Schools use report cards to let families know about a student's progress. The normal rating scale goes from an "A" down to an "F" or includes numbers, with 100 being a perfect score and a low of 60 usually meaning a failure.

When a report card arrives home, most parents take great care to read the entire document. Sometimes, a teacher will write comments that give specific recommendations or support for the child. Many times, a teacher will also explain why a failing grade appears on the form.

Report cards can be a great method of identifying areas of strength and weakness in a pupil. But, how about the family itself? How can parents assess the progress being made within their home?

Here's a handy-dandy, do-it-yourself checklist that can act as a family report card. Give yourself a "+" or a " -" for each statement, count them up at the end. If you have more plus signs than minus signs, you're in pretty good shape.

If you do the activity regularly, give yourself a +. If you don't, give it a -.

1. PHYSICAL CONTACT:

a. Give hugs and kisses daily.

b. Put your arm around whoever just came off the playing field.

c. Give a pat on the back now and then.

2. CHORES:

a. Working together is a must.

b. Even the youngest child can pick up his toys.

c. Everyone should have a specific job.

d. Allowances should be tied to some form of chore.

3. CHEERLEADING:

a. Be each other's biggest supporter.

b. Compliment each other every day.

c. Attend events that are important to your family member.

d. Families stick together.

4. TRADITIONS:

a. Memories come from special times spent together.

b. Collect family recipes and preserve them for the kids.

c. Try a game night, a movie night, or a reading night.

d. Give the kids a sense of heritage.

e. Tell the family stories behind Christmas ornaments, photos, quilts, name origins.

5. MEALTIME:

a. Eat dinner together whenever possible - at least 3 or 4 nights a week.

b. Talk about your day.

c. Try a Round Robin discussion, such as "High-Low" - each person tells the high and low points of his day.

d. Allow each family member to choose the menu one night a week.

6. PLAYING:

a. Allow each family member to choose a game or activity for all to play once a week.

b. Don't automatically allow the youngest child to win.

c. Arguments that arise are written down and forgotten until after the game is over.

d. Competition is good, but family harmony comes first.

7. VALUES:

a. Let the children know what is important in your family and expect them to remember these values when they are not at home.

b. Repeat family values often.

c. Say "Thank you" and "Please" a lot.

8. EDUCATION:

a. Make it a BIG priority.

b. Encourage reading, writing, and artistic pursuits.

c. Show your children that learning is important to you, too.

d. Contact your children's teachers regularly and attend conferences.

9. MAKING DECISIONS:

a. Let the children feel as if they have some control over their lives.

b. Give choices, not ultimatums.

c. Mom and Dad work together to set rules.

d. Both parents are always aware and informed.

10. RELAX AND ENJOY:

a. Have a sense of humor.

b. Be flexible.

c. When a crisis occurs, remember "This, too, shall pass away."

d. Nothing is engraved in stone while you're still alive.

Raising a happy, healthy family is not a matter of good luck. It takes hard work. If you are an 'A+" family, that's great. If you think your grade is too low and you'd like some help, let me know.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.