back to school tipsOn the August 1st episode of Special Kid School Talk we’ll be discussing getting your child ready for school, working with teachers, and making homework time efficient and successful. Join us and call in with your questions at 3pm PST.

Build Your Child’s Enthusiasm for School

Children who’ve had more difficulty with the social or academic aspects of school can be reluctant to return to the demands of the educational environment.  The antidote to reluctance is to get a toehold on eager anticipation of FUN!

  • Help your child stay focused on and excitedly anticipate the people, places and activities he or she enjoys, such as joining a team, seeing a good friend, or getting to wear that new shirt!
  • Make plans with your child about the first days of school, guiding her to expect the best outcomes!  Talk about all the cool things she’ll learn in her favorite class, who she’ll eat lunch with, and how nice the new teacher will be. The more she focuses on desirable outcomes, the more she will want to head back to school!

Prepare Early for Changes

Everyone is a little fearful of change and some of our kids have particular difficulty with change because they experience an unconscious anticipation of negative events.

  • At least a month in advance, show your child on the calendar when school will start.  Include a little drawing of something that symbolizes fun to your child, such as a kickball or an artist’s palette—something that he connects with school.
  • Back plan from that date, writing into the calendar times to go shopping for clothes and school supplies, and setting aside time for end of summer fun experiences such as a day at the beach or a barbeque with friends.
  • In fact, start this year by establishing a special celebratory event as an end-of-the-summer-tradition that will ease your child’s transition back to school in the years to come!

Create Routines

We often relax bedtimes and other routines during the summer, but August is the perfect month to begin the gradual transition back to the structure of academic life.

  • Start now getting more structure into the schedule—don’t wait until the week before school resumes, or your child will have much greater difficulty.
  • Make bedtime a bit earlier each week, until your child is going to bed at her “school bedtime” by the time the third week of August arrives—her body needs to make the new bedtime a habit in order to adapt.

Plan for Homework Time

The homework routine often becomes an activity that neither parent nor child look forward to.  Here are a couple of points to keep in mind to make the experience as efficient and stress-free as possible.

  • Homework is supposed to be easy enough that your child can handle it alone, yet have enough “teeth” so that he is practicing skills he has not yet acquired.  If the work your child brings home is too difficult or too easy, speak with the teacher immediately to get the proper adjustments made.
  • Children do not naturally know how to plan, organize or manage their time, work space, supplies or study methods.  They need to be taught how to do all of these things.  School does not typically teach students these skills, so don’t expect your child to “bring them home.”
  • Your role as a parent is to insist on conditions in the home that give your child the best advantage in developing these skills such as a proper study area, consistent time set aside to do homework, no interruptions from cell phone, computer or favorite music (classical or instrumental music during homework time is fabulous, but nothing distracting).
  • When your child shows you he doesn’t know how to handle any of the essential elements of managing the workload efficiently and independently, you need to put into place a system of teaching him how to manage it.  This instruction can come from you, a tutor, or a more highly-trained professional.  The point is that these essential skills are learned over many years and don’t develop without close supervision.

Keep Academic Skills Fresh

Children need to practice reading, writing and math all summer long to keep their skills from fading.  For many of our kids, learning requires extra effort. Long “vacations” from skill practice mean a loss of hard-won learning abilities.  The more kids struggle to learn, the more essential it is to include daily skill practice in their summer routines.  What’s wonderful, however, is that the practice can be FUN!