Back-to-School season is generally filled with a mix of excitement and worry.
On the one hand, the school year stretches ahead as a blank slate for new experiences and success. The kids are excited to see their friends again, and many enjoy the learning and social opportunities at school. Parents are often ready for the structure and routines of school, and they are cautiously optimistic about the fresh start.
On the other hand, Back-to-School can be a stressful time as well. Kids worry that they won't like their teacher, or they'll be separated from friends. They wonder if they'll struggle in certain subjects or be able to keep up. Parents get anxious about new bus routes, hectic mornings, angst-filled homework sessions, and whether their child is prepared for this next level.
A little preparation can minimize the stress and maximize your child's chance of academic and personal success. Here are three things you can do to ensure a smooth start to the school year.
Organize Your Home
You can reduce stress and chaos by making sure there are specific places designated for school gear and school work. For example:
Communicate with the School
Most parents go into each school year with certain hopes and fears for their child. Maybe your child has always struggled with reading, and you're hoping for some extra attention there. Maybe your child feels shy at school and would like to make friends but isn't sure how. Maybe your child has health issues that need support at school. Maybe your child is already overwhelmed at the prospect of a big high school year of AP classes and college applications. Have you talked to your child's teacher(s) or guidance counselor about these concerns? When parents get upset with the school, it's often because an expectation has gone unmet. So start the year by communicating your hopes and expectations in a clear, respectful and collaborative way. Simple concerns may just require an email, while more complicated matters might need a conference. You are your child's best advocate, so don't wait to speak up.
Be Mindful of Your Child's Health
Your child's mental, social, and emotional performance at school is largely driven by how he or she feels physically. Are you setting your child up for success? Think about:
Taking some time to think through these issues is an important way to "set the stage" for a great school year.
And if your child struggles academically despite your best efforts, consider calling in some back up with a professional tutor.
What are your best Back-to-School strategies? Leave us a note in the comments below!
Last week, one of our new tutors sent us this message (with names changed to protect privacy), following a back-to-school session with her student:
I had an excellent session with my client, Becky, last night. When I first came, her dad said she was not happy because he had just yelled at her for forgetting her math homework at school.
She was feeling like a failure. By the time we were done, she had gotten the math problems texted to her by a friend, we had worked on getting her planner and binder organized and we had gotten the rest of her homework nearly done -- all in good spirits. She was so happy, telling her dad corny states jokes I had just told while going over her map homework, and best of all, she felt so much more confident than when I had arrived there. I left feeling like she was ready to take on school the next day. Times like this truly inspire me as a teacher and validate why I love to teach. I had to share it with you since you are the reason I am tutoring right now. I am so happy to have an outlet for doing what I love to do most -- motivate and inspire struggling students.
And there it is, the very best reason to get your child a tutor: "She felt so much more confident than when I had arrived there."
There was a situation in that home that night that most of us are all too familiar with -- a stressed and unhappy child, a frustrated parent, and no homework getting done. By the end of just that one tutoring session, that child was relaxed, confident, and ready to tackle the next day of school.
That's a priceless result, for both the child and the parent.
Getting your child a tutor is an investment in her self-efficacy as a learner. You're not just trying to get her math homework done; you're trying to equip her with the skills and confidence to continue learning and succeeding on her own, long after the tutor is out of the picture.
How can we help your child build that kind of learning mindset? Leave us a comment below, or give us a call today!
As summer draws to a close, many families in Hampton Roads are rushing around to get ready to go back to school. It can be an exciting, yet hectic and stressful, time for students and their parents. Back-to-school is one situation where it pays to be proactive, so consider these three tips for making this school year the best one yet.
1. Get Organized
Think about your routines from last year. Were you losing permission forms? Was homework left behind on the kitchen counter? Were you rushing back in from the bus stop to grab shoes for PE? Was every morning a mad dash to make it to school on time with all needed papers and supplies? Start this year right by implementing a few systems to help your routines run smoothly. Decide where your child will do homework (hint: not near the TV), and stock up on the needed supplies. Set up a basket or paper tray (on the counter or mounted on the wall) where you can keep school papers and forms. Think through your evening routine and make a plan with your child to get school things organized the night before -- backpack stuffed, papers signed, clothes selected and shoes located, and everything ready in a designated spot. Keep a family calendar in a shared spot so everyone's on the same page. These are simple modifications that can really de-stress your mornings.
2. Get On Schedule
Don't wait until Labor Day weekend to get your child's bedtime back on school hours -- that's too late! Start the shift now if you haven't already. You want your child to be rested and bright-eyed on the first day of school. In our house, we've been kind of terrible with enforcing a bed time. If bedtime is supposed to be 8:30, we find that pajama-selecting, teeth-brushing, story-reading, water-getting, etc. all add up to kids who are still awake at 10:00 p.m. Lately, we've been doing a "head to bed time," and it's working much better. Instead of shooing the kids upstairs at 8:28 for 8:30 bedtime, we start the routines much earlier, around 7:45. This gives everyone time to unplug from iPods and TV, handle their bedtime routines, and have quiet moments to read and talk before lights out.
3. Get In Touch with School
Now is the time to think about any special communications that could help your child as the school year starts. If your child has allergies or special medical needs, get in touch with the school nurse. If your child has learning needs and has an IEP or 504 plan, get in touch with her teacher or the school's case manager and make sure that everyone is aware of your child's learning needs. If your child has a weak subject or needs remediation, get in touch with us! We can talk about back-to-school tutoring programs. If you can, consider reaching out to your child's teacher and offering to help with back-to-school set-up and parent communication. Even if you can't volunteer in the classroom, introducing yourself and staying in the loop is a great way to show support for your child's education.
Teachers and parents, what strategies will YOU use to make this school year the best one yet? Leave us a comment with your great tips!
It's August, the time of year when everyone's thoughts turn back to school. While we still have a few (hopefully sunny) weeks left of summer, you need to start thinking about how to prepare your kids for a successful academic year.
For some kids, back to school is an exciting time to get some new shoes, shop for colorful supplies, and compare class assignments with friends. For other children, however, this is a time of anxiety and dread.
Will I know anyone in my class?
Will my teacher like me? Will I like her?
Am I going to bomb math again?
I barely survived Spanish last year. I know I'm not ready for Spanish II.
I procrastinated on my summer assignments, and now I don't know if I can finish.
You can address this kind of back-to-school anxiety with some easy steps to ease the transition in the weeks ahead. Here's what we recommend:
1. Keep a positive attitude. Even if you are also dreading school (and the ensuing homework battles), don't model negativity for your child. Be positive and encouraging. Remind your child of the good things, such as seeing friends each day and playing at PE. Tell your child that the year is a new beginning, and you are confident he can succeed.
2. Involve your child in the preparation. Let your child open the school mailers, and have her mark the calendar with important dates (such as Open House). Make a shopping list with your child, and when you can, let him pick out the colors of his notebook or the style of his lunchbox. Little things like this give your child a sense of control and excitement about school.
3. Ease back into school routines. If your kids have been staying up late and sleeping in, now is the time to start adjusting the schedule so you don't have to do it all at once on Labor Day weekend. Same thing goes with meal schedules and other household routines. Has your child been reading this summer? Make it a part of her daily routine now. Everyone fares better if the first week of school doesn't come as a mental and physical shock.
4. Consider summer tutoring. If your child's back-to-school stress is related to a history of difficulty in school, do what you can to make sure he starts of strong this year. For many kids, the right thing is a few hours of summer tutoring. This can offset "summer brain drain" and also give your child a jump start to the curriculum for the fall. Nothing eases anxiety like early success and confidence. We have learned that a little summer tutoring -- being proactive -- is more effective, less stressful, and cheaper than playing catch-up in September.
How do you get your children ready to go back to school? Leave us a note in the comments!