I love not setting an alarm on the days I don’t have to work. I love being able to stay in our bathing suites all day. I love spending the afternoon in the pool or watching the kids run through the sprinklers. I especially love eating ice cream at 5 p.m. just because the ice cream man does not know it’s nearly dinner time.
But I know that now is the perfect time to start easing the kids back into some kind of routine so that when September sneaks up on us (next week — eek!) we are ready.
As my kids prepare for fourth, second and first grades, I wanted to consult the back-to-school experts for their best tips on getting ready for a successful school year. So, I asked my mom (a former teacher), one of my closest friends (a current teacher and mom of three) and my children’s tutor (no further credentials necessary) for their best back-to-school advice. Each provided some really useful suggestions. The overwhelming theme in their advice was:
1. Routine. Summer is the time where we relax our routine; even throw it out the window for three months. Now is the time to re-establish schedules, especially the bedtime and mealtime routines. Incorporating a healthy breakfast into the day is especially important during the school year. Depending on how late your child has been going to bed, it’s a good idea to progressively move his or her bedtime up by five or ten minutes so that the week before school starts you are at the school-year bedtime. It helps to talk to your child about the benefits of school routines and why it’s so important to establish one.
2. Responsibilities. Now is a good time to start easing back into the school-year responsibilities that you ignored during the summer and start think about adding new responsibilities now that your student is a year older. So, for example, if you stopped making beds in the summer, have your child get back into the habit of doing so. If your son or daughter does not typically pick out his or her clothes the night before school, this may be a good year to start.
When school begins, your child should be accountable for his or her school work. You can help your child follow through on homework completion but, as tempting as it may be, do not rescue your child. Instead help your student become responsible for his or her work, including making sure that assignments get back to school on time.
As part of your child’s responsibilities, involve your son or daughter in meal planning and packing lunches. One of the things that really frustrates me is when I ask my kids what they want for lunch and they say “I don’t care.” Obviously they do care when the food in their lunch box comes home uneaten. Dessert seems to be the exception to this rule.
Last year my friend sat down with her two school-aged children and they brainstormed for lunch ideas. She and her son came up with a weekly menu that they followed throughout the year. According to that schedule, every Thursday he ate a cheese quesadilla, a piece of fresh fruit, chips or crackers and what they called a sweet treat on their meal chart. According to their chart, his snack for that day would be a granola or fruit bar and a piece of fruit. Her daughter on the other hand opted for making a list of lunch and snack options and planning each week ahead of time by choosing items from each list. It worked well for them and I’m hoping it goes well in my house too.
3. Reading. Everyone agrees that daily reading is important. It’s the one thing we’ve done our best to try and maintain throughout the summer. Not to say that we haven’t had out battles over it but for the most part we’ve tried to incorporate daily reading and as a result, they have not lost any of the skills they mastered last year.
My panel of experts also stressed addressing the emotional aspects of going back to school. Let your son or daughter know it’s natural to be nervous when starting something new. Reassure your student once she gets to know her new classmates, teacher and school routine, the nervousness will disappear. Children also pick up on a parent’s anxiety so model confidence and optimism.
Our tutor said it best when she told me, “If the first few days are a little rough, try not to overreact. Young children in particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially but teachers are trained to help them adjust. If you drop them off, try not to linger. Reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back.”
Our school district closed an elementary school so in the fall two of my children will be going to a new school. Our plan is to visit the school again so that my guys can see their new classroom, find the lunch room, check out the playground and meet their new teacher.
How are you helping your kids prepare?
— Jen Lovy, Parenting Program Volunteer