Posted by HMG
If you are like me, you spent a few minutes this weekend visiting Target or Wal-Mart gearing your kids up to return to school. As I was standing in line, I looked around at the other families with their carts full of #2 pencils, Crayola crayons and colored pencils, folders, notebooks, binders, dry erase markers, Kleenex, and Clorox wipes and it reminded me of all our families preparing to return this week. So, here are a few tips to start the school year off right and keep it going in the right direction.
A Parent’s Guide for Back to School: 3Tips for a Successful School Year
Establish a Routine
This is the most important tip to discuss! Children, and most adults, thrive on structure. Younger children depend on routines to learn successful habits. I encourage parents to work together with their school aged children and create a checklist or agenda to outline their responsibilities in the morning, after school, and the evening. When parents allow their children to be involved in the process of establishing school routines, its focused on responsibility and ownership which increases effectiveness.
Our evenings go a little like this, after dinner the kids take a bath and brush their teeth. Then once we have pajamas on we choose our outfits for the following day and put them on top of the dresser, so we know where to find them in the morning. Then it is bedtime, but not before we enjoy a story or a chapter in one of our favorite books. As you can see, by making some of the most contentious decisions in the evening while everyone is awake and not sleepy or grumpy, we’ve decreased any opportunity to make small decisions a big deal. This makes our morning easier to manage, and decreases many of the morning power struggles before the kids get to school.
After school we are much more laid back. We choose not to do homework right after school. I realize my six year old has just spent a full day in a structured environment, so we take some time and space to relax and play. We usually decide on a whim if he wants to do homework before or after dinner, and whatever he chooses is when we do it. I think by giving him the choice, again, it give him buy in and a little control over the decision. Then our evening routine starts again, and once the kids are asleep we head down to make and pack lunches for the next day.
Create a Partnership with your Teacher & School
Take the first step to open the channels of communication with your child’s teacher. Sure, there are ice cream socials and back to school events which allow parents a sneak peek into the classroom. I encourage you not to stop there. Within the first few weeks of school reach out and schedule a time to talk on the phone or send a quick e-mail. Share with the teacher the best ways to get in touch with you, and encourage him or her to contact you whenever needed. If there are specifics you’d like the teacher to know about your child, communicate them. I’ve observed so many parents use the wait and see approach with teacher communication. Communicate as often as needed to make you feel as if you have an accurate pulse on the classroom and your child’s progress.
If possible, find a way to volunteer. Whether this is consistently or only when you have time off work, it is so important for your child to see you invested in his or her learning process. Ask the teacher where and when help is most needed, and make it work. You won’t regret it! I have heard parents say, “I don’t think my child’s teacher likes volunteers.” I don’t know of an elementary school teacher who would turn down another pair of adult hands, even if it is only every once in a while. If you feel more comfortable volunteering outside of the classroom get connected with the PTO and find out what opportunities might be right for you.
This is too important not to mention – please never let your child hear you speak negatively about a teacher or the school. This undermines the work of the school and creates unnecessary questions in the mind of a child. If you have questions or disagree with something, reach out to the adults involved and find a solution. Many times, just gathering all the facts can provide clarity and direction.
Stay Connected & Informed
Many schools and teachers use newsletters and/or maintain websites to provide parents with as much news, information, and upcoming events as possible. Most websites have the opportunity to sign up for the listserv, which sends you an email at an address of your choice when new information is posted. In addition, many now have Twitter and Facebook to expand the means of communication through social media. If you are unsure how to get the most up to date and accurate information, call the school’s office or e-mail your child’s teacher. Schools put a lot of information “out there”, but we know our families are as busy ever. Find a way to get the information you need when and how YOU need it.
Good luck to all the teachers, students, and families who start school this week! We are right there with you. This is a great time to be an educator, and together with families, we will all find success in the end.