Tips on preparing your family for the back-to-school schedule
Wasn’t it just yesterday that your kids were chanting, “No more pencils, no more books”? Unfortunately, as summer comes to a close, a new school year begins. While kids can be excited about meeting new teachers and making new friends, they can also be sad to see the carefree days of summer vanish. Parents can feel a bit blue, too, as another summer full of family togetherness time goes into the scrapbook.
The back-to-school blues don’t have to be inevitable, though. These simple steps show you how to prepare for the new school year and give your child a fresh start for the learning to come.
Ways to Prepare Your Family for the Back-to-School Schedule
We’ve all felt it – the end-of-summer slump that comes with earlier bedtimes and back-to-school shopping as we gear up for the next school year’s adventures. While the first day of school can hold more unexpected stops and starts than a game of Simon Says, preparing your child for school builds confidence and starts the year on the right foot.
1. Liven and Tidy Up Study Spaces
With cyber school, learning happens everywhere. Your child’s workspace can be a bedroom desk, a corner of the living room or your kitchen table – anywhere that your learner feels comfortable and productive with minimal distractions.
Of course, any workspace can become a magnet for clutter and all the distractions and frustrations that come with it. The school year delivers a deluge of handouts and papers, but don’t just pile them on top of last year’s mess. Clean out last year’s papers from your student’s folders and learning space, and delete old files from your computer’s hard drive or cloud-based storage. It will help students clear their minds and start the new year feeling organized, uncluttered and ready to tackle new assignments.
While you’re at it, refresh your own filing system, whether electronic or in paper copy, to help you keep track of your student’s work. You both have a busy year ahead, but an organized outlook helps to keep things handy.
2. Create a Personalized System of Rewards
What’s your child’s favorite feel-good treat? Set aside time for an ice cream run, pizza for dinner or a TV break — whatever will motivate your learners through hard work and give them a reason to push through a lesson that is particularly difficult.
Stay positive, even when things don’t go as planned. Researchers say it’s important to keep an eye on long-term goals, rewarding children for progress made through diligence but avoiding bribes that merely patch over an underlying problem.
Although extrinsic rewards – the types that say, “if you achieve this, I’ll give you that” – have their place in motivating children to stick with a task, intrinsic rewards can have lasting benefits. According to a University of Harvard study, an intrinsic reward is a good feeling that comes with accomplishment or hard work. It takes practice to cultivate intrinsic rewards, but it can be done by linking your child’s studies to the things that motivate him or her. Volunteering and community service can be another way to help your child feel intrinsically rewarded by the joy of helping others.
3. Make New Goals
The start of each semester is a good time for fresh resolutions. Set goals, then help yourself and your child to follow them by using a giant whiteboard, a wall-hanging graphic organizer or a refrigerator calendar. Hang it in a place you can’t miss. Make these goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. For an added dimension, get in touch with your creative side and post sayings that inspire your student around the workspace.
Setting and achieving goals gives children many benefits. It improves self-image, increases awareness of strengths and weaknesses, creates successes to celebrate, separates reality from wishful thinking, builds responsibility and improves decision-making.
Research has found that learning to set goals helps children find direction and purpose, clarify and focus on things important to them, take a more active role in their future and experience the personal satisfaction of reaching a goal.
4. Shop for School Supplies Efficiently and Smartly
You just spent how much at the office supplies store? Shopping for school supplies can be hard on the pocketbook and draining on the psyche. When you’re buying back-to-school necessities, try these tips for a simplified search that also gets the best bang for your buck.
List everything you and your child need. Pay close attention to the teacher’s back-to-school list. Remember those things that are unique to a cyberlearning household, including motivational treats and items that make the workspace comfortable.
- Shop your own closet. Round up everything you already have, and cross those items off the list.
- Plan a supply swap to trade items that you and your friends no longer need.
- Shop garage sales, thrift shops and consignment stores for gently used clothes and supplies.
- Watch for sales and coupons. Follow your favorite stores and coupon sites on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Look for savings on the big-ticket items, but don’t waste precious time scrounging to save a few cents on a tube of glue.
5. Attend Field Trips
Early in the school year, take your child on a field trip as a reminder that real-world learning encompasses all the fun of a summertime adventure. Field trips offer education that transcends books and lessons. They sustain motivation, give learners hands-on experience and offer opportunities to practice newfound skills outside the classroom.
CCA offers more than 700 field trips throughout the year and across the state to enhance the lessons that students learn in the virtual classroom. It might be an enlightening visit to the past via a Pennsylvania historical site, a close-up encounter with wildlife or a social field trip where children forge new friendships between trampoline bounces.
6. Prepare for the New Schedule Early
Set a Sleep Schedule
The back-to-school sleep schedule presents a difficult adjustment, but dipping your toes in slowly makes it easier. Start getting ready for the earlier sleep schedule at least two weeks before the first day of school by adjusting your child’s bedtime in 10-minute increments. Psychology Today recommends getting plenty of exercise because it tires out the body (leading to better sleep), causes serotonin to kick in and increases strength and resilience. Students will wake up on the first day ready to go.
For sound back-to-school sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that kids and teens keep regular bedtimes, even on weekends, to regulate their circadian rhythms. A relaxing bedtime routine helps kids wind down. The sleep environment should be cool, quiet and dimly lit. The bedroom should be an electronics-free zone, and your child should stop using electronic media one hour before bedtime.
Set a Homework Schedule
Routines and regular homework times give children a sense of structure, make them feel safe and ready to tackle new challenges and tasks, and teach them self-control skills.
Think about what will be expected of your child and you. Map out the parts of each day that you know will come, including the all-important morning routine and daily homework times. By taking into account the flow of your day and making a schedule that works for you and your learner, you can establish routines that help your child feel comfortable and thrive.
7. Use a School Planner
For children, poor planning can lead to bad grades, due to lost opportunities to study for tests or penalties imposed on late assignments. Whether you use an app or a paper planner, planning is essential.
The important thing is making entries a part of the daily routine. Teach your child to fill in assignment due dates as soon as they’re set. Use “backward planning,” too, with reminders of important deadlines days or weeks in advance. Use the planner for school-related assignments and events, but keep the big picture in mind by entering everything else, too – parties, trips, appointments. Keep everything you’ve entered in the planner, including teachers’ contact information and reading lists, for future reference.
8. Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Here’s how you imagine the first day of school: Your child bounces out of bed, breakfast graces the table on time, and everyone sits down for the first lesson eager and ready to learn.
Here’s how it really happens: Your child refuses to get up, the toast burns, and you’re scrambling to find your login information with seconds to go before the first live lesson starts.
Just because the real world doesn’t match your fantasy, it doesn’t make you a bad parent, psychologists say. Real life will never go perfectly, so manage expectations by focusing on what you want your child to get from the first day of school and the entire school year. Maybe not every element lined up perfectly, and scraping off the charred part of the toast will never make it edible, but your child got value out of the day. As long as you’ve prepared as well as you can, you’ll be equipped for life’s surprises and still get your child’s school year off to a rousing start.
9. Study a Little Each Day
A bit of study each day, even when evenings are still light and warm, eases children into the schoolwork mindset and establishes good habits for the rest of the year.
Good study habits help new information find a permanent place in the brain. Teach your child to stop and review the main ideas at the end of each page being studied. Learn a little bit of multiple subjects every day. Take breaks to give overtaxed parts of the brain a rest while other parts step up to help solve the problem.
Consider starting small, with five or 10 minutes of study a day, and gradually increase the time until you reach a goal, such as 30 minutes.
10. Learn About School Activities and Programs
Part of your child’s anxiety about a new school year could be the fear of boredom. Kick away that worry by introducing your learner to your school’s programs, clubs and activities. Help them pursue a passion or find a new one.
CCA’s full array of clubs lets kids explore the performing and fine arts, literature, math, science and technology, and service to the community. They can interact with peers who share their interests in the environment, coding, chess, debate, government, broadcasting and many other pursuits. They can even suggest a new club, because CCA believes learning is a personal journey.
11. Create a Positive Attitude About School
Parental attitude is one of the most important factors in a child’s school performance, educators say. Parents who are positive about school pass on that belief to their children. Parents who make it clear, by words or actions, that they hated school or don’t value education give children the same negative ideas.
Parents can create a positive attitude by sharing stories about the good that education brought to their lives, including a broader array of career opportunities. Without imposing excess pressure, parents should set high expectations and encourage their children’s capabilities.
If your child struggles in school it’s important to get help, but always make your child feel a high school diploma and success after graduation are definite. Foster a growth mindset, letting your child know he or she can become smart and successful through hard work, instead of giving in to the fear that they will never be good at the subjects that are hardest for them.
12. Use Your Family Mentor
At CCA, no family is alone. Back-to-school time, and the entire school year, is less stressful with guidance and kind words from a family mentor. Our family mentors are veteran CCA parents who help our newly enrolled and emerging families adjust to online learning.
Family mentors know your questions even before you ask them, because they’ve been in your shoes. They can offer advice on the nuts and bolts of online learning, from how to monitor learning growth to how to juggle the schedules of sibling learners. Contact a family mentor for support. Our mentors make themselves available by phone, in person and virtually, as they strive to help every family succeed and find useful resources.
How to Beat the Back-to-School Blues This Summer
When your child’s school is the right fit, the back-to-school blues can be a thing of the past. Children are born learners, but if learning is a drag or the school atmosphere is frightening, it’s only natural that they’ll dread the first day, and every day after that.
At CCA, learning is dynamic and personalized to each student’s capabilities and passions. Bullies are not tolerated. Exploration is the norm. Your child can delight in learning again. Prepare your child for the new school year at Commonwealth Charter Academy. Find out more about what our personalized learning platform has to offer by reaching out to us today.