You’ve bought all the necessary supplies, and put your money where your mouth is to make your student look and feel good going into the new year. You’re ready to lay the foundation for the year ahead.
Now is the time to think about the things you won’t find on shelves. The habits and routines that help your student handle the work of school, and the larger work of growing up and learning to manage themselves.
By sticking to these important ideals, you can make this school year one of thinking, feeling, and growing. And under the right circumstances, even enjoying school.
Back to school is as much about routine as it setting the tone for the next nine months. Relish the next steps in making your child a self-sustainable learner, especially:
Learning how to get answers: The center of critical thinking is getting from point A to point B. Start with real life examples. As an employee and parent, you call out problems, gather information, and try solutions every day. It’s no different than building a volcano, writing a book report, or preparing for an AP test. Share the process (also, teach them how to use Google like a pro).
Self-assessing their work: Traditionally teachers are in charge of assessing student performance. Think ahead for the days when there will no longer be a teacher. Self-reflection is as important to a child’s success as reading, and is the backbone of confidence.
“Self-reflection is as important to a child’s success as reading, and is the backbone of confidence.”
A Solid Routine Changes Everything
Three types of routines matter: sleep, morning, and homework. If you haven’t started already, now is your chance. It won’t be without bumps in the road, but it’ll pay off big in time saved and headaches averted.
Morning: Wake up. Eat breakfast. Pack bags (and/or lunches). Get on the bus. It’s a load to handle at the start of the day. Talk them through it, walk them through it, and then get them to do it themselves.
Homework: Some experts believe in a set time for completing homework every day. This isn’t always realistic, especially with the shifting schedules of teens and tweens. If you’re a stalwart about anything, make sure it’s having the space (and focus) to complete homework.
Sleep: Namely, determine how you are going to handle electronics. Are you going the honors system route and leaving them with their devices? Turning them off one hour before bedtime? Those are the questions to answer from elementary up, while younger kids can also benefit from a bedtime routine.
Organization Reduces (Everyone’s) Anxiety
Whether it’s lists or walk-throughs, your child can use your help in setting up a system for keeping things straight. And they might even appreciate it.
In order of importance, tackle an organization plan for :
- Backpacks and supplies (make good use of those pockets!)
- Important papers (if Mom or Dad needs to sign, put it [here])
- Planners (What goes in it? Heck, what’s a to-do list?)
- Completed work (both before and after being handed in)
Don’t just tell them how to organize, make them understand the why. Question them about the idea or organization (take time now, save time later). You bought $70 worth of folders and binders for a reason.
Kids Need YOU to Have Boundaries
You want your child to be independent and to lead themselves down the road to success.
This doesn’t happen without valleys and peaks. How much help will you offer when your child struggles? Every parent has an answer. Find yours and stick to it.
Among other things, determine how you’ll handle:
- Forgotten lunches/lunch money
- Ignored or lost permission slips
- Important supplies left at school/home
- Using homework as an excuse for staying up
In homework or life, kids need to make mistakes. Encourage them to learn and bounce back. And there is one golden rule: NEVER give your child an answer.
Be Emotionally Available
Back-to-school can be a wonderful time for the way your child needs you. By re-answering questions which haven’t been asked in three months. you’re there to listen to concerns and overcome anxieties. Two big parts of this can be:
Carving time out of your day. Even if it’s 15 minutes, something as simple as reading books or taking walks will be savored, and is a great break for both of you.
Listening. Ask questions instead of making judgments. The more you listen, the more they’ll share. Perhaps begin a conversation with your child about last school year and the beginning of this one.
Besides the pure joy of spending time with them, it’s a great way to anticipate their needs and concerns. When worries arise, you can be ready to address them.
Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences
“Using conferences to ask the teacher proactive questions shows a genuine interest in a child’s studies.”
But many parents don’t know what to ask (which can lead to teachers assuming they want limited involvement). Using conferences to ask the teacher smart and proactive questions shows a genuine interest in a child’s studies. Ask about:
- Your child’s abilities and performance (Does my child need extra help in any areas?)
- What your role should be (What can we do to provide it?)
- The teacher’s methods/curriculum (How do you see your role in the learning process? * What are the most important ideas for my child to learn?)
- School and district resources (What are the best resources for students/families I might not know about?)
Back to school IS chaotic. But if you remember the long game, you can find yourselves on a path to continual growth.