I’m sorry, but I have to be your reality check: summer is pretty much over and school is about to start (or has started for some of you). It’s time to wind down the play dates and road trips to Grandma’s. All day outings at the amusement parks need to be planned for next year. Right now, it’s learnin’ time.
As a former teacher, here are some suggestions I can offer from the perspective of your child’s educator that can help get your kid ready to head back to school and succeed in that transition:
Start getting them in the mood to learn: A week or so before school starts, or whenever you start doing your back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes, start increasing the amount of educational activities you have your child do each day. If you haven’t been enforcing any set reading time during the summer…start. Most kids’ reading abilities will drop a few levels over the summer (makes sense—they aren’t in a learning environment 6-7 hours straight every day). To minimize this digression and keep them prepared to start the next grade, have them read every day for at least 15-20 minutes. As school gets closer, start testing them on their multiples, their spelling, or really anything you can remember they worked on from the previous year. Ask them deep questions about the book they are reading to stimulate their comprehension. Getting them in the mood to learn as the new school year approaches will make it easier for them to pay attention in class from day one, and get them excited to learn.
Don’t use the first day of school to start a drastic new routine: If you know you will have to drop off three kids to different schools at different times every morning, and you’ll have to wake them at 5:00 AM to be on time, don’t start that routine the first day of school. That day is hectic enough and you want to focus on the fun, good things of that day. The week before school starts, ease into the routine you hope to establish for the school year.
Take the teacher’s supply list seriously: Teachers buy most of the supplies for their classrooms and students from their own pockets, since the budget we are given is pretty much a joke. If the district allows the teachers to send out lists of what supplies your child will need for that year, don’t just toss it in the trash and assume your kid will be taken care of. He will be, regardless. But it sure helps when kids have at least a (sharpened) pencil and backpack on the first day of school. I know some families are on a tight budget themselves and can’t afford to supply everything on the list. This is totally okay! That’s why we teachers always buy extras of everything. I’m just saying’—if you’ve got it or can supply it, please do. And when kids have some brand new school supplies to bring to their desk the first day, it gets them pretty excited to begin learning.
Pin all the things: If you’ve got a Pinterest account—use it. That website is pretty fantastic for providing educational activities (that don’t feel like forced learning), lunch ideas (or check out the suggestions Baby Gizmo gave in THIS article), and encouragement for how to supplement your child’s learning at home.
Prepare for the inevitable homework: Believe me, we teachers have heard all the complaints. I know you’ll think your child’s workload is too much. I know it’s like pulling teeth to get little Johnny to practice his spelling. I know all the excuses of why homework gets turned in late (or never). But that homework is coming home for a good reason. Sometimes, that reason is because districts demand teachers send home some form of work (there are teachers out there who agree with you that homework is dumb). Most of the time, teachers send homework because we need to see if little Johnny has retained the information we worked so hard to teach him throughout the day. We need proof that, after hours of his brain focusing on something else, he can go back to that vocabulary word and tell me what it means, or subtract those 10 apples from the 20 apples in the tree. Since you know homework will be coming, teach your child the importance of responsibility and dedication, and then commit to helping him. If that means setting up a special “homework spot” in your house, then so be it. And of course life will get busy; we understand that. Get your kid to do at least 3 problems in each section of the worksheet and everyone will be happy.
Figure out transportation/after-school care arrangements: Before the year even begins, know when and where your child should be every day. I’ve heard carpooling can be fantastic. Make sure you know how your kid will get to school, and then just as importantly, make arrangements for his care after the final school bell rings.
Will he ride the bus home? If so, which one? Does he know which number bus he will take every day?
Are you picking him up after school? If so, where? In front of the school? In his classroom? In the office? Down the street, so you can avoid the pick-up lane traffic?
Will he carpool with Sally’s mom? Does he know what Sally’s mom looks like? Can he find her car?
I can’t tell you how many times a child was left to hang out in my classroom once school ended. Every once in a while, if you’re running late, that’s totally fine. But when I become your child’s built-in babysitter, then we have a problem.
And when your kid isn’t where you expected, that’s when things get scary. A few times in one year, there will be a child missing from his take-home bus and the school will go on lock down, with every teacher searching the grounds. It helps everyone if you teach your kid the specifics of before and after school location expectations (and maybe practice where he is supposed to go before the school year even begins).
As with any advice article, pick and choose what is helpful to you. Just know—your child needs time to transition from lazy summer days to learning in a classroom and being expected to follow their teacher’s schedules and rules. School will be fun for them, just like summer was fun. But it’s a more structured setting that, if prepared, your kid will smoothly transition and start the school year right!