A.K.A. How to have a great school year
If you’re not back in the swing of things, academically, you probably will be within the week. Many Houston area schools began classes last week and students will return to the rest by the end of August.
Heading back-to-school can be equal parts excitement and stress for everyone involved. To help ease the load here are our top parent-tested tips to make this transition an easier one for your entire family.
We are assuming you have already bought school supplies, started going to bed earlier, and are planning on eating a healthy breakfast. Right?!
1. Prep the Story
Many people are natural storytellers. You ask, “What’s up?” and are treated to a diatribe beginning with their birth and ending with their Great Aunt Mavis’ cat being struck by lightning.
Many are not.
If you have a child on the other end of the spectrum help them review some fun things your family did over the summer so when they head back-to-school they are ready with an answer to the inevitable question, “So, what did you do this summer?”
2. Morning Playlist
Create a morning playlist (maybe change it up each time grades are reported) and play it each morning to keep yourself on track.
As in, when The Beatles sing, “Here Comes the Sun” wake up the kids, by the time the American Authors are singing “Best Day of my Life” kids should be eating breakfast, and when Andy Grammer sings, “Gotta Keep Your Head Up” it’s time to head out the door.
3. Focus on the Positive
At bedtime or dinnertime or any sort of quiet moment ask your kids to tell you something positive that happened that day. People (even little people or our 13 going on 30’s) can focus on the one bad thing that happened. It’s your job to help them see that it is not the whole story.
4. Ask for Help
The school is there to make sure your child succeeds. Sometimes it may not seem that way if you happen upon a jaded administrator or they mention that test too much but it is. And, your kid has you who is definitely out to ensure their success. However, you can’t do it all by yourself and you don’t have to.
Even if it is the first day of school, go ahead and send the teacher an email or set up a conference. If you have a concern or a specific need for your child address it sooner than later.
Don’t forget to follow up nicely if you don’t get a response within a few days (give them the benefit of the doubt that they missed your email or forgot as most teachers are getting things together and many have children too).
5. Find Out Your School’s Homework Policy
This will obviously vary by age, grade, and level but you are the parent and if you feel the homework is inappropriate you need to speak up. And, then, maybe, speak up again.
If you feel the amount of homework is unreasonable you may have to to make a family decision on how much will be done and inform the school. However, this should be a last resort as it may have unintended consequences or backlash on your child – particularly if they are involved in school-sponsored extracurriculars.
If it is an unavoidable fact that your child will be doing an hour or more of homework each evening introduce them to the Pomodoro Technique. Many people swear by it for efficiency and retention.
6. Talk to the Librarian and Create a Library Book Drop-Zone
Many schools subscribe to online databases or apps that you can access from home. Talk to the librarian to know what is available at home and get the usernames and passwords.
Additionally, have a designated place, a basket or bag, in your home for library books to hang out.
7. Acquire a Stash of Grab-and-Go Food
It’s nice to make beautiful bento box lunches but in reality, there are going to those days you won’t have time to turn a strawberry into a turban for a string cheese yogi. Don’t sweat it and keep some easy food stashed for those days.
An occasional pop-tart or granola bar for breakfast or some processed meat and cheese for lunch won’t kill your kiddo. Promise (*not a doctor).
P.S. Did you know you can freeze PBJs? Just saying.
8. Review the Day, Set up Tomorrow, and Prioritize
We, as adults, tend to get into the habit of making the decisions and carrying them out. It’s efficient and, come on, we’re tired so it just gets it done. Generally, this is fine but if you start noticing anxiety creeping into your child it may be due to not knowing what comes next. Kids love routine and are great at it, unfortunately, the routine can be a bit wonky if you have extracurricular activities etc.
It can really be as simple as a five-minute conversation at bedtime that goes something like: “Okay, so today we did XYZ and the went pretty well (or maybe next time we should try blah, blah, blah). What do you think? Just to give you a head’s up tomorrow after school we have XYZ and remember we need to do whatever.” This gives them the chance to know what is coming and voice any questions, comments, and/or concerns. It also gives you both the chance to see if you are doing too much and if you need to let things go or what needs to be prioritized,
9. Do All the Things
This might sound a little contradictory from above about prioritizing, but it’s not – it’s just part of the prioritizing. If the school sponsors an activity do it. School Carnival? Attend. Pep Rally? Yep, go. These are the things you can’t do if you miss them and you can alway leave if they are not your “thing.” But, if you do go or participate this is where you and/or your kids will get connected to other families and make the relationships that make a school a community that your child wants to be a part of.