going to this first function of the school year is the chance for you to find out what’s happening at your child’s school and, most particularly, in your child’s classroom. What will your child be learning this year? How much homework will he or she be expected to do? Will there be special assignments like a science fair, book reports or a research project? What happens when your child is sick? How can you get the assignments? There’s a lot to find out at the beginning of each year. This is a new grade with a new teacher and expectations change every year. Unless you’ve participated in some of these early school activities, you might find the dinner table discussion sounding like this: Parent: “How was school today?” Child: “OK.” Parent: “What’d you do?” Child: “Nothing.” Parent: “Do you have any homework?” Child: “No.” Even if you have participated in the early year school events, you may still hear “OK, nothing, and no.” Your best bet is to change the question based on what you know. “You’re studying the multiplication tables this year. Which ones are you studying this week?” or “What book are you reading for your book report this week?” or even “What research project are you planning to do?” Engaging yourself in your children’s education guarantees that they will be engaged as well. They model you. Preschool and early elementary school is an ideal time to read with your children, play math games, and go to museums. You may not think your children want you involved if they are in middle school and are asking you to drop them off two blocks from the school, and if at all possible, wear a bag over your head. Heaven forbid that you should ever show up a school with a forgotten lunch or to pick them up for an orthodontist appointment! Nevertheless, even your middle school students are pleased when you ask what they’re doing and show an interest in helping them get the information they need. And when you can’t help with the trigonometry in high school, you can ask your children to show you what they’re doing and how to use it. At that age they can download music to your ipod, program your phone, and set up the DVD player without stopping their text messaging. Let them show you a few math functions, what they’re learning in chemistry, or tell you why Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado is so interesting. Just don’t interrupt the text messaging! Find out what happens at school. If you missed the Back to School night, contact your child’s teacher. He or she can walk you through this year’s plan. Both your children and their teachers will be pleased to know you’re taking an interest.