Summer is quickly coming to a close and the first day of school is upon us. No more sleeping late. No more late nights. No more snacks throughout the day and no more summertime fun. So how do you prepare the household for the return to school?
The lazy mornings of snuggling and relaxing can be hard to give up; and children that have gotten used to sleeping late, will need to be eased into waking early again. Some of the best advice is to start getting children – and parents – back into a school-time sleep cycle.
“I try to start two weeks out with the whole bedtime routine, going down earlier and getting up earlier,” said Shelley, mother of a fourth and first grader.
Jill, mother of three and a teacher, agrees that getting back into a healthy sleep routine is the best piece of advice. She suggests slowly acclimating children to their earlier bedtime and earlier wakeup time.
“The biggest thing, I can’t stress it enough, is the routine and the sleep,” advised Jill, who mentioned that their elementary school starts at 7:50 a.m. and the students are like zombies for the first couple weeks.
After the earlier wake-up time, begin the day by getting dressed and with their breakfast regimen.
“Get them up a little earlier each day so they can get downstairs and start their breakfast routine, that can help,” said Jill.
Even if both parents are working, and children go to daycare, there is still a transition to getting school-time routines set.
“The hardest part is not only starting school, but also the crazy soccer, school activities and CCD (religion class) schedules. Everything hits at once and that is probably the hardest for me since my schedule is craziest at the beginning of the year,” said Jill.
With the beginning of the school year comes the addition of athletics, religious classes and after-school activities. Keep an eye on your family and be aware of how much is too much.
“It’s important for them to have the outside activities, but there has to be balance,” said Jill. “The best thing I can do for my kids is to give them rest and get them eating well and drinking enough fluids. You can get exhausted if you don’t have enough fluids in you.”
Another thing to begin working on a few weeks before school begins are refreshers in academics. Encourage some daily reading, writing and math.
“That’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from a lot of teachers, is that kids don’t have much recall of their basic facts,” said Jill.
Some ways to work in the basics are to recite a grocery list and let your child write if for you.
“Just to have them practice writing and holding a pencil is beneficial,” said Jill. Other ways to sneak in writing are to let your child write a thank you note to a friend or neighbor, or send a postcard to a friend or teacher.
“I've already had a few students write to me and I'm going to write them back, which is always fun,” said Jill.
To work in some simple math practice, visit one of a number of educational websites such as funbrain.com and cybersleuth-kids.com. Your child’s school may have other sites they recommend on their website’s parent resources pages.
Children also need to spend time reading. Encourage reading aloud so that you can hear your child’s fluency. Work on reading after morning routines, or in the afternoon – around homework time. Then ask about the story, the characters and the main problem of the story. This will also test for comprehension. Just 15 minutes a day can put your child in a prime position for a successful school year.
Getting children excited about their new school supplies can also help set expectations and raise interest in the new school year.
“We start our back to school shopping about two weeks before school starts up, so that gets them more excited,” said Jaimie, mother of a second and fifth grader.
Try to arrange one-on-one time with each of your children and go shopping for a new outfit for the first day of school. Not just do you have quality time together, but you can also give your child something to look forward to wearing that first day of school.
It seems simple, but with a few easy adjustments, your children can be ready to take on the new school year with a refreshed body and engaged mind.