September is an exciting time for teachers and children. Although summer vacation is nice, the new school year brings new students, goals, and challenges. Below are some tips to get back into routine the right way.
1. Set a firm bed-time
I have read and written numerous articles about the importance of high quality sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends that school age children get 9-11 hours of sleep each night. A restful sleep leads to better attention, mood, and energy throughout the long school day.
2. Leave time in the morning for breakfast
No one likes to run out the door. Leave yourself an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to have a healthy breakfast with your child. Use this time to talk to your child about what he/she is excited for that day and make sure that he/she has packed the day’s homework assignments and reading materials. Breakfast doesn’t have to be complex. Think hardboiled eggs, toast, and a piece of fruit.
3. Start the year with expectations for homework
The dreaded “h” word. For some kids, sitting down to do homework is a challenge but this is a great way for your kids to practice what they have learned during the school day. Teachers want to see what the kids are getting wrong so they know what concepts need to be re-taught, so don’t worry too much about having incorrect answers. A great time to do homework is right after school. Allow your child a short 20-30 minute snack/play break before jumping into the work.
It’s important to have a dedicated space to do homework. Even if you are in a small space, try to have a tray table where your child has access to pencils, paper, etc, without being able to view toys, games and television. Set a timer and break homework into smaller increments if you see your child getting restless. For more ideas, check out Understood, a great resource for children with learning disabilities.
4. Have open communication with teachers and therapists
Parent involvement is a very strong indicator of student progress. Make time in the first month of school to stop in and speak to teachers and therapists. If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), review the goals and services and make sure that he/she is receiving what he is supposed to be receiving. Know what the expectations are in the classroom and in the therapy room, both in class and for carryover at home. If you see a problem in your child’s academics or behavior, don’t wait until parent teacher conferences-be in touch with your team.
5. Make time to talk with your children
With so much going on during the school year (after school clubs, play dates, etc) it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure talking to your children becomes a priority. Try to avoid questions such as “how was your day?” to which you will undoubtedly get the response “fine” and focus instead on more direct questions, such as “who did you play with at lunch today?” or “what book(s) did you read during reader’s workshop? who were the characters?” Not only will this set up a comfortable dialogue with your children, but it will allow you to know what they have been doing in and out of the classroom.
Welcome back everyone and have a great first day of school!
(If you found this helpful and want more ideas on conversation starters for children, let me know and I will make a follow-up post)