Start the School Year Right
by Penny Loome
The best thing you can do for your children this time of year is to help them start the school year off on the right foot. Whether your child is starting Grade 1 or Grade 12, there are several simple things that a parent can do to help their child put his or her best foot forward:
1. Ease into a school routine. A routine means doing the same thing each day at the same time. A routine helps to start the school year with a sense of familiarity and with a calmness that allows your child to focus on the classroom. Don’t overload your children with activities in September. Let them adapt to the rhythm of the school year.
2. Discuss changes in routines. Explain how this year’s schedule may differ from last year’s. Children can find it difficult to adjust to changes in schedules or workload. Talk with your children about the possible changes. Will there be more homework assignments? Will they have to wake up earlier? Will they have more than one teacher this year?
3. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep by setting and adhering to a regular bedtime and morning schedule. Sleep deprivation affects concentration and judgment, plus it makes it hard to get ready for school on time. A school-aged child, be they 6 or 16, needs about 10 hours of sleep every night. Without it, mornings can be a hassle and your child won’t be getting the best out of school.
4. Feed your children a healthy breakfast and make sure they are also taking a healthy lunch to school each day. Both the brain and the body need certain types of food to perform at their best. Breakfast and lunches that include lean proteins, fiber, whole grains and fruits or vegetables will help your child feel full and focused throughout the day. A poached egg or grilled turkey bacon on whole wheat toast with a glass of milk, or a whole grain cereal such as Cheerios, topped with blueberries and served with a glass of juice, provides fuel for the brain. For lunch, try a ham and cheese sandwich on multigrain with sliced apple and juice, or egg salad with lettuce and cheese, a packet of raisins and some water. Avoid sending your children to school with sugary treats—not only do they have little nutritional value, but they can also affect your children’s activity level and their ability to focus.
5. Set up a homework schedule and stick to it. Do not try to squeeze home reading in around extracurricular activities. If you don’t value homework, neither will your child. Make sure your child has a quiet location in which to do homework. Help set expectations. Remember that you can help teach your child good study habits, but the homework is his or her responsibility!
6. Set Goals. Take time to set academic goals with your child at the beginning of the school year, and review and/or modify them each month or each term. Be sure to set goals for all of the subjects and make them attainable and realistic. If she attained a “C” in math last term, it may not be realistic to set a goal of an “A.” Don’t let her set herself up for failure, rather talk about working toward a “C+” or “B” and help set her up for success.
7. Meet the teachers. Introduce yourself to the teachers during the first week of school. Let them know that you are there to support them, and that you want to be kept informed as to how your child is doing at school. Ask them if it is okay to check in with them once a month, informally. Let your child’s teacher know that if your child is having difficulties academically or socially you’d like to know right away. For parents of high school students, make sure the school office has your cell phone number on file as your primary number—that way you won’t miss any important messages that may get erased at home!Penny Loome, a teacher with 16 years of experience working with children and parents, currently runs the Sylvan Learning Centre in Victoria and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.