How to Start the School Year Right
Coming into September, many feel the shock of moving from a summer schedule to a fall schedule—especially if the summer was pretty laid back and your fall is, well, packed! Smoothing the transition and setting your child up to succeed in the new school year is on the minds of parents everywhere.
But how do you set your child up to succeed? What do you need to pay attention to when there are so many factors and moving pieces that you sometimes feel crazy?
There isn’t really an easy answer since children are all different and what works for one may not work for another. As a parent, particularly a parent of multiple children, you know this to be true. So, how do you know you are doing what is best for your child so he or she can succeed in this new school year? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to make sure you and your child are headed in the right direction.
What Does Preparedness Mean?
One of the main questions to ask yourself is what are you trying to accomplish? How will you know when you have done everything you can to set your child up well and you can leave the rest for your child to manage by him or herself? This question depends quite a bit on the kind of person your child is—perhaps more than you would think.
For example, let’s say your older son is an energetic, outgoing athlete. To get him ready, you may want to sit down together and write out a checklist of everything he is going to need since he is likely to forget something as he runs out the door on his first day. Lunch, pencils, practice uniforms, new school outfits, and other similar things might make the list. Having him draw up a budget and go shopping for what he is missing. Help him shift his sleep schedule in advance. If he starts getting used to waking up early before he really needs to, he may be less likely to accidentally oversleep. Ask him if he has packed his bag properly the night before school starts. Helping your son get organized might be what you focus on to prepare him for school.
On the other hand, your younger daughter might be an extremely organized person but she is really shy and going to a new school this coming year. She probably doesn’t need a list of things to do (or perhaps she has already made one and checked it off without you), she needs encouragement and confidence. Taking her to visit her new school and making sure she knows where her classrooms are might be a good idea. Have her introduce herself to her teachers so she feels she has resources to turn to when school starts. See if there is a school club or a sport she is interested in so she can have a place where she can make some friends. Then take her out to lunch and tell her how much you believe in her. These are the kinds of things you will want to do to prepare your daughter for school.
What Is Your Child’s Schedule?
This is a huge question. Most schedules get completely full before you know it until you are run ragged trying to fit this and that in at the end of the day. Maxing out a schedule is exhausting for you and it can be tough on your child as well. You don’t want to burn your child out or turn homework and learning into an inconvenience because they are getting in the way of all the things your child is trying to do.
Many also don’t take into account the opportunities that may come up later in the school year. If your child is already really busy at the beginning, adding in a study sleepover weekend with some new friends
or a lucky internship or option to shadow a professional is going to be really difficult and really stressful. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, leave some space in your child’s schedule so your child can take breaks and add more activities in as the opportunities arise.
How Is Your Child’s Social Life?
It is relatively simple (though not always easy) to check that your child’s backpack is ready or to rearrange commitments so your child’s schedule isn’t overfull. Something many parents forget is the friendships their children make. While this is something children have to do on their own, you can certainly offer guidance and support. We know that social ability can come into play as much as intellect later on in life. Learning to develop social skills and how to choose good friends is as much a part of an education as academics is.
Make sure your child has a balanced school life by encouraging healthy friendships. You may even consider making your home available for social gatherings so you can meet the friends your child makes and to create an opportunity for your child to connect with more people.
What Are Your Child’s School Habits?
Setting up good habits at the start of school helps set the tone for the rest of the year. But getting into new habits isn’t easy. Kids have to learn how to be good students, and good school habits have to be developed over time. No matter what age your child is, if you both want to set some new, positive study habits, you can! However, it may not be quite in the way you think.
If your child is basically starting from scratch, don’t try to create a major change. Start with something small, like five or ten minutes of homework every day. Once that is ingrained, expand it here and there. Perhaps you start with half of an assignment from your child’s favorite subject, then progress to completing the whole thing. Once that feels automatic, add another subject. The idea is to create a rhythm first. This ties in with the idea of leaving space in your child’s schedule—it gives your child an opportunity to develop in new and exciting ways.
If your child struggles with good academic habits, consider creating some accountability with an academic coach or a tutor. Sometimes knowing someone is going to be asking about your week and how you did can be enough to keep you doing what you are supposed to. Plus, tutors and coaches are usually great with setting reasonable goals, encouraging and noticing the small steps taken, and celebrating the little victories your child achieves.
Those at Spark Tutors are experienced in encouraging positive behaviors and guiding students towards their academic goals. We use our expertise in the different subject matter and concepts to inspire in students the same love of learning that we have. We are proud to come alongside parents and students as fellow explorers discovering new ways to understand tough material and overcome academic challenges.
We hope this article has given you some ideas for what you can do to feel prepared for this new school year. Remember to take a deep breath and leave space for potential opportunities. We’ll see you at the tutoring table!