It’s hard to believe it’s just around the corner. If you are a parent, you may be counting down. Yeah, it’s the first day of the new school year!
Some parents might be zooming down aisles at Walmart or Target at this very moment, taking corners on two wheels and singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the y–e–a–r,” just like in the old Staples commercial!
Truth be told, students have probably been counting down, too, though some would never admit it. Many are sincerely looking forward to seeing their friends and getting back into school activities.
Teachers are ready—well, they are beginning to get ready. There is always some good-natured tension in schools this time of year between custodians trying to finish waxing floors and teachers eager to come in and start setting up classrooms.
Administrators have been planning ways to set the tone for the year with an exciting, inspiring opening.
They’re finishing up professional development plans guaranteed to share information with teachers in the most meaningful way possible.
Yes, the back-to-school engine is slowly cranking up into full speed.
But how do you go from long summer evenings filled with catching lightning bugs and having s’mores to preparing for that early alarm on the first day of school?
Here are a few ideas!
First, let your children know that your excitement is not about being able to rise and avoid forlorn faces mumbling, “We’re bored (sad sigh adeptly placed here). There’s nothing to do.” It’s really about how great this school year is going to be.
Share with your children how much they’ll love the teacher! They may have in mind Darth Vader’s crueler sister when in reality she is probably more like Mary Poppins and “practically perfect in every way.” Yes, they’re going to love the teacher, the school, and all of the fun activities they’ll be doing. You set the tone with your attitude and enthusiasm, so create a fabulous one.
If the children have been staying up a little later, it’s time to dial back bedtime and the time to rise and shine. That will ensure that when they go to school that first day, they won’t be mistaken for sleep-deprived zombies, fall asleep during the afternoon community-builder or take a face-plant into their spaghetti at dinner.
Make shopping for back-to-school supplies and clothes fun and exciting by strategically planning with your children where to go for sales and what to get. Guide them, but give them some input into what you purchase.
Sure, they probably need class-mandated red, blue, and green folders, but you can be a generous negotiator about lunch boxes, backpacks and Batman socks!
Take a couple of trips. Have an ice cream cone. Make it an enjoyable, memorable time together.
Create a little “office” for homework time. Use some of those school supplies to stock it and decide on what time homework will be done. A small desk or table area is helpful, but even the end of the dining room table with a portable supply box is fine.
Your young scholars may not have homework the first few days, but they soon will. Figure out the homework routine before school starts rather than waiting until the first night they’re assigned it to avoid having a tug-of-war about getting it done.
Your child has been faithfully reading for 15 minutes each day, right? What? Things have slipped? Well, now is the time to return to that regular habit. Visit the library for a book transfusion stat or check out bargains at the store, but you need to get that habit going again—today!
Get doctor, dentist, and vaccination appointments out of the way now. Good attendance is crucial, and you don’t want your child to miss the day the class learns all about the letter “q,” single-digit addition, the National Anthem and why leaves turn colors. A day or even an afternoon of absence is hard to make-up, especially with that tricky “q.”
Is your child a little nervous about school? Take her to the school playground regularly. Let her play and have fun. Go to any and all orientation or back-to-school activities. With permission, walk the halls (where the custodians are not working, of course!).
There is a great book you can get called “The Kissing Hand.” It’s by Audrey Penn, and a lot of kindergarten and other primary teachers suggest reading it before the first day. It’s all about ways for the child to remember that mom loves him during the day and gives the child a strategy to overcome worry. Here’s a link to a video version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXT1ANWka4A.
Setting up some play dates with another child in the class and having a friend from the neighborhood to ride the bus with is helpful, too.
Mention it to the principal, who will want to get to know your child and maybe take him on a tour.
She will let the teacher know so your child can meet her and bond in advance to see that she really is Mary Poppins. By the first day of school, your child will be fist-bumping staff in the halls like she owns the place!
Talk about how important it is to use good manners, share, and listen to the teacher or other staff. Clear parental behavior expectations are always important.
Talk about what the first day of school will be like for your child. For example, her class may eat lunch at 11 or at 12:30, and you might want to adjust your home lunchtimes a little in one direction or the other before school. Again, most importantly, communicate how much fun school will be!
Okay, you’ve got the clothes and supplies; you’ve set-up the homework office; you’ve adjusted bedtime and you’ve had the manners talk.
You’re both prepared for a wonderful, productive start in the place where your child will be spending most of his waking hours for the next 180 or so school days.
It’s time to take a deep breath, have an extra cup of coffee and put that sprained ankle up to recover from the wheelie you tried with that shopping cart at Walmart!
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.