As different strategies work for different families, we presented various options that you could choose a few from. Any tips of your own? We would love to hear about them.
1) Getting Organized
-The week before school begins, start staggering your children’s bedtime earlier towards the time which would be ideal for school. As painful as it is, set the alarm to the time that they will be waking up for school. This will make getting up when it is necessary that first week a bit easier (And think of all the time you will have to yourself once they are in bed early again!).
– The two weeks before back to school make double the dinner and pop the extra meal in the freezer. That way during the first few weeks back to school you will have healthy ready-made options when you are busy with all the activities that often resume when school does.
– If your child has not attended school before and is going to Playschool or Kindergarten, try to attend some structured playgroups in your area (libraries, community centres etc. will often offer these). This will get your child familiar with school-like routines, allow for social interaction and let you meet other parents/ caregivers in your community.
– Once school starts, have your child set out their clothes the night before. This allows for any negotiations to happen when you are not pressed for time. While they are doing this, prepare any snacks or lunches so you can just pop them in their bags in the morning.
– Many schools use a Planner (a calendar-like book that comes home each night with assignments, communications etc.) or an online class forum. Be sure to check this every evening and get into the habit of checking off each item together and then packing the related work directly into their backpacks. This daily practise will then allow you to release some responsibility later and they will be able to effectively do it on their own.
– If you have multiple children, a special coat hook at their level with two hooks labelled with their names allows children to independently hang up their outer wear and back packs when they arrive home and after their homework is done. A small bench that opens is great for summer hats and winter mitts, hats and neck warmers so the kids can access them independently. Or get them into the habit of stuffing them into sleeves so that they are not lost at school. Having these designated storage spaces alleviates the need to look for that missing shoe or hat when you need to leave in the morning.
– Invest in good labels (e.g., Mabel’s Labels) or fabric/ permanent markers. I can’t tell you how many kids had the same winter boots this year in Kindergarten!
– If you have a metal door, add a few magnets with the clips on the back and hang up the school calendar and personalize the provided “Do I Have…?” list, including the things your child will need each day.
2) Set the Tone
– Speak positively about school. Try to not let your experiences or perceptions affect their experiences. If you have had struggles, talk about how you may have persevered or what you learned.
– Reading together each night contributes immensely to your child’s academic growth. Below are a few suggestions of back to school and confidence building picture books. Seeing a relatable character face the fears that are sometimes associated with school might equip children with strategies for their own experience.
– If this is the first time that your child will be going to school on his or her own, make a small stuffie for them to put into their pocket so a “piece of you” will be with them while they are there. If you have the flexibility, you might consider taking the first day or two of school off of work as some children take a while to get comfortable and then you can feel more relaxed about the process.
– Think of yourself as partner to the teacher. Learning needs to happen collaboratively for your child to be successful. Investing the time with school work early and ensuring success sets up the potential for future independence. If you sense that there is a problem, approach the teacher early and with a team-like attitude. The best thing to keep in mind is that this person will be spending a great deal of time with your child– how you approach them and appreciate them throughout the year can make a big difference.
3) Get familiar with the school/community
– In the weeks leading up to the start of school, play in the school playground, walk or drive (if it is far) to the school. This will allow your child to feel comfortable with the school setting and may give you the opportunity to meet other parents in the community to connect with.
– If your child has any special needs, contact the school as early as possible to discuss this with the teacher and the principal so that they can make accommodations regarding staffing, assistive technology etc.
4) Setting up a space at home for further learning
Many adults have their favourite type or style of pen. Give kids access to supplies at home and this will get them excited about projects etc.
– If you have the space, set up a desk in your child’s room with a bulletin board above so that they can proudly display their work from home and school. Put it on the fridge so that they feel that what they do at school is important. At the end of the year, pick a given number of projects to save and make a keepsake box or album. Stock the desk with things that your child will need to complete their homework- pencils, erasers, scissors, glue, tape, pencil crayons, markers etc. If you want to keep the desk in good shape, cover it with a sheet of plexiglass. (You can get this custom cut.) It makes clean-up easy and you can tuck important things underneath such as a calendar for assignment due dates for older kids.
Get a set of these labels at: http://make-it-your-own.com/back-to-school-getting-organized/
If you don’t have the room for a desk, get a tool caddy and fill it with a few clean, empty containers for school supplies that your kids can use at your kitchen table. Some families find this type of space helpful in providing assistance readily if it necessary.
– If you have a spare cupboard, stock it with special items for projects and additional school supplies (Bristol board, sparkly paper, shoe boxes, tissue rolls etc.) so that you don’t have to run out to the store and buy materials throughout the year and when it comes to a project there are exciting things to choose from.
– Set up a book basket in their room for reading before bed or after school. Rotate books from your home library shelves or those from the local or school library. If you are doing both, label each so that they can sort them and keep them organized so that they are easy to return.
5) Get your child involved
– When your child is ready, buy healthy options for snacks and put them out on the table on Sunday afternoon (e.g, a tray with snap peas, baby carrots, blueberries, hummus, cheese etc.) Provide them with re-useable containers labelled with each day and their name so that they can pack their snacks for the week. When they are ready, do this every few days for lunches. At first this may be a difficult process, but soon they will be able to do this independently. If you have a moment, pop a note in their lunch or snack.
– Adding a personal touch to school supplies can get kids excited about the process of going to school and having their own special things. Here are a few suggestions with how to do this:
Personalize a Pencil Case with Block Printing
Personalize a Desk Lamp
Personalize your Supplies with Stickers
Personalize a Ruler
Make a Pencil Holder
Make a Bookmark
Personalize a Notebook with Marbling
Personalize a Notebook with Bubble Painting
Personalize a Notebook with Marble Painting
Personalize a Notebook with Bingo Markers
Personalize a Folder with Embroidery
Encourage your child thinking about others. Remember that back to school can be a difficult time for families who are struggling to make ends meet and then need to buy runners, clothes and school supplies. Is there someone younger you could share your child’s clothing with? Could you donate some school supplies to organizations that help kids in need? (There are often donation options at big box office supply stores). These gestures speak volumes in teaching your children to be compassionate and form a community with other people- something that is very valuable for back to school!
Amidst the busyness of the first day of school, try to enjoy the excitement and capture the moment with a photo. You’ll be happy that did!