Tips to Prepare for the New School Year

by Mary Toothman
It’s that time of year again: School supply aisles will be flooded with parents and children, clutching lists of what is required. First-day-of-school outfits will be carefully selected by many students. Late-morning sleep-ins will be replaced by early wake-up calls.
Back to school means many things to parents and students — some very positive, some not so much. Experts offer lots of great ideas and advice to help parents in prepping for the changeover, and we serve many of them up here.
 The U.S. Department of Education Weighs In
On its website, the U.S. Department of Education provides seven ways to help children transition back to the classroom:

  1. Organize student records:Before school gets underway, schedule needed medical appointments and complete applications that may be needed for health and nutrition programs. Schools may require documentation of up-to-date immunizations.
  2. Read, read, read: Summer may be a relaxing time of year, but set aside time to read together. Public libraries often offer displays of books with back-to-school themes. Online learning games may promote reading skills.
  3. Be present: Starting a new school or moving from one grade to the next are adjustments. New routes to school, new schedules or classmates are in play. Visit the school with younger children prior to the official start of school. Keep the lines of communication open, and listen to your children.
  4. Support homework: Show students that homework is a priority. Establishing a standard time and maintaining a schedule can help. Determine a routine place for children to do homework — a desk or the kitchen table. Keep it uncluttered. Have supplies such as pencils, rulers and scissors available. Many online resources are available to help with schoolwork. Many enrich and encourage the learning experience. 
  5. Pack nutritious lunches and snacks: Following dietary guidelines can help ensure children have the proper nutrition to perform well in school. Promote a healthy, active lifestyle by encouraging children to help with packing lunches — or trying out new recipe with nutritious ingredients.
  6. Stay active: With the return of school can come more time spent indoors, but don’t forget to keep physical activity a part of the daily schedule. Encourage the entire family to get moving for 60 minutes a day. Play tag in the yard or neighborhood park. Staying active can help your child focus on homework and relieve stress.
  7. Try a new extracurricular activity: After-school activities are a way for kids to form new friendships, develop teamwork skills and improve academic proficiencies. Look into programs that may be offered at your child’s school — or a local community center may provide activities that could help children explore a new hobby or passion. Is there an interest in music, theater or soccer? How about chess, robots or world languages? 

A Teacher’s Tips
Nikki Farmer, who teaches kindergarten at  Spook Hill Elementary, provided some tips that may help ease the changeover from lazy summertime to busy school days:

  • Get them on their school bedtime routine.
  • If they have a summer packet from school, make sure it is completed.
  • Read an age-appropriate chapter book or several shorter stories before bed every night.
  • Begin to help them get excited about the upcoming school year.
  • Purchase needed school supplies, uniforms and shoes — this can boost the back-to-school spirit. 
  • Start getting in the habit of laying out clothes the night before, and having a set meal schedule so they can gauge their hunger cues.
  • Teach children how to open food and beverage packaging if they are starting kindergarten 
  • Show them how to tie their shoes if they are starting kindergarten or buy VELCRO/elastic shoes. 
  • Practice handwriting and writing out names. 
  • Work on being good listeners and following one-two step directions.

Some Practical Pointers provides some great ideas. 
Simplify your entryway:  Let’s face it — everything collects right by the door.  Textbooks, art projects, and cleats join forces with papers parents need to sign and poster board meant for projects. Simplify that clutter with cubbies and wall hooks to get you through rushed mornings. 
Pack up the backpacks: Pencils, rulers, spare shoelaces, some bandages and hand sanitizer may all come in handy. Pack an “emergency” kit in a sturdy, zippered bag.
Set up a daily schedule: Mornings do not have to feel like relay races. Estimate and plan out how much time is needed for breakfast,  getting dressed and finding that lost textbook. A head start the night before can go a long way toward smoother, quicker exits in the morning.  
Populate that calendar: Schools provide lists of important days to remember, such as conferences, concerts, holidays or professional development days. This is the time to get it all recorded in the family calendar.
Streamline school lunches: Pull together and organize plastic containers and thermoses — upgrade where needed and toss out worn-out items or those without lids. Provide favorite fruits and snacks to encourage children to be excited about packing their own lunch boxes.
The school year is right around the corner, and the transition from summer break and beach days to school days in the classroom doesn’t have to be so tough. Following some of these tips, especially for those heading back to elementary school, is a great way to ensure your soon-to-be student is prepared for the classroom!

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