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The First Days Of School – Setting The Tone For The Rest Of The Year

Going back to school, no matter what the age, can be an emotional time for children, parents and teachers.  It marks the beginning of another year of learning.  The rules and standards you set the first week of school can help your child be more successful for the rest of the year.  Here are some ideas on how to make the transition back to school easier for everyone!


  • COUNTDOWN!  If you still have several days to go until the first day of school, make a countdown calendar.  Cross off each day before the first day, or make a tear-off style calendar, tearing off a number as you count down to the day school begins.
  • Early to bed, early to rise.  Unless your child is a living alarm clock like mine, it is best to start the early wake-up time before the actual first day.  Children need at least a week to readjust their sleep habits so they can be alert and ready to learn when they walk into school that first day.
  • Take an early tour.  If your child’s school offers a “back to school” night prior to the first day, take advantage and go walk the halls with your child.  If not, call the school and see if there is some time you can go up to the school and have a look around, even if it is just to see the cafeteria and gym.

And, during that first week, here are some habits to establish early to aid in a successful year:

  • SCHEDULES:  Create a time during the day for homework.  Even if your child doesn’t have “homework”, this can be a great time to work on independent reading.  Our routine in our house is to have a 15 minute break after school (for snacks and talking about our day) and then homework time before dinner.  Dinnertime and beyond is our family time, so we try to knock homework out early!
  • Communicate with the teacher:  As a former public school teacher, I cannot emphasize enough how much of an impact it made on my relationship with a child when I developed a relationship with the parent.  Remember that the teacher has 17-24 other parents as well.  Be respectful of his/her time, but make an effort to introduce yourself early and make yourself available if he/she needs to talk with you.  And, let the teacher know how much you appreciate them.  Teachers rarely hear that!
  • Set up a few chores.  If your child is not already helping out around the house, adding this to the routine during the school year is a perfect time to do so.  It instills a feeling of family and community; the child is helping contribute to the well-being of the family.  Just make sure that the chore or chores aren’t too overwhelming; taking the recycling out to the bin or setting the table for dinner are great, easy chores for children of any age.
  • The debriefing.  From Day One, make sure you spend some time with your child, reviewing their day.  “How was your day” is not good enough.  With my older son, we have a game we play as we walk home from school.  I challenge him each day to tell me three good things that happened to him at school that day before we get home.  More often than not, this also opens the door to things that bothered him, scared him, or confused him.  And, by the time we make it home, he’s really talking.  His response is always far better than the typical “Fine” response.  When his days aren’t so great, he feels very comfortable telling me about it.
  • Preparation.  If possible, have everything ready the night before – clothes laid out, lunch made/lunch money packed in backpack, homework done and ready to go back to school.  This will make the morning routine much easier on everyone.  Don’t forget to stick a note in your child’s belongings – a pants pocket, in the backpack, on the lunch napkin.  That little note will go a long way in helping your child feel comfortable throughout the day.
  • Reward yourselves.  When the first week draws to a close, try to plan something a bit more personal for your children: a special dinner, a short outing, a family night, a movie.  And let them know that they’ve had a great week and you are looking forward to many more!

3 – 2 – 1 Blast Off To A New School Year!

It is that time of year again – school is about to be in full swing!  Some schools have already started, some will be this week, and others will start over the next couple of weeks.  My older son will be in second grade starting August 27, and the younger one and I will return to our preschool on September 5th.

So, what can you do to get your kids ready to have a terrific year in school?  PLENTY.  Here’s what we’re doing at our house:

  • Cutting back on TV. As much as I would love to say I adhere to the one-hour-a-day rule I mentally made for myself this summer, it didn’t happen.  My job(s) and life took over, and there were times when the Koala Brothers were my Best Friends.  However, it is time to start cracking down.  No more TV at night, and TV at all is limited from now on.  Once school starts, our schedule is pretty tight, so TV is usually an afterthought by then.
  • Mind your mouth (and what goes in it).  Things are pretty lax around here during the summer, but it is time to start focusing on fun HEALTHY snacks and not just popsicles and sodas.  Not only are sodas not great for teeth, but those with caffeine will only make sleeping issues worse and the sugar in them is enough to put your child on a sweet high for a while.  We’re also spending some time this week remembering what foods we like best in our lunch boxes at school so that I can stock up on the essentials next weekend at the store.
  • Tick Tock – time for bed!  While my kids have been pretty good about hitting the hay around 8 each night, it is easy to slip out of that habit with the longer days.  If your child has been up later than normal for the summer, ease back into the routine, going to bed a few minutes early each night.  Hopefully you will be back to your start time in no time!
  • Wardrobe check!  Now is a great time to clean out those closets.  Make sure everything fits and purge those things that won’t work this year.  Donate your gently used clothes to your local Goodwill or thrift store, or pass them along to another child or sibling!  Don’t forget to check shoes, socks and underwear, too.
  • Rehearse the first day.  This is something we do every year.  A couple of days before the actual start of school, we do a “dry run” of our drop off and pick up routine.  Riding the bus?  Practice getting to the bus stop (and time yourself to make sure you’re not late!).  Carpooling?  See if there is a time you can all go through it together.  The more familiar kids are with what is to come, the more comfortable they will be with the situation.  Our school district hosts an open house at each campus a few days before school starts, and kids can drop off their school supplies at that time.  This is a great time to practice routines!
  • Supply yourself with extras.  Snag a few extra boxes of crayons while they are on sale.  Pick up a couple more packages of notebook paper.  Later on in the year, you’ll be looking for a few replacements, and if not, you can always save them for next year’s list!

Easing back into the way things work during the school year is much better for your child than flipping over to “school mode” in one day.  What are your suggestions for making a sucessful transition into the school year?

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