Flourish in the Fall: 10 Back to School Tips
08/21/2015 02:23PM ● Published by Aubray Onderik
By: Courtney Phillips
Like beach and ballpark sand vacuumed from the minivan floorboard, gone are the lazy days of summer. Whether your children are excitedly anticipating the first day or reluctant to leave behind the spoils of June and July, here are 10 ways to ease the transition for the whole family.
1. Get into the routine. If the summer months have not been filled with early-rising camp and swimming lessons, the morning wake-up transition can be a shock. Begin nudging bedtime closer to reality. On average, children ages three to six need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Ages seven to 12 need 10 to 11 hours. Ages 12 to 18 need 8 to 9 hours per night.
2. Attend open house at your child’s school. According to Christy Spiller, a kindergarten teacher at Northwood Temple Academy and parent of two school-aged children, open house is an often-missed opportunity for parents to meet teachers and develop expectations for the new year. “It is beneficial to parents and the students. Parents are provided with lots of information to help them get ready for the school year and supply lists if they have not already received one. For students, it gives them an opportunity to visit their school, classroom and teacher - possibly for the first time.”
3. Gather school gear and clothes early in the month before school. Uniform separates go quickly and book bags, lunch boxes, lunchbox inserts and outfits take time to order and personalize. Don’t forget an outfit for fall picture day and a few sturdy pieces of outerwear for cold classrooms and rainy mornings.
4. Work with your child to prepare a healthy menu of quick, hearty breakfasts and lunches, if your child prefers one from home. Together, search for recipes that can be prepared ahead and frozen in batches. Ideas include chewy breakfast bars, slow-cooker oats, soups, granola, muffins, breakfast bread and smoothies frozen in refillable containers. Many breakfast items can double as lunch items, which makes packing a breeze. Stockpile well-loved convenience items for after school snacks. Check with the classroom teacher for allergy restrictions and expectations in the classroom.
5. Review last year’s material or prepare for the next grade. Even if you’re trying to squeeze in one last vacation, a prep book in the car could make you and your student begin the year more confidently. Of gathering resources, it need not be expensive. Ms. Spiller said, “It is beneficial for students to review material taught the previous year. If your child is an advanced learner, you may want to go over some of the beginning material for the next grade level. If your child's teacher does not provide something for your child to review over the summer, the Summer Bridge books are a great resource. School Tools and AC Moore sell them or you can purchase them online. The library is another awesome free resource. Students can join the summer reading program and earn rewards for the time they read to keep them motivated and keep reading skills sharp. There are numerous online games, websites and activities that are free or inexpensive to help prepare kids for school.”
6. Designate a book-drop space. If you don’t have a mudroom or area to unload at the end of the day, it will translate to a messy table at dinner time and difficult mornings, spelunking for lost homework, shoes and sports equipment. Seek your child’s input on the location and size of the space. Set up a space for yourself, as well. Those car keys don’t lose themselves.
7. Design a fun homework nook in a quiet but easily accessible area of the home to make homework time less painful and more efficient. Equip it with calculators, scissors, glue, crayons, pencils, paper and any other items for which children might otherwise spend valuable time searching each afternoon. Ensure enough space to slide up a chair for help.
8. Talk with your child. Address your expectations for them as learners and how they feel about the upcoming months. This line of open dialogue can pay dividends into the school year. Ask specific, but open-ended questions and patiently wait for responses. Some suggestions include:
What are you most excited to do on the first day? Why?
What will you miss most about summer vacation?
Who do you look forward to seeing on the first day?
If you could design the perfect teacher/friend/coach, what are some qualities they would possess?
How do you choose where to sit at lunch/in class?
What is the best part of your school day? The most difficult? Why?
9. Make contact with an assigned teacher and ask how you can help before the school year begins, and establish ways you can help throughout the year. Share your talents and limitations with the teacher and develop a schedule of times you can assist the class. Before school begins, ensure your Volunteer Security form is current with Cumberland County Schools (www.ccsvolunteers.com) or volunteer forms are complete for private schools. According to Hannah Smith, a teacher at Alma Easom Elementary, a classroom has diverse needs that parents can fulfill beyond volunteering in the traditional “class parent” capacity. “Parent involvement in the classroom is important. It shows students that parents and teachers are working together to make them successful. It plays an important factor in raising a child’s self-esteem and academic achievement. We realize that each of our families come with their own talents and time constraints, so we try to provide many different opportunities for parent involvement. In my classroom, I encourage parents to be involved in ways they can use their own personal skills and talents. If I have a parent who loves photography, I encourage to be our ‘photo mom.’ I cherish pictures of my class but rarely have the opportunity to take them. Parents can get involved by simply coming and helping prepare classroom activities or working one-on-one with a student or reading with a small group,” said Ms. Smith. If work constraints make it difficult for you to physically come to the class, ask the teacher how you can help from home.
10. Make or purchase a large scheduling calendar. Festively mark important family dates, school and extracurricular activities and place it in a prominent location in your home. A timeline can be just as beneficial for the excited little one as the reluctant older child. Everyone loves stickers and a countdown to a vacation, family events and birthdays.